Whenever I finish an important project, I feel I should give a cheesy “acceptance speech” like you see for awards programs (“I’d like to thank all the world’s mentally defective sea turtles…”). Though my speech (said quietly to myself) always thanks certain tools and fellow woodworkers.
Were I a wanker, I would post photos of my latest chair and say things like: Check my new design, brh. Then a series of acronyms – FISKET and YAMLO. Then the hashtags – #gravycouncil #billyraycoochierash #sponsored.
But that’s not fair. Every piece of furniture is the culmination of the designer’s experiences, influences and previous work. We’re just the blender that takes these ingredients and frapps the frothy result. And so I try to acknowledge these influences whenever possible.
For this chair, the most obvious inspiration is the later chairs of John Brown, author of “Welsh Stick Chairs.” In learning more about the life of John Brown, I discovered Christopher Williams, who worked closely with Brown on these chairs to refine and lighten the historical examples. (We are bringing Chris back in 2019 for at least one – maybe two – more incredible classes on building his chair.)
Chris’s chairs are very dramatic (and I say that in the best possible way). I don’t have the stones to use the rake and splay he does on his legs. So I started with an 18th- or 19th-century Welsh chair shown in a Shire booklet on Welsh furniture that was written by Richard Bebb.
Here’s where some of the other elements of the chair come from. The raised spindle deck is a design feature I’ve been playing with for a year or more. I developed it out of frustration, really. I have always tried to get a crazy-crisp gutter between the spindle deck and the seat. And I’ve never managed to make myself happy. So by raising the spindle deck, I get that sharp shadow line I want.
The armbow is a typical three-piece bow. On historical chairs, the thicker section usually has a decorative detail on its ends – a bead, ogee or some such. I decided to use a 30° bevel to repeat the bevel on the underside of the seat and the underside of the “hands” of the armbow. Nothing earth-shattering.
The “hands” of my armbow aren’t from any particular source that I am conscious of. Many Welsh chairs have rounded hands, something I wanted to avoid. But I wanted the hands to get wider so the armbow didn’t look static, like a steam-bent armbow. So I used a French curve to accelerate the radius on the armbow until the hands were wider. Then I used a French curve to add a slight arc on the front of the hand to tip my hat to the rounded hands of historical chairs.
I beveled the front of the underside of the hands at 30° so the sitter had something to do while listening to a relative drone.
The crest rail is smaller than I usually make – only 1-3/4” tall. I did this so that it will be easy for other people to make this crest if they don’t have access to thick stock or steam-bending equipment. This crest is cut easily from solid material. The front of the crest is – surprise – a 30° bevel, repeating the other bevels on the chair.
The finish – black over red milk paint – is a process developed by Peter Galbert.
I am sure that there are other influences running through this design that I’m not conscious of. But I am told we have to cut for a commercial break.
— Christopher Schwarz