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The Woodwright's Workbook: Further Exploration in Traditional Woodcraft By Roy Underhill

The Red Chair

Baby in a Red Chair, nineteenth century, anonymous (courtesy Abby Aldrige Rockefeller Polk Art Center, Williamsburg, Virginia).Baby in a Red Chair, nineteenth century, anonymous (courtesy Abby Aldrige Rockefeller Polk Art Center, Williamsburg, Virginia). In the folk art museum in town there is an anonymous painting of a baby in a red high chair. The posts and rungs for the chair are not as fat as those you often see in the South. Southern soft maple needs the extra diameter for strength. The only copy that I have made of this chair is in elm, partially because I like its grain and partially because I had some.

Turned chairs such as this one have been around a very long time. Turning is quicker and easier than carving, and one element of the joint, the tenon, can be shaped at the same time as the pattern. The other element is quickly made with a brace and bit. When you turn these patterns, make a light incision to mark each joint, including me ends of the mortices for the back splats. Be sure to indicate the proper offset for the stretchers that frame the seat.

To spread the base and keep baby from tipping the chair over, the four leg posts diverge at the bottom. This means that the top ends of the posts converge and that the back splats, if inserted in the normal way, would also lean inward and tend to tip baby into the oatmeal. One way to deal with this is to bend the back splats into progressively deeper curves as they go higher on the back. The back splats (split from white oak) are small enough to fit in a large cooking pot, so steaming should not present a problem. Steam them for half an hour and overbend them to allow for springback. Leave them in the form overnight. Shape the inal curves and ends after they are set. A bench like Hulot's shown on page 24 is perfect for boring and assembling chairs like this one. You can use an adjustable bevel to ensure that all of your holes are bored at the same angles. I usually assemble the chair first and then mortice the back posts to accept the splats. I can eyeball the mortices to match the angles of the curved slats much better this way.



"The Woodwright's Workbook: Further Exploration in Traditional Woodcraft" By Roy Underhill
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press

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