Re: [MedievalSawdust] Glastonbury Chairs - Thoughts
- On Wed, June 2, 2010 9:15 am, Tim Bray wrote:
>I don't have such a chair, but I do have a portable workbench that goes
> Properly constructed, they are not that difficult to assemble, though
> there is a certain amount of fussiness, and it takes a few tries to get
> the hang of it - in particular, getting the legs oriented correctly.
> Still, with
> experience it shouldn't take 15 minutes per chair, more like 5. And
> frankly, that's the price you pay for authenticity.
together with two keyed mortices and two bridle joints, and I know it
takes me a lot less time to assemble than it did at first. Partly
practice, but mostly it's the way I got smart and marked all the matching
joints. The marks were needed at first because the bench isn't perfectly
symmetrical, and in fact many period pieces of joinery show such marks,
either because they were takedown or because the joiner built them in his
shop and only assembled the parts at a jobsite. What I found helpful was
to accent the marks, from light scratches to dark and very visible, but
put them on mating faces that are hidden when the joint is assembled.
Enough of those and confusion is no longer an issue, and most joints have
somewhere such marks can be hidden.
>Ash is wonderful stuff, though I mostly use it for tool handles. However,
> On materials, I strongly recommend against Fir, or any other softwood
> prone to splitting (especially Fir!). A guy down in Caid made one of
> these in 2X fir and when I last saw it, there were more 3" drywall screws
> than mortises. Short-grain at the ends of the seat rails will split, even
> in oak sometimes. (Elm would probably be best, if you can find it in 1X.)
> isn't really that much lighter than Ash and in fact often ends up being
> heavier, because you have to use thicker stuff to get enough strength.
I find it splits very readily. Great when working with a froe and green
wood, not so good for a piece with a mortice near the end! Which is why
wheelwrights used oak spokes and elm hubs, I suppose.
>Why avoid it? It's a real issue we face all the time. I mostly have gone
> trying to avoid another rant about the SCA insistence that everything has
> to be cheap, AND lightweight, AND breakdown, AND easy, AND cheap...
> whoops, gotta go!
for the authentic direction, but then when you take a working blacksmith
shop to events, "lightweight" is already a lost cause, so you just deal
with it. A cheap, lightweight, breakdown anvil would probably be quite
popular, except that it wouldn't work....
It has a lot to do with why you're doing the event in the first place. If
you're there to see all your friends, hit them with sticks, or sleep with
them (and all of these are perfectly fine reasons!) then authenticity is
pretty much irrelevant to you. Personally, besides the above reasons,
I've always been most interested in _what was it like back then_? I'm not
a purist, but a lot of effort people put in seems weirdly misdirected to
me. My pet example is all the work people go to camouflage ice chests.
Why? It's _far_ less work to simply learn how to live without
refrigeration for a few days. Salted or dried meats, dried and the more
lasting fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, wine, bread--people have lived on
that for weeks, and lived well. I got a simple food dryer, and find I can
dry all kinds of ingredients and cook fancy soups, stews and main dishes
in camp. The time I'm not spending trekking clear across camp, or clear
back to town, for ice for the damned cooler is there to enjoy--cooking or
craftwork or just enjoying. _And_ my food setup is less in both weight
and space than it used to be. Even if you don't like to cook in camp,
what's wrong with bread, cheese, apples, sausage and beer? I can live
quite happily on that for longer than most events last--just like
thousands of my ancestors did.
One of the reasons I haven't made period chairs for camping yet (though I
might someday) is that I enjoy making chests, and I make most of them at a
comfortable sitting height. Cushions are easy to stow because you can use
them to pad fragile items. Set the chest near enough to a tree, post,
bench or whatever, and I can usually have a good backrest that I didn't
have to build, assemble or carry.
Another set of thoughts--for almost any outdoor situation, I'm beginning
to prefer three legs to four. Three legs sit solidly on even rough, lumpy
ground. The stress of having one leg down but poorly supported seems to
have been the commonest reason so many of my four-legged camp chairs have
racked apart or broken. You can dig a bit and get such a chair to sit
firmly, but then you can't move it without redigging.
I made a knee-high bench this winter, from a piece of 8x8 and three 2x4
legs. I chose the height for sawing support, high enough to keep the saw
tip from hitting the ground but low enough to easily use my knee to pin
down the work. It works well for sawing and also for hewing, and I plan
to rig it for a block knife as well when I finish one. More than all
these put together, though, I find people like to sit on it! It's a
comfortable height, and comforting as well, because it feels so much more
secure than the usual camp furniture. As soon as you sit down, you just
know you aren't going to tip it over, you aren't going to break it no
matter how much you weigh, and you can move it around as much as you like
without having to jigger it into a solid stance.
I've used a number of three-legged stools, and seen some pictures of
three-legged chairs with back support. They are beginning to tempt me.
But the multi-use advantages of benches and chests are very hard to beat.
For takedown purposes, a bench or table with a wide, keyed-tenon stretcher
is impressively strong and stable, and very quick to put together, but
it's important to not skimp on the width of that stretcher.
Meseems that too many of my countrymen visit another century the same way
they visit another country--they won't consider it unless there are no
differences at all from their life at home, and no possible risk of
discomfort. Holiday Inn tourism. I've always wondered, what's the point?
End of rant, for now...
- Of all the possible purposes I co sidered - that wasn't one of them.
You learn something new every day (if not, what's the point of getting out of bed).
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