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Re: [SCA Newcomers] Viking/bog/"stargazer" chair

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  • D'vorah bint Da'ud
    This is excellent information. Thank you. I do like learning about the northern cultures. The points about wood use and precision instruments are a lot more
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 5, 2013
      This is excellent information. Thank you. I do like learning about the northern cultures. The points about wood use and precision instruments are a lot more universal, and speak to me more directly than anything said about the Norse in particular, as I have never indicated any particular allegiance in that direction. I've heard the chair called a Viking chair (for no reasons that were offered), and I used that term because I figured people would know what I was talking about, not because I actually think of it as a Viking chair. I think of it as an African chair and, like cotton, one of the reasons I prefer to portray someone from the African continent.

      On 5 Jun 2013, at 3:51 PM, Honour Horne-Jaruk <jarukcomp@...> wrote:

      > Respected friends:
      > "D'vorah bint Da'ud" dvorah@... dvorah.batadar
      > asked:
      > 2. Other than being made of thinner and stronger wood, do you know the differences in basic design? I'd be interested to learn more, because the one picture I did see was very similar to the bog chairs that are so common at SCA events, barring the styles of carving/decoration.
      > -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
      > D'vorah bint Da'ud
      > The fastest answer is to copy my side of a debate on the subject...
      > (From the SCAcommunity website "furniture" forum)
      > There are two really important arguments against the "stargazer" chair existing in our area and era: it doesn't do what they wanted a chair to do, and it is very hard to do with their equipment and resources. (Make that three: it's extremely wasteful of resources.)
      > First, they didn't mind sitting on things we won't sit on, starting with the ground. Children sit on the ground readily, because they're flexible. We sit on chairs because we aren't. _But relatively few of them were as stiff, or as heavy, or as well-dressed, as the vast majority of us are._ If you look at pictures from their time, one thing that shows up fast is how many people are standing in any scene compared to the number of people sitting. Chairs were rank-dependent, and very few were high enough in rank to have one. (benches were very common, however.) Because of the way a Stargazer chair works, it is useless for showing off rank and power- unless you count the rank and power of the dentist it makes you look like you're waiting for...
      > Second, it relies on the existence of standardized milled kiln-dried lumber- a four-way inaccuracy. To make a plank the size and shape of the parts of a Stargazer took the heartwood of a tree, expert woodmen, sawyers, adzemen, planers, carpenters and carvers, and a year. A simple folding stool or chair, of which they had at least twelve designs that I know of- including the easily and cheaply available director's chair- uses a fraction of those resources.
      > Anyone dextrous enough to make a stargazer could make a brocade or leather seat and back for a director's chair, or make a simple "viking" chest-stool. And they're more comfortable and weigh less!
      > (comment deleted)
      > (my reply)
      > Respected friend:
      > I should probably start by telling you that I have been, among other things, both a professional researcher and writer in the field of domestic material culture of our eras, and both a professional woodworker and a trained blacksmith. I've made this stuff, not as SCA approximations, but as duplicates of extant pieces and replicas of archaeological remains.
      > The Norse cultures didn't kiln-dry wood. First, it wouldn't have made any sense- the scouring winds of a Norse winter will dry _anything_. Second, they couldn't spare the fuel.
      > Present research indicates their boats were made with riven planks, not sawn wood. The keels, strakes, mast-feet, thwarts and other shaped parts, including both masts and spars, were made from wood pre-grown to the correct shape; again, not sawn into planks or anything very plank-like. Even the flat boards the chests were made out of were often froe-riven, then adzed and drawshaved, rather than sawn. The saw-blade must be a far, far higher quality of metal than any froe,adze, or drawshave in order to function, because even the froe is thick enough to resist the torque which warps and breaks saw-blades so easily. It made no sense to risk a saw on work that didn't require it.
      > Usually, A-frame "Viking" tents weren't actually tents in our sense of the word at all. They were sails, taken straight off the spars, and it was the spars- which were not sawn, not kiln dried, and not standardized- which held them up.
      > Another factor is that the Norselands had a dangerously small supply of strong, tough wood. Fir and pine splinter, birch breaks and rots, and most other trees grew stunted and twisted where they survived at all. During the Little Climactic Optimum that forged the Viking culture they had oaks, but never many- never enough that they could afford to waste the wood. A three-legged stool can be made from 1/7 the wood of a stargazer chair, and is far more comfortable for people who are working as they sit, which means everyone except perhaps the Jarl himself.
      > The other factors are less physical and more cultural. We hate benches. We hate sharing a seat with others. Non-Americans can peg families and lovers instantly in our gatherings by the sheer fact that they voluntarily sit close enough to touch each other, and are often amazed (or revolted) when they realize that _only_ families and lovers voluntarily do so. The people of Scandinavia don't have that phobia to any comparable extent. You can go into a Swedish tavern and see total strangers elbow-to-elbow any day of the year. That makes benches far more wood-efficient than any chair. It's probable that most Norsefolk never sat in a chair in their lives.
      > Also. almost no American would ever put up with the degree of crowding that was considered normal and reasonable in Viking-era Scandinavia. Every inch of house space had to be heated, with that same low-quality wood, hand-felled, hand-hewn, and hand-split with tools nowhere near as good as the precious precision implements of the shipbuilders. There was no space for the enormous footprint of a stargazer chair, which when in use takes up two to three times the space of an upright chair.
      > If a Norseman in Byzantium saw in a market a chair imported from Mali- the nearest spot, if I'm remembering correctly, where we have any evidence for the Stargazer design in period- he'd probably be amazed, but he probably would never even consider buying it. And if he did buy it, and then transported it more than a thousand miles to his homeland, he wouldn't copy it. The originals were tropical hardwoods so dense a 2cm. thick plank could support a muscular man. To copy that with his native softwoods (he'd never be dumb enough to use birch) he'd have to make the copy out of wood two to three times as thick- and he wouldn't. he'd make a stool, a bench, or a sitting-chest.
      > However, if he had somehow gotten and kept a chair from Mali, I would be very surprised if it _didn't_ end up as a decorative inset in something very, very valuable; it would, for example, look spectacular in the back of his Jarl's High Seat.
      > Well, that was long-winded... but I didn't want you to think I was just spouting off without having any evidence to back my claim. I'm not saying anyone, anywhere, should be dumping on people who have and use stargazers. I just would like us to stop telling people they're historically accurate for Vikings.
      > Yours in service to both the Societies of which I am a member-
      > (Friend) Honour Horne-Jaruk, R.S.F.
      > Alizaundre de Brebeuf, C.O.L. S.C.A.- AKA Una the wisewoman, or That Pict
      > "If you're a normal human, the inside of your head is not a pretty
      > place. Venting it unfiltered to the internet may feel therapeutic,
      > but it's unlikely to end well."
      > --Goedjn
      > ________________________________
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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