chairs, furniture

A German ‘Brettstuhl’

I bought an antique German ‘Brettstuhl’ from 1832.

It is in great condition and only cost me 39,30€ shipped (I guess not a lot of people want to buy these?)

Though the traditional Brettstuhl style doesn’t speak to me as much as Welsh armchairs, I am still fascinated by this one.

What I particularly like about the chair is the carving in the back rest.

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A Brettstuhl often has a hole in the shape of a heart carved in the back rest. The reason for this hole is to me unknown but it could be to hang the chair from a wall when it is not in use (I have come across a picture that shows this).

But this back is different, there is an abstract carving that to me looks like a half-open eye. This gives the chair a weird appearance (good weird). The chair is looking at you with one eye, how cool is that.

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Dating the chair was easy as the maker put the year and his initials in the back rest. He was a better chairmaker than he was letter carver, but I think his messy carving only adds to the charm of the chair.

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Detail of back rest

The wood used is oak for the back, cherry for the seat and beech for the legs.

The chair is constructed in the typical German way of adding cross battens to the seat using sliding dovetails for extra strength. The legs are then mortised through the batten and the seat, making a very solid construction. If the seat would split, the chair would still remain together because of this.

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Detail of sliding dovetail

The legs taper in towards the floor, as is common in German chairs (as opposed to Welsh chairs that usually taper out to the floor).

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There is one thing that puzzles me about the leg mortises visible from the top of the seat. Somehow there are larger holes surrounding the actual wedged legs. I don’t think it was a repair because it is present on all four legs in the same way. Perhaps the specialists can shed some light on this?

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Note the bigger circles around the leg mortises

All in all I am very happy about my purchase and I will learn a lot from studying this real-life specimen that soon enough will celebrate its 200th birthday. It still sits excellent, nothing is wobbly or loose and it is in good enough shape to survive another 200 years

I am not sure if I will ever build a Brettstuhl myself but I will take a lot of inspiration from this chair.

Rudy Everts

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furniture

Reflections

It has been a little over a year since I started shifting my attention from sculptures and spoons to furniture as an endeavor to improve my lacking precision skills.

In early 2018, I had set myself a deadline to complete several Acanthus leaves. But instead of completing this challenge (I stopped after 2 acanthus leaves) I realized something.

There was a better way to improve my skills in the way I wanted to, and that was by making furniture.

I wanted to become more precise in my woodworking and care about planning in advance of a project rather than just diving in, like I used to do. Furniture is nearly impossible to execute without a clear plan – perfect!

The main thing that was driving me in those times remains. My main motivation is to improve my skills. I don’t go to a woodworking school so I have to be my own mentor, which is tough at times.

But all the hard work certainly has paid off. I feel happier with my creations than I did before and I think they look more professional.

My sawing skills have greatly improved, I can plane a board flat, I can sharpen much better than I could one year ago, etc. Setting yourself some goals can have a big impact on the quality of your work.

But it doesn’t end here, this is a mere reflection-and-looking-to-the-future moment. Making chairs was my favorite thing to do out of the projects I completed last year. Joinery and measuring my least.

Thus I will set myself the goal for the next 12 months to make more projects that involve my marking gouge and my square.
Because inside the comfort zone one slowly dies away.

Though I will still be making chairs and stools on the side, I find it important to remain on top of improving my skills and techniques and not fall into the trap of doing something you love over and over again. Challenges pave the path for becoming a better woodworker.

I am thinking about making a shaker table on of these days as a first step in that direction.

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Shaker Table, courtesy of Popular Woodworking magazine

 

But I think I’ll make the legs taper out the opposite way.

Off to the lumberyard!

Rudy Everts

 

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