A similar chair appears in the book Southern Furniture 1680-1830:The Colonial Williamsburg Collection by Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown. There are several stylistic differences between the two chairs, but over all the construction methods used are very similar. One striking similarity is how low the stretchers are on the bottom of the chair. This was a feature I immediately saw in the chair I am working on. two notable differences are the arm design and also the fact that the Williamsburg chair has a square seat while the chair I am working on has a trapezoidal seat. These, I believe are all stylistic differences, perhaps particular to a region and or a particular maker. below is a like to this book:
The chair is made up of two woods, Maple and Hickory. Maple was used for the posts of the chair, while every other component was made from Hickory. The chair came with a worn rush seat which was not original. Here is a photo of the chair as it came to me.
|This photo shows the chair after the seat was removed.|
The chair was loose in spots and so I set about knocking the chair apart so I could clean the joinery and re-glue the chair. When I started to dismantle the chair, I found that the tenons for the chair had a specialized design. after a little research this is what I have learned.
Chair makers of the 18th century used two techniques to make a locking tenon that would keep the chair tight, even when the glue dried. One utilized a split tenon that was wedged from the interior. The other process is as follows. The chair maker would make the tenon of the stretcher slightly bulbous, sometimes carving a shoulder onto the inside of the bulb. The stretchers were made of Hickory in this case. The sides of the tenon would sometimes be carved down flat so that the tenon was slightly wider in one direction that the other. The tenons were then heated by putting them next to a wood stove on just outside of a fire in an effort to remove the moisture from the tenon causing it to shrink. Meanwhile, the posts for the chair would be made from green wood and the mortice for the stretcher would be made using a Spoon bit. Below is a photo of a spoon bit:
Any person who has ever glued a chair will tell you that the sections that loosens up the most are the stretchers that connect the front of the chair to the back. This is due to the motion of people sitting in the chairs and leaning back, etc. To accommodate for this, the chairmaker oriented the posts so that the maximum amount of shrinkage would happen around these stretchers, minimizing the amount that the chair loosened. The result was that although the stretchers from side to side were loose, the stretchers from front to back were very tight and needed no re-gluing, just a little wedging in spots.
It is very impressive that this amount of consideration went into the manufacture of this chair. It clearly shows that it was the intent of the chairmaker of old to build a chair that would last for generations to come.
Below are some photos of the tenons.
|This photo shows the tenon with its carved shoulder. The end of the tenon was rounded like the end of the spoon bit.|
|The flat side of the tenon can be seen in this photo.|
|The tenon of a slat with its barbed side and remnants of the blue paint. This photo shows the condition of the existing finish in detail. The crazing in the finish is largely due to use of linseed oil on the finish.|