31 March 2012

The makers hand

After seeing Roy Underhill's  Elizabethan Joint Stool with Peter Follansbee and seeing that his book Make a joint stool from a tree is out,  I took a closer look at an oak (quercus robur) joint stool I have since the late seventies. It has a weathered look as I used as a washing table for a few years.  I imagine it was made in the early sixties but it could be older.
The design is slightly different,  it is splayed in both directions.  It also uses a medial stretcher.  This is an advantage when used as a stepping stool as it leaves more room for my feet.  The medial stretcher sets also less stress on the legs as those are weakened by only a single mortise.

I saw it as an industrial product.  Looking closer at the construction I found some traces of the makers hands.  The turned legs show millimetric differences in pattern height and thickness,  so they are turned by hand with a pattern for visual references.  The legs show also small growth rings so I guess they came from thin branches from the oak.  The leg on the left is missing a small part hidden in an inside corner. Hinting again on material scarcity.


The leg at the right has a crack,  unsurprisingly,  the culprit is most probably the screw left of the leg used to hold the seat.  Was it me, it could also be a lack of quality control when assembling the joints.

A last picture,  the mortise hole on the left leg is visible and rounded,  so the mortising is probably done with a horizontal mortiser.  As all the horizontal mortiser I know lack position stops, the holes are positioned by eye and this can be a side effect.  The tenons could be made with a tenoning machine, as they show very clean and fitting shoulders.  The fit of the tenon is probably done with a handsaw and rasp or chisel as the splayed design asks for angled tenons.  I will have to take the stool apart to know if they used a rasp or a chisel for rounding the tenons.


The legs are cut flat on the seat, where the apron was probably cut beforehand and has a small space on the inside. But again it is not clear if plane or sander if any was used for fit and finish.
A last detail the seat is made of two joint pieces held together with tongue and groove,  visible in the handle, where at the sides it is a hidden joint.  Not really a problem when a profiler is available and you still have some fingers left.  The handle is irregular and probably mainly a handtool thing,  so I guess no handheld router was available..

All in all I was surprised to find so many 'interesting' details on a simple stool.