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The Chairmaker, Part II

Stulmacher's Tools


The marking gauge (Reissmass), fig. VI, of the chairmaker differs somewhat from the marking gauge of the other woodworkers. Only a single four-sided rod, c & d, is inserted into the stock a & b, whereas usually there are two rods inserted in the stock, p. 146. In contrast to this, the aforementioned marking gauge has a pin on two sides of the rod, d & e. The one pin is further from the stock, a & b, than the other, and with them the chairmaker lays out the mortise. As the mortise must be a little narrower than the tenon, the tenon is scribed without it being necessary to move the beam, c & d, in the stock, a & b. These tools have already been thoroughly discussed in a previous chapter, p. 146.

  The chairmaker holds the piece of wood to the planing bench with the hold fast (Bankhacken) when he wants to saw off something, cut a tenon, or shape curves. The foot, a & b, fig. 10, of the hold fast is inserted in a hole in the planing bench, and smaller work pieces are pressed between [the bench] and the arm of the hold fast, a & c, thereby causing the foot of the hold fast, a & b, to tilt at an inclined angle in the hole of the planing bench in which it is placed, securely clamping the wood. The wood so clamped can be cut, being held fast by the arm, a & c.
  Besides the usual screw clamps that the cabinetmaker is in possession of, (Vol. I, p. 72), the chairmaker has a special bar clamp, fig. XIV, that he fastens to two pieces of wood far apart from one another. Both legs, a & c and a & d, join at right angles, [and] the latter, a & d, containing a screw, c. Between the arm, a & d, and the foot, f & g, the chairmaker is able to clamp the wood pieces in the bar clamp. Since the wood pieces can be further apart from one another or closer together, the foot, f & g, on the leg can be moved up or down. It (the foot) is fitted with a rivet, h, attached to the moveable hook, b & h, and this hook can be laid into one or another of the notches of the teeth, b & c. In order that the foot, f & g, won't move during usage, it has behind g & i a tenon that falls into a groove of the leg, a & c without being fastened to it.

Round and other surfaces of the wood, the shape (figure) of which does not allow them to be planed, the chairmaker works with the drawknife (Schneidemesser) that was already discussed in a previous chapter, p. 142. Next he uses the rasp to even out these surfaces. He has flat and round rasps, "bird tongues," and various other rasps of graduated sizes and shapes so that he can work any desired surface with one or the other. The desired surfaces are additionally scraped with the scraper (Schabeissen), fig. XIII. Every scraper has straight, curved, and hollow edges, so that the professional can scrape flat, as well as convex and concave surfaces. The chairmaker scrapes large pieces of wood with the scraping blade (Schabeklinge), fig. XI, because he can comfortably grasp the blade with both hands on the wooden handles and, exerting his full strength, complete the scraping easier and faster. The blade is prepared with a three-edged burnisher.


Along with the common hand square, the chairmaker can also not do without the familiar carpenter's square (Winkelmass), p. 146. It often occurs that he needs to lay out two acute angles of the same size, and in this case it is easier for him to use the bevel gauge (Schiefmass), fig. XVI. It is similar to a common square except that the arm, a & b, is pinned to the arm, a & c, and both are connected by a bolt. One can therefore move the arm, a & c, in either direction up and down, and thereby make acute angles of any size.

  The chairmaker seldom uses the gimlet (Handbohrer) and brace (Draufbohrer) because he joins the wooden parts with mortise and glue. With the brace, fig. XII, he drills the holes in the seats and backs of chairs though which the cane is pulled for caning. The brace has a wooden frame, a, b, & c, into which a small spoon drill, c, is inserted. The top moveable knob, a, the chairmaker places against the right shoulder and moves the frame of the drill, a, b, & c, with the left hand.

Lastly, the chairmaker planes the Spanish cane, with which he canes the seats and backs of the chairs, in the following manner with the cane plane (Rohrhobel), fig. XV. The Spanish cane, upon purchase, is approximately one-half inch thick and six to ten yards long. It has, by its nature, bumps and indentations here and there and these must be trimmed by the cabinetmaker with a small knife (Messer) fashioned from an old sharp straight razor (Barbirmesser). With this same knife the chairmaker splits the cane down its length in four equal parts. He roughly cuts off the inner core [Peddig] from each quarter with the knife. The cutoffs are used for caning chairs by unscrupulous chair merchants. Each quarter the cabinetmaker divides again into at least two equal parts, dividing the whole cane into at least eight equal parts. Therefore, he calls this split an "eight part." Should the chair be finely woven, he splits each cane into twelve and sixteen parts. Each eighth, twelfth, and sixteenth of the cane is called a "thread" in this workshop, and so it shall be called henceforth. Such a "thread" is now planed on its rough edge with a cane plane in the following manner. To a protruding wood block of the [cane] plane, a & b, fig. 15, is connected a horizontally fastened blade, d, by a bolt to the housing, b & c, so that its cutting edge is fixed somewhat at an angle off of the housing, c & b. Between the block, a & b, and the housing, b & c, lies a spring that raises the block, a & b, when one unscrews the wing nut, e. The protruding block, a & b, is placed on a screw spindle. From this it is evident that the blade, d, which is connected with a & b, is moved closer to, or away from, the housing when one screws the wing nut up or down. By this contrivance of the plane the chairmaker can plane the cane thread thick or thin according to the fineness or coarseness of the weave. He fastens the cane plane with the screws, g & h, into two holes of the [plane] bench. Then he pulls each cane thread between the housing, b & c, and the blade, d, in such a manner that the smooth side of the cane comes to lie on the housing, b & c, so that the blade, d, planes the rough side of the cane thread. The chairmaker sets the required width of the cane thread with the reducer (Schmaler) fig. XVe. Such a reducer consists of two vertical standing blades which are inclined at an acute angle opposite one another. They are fastened in the housing, b & c, with a wedge, f, yet so that the chairmaker can push them in the direction, f & e, that he wishes. He can thereby increase or decrease the distance between both blades according to whether the cane should be wide or narrow. Then the chairmaker pulls the cane thread through the space between both blades, thereby cutting it to width. There are all together four reducers on every cane plane, which are illustrated on the cover plate, because the chairmaker sometimes uses a coarse and fine weave and sometimes a coarse and fine cross stich (Kreutzstich) to cover the chair. The following brings this latter to light. The chairmaker is lastly in possession of a common turner's lathe, along with the necessary turning chisels. He turns on this lathe the required cross (stretchers) of some chairs, p. 185, which today are no longer fashionable. He also does the sculpted (carved) work on the chairs himself, except in the case when he wants the piece to be artistically and cleanly done, or when time fails him. In both of these cases he gives it over to the sculptor's (carver's) work, which we have already discussed.

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