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The Chairmaker Part III (continued)

Finally, the chairmaker makes the seat of the chair that is fastened to the underframe, this requiring him to use the utmost care. Its four rails, of which it (the seat) consists, p. 196, are curved along both outer edges matching the rails of the underframe. When these are curved, they are made straight without a curve to start with. The chairmaker cuts them out of planed stock, marks in the beginning its tenon and mortise, cutting the first and chiseling the later, and determines with that the lengths of the rails. Since the seat is broader at the front than at the back, he has to mark (lay out) the tenon (shoulder) with a bevel gauge, fig. XVI, which is indispensable. Both side rails, l & n and d & m, are mortised into the front rail of the seat, and the back rail, d & l, into the side rails. As soon as these rails are planed and mortised together, they are let into the back legs. The chairmaker cuts at the edges, d & l, of both side rails according to the thickness of the back legs, e & f and g & h, and is now able to lay the seat in this manner on the underframe so that the rear rail, d & l, comes to lay between the back legs. The assembled seat rails are therefore laid in their position on the underframe; he marks the curve of the underframe on the frame of the seat; takes the rails apart again and curves them out with the turning saw. He must follow up on the curves with the drawknife because the saw occasionally leaves rough edges, and he must finally smooth the curve with the rasp and so forth, p. 200. Now, since there is nothing left to hinder him, the rails of the seat are glued together with the help of a bar clamp. And as soon as this is done, he measures off the holes through which the cane is to be fastened with a pair of dividers. For coarse caning the holes are ½ inch apart; for a finer (cane) they are not as far apart. The laid out holes are drilled through with a hand drill, fig. XII. For the sake of greater accuracy, he smooths the upper side of the seat with the smoothing plane, and he pushes a toothing plane, p. 184, over the underside and thereby makes it rough so that the seat can be securely glued to the underframe.

Before he glues the seat, however, he must weave it with Spanish cane, because he has more control over this work when the seat is separate from the frame, and he can more easily turn it regardless of what position it is in. It is difficult to explain the caning of a chair by a description and therefore one can relate only the most necessary basics. The reader is already familiar with caning as described above on page 190. The chairmaker cuts off the glaze from both ends of the cane thread because the point cannot be fashioned without cutting it and breaks off while caning. He fastens such a cane thread in the hole at one end of the front rail, m & n, with a loop, guides it through an opposite placed hole in the back rail, d & l, putting it in from above and through the next positioned hole of this last rail from underneath.

In this manner he will cover the entire chair in its depth with cane, and so also in its breadth with the use of the drilled holes on both side rails, d & m and l & n. In this usual manner he canes another layer in the depth of the chair a second time, without actually braiding and, therefore, he says that the cane threads of the first three times are only overlaid. On the fourth time alone, when the chairmaker guides the cane threads through every hole in the width of the seat from one side rail, d & m, to the other, l & n, he inserts every cane thread each time between two threads that are stretched in one and the same holes along the depth of the chair. This is now the layer of the caning consistency of two threads pulled through each hole in the depth and breadth of the chair, the first three layers overlaid only, the fourth, however, is braided. Over these are to be pulled two cane threads through each hole of the front rail, m & n; one to the right, m & l, the other to the left of the seat, n & d. This braiding is called the cross stitch. The chairmaker inserts each thread of the cross stitch through each of its squares that is going to form in the layers along the length and the breadth of the seat. When in caning you come to the end of a cane thread the chairmaker fastens the most distant end of the thread under the seat of the braiding with a loop, and in this same manner starts again with a new cane thread. If it is possible to still pull the cane thread through a hole, but the end is not long enough to loop it, it is sometimes fastened in the hole with a wooden peg. In closing, it is noted that the chairmaker has to guide the thread of the cross stitch in such a manner that the threads of the weave are not torn when he pulls each through. As mentioned before, it is better understood by visual examination than through description.

The chairmaker now curves the caned seat according to the measurement of the inner curve with the turning saw, as also on the outside, and smooths this curve, as the other, with the drawknife. Only now can the chairmaker glue the seat to the underframe with the help of screw clamps. When this is done he can further work the outer curve of the lower frame. This consists of a strong round ridge and a small flat above it. When the lower frame runs along a straight line, the chairmaker works the parts of the lower frame with a gouge and the rest of the chisels that belong to the group of "Kehl" tools, p. 185. In this case he cannot use the chisels because of the abrupt interruption in the curve of the seat. He therefore carves the upper flats with a carver (Schnitzer)12, rounds out the ridge with a drawknife, completes cutting the upper flats with a paring chisel (Balleisen), and sometimes cuts under the staff a groove (Hohlkehle) with a gouge. Finally, he smooths the lower frame with a rasp, or also with a piece of glass, and finally with the shark skin.

Lastly, the chair receives a stain color of a yellow, brown, or red application. The fashion preference now is a yellow application. The chairmaker keeps this color a secret. In Berlin, the basketmaker also trades in chairs and orders them in the following stain colors. For yellow color one cooks yellow wood and half as much potash in a kettle, and changes yellow to a red color which resembles cedar wood when orlean is added. Cologne earth and potash of equal parts cooled in water yields a brown color. These acid colors are all applied to the wood with a brush. The yellow color is applied to the chair without a base coat, and for the red and brown color one lays down a temporary base of the yellow color. All of these colors must be completely dry before polishing because the not-yet dried colors run off when polished.

Following this now the chairmaker can finally polish the painted chair with wax. He covers it with wax, rubs this with the polishing woods, that are similar to the polishing woods (Poussirhölzern) of the sculptor, a part at a time. A chair has many small curves and ridges in which the wax cannot be sufficiently rubbed out without the help of the aforementioned sticks. The applied wax he rubs out further with a stocking and then with a stiff brush further spreading it out, [and] lastly with a woolen cloth. The polished chair can be easily maintained by the owner if he occasionally applies wax and rubs it out with a brush and a woolen cloth.


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