20 years ago I started buying wrecked chairs at country auctions, and attempting to do them up, fully intending to then to put them back into auction, and undoubtedly make a fortune, but they became family favourites. We still have the first Victorian armchair I ever reupholstered and I was nearly shown the door when I recently suggested we could replace it. The fact I was intending to replace it with one I had made from scratch was ignored.
We still use everyday the set of 18c ladder back dining chairs I purchased years ago for just £10, albeit having been re polished and with now woven seats, as we also use the nursing chair with the rewoven split cane back, which my dearly beloved still maintains is the worlds most comfortable chair ( in the dining room) in Norfolk.
Through all this time I keep coming back to shaker style chairs, and have made several including rocking chairs, and whilst I love the style, and the craftsmanship of the turned wood I have never been a great fan of the “Shaker tape” woven seats, much preferring English rush woven seats. With a few days between projects and a delivery of rush cord I decided to make a shaker bench with a woven rush seat.
Starting with a plank of cherry wood, one of a couple I purchased a while ago, it was rapidly cut and turned to size on the lathe, and I thought I was doing well to do that in a morning. Subsequently I was reading a book on shaker chairs where it tells of the work rate of some of the old time craftsmen, working with a pole lathe they would turn 300 pieces in a day, albeit they were identical parts that’s still an incredible work ethic.
For the top I was trying a new material Rush cord, which I had been warned was a challenging material to work with, and whilst it had its moments, the end result was so much better than the alternatives, and I think will become my material of choice for seats in the future.
Now for my next challenge I have been asked to restore a Victorian rocking chair for a customer, back to its former glory with a woven split cane seat and back. On a recent trip through the countryside I came across a “Chair Doctor” a term I had forgotten but if I can manage to bring this one back to life I might just get my doctorate!