The Chairmaker and the Boys

The Chairmaker and the Boys, , provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Since my last post I found this fictional video from 1959 of a couple boys playing at Ernest Hart’s mill and chair shop. The shop seems to have been cleaned out somewhat for the film, compared to the film in my last post.

Ernest has a massive line-shaft driven patternmaker’s lathe. At 5:00 we see him turning Birch chair legs. By the curls you can tell the wood is green. Why did roughing gouges seem to all have curved tips back then?

Ernest is using cylindrical mortises in green posts. At 7:35 we see him checking that his stretchers are dry. He drives the ‘duckbill’ tenons (the tenon ends are bigger in diameter than the rest of the tenon) without glue into the mortises. The mortises then shrink, creating a ball-and-socket type joint that even if it ever became loose, would never be able to come apart. Jennie Alexander called these joints ‘good, no good joints’. I have seen 200 year old joints like these on the spindle/seat joints of Windsor chairs. The joint could wiggle around all over the place, but to pull it apart required great force with a mallet, resulting in huge 3″ long splinters being lifted from the seat. They work!

His holdfast must be 20″ long! It’s huge. Maybe that explains why my small 5# holdfasts don’t seem to hold too well.

At 12:54 we see one of the kids taking a slat out of a vat of steaming water. Boil-bending seems to have been quite common historically. And at 15:35 we see Ernest bending the slats.

Some of the mill teeth are made of wood as seen in 16:46. This reduced wear on the corresponding metal teeth and acted as a safety release – the wooden teeth would break if something jammed. More info here.

I could do without Grandpa spanking the kid with a slat at the end, but the woodworking is pretty cool.

Posted in Craft Films
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Forsberg Herbert
3 years ago

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