Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Chairbodgers R Us

From this:
 To this:

in 10 days - what an adventure! 

My beautiful double bow Windsor chair began its life on the woodpile of Rare Chairs, at Moonan Brook in the Upper Hunter (NSW). It was hand made (by me, with a little help from my friends) using traditional tools and methods that involved no electricity, under the tutelage of Howard Archbold, and in the company of some truly fabulous people with levels of woodworking/tool-wielding experience that ranged from zero (me) to extensive (Karl, Ed and Rusty are builders, Michael's a keen hobbyist, Mark has a machine workshop and Fiona has done some silversmithing). Chairmaking the traditional way, however, sans power tools - was new to all of us except Rusty. The 10 days absolutely flew by - and apart from chairs, great friendships and memories were also made.

Here’s a pictorial and a bit of bush poetry to go with it.

The workshop 

The Forestry Cottage at Moonan Brook - our home for 10 days
Fifty five kilometres from Scone in New South Wales 
There's a sleepy little valley full of trees
With a woodpile and a workshop where you make a chair by hand, 
And it's strictly people-powered if you please!

A hardy group of chairmakers withstood the winter chill 
With gloves on hands and beanies on our heads
We brought sleeping bags and pillows and a vast supply of food, 
And some booze to stop us freezing in our beds

There was Kiwi Rusty, who had come to make his seventh chair,
There were Ed and Karl, who knew a thing or two
And Michael and Fiona, making Dad and Daughter chairs,
And Mark with his enormous 'Yeeeeaaah!' and Sue.
Mark on the shave-horse, with his trusty drawknife
The support troops at the cottage, Marjorie and sleepy Liam
Kept the fires alight and brought us daily treats
And the scent of baking 'Ed-bread' and the nightly Happy Hour
Kept us going, even though dead on our feet

Guess which lucky chairmaker had a birthday - thanks heaps for the surprise celebration, folks!

'Ed-bread', baked fresh daily
Every morning there was groaning as we nursed our swollen hands,
Aching shoulders, tired feet and creaking bones
And the plaintive cry of Michael - 'I need mothering!' - each night
Rang throughout the valley on our journey home

But the lovely chairs we crafted with our blood and sweat and tears
And the pole-lathe and the adze, the scorp and saw
Will remain long after all the niggly aches and pains have gone
To be precious heirloom chairs forever more

To our host and teacher, Howard, we extend a hearty thanks
Even though he worked our fingers to the bone
We will leave the place far richer than we were when we arrived
At Moonan Brook, just fifty five from Scone.

The results of more than a day's hard work - robinia wood, shaped by drawknife and destined to become chair legs and arm posts
Turning the legs on the pole lathe - great leg exercise - who needs gyms?
The scorp - most of us declared this to be our favourite tool, used to sculpt the seat from slabs of deliciously-scented camphor laurel
A shy baby echidna who lives under the workshop and who visited us occasionally. Wildlife in the valley includes dingoes, wallabies galore and an abundance of feathered critters.

L-R: Windsor chairs by Fiona, Sue, Mark, Michael.

Delicious Chairmakers' dinner - a final-night tradition at Rare Chairs
Getting ready to take our precious artisan chairs home on Sunday morning. Nobody wanted to say goodbye!


Anonymous said...

Wow; what a unique experience Sue!
You must've been really in need of a chair......

Sue said...

It was brilliant - a very unusual way to 'relax' after a hectic school term - and it was the longest period of mobile phone/internet inaccessibility I've had, which felt very strange to begin with. I kept wondering what was happening in the 'outside world'- and even wondered at times whether it was still there!

Geoff James said...

What magnificent craftsmanship and traditions - you have a wonderful piece and the memories that go with it simply have no price.

How's the body coming along? And the Hog?

Gerry said...

Superb, Betty. Sounds like a meditation workshop in which you make a very beaut chair. Well done!

Sue said...

Gerry, much of it really WAS a bit meditative - all those hours doing repetitive stuff on the shave-horse or pole-lathe... it was lovely!

Geoff - I had expected the broken bits to be problematic, but the hours on the pole-lathe seemed to work like physiotherapy! The bits that gave me grief were my shoulder (arthritis, grrr) and my hands (carpal tunnel crap - even bigger grrrr!) Still, I survived to collect the Hog (well, Piglet, really) yesterday. So far I like it, although I can't yet say that I love it - it's very different from the SV!

lemmiwinks said...

Absolutely fantastic Sue! Really nice piece of furniture and you made it yourself.