Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gone, but Not Forgotten

The folks that ordered this rocking chair finally came by the shop to pick it up.  It's been a few weeks since I completed it, and could have delivered it to them the next day, but picking it up was their preference, and the fellow is a shokunin himself and has a truck.  He wrapped it with cardboard, even carried it out of the shop, leaving me feeling odd and thinking it was a first for that.  I would have used moving blankets.  Only the next town south where his residence is, but it saved me some effort.  I never did see the location where the chair would be used, something that always interests me.  Japanese houses of a certain period do tend to be alike, so I can easily imagine.

The Cherry wood turned out quite attractive with the Egoma or sometimes called Perilla oil that I now mainly use for my finishing.  It does bring out a lot of color, and is quite a strong finish for a natural oil, something that is desirable in our relatively high humidity environment during certain times of the year.   The back support laths are made from a wood called Sen, and having the highly figured fiddle pattern is not uncommon with the species.  It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a type of Japanese Ash, having a similar color and grain, but being an unrelated species.   The design I am pretty pleased with, though I am continuing my attempts to lighten up the chair with the current edition that is presently in the works, this time made from Chestnut, a wood that I have been using a lot of recently.  There was an earlier comment that the Windsor type side stretcher is not needed for strength,  and perhaps within that thought is also the possibility that it is incongruous with the rest of the design?  At this point I don't mind it, more think that it adds a small element of interest.  I enjoy seeing something on a chair that touches with earlier eras, when the overall concept may be of a contemporary nature.  The illustrious history of chair design evolution speaks a lot to me.

The rocking chair origin can only be traced back to North America during the early 18th century, though rocking cradles appeared much earlier, as is evident in paintings.  This type chair soon appeared in Great Britain shortly there after.  Perhaps one of the very few examples of early American made chair design influencing Great Britain, if that really was the case.  Few if any of the original makers saw the chair as something requiring further thought as to design, based on the fact that the chair had blades on the bottom and was meant to move.  Regular chairs were simply made with the usual straight legs shortened, to which the curved blades were attached, something that is still quite commonly done today.  I have done a number of them that way as well myself, but something always bothered me about what often appears as a rather stiff form stuck onto curves.  It is as if the chair has a case of rigor mortis!   To my mind, designing a complete chair where the form can carry through from and to the curvilinear parts on the bottom, and it also has some visual cohesiveness with the movement aspect, it makes more sense.  My rocking chairs over the more recent years, without the blades, there would be no safe way to sit in them without the risk of crashing over backwards or forwards.  In the lesser completed form, certainly not a gentleman's chair, or something acceptable to a lady that might easily become flustered!   I think of chairs as offering the place for the input of a great amount of subtlety, depending on the intended manner of use and location, and from that gives the possibilities of great practical seating.  It is something to hold the interest of the craftsman woodworker throughout a lifetime of work.

Some folks have asked me to post photos of the completed chair, and I welcome any comments.  Thanks for viewing my blog.