“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” – Aristotle
Autodidacticism is self directed learning and an autodidact is a self-teacher. I think this suites me to a tee. From writing and playing music, to boat building and onto working wood, I’ve discovered my own paths, for better or worse, through them all.
When I was very young, my family used to spend our summers camping. We were only an hours drive away from the steel plant stacks and the coal dust skies of Sydney, Nova Scotia where I was born, but it was far enough away to feel like we had escaped.
While in our summer location, our neighbor there was an older Dutch gentleman who’s yard we’d visit just as the plum trees were ripening. Every so often he would welcome us inside for a chat over a cup of tea and I always remembered the inside of his home and especially his furniture. Today I suppose we’d call it mid-modern or contemporary, but in those days it just felt clean and comfortable.
I used to sit in a curved chair that for my 10 year old frame, seemed to swallow me whole! It was the kind of chair you’d need help getting out of and that suited me just fine.
Later in life, I was in a clients home who commissioned me to repair a wooden boat for them. I noticed a chair in their sitting room and the feeling from those summers so long ago came rushing back. It was the same chair! I immediately inquired about the design and its history and was told it was known as a ‘scoop’ chair designed and manufactured by Carter Brothers, Inc., in Salisbury, North Carolina in the mid 1950‘s. For years I’ve wanted to make my own version of a scoop chair and for this project I decided to do just that. This design is absolutely my own with only a whisper and a nod back to the original scoop chair design. In all honesty, the only thing similar between the two is the fact that the seat is an extreme curve.
When people hear I only use hand tools to build furniture they usually think of rustic, or rough, country-style furniture. They generally have a mis-conception of the styles of furniture you can build using ‘only hand tools’ and this project is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the endless possibilities of design in the hand tool only wood shop.
There really are no limits except your own imagination.
In the coming posts I’ll show you the process of how I make this chair- using bent lamination for the curved sides and a solid frame using traditional joinery techniques and a woven leather seat.