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Once a seed, our furniture through time has been nurtured and weathered by the elements of nature. After this cycle of life, our traditionally handcrafted chairs come into your home where people live, laugh, eat, converse... all the while seated in comfort upon Richard Hare Chairs.
From the tree to the chair
Using freshly felled or green logs (rather than timber from seasoned planks) the wood is sawn to length and then split along its length with wedges or an axe - a process called cleaving - to reduce the log to size. Sitting upon a shaving horse (seen right), I use a draw knife to shape this piece of wood for the purpose it will be used; chair leg, spindle or bow.
Strength and quality
Trees have evolved to withstand tremendous stress not by being stiff, but through their ability to sway with the wind. This strength comes from the fibrous nature of the trunk. Sawing wood cuts through these fibres, regardless of the curves and knots. By cleaving the log the chairmaker follows the run of these fibres, retaining intact the inherent strength and resilience of the tree. Cleft wood compared to planked wood is like steel compared to cast iron. Chairs made with traditional methods of greenwood construction (freshly felled) are just like the trees they have come from - extremely strong and flexible. Of all furniture, chairs suffer the most from stress and strain by the very nature of their use. Chairs need to be light, comfortable and pleasing to the eye. The traditional methods I use guarantee this quality.
Ancient practice meets modern style - the greenwood chairmaker and ancient tools used today
It is believed the pole lathe (pictured left) was invented by the Egyptians and has been used to turn patterns on wood for thousands of years.
The pole lathe is a simple but effective lathe, powered by a strong leg using a springy sapling as resistance on the turn.
With every downward push with the leg, the chisel cuts into the greenwood which peels away, shaping the pattern desired.
The advantages of a traditional design
- Traditional turned pattern allows legs to flex taking stress off the joints.
- Leg joints are tapered into solid seat which ensures they will not come loose.
- Solid timber seat is shaped by hand using an adze (durability and comfort).
- Slender spindles and steam bent chair back give flexibility and lightness in weight.
Types of wood and tools used
Traditionally, good chairs have always been made from more than one wood as each particular wood is better suited to its place in the chair. The crafting of a chair requires three different types of wood. I personally select each tree to be felled ensuring sustainable harvesting, treading softly upon this earth and leaving the lightest footprint possible.
- Chair seats – the wood must have interlocking grain to take many holes without splitting, whilst not being too heavy.
- Back bow and spindles – the wood must be straight-grained, dense yet flexible, and suited to steam bending.
- Legs and under structure – the wood must be a durable hardwood which holds the detail in turnery