Treatise by Sprengel – Part 3

Der Stuhlmacher (The Chairmaker)

The following is a description of the types of chairs made and their respective parts. It’s interesting that though Sprengel states that the German chairmaker’s trade has been transplanted from London, all the chair types are French.  Does this show the dominant French design influence in Europe at that time or are there other factors in play?

Bis zum nächesten mal,

Au revoir,

Enjoy, Kaare

III.The Berlin chairmakers manufacture the following chairs in particular:  1. The common chairs distinguish themselves from side and parlour chairs.  The underframe of the side chair (Tafelstuhl), fig. XVII, including the thickness of the seat, is 18 inches high.  The height of the back depends on the fashion, and currently in this area a lower back is fashionable.  These chairs will generally be woven with cane.  The parlour chair (Kammerstuhl) comes between the side chair and the next arm chair (Fauteil) that follows.  Its underframe is approximately 14 to 15 inches high, but broader in the seat than the side chair, its back short, and according to present fashion, hollow or round in its breadth.  It can be caned or upholstered and takes it place generally in the ladies’ bedroom.

2.The stool (Tabouret) is a chair without a back, caned or upholstered, and is 16 inches high.

3.The arm chair (Fautiel), fig. XVIII, is called in Berlin the Invalid (Kröpel) or Invalid Chair (Krüppelstuhl).  It differs from common chairs in part in that it’s broader, and sometimes also lower, its underframe being generally only 14 to 15 inches high.  The most important difference, however, is that the armchair has arm rests, a & b, and posts, b & c.  There are currently three kinds of armchairs in fashion.  In some the armrest is, as in fig. XVIIIb, bent as the horn of a ram.  In contrast, the arm and support of the so called French and Parisian arm chairs have a different profile that one can best become familiar with by observation.  The Parisian armchair, like the parlour chair, is given a hollow back.  To this type of chair also belongs the dressing chair (Toilettstuhl), which is used in the distinguished ladies’ room when being dressed.  It differs from the armchair only in that its supports are not as in c, fig. XVIII, [but] rather mortised next to the back as in d, so that she is not hindered when dressing.  In addition, it receives casters on its feet.  Generally, it’s covered with a cushion.  All of these armchairs will be caned or also upholstered.

4.The so called Grandfather Chairs are, at present, commonly manufactured as a large plain chair, and have cheeks in addition to arm rests and supports.  The entire chair is upholstered.  Its back is either stationary, or one can recline.  In the latter case the back is either fastened at the seat and behind has a foot with which it can be supported, or has straps fastened to the posts.  The last are called “watch chairs” (Wachtstühle).  To this type of chair also belongs the “Bercere.” It is a Grandfather Chair with a strong inclined back in front of which is fastened a stool (Tabourett) so that an invalid can place his feet on it.

5.The Revolving Chair (Drehstühl) and the Field Chair (Feldstühl) are not at all as common as the above.  The Revolving Chair can turn on a base and the feet of the base commonly have castors.  It is comfortable at a writing desk.

6.The daybed (Ruhebett) has recently gone out of fashion.  It is similar to a sofa except that it has no back, but like the sofa it has short narrow sides at both ends.  It is upholstered.

7.The settee (Canape) is a broad chair which seats two to four persons.  It is, like the armchair, 15 or 16 inches high and receives on each broad side an armrest with support.  It can be caned or upholstered.

8.The sofa is only 13 inches high, in the seat 5½ [inches], and above (in its upper frame) 7 to 7½ feet long.  It receives on each narrow side an end piece, fig. XIX, e c and g c.  It is always upholstered and in the end pieces lays a cushion.

9.Fashion has finally brought in a new kind of sofa that is called an Ottoman.  They don’t differ too much from the sofa except that the end pieces are rounded in their width to the outside and hollow in the inside.  From these examples the manufacture of certain chairs should now be understood thoroughly, making the work of the chairmaker more comprehensible.

We want to first pause at a side chair without a caned back and cross on the underframe.  From this, the making of the rest of the chairs is self evident.  Similar parts in all of the chairs in this workshop have one and the same name, and in the main are manufactured with the same techniques.  It is necessary, however, to know in advance the names of every part of the chair in the chairmaker’s workshop, because these are not known in everyday life.  They seem to come from the low German and low Saxony languages because the local chairmakers were transplanted from these regions to Berlin.  By an elaboration of the letters of each illustration the reader can determine every part in fig. XVII, XVIII, and XVIX, because as already mentioned the similar parts have one and the same names for all of the chairs.  Each hind foot, d & f and i & h, makes one single piece with the outer part of the back, e & d and g & l, and these are called the rear stiles (Hinter Stapfen) e & f and g & h.  Both rear stiles are joined together by three nails, namely through the crest rail (Kopfstück — “head piece”), e & g, the shoe rail (Unterkrunpf), i & k, and the rear rail (Hinter-riegel) d & l.  Into the crest rail and shoe rail the back splat (Stahnstück) is mortised.  The “underchair” is understood by the chairmaker as all the parts below the seat of the chair.  In earlier times it had cross stretchers a few inches above the ends of the feet, p, f, h, and q, that were either turned on latin S-shaped wooden pieces.  In contrast, the feet of chairs in the current fashion are free and only fastened under the seat.  Three rails are involved in this manner of construction, namely the front rail, m & n, and both side rails, n & o,and m & d.  These rails are mortised into the front feet or front legs, m & p and n & q.  These, and also the front rail, the chairmaker calls the front frame (Vorderfach).  Lastly, the seat is likewise composed of four rails, namely the front rail, m & n, the rear rail, d & l, and the two siderails, d & m and l & n.

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4 Responses to Treatise by Sprengel – Part 3

  1. Harlan Barnhart says:

    I would find this blog more engaging if it included more content from the shop. It doesn’t have to be something complicated, I could learn a lot by seeing even the ordinary things.
    Harlan Barnhart

    • So would we!!!! We’ve had a particularly busy Spring and early Summer and have yet to get into the habit of keeping up with the blog in the way you’ve suggested (which is precisely what we intend to do with this medium). Thanks for the comment and please stick with us!

  2. Kathleen Grant says:

    Pictures please???

    • Unfortunately this is the only illustration that Sprengel gives for the Chairmaker chapter. It would be great if he had illustrated each step.
      His treatise is wonderfully informative. He addresses some things in excruciating detail and just surveys others, but there are a lot of gems in the text.

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