Tuesday, 21 January 2020

A chair is a chair, is a chair, is a chair...

Hello my Friends,

Thank you very much for your kind wishes for this year. I promised myself to make no New Years resolutions. But secretly I made one none the less. I want to spend more time making miniatures and finaly start with the first rooms of Huis ter Swinnendael.


Well the first part is going well at least. I have made four 17th century chairs with stretchers. In Dutch they are called a "kistregel stoel" I followed a tutorial from the Dutch DHN magazine. There a group of talented miniaturists, worked together on recreating the Rembrandt Huis in Amsterdam, where the painter lived and worked in his heyday. During the project every issue of DHN contained a project for a room decor, or a pieces of furniture or other objects from that house and era.

The link has great photo's and text (Dutch) on this great project: http://www.allesklein.nl/RembrandtHuis.html

I have most of these tutorials and will make several of them for Huis ter Swinnendael, albeit adapted here and there to suit my own requirements.  These chairs will go into the Stewards office. The scene will be set in 1806, but the family built the current house around 1675. Just after the first house was burned down by the soldiers of Louis XIV in 1672. This year is in Dutch history also known as the “Year of Disaster” (Rampjaar). In one year we were invaded by the French King(in the south) and the Prince-Bishops of Cologne and Münster (in the east), fought out a war at sea with the British (in the west).

So the House will stil contain some of the furnishings from previous generations. In 1806 these chairs have long been removed from the state rooms upstairs. Fallen from grace due to the changes in taste and fashion. This type of chair is a late rennaisance model. But at the end of the 17th century the baroque was already well on its way to become the favoured style by those who could afford it. These chairs may be a bit worn but still good enough to be used downstairs.

A chair deconstructed...
It started with getting the right materials first. In the tutorial they use a bannister to cut the legs from. It is balustre shaped. I however wanted to use a collumn shaped banister. And I found one that had the right shape and size. I only had to file of the litle point on the top to turn it into a chairleg. Another adjustment I made was adding a decoration to the top. I have an excess of eight bannisters. So I cut off their decorative tops to glue them on the back rests of the chairs. The remaining bannisters will be used to either make stools or small tables.

In my world this is precision engineering. ;-)
Then came the hard part. The legs of the back rests had to be cut to an 8 degree angle. Help! Not every chair in the 17th century had this angle. But not doing so would not look right on these chairs. My partner came to the rescue. A simple yet effective solution. One that I will use again with future (chair) projects.


Then it was time to add the first coat of woodstain and rubbing the wood with very fine steelwool to smooth the surfaces. Then I filed away some wood to show the wear and tear of the +/- 150 years these chairs have been in existence in 1806. After that it was time to add the second coat of the woodstain.


When all was dry, I drew the patterns I needed for the leather coverings. One for the seat and one for the back. I used some of the fine goatsleather I had bought at the fair in Spijkenisse. I hesitated between the red and the blue leather, so it was obvious that I chose the third colour which is brown. Male logic perhaps? But brown was a very popular colour for leather. So I am happy with my choice. And I plan on making a more elaborate version with armrests and double stretchers for behind the desk of the Steward. There I will use the blue or the red leather.


Cutting the leather was actualy quite easy. Upholstering the chairs took longer than I hoped but was less difficult than I anticipated. The leather being supple and therefore easy to work with helped a lot. In the tutorial the backrest was also stuffed, but the few Original chairs that I know of do not have stuffed backs, so I just folded them over the backs without stuffing them.Perhaps I will age the leather a bit wit steal wool or a brush. But I need to work on a testpiece first.

And here they are! finished. I may still add a line of brass tacks to the edges. Perhaps by adding small dots with a gold pen. Or little nail art drops. If I can find ones that are not bigger than 1 mm. But for now they are finished and wait the rest of the furniture for the room and the room itself.

So that's it for now. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Be well, and until the next post.

Huibrecht