Issue 12 T.O.C. – “Both Ends of the Spectrum: An Examination of Two Ladderback Chairs”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Twelve. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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“Both Ends of the Spectrum: An Examination of Two Ladderback Chairs”

Charles Dickens wrote about “the best of times” and “the worst of times,” two radically contrasting perspectives on life surrounding the events of the French Revolution. Depending on your point of view, an assessment of a day’s happenings might look very different. Handmade furniture shares this trait, in that the approach of the maker to building a well-known form can lead to very distinctive outcomes. 

In Issue Twelve, we examine two 19th-century ladderback chairs with uniquely different pedigrees. Both are built around similar proportions, both feature all the typical joinery details of the day, and both are even made of the same types of wood. But there the similarities end. While one chair maintains a remarkable degree of precision in its turnings and back slats, the other achieves an even more noteworthy, shall we say, “divergence” from the norm. 

As usual, we look closely for tool marks, layout lines, and any other clues to the thought process of the different makers. Although these two chairs look so different, they have both survived the centuries and have a lot to say about not only foundational chairmaking practice, but also the freedoms that can be explored within any craft tradition. 


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