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Le poids de l'hêtre 2

I bought my beech from a local wood supplier. They have stacks of off-cuts and I chose some pieces. They measured the volume, and multiplied that by the price per cm3. I can understand why the substance itself, 'untransformed', has value. Beech is a hardwood; it grows slower. The pieces I bought have a close grain and almost no knots. The tree from which they came must have been many decades, if not centuries, old. And, someone had to do the preliminary work of finding that tree, cutting it down, stripping the bark and squaring it off into blocks.

In respect for the raw material, I try to minimize waste. Even when I make mistakes and wish I could start over. This has resulted in some ad hoc design choices for the chair. One of the back legs split while being planed, so I decided to replace it with a dowel. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself why I'm doing this, why I don't just go to Ikea. There is the design freedom and customization; there is the tactile knowledge and satisfaction acquired through the work itself. There is also the luxury of having and working with solid wood. No thin veneer on particleboard, no assembly of layers, this chair is just beech. Even the dowels I'm using to reinforce the mortise and tenon joints are made of beech. 

My criteria for the design were the following: simple to execute, no metal fasteners, able to be disassembled and packed flat for transport. I chose to make two 'h' frames, assembled with mortise and tenon joints. The 'h' frames interlock at a right angle and will be braced by the backrest and seat. I've been having trouble with the backrest- I keep cutting the wrong angle. So I've had to use a bit of glue, even though my initial idea was to make do without.


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Clay used for making bricks must be mixed with fine-grained inert material to prevent cracking during drying and firing. Normally, sand is used, but grog, crushed fired brick, can serve the same purpose. I crushed some of the leftover tiles that we made in April and mixed them into a test batch of clay. I don't think this is a viable option for all the bricks due to time constraints, but it is good to know that all the materials for the brick itself can come from the same site.

Chair 1

I've titled this post optimistically 'chair 1' because I hope to make more chairs in the future. This one was very much an experiment, and there are many things I would like to correct for the next.

Kiln Stacking

Oval kiln with rectangular bricks, Castel Viscardo, Italy

Hoffman kiln, near Radzymin, Poland

Stacking a kiln with bricks to allow for ventilation and even firing is quite an art. As well, the places where they are touching during firing often get 'kiss marks', lighter patches of colour, so the stacking influences the final appearance of the brick.

One thing about having a non-rectangular brick, though, is that it is very easy to stack them in a way that allows the passage of air.

I ended up just laying them directly on top of each other, in two layers of three courses. This allows me to fire 105 bricks per kiln
Now, I just have to hope for the best...