Going through my photos last night in preparation for the class this weekend I came across some photos of a rocking chair that I had seen in the Sterling Historical Society House in Massachusetts. The curator of the Society had heard that Pete Galbert had moved into Newton Burpee's original chair makers house and had approached Pete while I was there and offered for us to come by and be shown their collection of chairs.
It was an amazing collection of chairs all made by local chair makers stretching back to the late 1700's, ( there were apparently nearly 40 chair makers in that little region alone ) including a couple of original Burpee chairs too. But in amongst it all was something that I had never seen in person.
This little rocking chair. Interesting design and some very finely applied line details too. But the one hint that all was not as it seemed was the secondary round mortise hole just right of the left arm stump. Surely a chair maker of this calibre wouldn't be that far out with his drilling, or send out a chair with a big hole in the seat.
But 30 seconds later all became apparent as the curator had 'transformed' it into this, a rocking babies cradle. Very impressive. Quite simply the right side of the chair extended out from a sliding rabbet joint. The crest rail then lifted out and was fitted into two round tapered mortises, including the strange hole in the seat, becoming the front 'fence.' Don't know if this would pass government safety tests these days. You might have more of your baby out of the thing than in it!
It was a very cleverly thought out piece with all of his joins hidden amongst gouged details in the seat or turning details in the stiles. Above all else though, would have been the time and effort that would have gone into making such a piece as opposed to a standard rocker. A chair like this would surely have been a special order as making pieces like this regularly would not have been economical. It was a great thing to see and all of these chairs were good food for thought in firming up my design for a new chair. More on that soon.