Copying a mid-century stool….mid-14th century BCE
September 22, 2021 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Copying a mid-century stool….mid-14th century BCE
There's a Theban lattice stool in the British Museum that I find to be shockingly modern looking. The construction looks so light and minimal that I decided to build an accurate replica for myself and see how it well it stands up to daily use. This blog documents that build but also tries to explain some of the procedures and reasoning of the ancient Egyptian craftspeople who developed the design - from the point of view of a hobbyist woodworker in pandemic era Toronto 3500 years later.
Role: Builder, sketcher, admirer
posted by brachiopod (16 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This project was posted to MetaFilter by mpark on September 25, 2021: Copying a mid-century stool….mid-14th century BCE

Wow, great project and so well documented! Absolutely love the sketches.
posted by mpark at 9:35 AM on September 22, 2021

Incredible! Really well done
posted by not_the_water at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2021

I wasn't always sure how comprehensible it was, so glad to hear you guys enjoyed it.
posted by brachiopod at 1:18 PM on September 22, 2021

This is wonderful, and wonderfully presented. Thanks.
posted by tayknight at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2021

That is absolutely fantastic, both the object and your explanations and diagrams.

Does that style of joint allow working with smaller diameter wood throughout? Eg, different species or quicker coppicing, not just large timber split into smaller timber?

The Liberty connection is fantastic! I didn’t know the Arts and Crafts movement was still learning from Egyptian examples, mostly I read about early 1800s furniture doing that.
posted by clew at 11:31 AM on September 23, 2021

I don’t know that the joinery was supposed to save wood, seeing as there's a fair bit of waste in the side rails and slats of this piece. I think that elegance was more the aim than economy. My understanding is that Egyptians wouldn’t have harvested much lumber domestically - cedar was imported from Lebanon and hardwoods from other places in Africa.

The Tutankhamen tomb photos left me with a weird impression - it seems that apart from some beaten gold sheets, it was basically a couple rooms full of old furniture. What constituted pharaonic luxury seems pretty meagre in relation to what's going on with the top 20% these days.
posted by brachiopod at 12:15 PM on September 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

That was so interesting! Well done!
posted by dhruva at 4:43 PM on September 23, 2021

This is fricking amazing.

I think it's wonderfully presented given the complexity of the joints you're describing. I didn't follow entirely, but mostly because I'm not a woodworker and didn't sit long enough at certain points to try and comprehend. But I do work with my hands, and your illustrations are excellent. I'm just gobsmacked by the whole thing.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:36 PM on September 23, 2021

Fabulous project. Congratulations.
posted by peacay at 5:29 AM on September 24, 2021

This is so good! I don’t know how to woodwork and the drawings helped a lot. I did rewire a chandelier this week, that was fun and new for me. This reminds me of Molly Katzen’s Broccoli Forest Cookbook, which is so epic and piqued my interest in vegetarian and farm to table cooking in the early 80s. Thanks for posting.
posted by waving at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2021

That is amazing! I loved reading your descriptions in the sketches and comparisons with the modern versions. Seriously: if you ever make one to sell, I would be happy to buy it for my royal tomb, I mean living room.
posted by Atrahasis at 7:41 PM on September 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, and I’ll be hanging onto a link to it to perhaps build in my wood shop some day (the project list is long, and life is short).

When I tackle it, I’ll be using drawknives and other tools you didn’t. But then a large part of my woodworking to date has been building my own tools, and one of the many I completed projects is a small forge for making my own blades.

That said, I’m pretty sure the slats would’ve been carved using a drawknife-like technique, though perhaps using an adze. Sawing cross-grain and chiseling out the waste will work, but it’s awfully slow.

If you’re interested in checking out some of my other projects, has most of my woodworking. I check metafilter rarely any more,
posted by DaveP at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2021

Holy moly, that's an impressive number of cool projects on LumberJocks. An adze was very likely used on the original. I stuck with the sawn kerf method because I'd had a run of painful injuries - like a thick Douglas fir splinter that went under my thumbnail up to the knuckle and broke off, causing recurrent infections over the following two months. I didn’t want to risk losing any fingers with an adze.
posted by brachiopod at 6:17 PM on October 9, 2021

Thanks! I started woodworking when I got my knees replaced, making a cane for myself as my first project. But I’ve participated in 75% of the swaps on LJs since I signed up there. Making something and sending it to another person has me pushing my skills and keeps me going with ideas. Lately I’ve been on a run of making bow-saw coping saws, for example.

I joke that the reason I avoid power tools is that if I’m going to remove a finger, I’m going to mean to do it, rather than having it happen in the blink of an eye with a table-saw. But you’re right, an adze could be an efficient implement of amputation. I have a nice little adze I bought from a smith in Rumania though, and then an even smaller scorp which was forged by a friend in MSP. I’m certain one or both of those will get used if attempt a stool like this.
posted by DaveP at 6:20 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just to wrap up this project page and share some good personal news into the ether- the encouraging comments here (and on the MetaFilter posting) led me to submit my blog to Fine Woodworking Magazine where it's now condensed to a 4 page Designer's Notebook article in their Oct/Nov issue #299.

The interest from the publisher in turn convinced me to contact a major museum which allowed me to come in (off hours) to take flashlight lit photographs of the gallery objects and examine some furniture items in their storage/examination area. It was archeology-nerd heaven and it felt great to make personal connections with people in that field of study. My current project is an 18th Dynasty chair with a sloped back and lions paw feet. Walking through it's construction process is turning out to be another eye opening experience
posted by brachiopod at 8:18 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

That’s a wonderful followup! Congratulations! Looking forward to your next Project.
posted by clew at 9:55 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

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