Accurate reproduction of an ancient Egyptian chair from the 18th Dynasty
January 5, 2023 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Accurate reproduction of an ancient Egyptian chair from the 18th Dynasty
As part of a personal project to gain greater understanding of ancient Egyptian joinery techniques, I've made a replica of an Egyptian chair on display in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

I'd like to thank MeFites for their kind comments on my previous Theban stool project. Their encouragement led me to submit it to Fine Woodworking. It was a real hoot to see my photos in an actual paper magazine.

The coverage of this current project isn’t as in-depth (or the subject as visually arresting) as the previous one but I thought folks here might still find it interesting. I promise to “cool it” going forward and will not glut MeFi Projects with woodworking blog posts.
Role: Maker
posted by brachiopod (8 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

The skill is amazing, but to me, the commitment and persistence is even more astounding. I have subscribed to your feed, so that I can get an uncooled flow of woodworking blog posts!

BTW, do you know if the Egyptians had glue?
posted by ignignokt at 6:42 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

I would love to see more woodworking blog posts, personally! Bring them on!

This is wonderful work. Those seat top braces are particularly lovely.
posted by mochapickle at 7:58 AM on January 6

Thanks. I’ll try to put up a build page for a double sliding lid box in the next few weeks.

Yes ignignokt, I used the same glue as the Egyptians which is called hide glue. It's a gelatin made from boiling down animal skins and bones (happens to be exactly the same stuff as gummy bears and jello). For this chair, Egyptians mixed powdered stone into theirs, presumably as a gap filler. A glue/stone mixture would be termed a type of “gesso”.

They used adhesives and binders specific to other handicrafts as well, like resin from trees (mastic and gum Arabic) and asphalt (bitumen) as binders in inks, glue for inlay decoration, embalming paste and a coffin sealing “black goo” used in interment rites.

It's amazing to me that all these adhesives were still in wide use up until the development of synthetics less than 100 years ago and are still needed for traditional crafts like stone lithography and water gilding. Hide glue remains popular with many luthiers and furniture makers.
posted by brachiopod at 9:29 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]

double sliding lid box is up now.
posted by brachiopod at 9:28 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

How does it feel to sit in it?
posted by andythebean at 6:16 PM on February 21

The hollowed and sloped back make it feel pretty similar a modern dining chair except the seat is a couple inches lower than standard, which is a bit odd the first few times you go to sit down.

That's the short answer but it's funny that you asked because yesterday I noticed that it's feeling more comfortable now that the seat's webbing has stretched a tiny bit. When I wove it, I followed all the museum examples with replaced seats, which are tensioned as tightly as cane or rush-work but looking at two intact specimens (from the tombs of Yuma & Thuya or Merrit & Kha) the seat netting is more relaxed. I'd assumed the fibres had settled over the last 3500 years but now I'm thinking they're that way by design.

Every type of Egyptian chair or stool with a solid wooden seat is “dished” so it stands to reason that this cord seat should be a bit more hollow. With a seat that's slightly more like a sling chair, my butt isn’t slipping forward. This weekend I'll slacken the webbing off a bit more to see what it does for the comfort level.
posted by brachiopod at 5:23 AM on February 23

…which is fun because I think it moves this project away from simple woodworking and into the realm of experimental archeology.

Edit: it's come to mind that there is one example of a flat, hard seat - Tutankhamen’s gold throne. All his other chairs have hollowed seats though.
posted by brachiopod at 5:30 AM on February 23

a small 18th Dynasty table is now up.
posted by brachiopod at 1:25 PM on February 27

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