The Kam Wah Chung Stool – I

October 24, 2012 Comments Off on The Kam Wah Chung Stool – I

Shortly after visiting the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, I decided to build a version of an ubiquitous little stool that adorns almost every room at the restored site. Here are a few notes I jotted down shortly after our visit.

  • I wasn’t able to pick one up, but they looked to be made from local Ponderosa pine.
  • All pieces looked to be made from 1″ thick material.
  • The joinery is practical and functional – nails. Glue? Maybe, but given the lack of resources, probably not.
  • Some were a little taller than others, but most were more typical of chair than a bar stool, about knee height for most people or perhaps a little higher (note to self: take a small tape measure on your next vacation).
  • Most were a touch wider than they were deep, though one was more rectangular in shape.
  • Only one side had a bottom stretcher that served as a foot rest. This gave the stool a clearly defined front and back.
  • The lower and upper stretchers were inset into the legs, although I noted one with upper stretchers that were simply nailed right onto the legs with no insetting.
  • I’m not sure if the bottom stretcher was shaped so as to more easily accept a pair of feet, or years of use wore away that profile.

Note the clearly visible nails and the bottom stretcher’s worn foot rests.

While the stools at Kam Wah Chung were likely fashioned from pine, I instead decided to build mine from an interesting walnut board in my stash. Below are the five parts all sized and ready for assembly. Most of the stools I noticed had a squarish look to them. I proportioned mine with a more rectangular shape, similar to the one in the photo above. The walnut finished at 3/4″ in width, perhaps a little thinner than the originals. The V-shape cut into the legs was typical of those we saw at the site. I will also try to reproduce the joinery as closely as possible. The upper and lower stretchers will be inset into the legs, and nails (and perhaps glue in select places) will hold it all together. The nail heads in the Kam Wah Chung stools can clearly be seen, both on the stretchers and in the top. I might fill those for a little cleaner look. I’ll do final shaping of the upper stretchers after they are attached to the legs. And after that I’ll cut the insets into the legs for bottom stretcher. At least that’s the plan for now.

There is a dearth of information on the web about traditional Chinese woodworking, especially in comparison to the Japanese craft. Chris Scholz, of Galoot-Tools, has a fascinating series of posts on Chinese woodworking on the Lumberjocks site.


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