Woven Top Stool – Part 2


Woven Top Stool – Part 2:
Lee Stoffer weaves the seat for his stool.

Lee Stoffer weaves the seat for his stool

To ensure the seat weave was of the highest standard I visited my friend and basket maker extraordinaire, Martin Hazell. He’s developed his own method for chair seating with willow, which is reasonably simple to achieve, incredibly strong and comfortable.

1. Having soaked and mellowed the willow to be used, the first job is  to sort through the material and
group into thin, medium and thick. The majority should fall into the medium category

2. Now mark out three positions on the side rungs of the frame. Measure from the outside of the front and back top rungs, mark the centre point on each side rung, then measure half this distance out either side of centre (minus 5mm) and make the other marks

3. Select the six thickest rods you have to make the ‘scalloms’; these will be the start of the frame work
for the weaving. Make a diagonal cut to the centre of the rod 200mm from the thick or ‘butt’ end. Using pressure from your thumbs to control the split, remove half the material

4. Then use a knife to remove any pith for about 50–60mm from the initial diagonal cut. It can help to now re-soak the exposed wood on the scallom in warm water for 10 minutes before fitting them to the frame

5. Trim all six scalloms to around 300mm longer than the stool frame. Place the first scallom on the rung to one side of the mark cut side down (as shown). Use you thumb and forefinger to carefully flex it around the back of the rung

6. Bring the tail around the outside of the rod and over the top towards the centre of the frame. Add a second scallom on the same side of the next mark and repeat. The second scallom should hold the first in place

7. Repeat for the third, but this time bring the tail around the outside of the rod again back towards the middle and tuck it under the centre scallom. At this stage you can use masking tape to keep them in place until the weave locks them in

8. Next, turn the frame around and add three more scalloms from the opposite end and on the other side of the mark, but this time sharpen or ‘slype’ the loose end with a long tapered cut. Feed it in under the bind of the existing ones and wrap over the top of each pair of rods and lock in the tails as before

9. Trim the loose ends back but leave them overhanging the edge of the frame. You should end up with it looking like this, ready to start weaving from front to back

10. Start weaving with the thin/medium rods. Take one and thread the butt end into the scalloms start over the top of the rung then alternating so it finishes under the furthest scallom

11. Pull the working end in tight to the leg while clamping the inserted section in place with your other hand, and wrap it tightly around the rung twice. Be careful not to kink the thinner end of the rod

12. It should come out under the rung and over the first scallom, under over then under the opposite rung. Again, wrap it tightly around the rung twice, tight to the leg, then back through the scalloms so it finishes under the last scallom and the rung

13. Repeat this process but this time inserting the butt end from the opposite side of the frame. This will begin to form a pattern that is followed through the weaving process. There should be around 300mm of the tip left poking out each side, this can be trimmed back to keep things tidy but leave at least 50mm protruding beyond the frame for now

14. Turn the frame around and repeat the previous four steps. You can remove the masking tape now if you wish and pull the weavers tight up to the side rungs. Then cut three more thick rods to about 500mm and slype one end. Push the slyped end in between each pair of scalloms and through the weavers

15. Continue the weaving pattern as before, adding butts from alternating sides and working two or four rods from each end, working towards the middle of the seat frame. Maintain tension on the weavers and keep pulling them tight up towards the side rungs

16. The last few weavers to go in will be more difficult as there is less space to feed them through. Use the thinnest ones now and pre-flex them by dragging them back and forth over your knee a few times. Leading with the tip (more like sewing) may also be necessary and a few kinks are inevitable, but try and keep them to a minimum

17. Now it’s best to let everything dry out for a couple of days, but keep a few rods wrapped up in a damp cloth because after a few days you should be able to pull everything up a little tighter and squeeze in a couple more weavers

18. Trim back all the protruding ends, side cutters work well for this but be sure to leave the butts and tips overlapping the scalloms underneath the seat so they don’t  work loose

The finished stool should give many years of reliable service. Martin has a 15-year-old example that is still in great condition with regular use. You can also modify the frame, adding stretchers to give extra support to taller versions if you wish


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