Build a Chair From an Oar - Sgabello di Fossacesia
Last summer my cousin gave me an old oar and asked if I could use it for one of my projects. It was about eight feet long. I knew immediately that I could use the oar for one of my chair projects. It fits exactly with the type of chair I like to build – three legs with a tall slender back.
The oar, which was over 40 years old, had some significance. It was from a boat that we enjoyed as kids at the cottage. I knew I needed to do something special with this oar.
During a sleepless night, or perhaps I was dreaming, I came up with the idea for this chair. I decided to base the chair on a 16th century Italian Sgabello (chair) that I had seen at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of A.
I would use the oar for the back and legs of the chair. Since I was using an oar the chair had to have some type of nautical theme. I decided to include a marquetry panel of a trabocchi (tra-bow-key)a type of fishing pier common along Abruzzo region of Italy’s Adriatic coast. You can find piers like this in numerous seaside towns along the Adriatic, including the town of Fossacesia (foss a-chess ee-a), where my paternal grandfather immigrated to Canada from in 1925.
This portion of the chair would represent the sea.
The second part of the town of Fossacesia is built up on the nearby hillsides overlooking the Adriatic sea. Much of these hills are covered with olive groves. In fact Fossacesia is known for one of Italy’s most ancient olive trees planted between 700 – 1000 A.D. So it came to me that I could use a piece of olivewood for the seat of the chair. The olive wood seat would represent the land.
I had the concept for my chair project resolved. I would build a three leg chair in the style of an Italian sgabello that represented the town of Fossacesia. The sea would be represented by the oak oar with a marquetry panel of a Trabocchi. The land would be represented by an olivewood seat.
My project would be called Fossa – chair – sia.
I cut to oar into four pieces. Two pieces (including the handle of the oar) were used for the front legs. The front legs are attached to the seat using a tapered tenon much like the way the legs are connected to a Windsor chair.
The remaining two pieces were rejoined to form the angled back leg and chair back. They are joined to the seat using a Maloof syle joint.
The 1.75” thick olivewood seat was hand shaped using a grinder, random orbital sander and rasps.
The oar was sanded but I did leave some of the patina on it. The chair is finished with a light coat of golden oak stain, several coats of Danish oil and then some wax.