Esherick Three Legged Stool #1: A Little Background on Esherick

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Blog entry by Tom posted 09-27-2020 04:26 PM 504 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Esherick Three Legged Stool series Part 2: Dimensions and Techniques »

For those who are unfamiliar, Wharton Esherick was a sculptor who worked primarily in wood. As an artist, he started out as a painter, but eventually moved into wood sculpture. He applied he sculpting sentiment to the design of various furniture pieces. His ideas were quite novel at the time, working in the mid 20th century and many of his pieces can be considered mid-century modern.

His home and workshop are located in the Philadelphia area and have been turned into a museum. During better times, you can tour his home. His home is quite unique and filled with sculpted wood furnishings and artistic architectural designs. Most of his pieces have an organic sentiment and highlight the natural shape and grain of the wood. Interestingly, it is one of the few museums where you are encouraged to touch many of the wood furnishings. The natural oils from your hands helps to moisten and protect the wood from drying with age.

I encourage you to visit the website in the meantime and take a virtual tour.

When I visited a few years ago, his workshop was not part of the tour. I hope to go back again someday and I hope to be able to see his workshop. The tour guide said that they have many woodworkers that visit the museum and they are sometimes disappointed that the workshop is not a bigger highlight, but the reality is that Esherick was more artist than woodworker. Woodworking was just a means to showcase his sculpting.

One piece of Esherick furniture that is pretty well known is his three legged stools. This was really one of his bread and butter pieces of furniture that helped to finance his other projects. As I recall from the tour, Esherick had joiners that worked in his shop to help manufacture the furniture joints and Esherick designed and sculpted the pieces. The three legged stool was made popular in an advertisement for Armstrong Linoleum. You can read about it here:

This is a piece of furniture that is of interest to me because it is fairly basic in its design yet seems elegant and approachable as a woodworker. I looked online for resources to understand how to make a stool like this. I found a few examples of stool making on Youtube and various websites, but many lacked the details that I was looking for as a primarily hand tool woodworker.

So I have endeavored to study the piece in greater depth than I could find online and develop a few hand tool methods to accommodate the design features such as through tenons on the seat and legs, component sizing, assembly angles, fitting the pieces and shaping the seat.

For those interested, I will share a couple blogs on my experience and I will post the finished project.

-- Tom

1 comment so far

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1346 posts in 2596 days

#1 posted 09-28-2020 08:42 AM

Good project, looking forward to follow along!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

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