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| 1715, featured sausage turnings on the legs,
four curved slats in the ladder-back, and a woven seat. Fran made tracings of
the legs, took detailed measurements of the chair's nineteen component members,
and then went back to Cohasset and worked up a full-scale drawing of the piece.
The Hagertys now faced the problem of what compromises they would have to make in order to adapt a handmade chair to machined, volume production. Some of these changes were to prove mandatory, some a matter of choice. In turning the legs of the original chair, for instance, the colonial craftsman had worked by hand on a lathe turned by foot power or by a long-suffering apprentice. Inevitably, no two curves of the leg were ever exactly alike, nor would any two legs be exact mates. A machined leg cut from a pattern could be made to reproduce variations in one leg, but all legs would be the same. A necessitous by unimportant compromise, the Hagertys decided.
In most Early American chairs, the artisans followed the general practice of joining the members without glue. The legs were made of green wood and the dowels or stretchers or slats which were mortised into these legs were allowed to dry, or season, before they were cut to shape and assembled. This ingenious practice insured a secure joint, for when the green leg dried out, the wood shrank to a tight fit around the already seasoned dowel or rung. This procedure was obviously impractical in a chair which might be cut and shaped to size one year and not assembled until the next, so the Hagertys had to plan on using seasoned wood and glued joints throughout their chair. One odd result of the old practice of working in green wood was that the chair legs, when they did dry out, often assumed an oval shape in cross section--a peculiarity you won't find in a reproduction made of seasoned wood.
Though they weren't confronted with any great shrinkage problems in the ladder-back, the Hagertys had to introduce structural modifications in some of their later pieces--particularly in table tops made of several boards joined together by a batten underneath or a cleat across the ends. The colonial craftsmen didn't hae to worry about the dehydrating effect of central heating on their furniture, so they just nailed everything up tight and let it go at that--and if a crack or two appeared later, it was no more than the housewife expected. The modern householder, on the other hand, puts his Early American reproduction in a warm room and expects it to grow old without any wrinkles. To avoid warping and cracking as the joined boards shrank and expanded with the seasons and variations in humidity, Fran Hagerty