The forme is really nothing more than a joynt stool elongated to “bench” length. Upon sitting, most folks will immediately be struck by the fact that it is significantly higher than our normally accepted seating height. In fact, it is 22″ high. This may sound a bit uncomfortable. But, in fact, it forces the “sitter” to keep most of his (or her) weight on his legs. There’s been a lot of speculation about the height of joined stools and benches. These pieces were very utilitarian in nature, though many of them (particularly in England) were very ornately carved. They may have been used for other purposes along with the primary function of seating. It is possible that they saw service performing tasks as varied as acting as a saw bench or a coffin bier. Webster sites the meaning of the word forme as a small bench being used by a cobbler (shoemaker). This type of bench was common in English private schools. Many grade levels would have been taught in a common area. Expressions like, “He has been promoted to the third forme” may indicate that a student was assigned to a bench (or group of benchs) being used by students who were studying a particular curriculum.
An edge treatment was carved on the top to add a little “cheap ornamentation” . Many of you will immediately recognize the pattern as being taken from one of Frederick Wilbur’s books. Thank you Mr. Wilbur. The top is made from quarter sawn red oak that has a lot of character and a little staining along the edge. There’s gotta be a little shot, nails or staples in there, somewhere. Strechers, aprons and legs are made from honey locust. These were some of the gnarliest boards I’ve ever worked with. But the results and the color variation are very pleasing. The finish is two coats of tung oil/turpentine/50/50 then two coats of heavy tung oil and finally a good coat of paste wax.
The torus shape on both the inside and outside surfaces of the stretchers was accomplished by roughing with a rabbet plane then finishing the shape with a scratchstock, made from an old saw blade. Everything was draw pinned together.
In coming weeks I’m going to be concentrating on ways to improve the performance of springpole lathes and the construction (finally) of the Sidewing lathe, so stay tuned……