Build a Chair from an Oar - Sgabello di Fossacesia

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Project by Woodbridge posted 09-17-2014 09:46 PM 2864 views 3 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.

I’ve included more details about how this chair was developed and built in a series of blogs. To those LJers who have been following along me on this chair build I hope it meets your expectations.

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 Art.

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.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

23 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7783 posts in 2728 days

#1 posted 09-17-2014 10:46 PM

oh wow, it turned out magnificent, i love every aspect, from the marquetry to the oar and the olive seat, this just really wants me to sit in this chair, i also have an oar of special significance that im going to do something special with, this was well worth the wait, a piece you can be proud of, i am.

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Woodbridge's profile


3451 posts in 1842 days

#2 posted 09-17-2014 10:51 PM

Thanks Grizz. It was a fun and significant project for me to work on. It actually is quite comfy to sit and and very solid. If it inspires others to dig out their old oars from their boat house and sheds and make chairs that would be great.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View Bob Kassmeyer's profile

Bob Kassmeyer

184 posts in 2349 days

#3 posted 09-17-2014 11:30 PM

I don’t remember seeing the blog on the process but love the finished product. That the chair will have more meaning then just any chair because of the history of the oar is great. Love it. Bob

-- Bob Kassmeyer, Nebraska

View shipwright's profile (online now)


7096 posts in 2222 days

#4 posted 09-17-2014 11:49 PM

Congratulations on a wonderful chair build and a wonderful tribute to your family roots.
Your treatment of this rediscovered piece of your childhood is way beyond the call of duty and ensures that it will live on into future generations of your family.
As a chair alone, I love it. As a marquetry piece, I respect it ...... but as a tribute piece, I think you have just nailed it in a truly brilliant way.
We may be heading back to Italy next fall and having done a Google Earth tour of the Fossacesia region, I would very much like to fit it into our itinerary. Thanks for introducing me to the Abruzzo countryside and seaside.
...... and thanks for posting this great build.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View DocSavage45's profile


7660 posts in 2267 days

#5 posted 09-17-2014 11:56 PM


I missed the oar handle legs before. LOL! nice touch to a family history piece. Thanks for taking us through your struggles as a creative craftsman!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 3830 days

#6 posted 09-18-2014 12:56 AM

very creative Peter, it’s been fun watching you bring it from concept to reality.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View kiefer's profile


4873 posts in 2091 days

#7 posted 09-18-2014 02:32 AM

That came together way better then I expected as you where using that old oar which is quite weatherd but the combination of the olive wood and the new wood for the joint just all seem to flawlessly flow together but leaving a reminder of the oar which I find makes this piece exeptional .
The marquetry is a wonderful design and gracing the chair just nicely.
Now comes the question of where it will reside and that will likely be the most difficult decision .


-- Kiefer

View hoss12992's profile


3814 posts in 1317 days

#8 posted 09-18-2014 03:32 AM


-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1170 posts in 1138 days

#9 posted 09-18-2014 06:53 AM

Like how you have mannaged to get history, location and personal history to meet in one pieze of furniture. Lovely, simple design with some advanced details.

Enjoyed the blog a lot and just can´t read enough about developement of designs and concepts.
Thanks for sharing a great story and a fine chair!

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

View Ken90712's profile


16864 posts in 2613 days

#10 posted 09-18-2014 08:33 AM

WOW, amazing work and just beautiful… Great job…. thx for sharing.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2759 days

#11 posted 09-18-2014 09:19 AM

A wonderful creative combination of beautiful woods, meaningful design and great work. I certainly enjoyed the build blog and now the finished chair Peter. This piece is sure to stimulate a lot of interesting conversations among your family members and friends. Thanks for sharing this with us.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jinkyjock's profile


486 posts in 999 days

#12 posted 09-18-2014 09:23 AM

a wonderful, elegant re-working of your oar.
you have managed to retain and convey all the spirit of the oar.
With all the curves in the right places, just like your (research) pic of Sophia Loren.
Thanks for a great series of posts.
Cheers, Jinky (James).

View johnhutchinson's profile


1173 posts in 1054 days

#13 posted 09-18-2014 09:43 AM

Bravo !!! Lavoro Magnifica.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View CFrye's profile (online now)


8600 posts in 1264 days

#14 posted 09-18-2014 10:51 AM

Lovely, Peter. Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, would like to know where it will be displayed.

-- God bless, Candy

View Woodbridge's profile


3451 posts in 1842 days

#15 posted 09-18-2014 01:03 PM

Thanks everyone for the interest and comments. It was an enjoyable project to work on.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

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