4 new benches for the Company
One could argue that a military company, and even a dashing burgundian company, wouldn't roam the land with benches and stools stored among its bombards, ammunition and other warlike tools. It is also true that artillery inventories don't mention many of them. Yes! but It is however well known that soldiers are prone to "borrow" to local inhabitants whatever they need… and, besides, the company settles in castles and towns 4 times out of 5.
It is also a matter of public welfare. A weary soldier gets grumpy when not seated to ingest his well deserved broth and ale. If this weary and grumpy soldier finds some of his brothers in arms comfortably seated while he has to lay down is bottom on the wet ground he will probably bring the fight to those unwary epicureans in order to gain for himself this little area of luxury. Imagine that those unwary epicureans are from a different nationality than this weary and grumpy soldier and his mates and you soon have a proper pitched battle (and there are more than 12 nationalities in the company!!). This is not good! Those unsatisfied warriors could also turn against their captain and we don't want that either.
Hearing the faint plea form the ranks and file, the benevolent officers have therefore decided to order 4 new benches.
Jokes aside, most of the benches owned by the Company fell to pieces a few years ago and it was about time to replace them. Plans were quickly drawn using Dragon n°4 with John Howe's intensive catalogue of stools and benches found in artworks and an original bench kept at the Cloisters in New York.
We contacted Francis Aimable. This talented and skilled furniture maker sports his name very well ("aimable" in French means agreable) and offers beautiful hand finished furniture at a relatively fair price. After making mainly "furnitures of style", Louis XV and Louis XVI for nearly 40 years he started making medieval furnitures 10 years ago. He is not an intensive researcher on the matter but he has a flair for historical furniture. He has made so many medieval furniture that he knows the subject well. The result is extremely convincing. He is an artist with a chisel and a gouge. Even if they benches we wanted were quite plain compared to the extend of his skills, we knew that the result would meet our expectations.
We gave him some schematic drawings and a couple of pictures of the original in New York to show him the design and dimensions we wanted. We also required that the benches would be sturdy enough to survive the abuse of multiple transports and the hardship of camp life. Nothing more was needed, we trusted him to define the right thickness and proportions to make what we wanted. He also agreed to make each bench slightly different, changing the overall dimensions and alter and mix the shapes. That's the characteristic and luxury of hand made objects and a distinctly medieval trait.
He describes his work in a few words:
"I chose oak of fine quality, mainly boards of 34 mm and roughly cut the top and the feet into shape.
After slightly evening the parts with a mechanical plane all the assembly and shaping was made by hand, using chisel, hand plane, spokeshave, scraper and gouge. I gathered 50 liters of wood-chips out of it!
The top board was forced into place on diagonal tenons, the outgoing piece trimmed with a back saw. The lowest bar passes through the feet and is held by plugs at each end. Once the assembly is completed, the benches are covered with linseed oil."
The result is outstanding and outreaches our expectations. The members of the company will now proudly seat on those benches and carry them all over Europe… Which is not as easy as it seems as each bench weights 30 kg!
By Mathieu Harlaut, Captain of the Company of Saynt Georges
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