A log: Few things are more mundane. “A lump on a log” means you’re idle, even lazy. “Sawing logs” means you’re snoring. So when the lackluster log transforms into a work of art, a stunning expression of cultural identity, and an incredibly comfortable chair, all at the same time—that must be magic, an act of wizardry, right? No, it’s Norwegian-American folk art—the kubbestol!
Kubb means log in Norwegian, and stol means chair. A kubbestol is a cylindrical chair made from the trunk of a tree. The upper half is cut and hollowed to form the backrest and the lower half is hollowed and topped with a seat.
Kubbestoler were found throughout Scandinavia, but were most widely used in Norway. The first known Norwegian kubbestol is inscribed with the date 1571. They were mainly made for rural homes until the late-nineteenth century, when they became more widespread through a surge of national pride. Around that same time, the first Norwegian immigrants came to America and, for them, the kubbestol became an icon of ethnic identity.
To hear local Decorah woodworker Rebecca Hanna talk about the kubbestol is inspiring, indeed. She and another accomplished woodworker, Steve Speltz, will be teaching a kubbestol class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah from April 29 to May 1, 2016. They will reveal all of the secrets of turning a log into this amazing chair.
Rebecca is passionate about Norwegian folk arts, especially woodworking. She’s been teaching carving at Vesterheim for many years and her enthusiasm is infectious. She is excited to share her knowledge about kubbestoler.
Steve Speltz is owner and operator of Custom Hardwoods, in Rollingstone, Minnesota, where he’s been designing and building cabinets and furniture since 1984. His motivation to carve came from a desire to make some of his furniture look better and he’s been carving for more than 25 years.
“Chairs are furniture too, but a chair from a log, wow, what a challenge!,” Steve says. “I learned to carve a kubbestol through trial and error and hope with this class you can eliminate some of the error and retain all of the trial.”
During class, students will learn how to select a log (with a field trip to the woods), what tools to use, how to hollow out the log, dry it properly, and get it ready for fine carving or other finishing. Also, they will view the impressive collection of kubbestoler in the museum. The class will be a learning tutorial and students will go home with everything they need to know so they can head out into the wild and find their own log to magically transform.
After studying kubbestoler at Vesterheim, you’ll never look at a log the same way. Check Vesterheim.org for complete class information.