Another Duck Walks into a Chair Shop…..

I had planned on writing about Gresham’s Law of Tool Quality this week.  I should have looked at the calendar as I made my plans.  I would have seen that posting mid-week as I normally do, would bump me smack into Christmas.  The next week will bump me smack into New Years.  While we are all focused on the holidays this blog will certainly have far fewer readers than usual.  The topic I had planned is very important for tool users and the future of tools.   So, to insure as many as possible read it, I have decided to wait until everyone’s life has settled down.  

Instead, I am going to give you a Christmas present.  I dug deep into the archives of the A Duck Walks into a Chair Shop…., the name of our collection of Windsor chair jokes.  This joke is also a test.  If you get the punch line, you know a lot about Windsor chairs.  If not, you have some homework to do.   

 If you don’t get the joke, here is a clue to the punch line. Go to this link and look closely at the picture on the home page  By the way, if you don’t have a copy of Michael Harding-Hill’s book Windsor Chairs, order one while you are on the site. Harding-Hill is an English antique dealer specializing in antique English Windsors.  His book is very informative, and has great photography of some great English chairs he has owned over the years.  It is a must have in any Windsor chairmaker’s personal library. By the way, as of this writing has 21 copies and lists only 34 copies.   If you dilly-dally and miss out, please do not email me asking where you can get a copy.  I don’t know.  

The joke — After a long and honorable working lifetime ringing the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Quasimodo is getting along in years and is ready to retire.  He needs to find someone to replace him who has the same bell ringing ability, and the necessary dedication. He places a help wanted advertisement in all the major newspapers in Europe, including London England.    

An English Windsor chairmaker reads the advertisement in the London Times.  The chairmaker has spent his life worshipping trees; asking them what they want to be made into; and not letting customers take the chairs out of the area where the trees grew.  As a result, he has failed financially.  He needs steady work and this job seems to offer him that possibility. After all, Notre Dame has been standing in Paris since it was completed in 1325 AD, and unlike his chair business, probably wouldn’t close.  

The English chairmaker schedules  a job interview with Quasimodo. He travels to Paris and at the time established for his interview  he meets the old bell ringer in the belfry of the cathedral’s south tower. After climbing the 387 steps from the ground to the belfry, the chairmaker is winded.   

After interviewing the chairmaker Quasimodo decides to test his bell ringing abilities.  He demonstrates his technique.  As it is nearing the top of the hour, he chooses to ring the bourdon bell named Emmanuel, which weighs 13 tons, and is used to mark the hours.  He backs up as far as he can in the high tower room.  He cocks his head backwards and runs full speed at the bell.  As he makes his last stride at the bell, he snaps his head forward and slams his face into the huge bronze surface.  A glorious and deep note, as clear and fine as from a crystal goblet, drifts across the roof tops of Paris.  “Bonnnngggg.”   

You try it,” directs Quasimodo to the English chairmaker.  The chairmaker backs up as he has just seen Quasimodo do.  He cocks his head backward, and runs full tilt at the bell. One step away from the bell the chairmaker snaps his head forward and slams his face into the bell.  All he obtains is a dull “Thud.”

 Quasimodo scowls and says,  “No, it’s done  like this.”  He backs up all the way to the edge of the  belfry gallery.  He cocks his head backwards and charges full speed at Emmanuel.  One step away, he snaps his head forward and slams his face into the 26,000 pounds of cast bronze.  A deep throated note of incredibly beauty makes the stone tower tremble, and drifts over Paris.  “Bonnnngggg.”   

“Try it again,” Quasimodo directs the English chairmaker.  Doing his best to imitate the old gray haired bell ringer, the chairmaker backs up as far as he possibly can.  He cocks his head as he saw Quasimodo do.  He charges at full speed and slams his face into Emmanuel.  All he succeeds in eliciting from the huge bronze bell is a dull  “Thud.”  

Exasperated, Quasimodo shows the English chairmaker a third time  how to ring the bell.  He repeats his unique technique.  Once again, a deep note of incredible clarity wafts across Paris.   Seeing all prospects of landing this job evaporate before his eyes, the frantic chairmaker backs up again as far as he can.  He cocks his head back so far it touches between his shoulder blades, and his neck hurts. To gain additional speed he uses one foot to push off the tower’s stone balustrade.  His lungs draw in and push out as much air as fast as possible.  His heart nearly explodes as it pumps energy-rich blood to the chairmaker’s leg muscles.   

The chairmaker charges at the bell with all the speed his body can achieve.   However, with his head cocked back so far he cannot see.  He misses the bell and runs right by it.   The English chairmaker is still moving at full stride when he arrives at the balustrade on the other side of the south tower.  The balustrade catches him at waist height.  His upper body pivots forward and he is hurled out of the tower.  His momentum completes his spin in mid-air.  He is now face up as he falls the full 69 meters of the monumental south tower that dominates the skyline of Isle-de-la-Cite.  As he falls, in his last conscious moment he looks upward at the blue sky that appears to be racing away from him.  

The chairmaker lands on the pavement far below.   SPLAT! He is plastered all over the sidewalk. 

 Coincidently, at this time two American chairmakers are touring the cathedral.  They are enjoying a stroll around the grounds when they come upon the lifeless form of the English chairmaker.  They stand over the body, its sightless eyes staring glassily skyward.     

“Oh, look,” says one American chairmaker nonchalantly to the other.  “An English chairmaker.” 

 “How do you know?” inquires the other? 

“It’s obvious.” replies the first.  “Back splat.”

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