Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Year of the Chair

I have decided that 2015 is the year of the chair. I've been wanting to make a chair for ages now, in fact I'd quite like to make several chairs, but I'll start with one. Over the last couple of years I've accumulated a few books on the subject to help me on my way.

'Make a Chair from a Tree' by John Alexander, was, as I understand it, one of the first books on greenwood working. I'm sure I've heard Alexander credited as being the person to coin the phrase 'greenwood working'. Unfortunately the book is out of print, but there is an accompanying DVD available, which I'd like to check out.

The book is full of lovely illustrations and black and white photographs. Alexander describes the process of making a ladder back chair, beginning with design and then looking at tree selection and felling, then through all of the processes. All the necessary tools are discussed as well as some tool modifications to make your equipment more useful.

'The Chairmaker's Workshop' by Drew Langsner is very comprehensive. It is by far the biggest chair making book I possess and it contains every possible detail including how to sharpen your tools correctly. It also includes instructions on how  to manufacture some of the necessary tools for building Windsor and post and rung chairs.

There are a few sections of colour photographs, showing different styles of chairs, but most of the pictures are in black and white. This book contains everything you need to know to make chairs, plus lots more.

'Going with the Grain' by Mike Abbott was published about two years ago, making it the most recent of the three books and it definitely gives a very modern approach to making traditional chairs. Everything is explained so simply with loads of great colour photographs to illustrate the different stages. It's very different to Langsner's book, focusing on just one way to skin this particular cat. This makes it incredibly appealing to someone like myself , who has never made a chair before.

So I think Mike Abbott's book will be my starting point. Not only does it offer a very simple approach, but it also focuses on chairs with shaved rather than turned parts, which is the style that I would really like to begin with.
Watch this space.


  1. Now we've got to meet, as this is my target for the year. I got some money for my birthday for such a project, but have yet decided how to spend it - a course to learn or tools, as Mike's book uses tenon cutters. I too have decided to just use Mike's book, with the emphasis on cleaved rather than lathed wood. I have no skill, even my spoon carvings quite basic, but it would be great to work on a chair, stand back and say - I did that. Let's us know how you get on, and where you're going to get the wood from!

    1. We're planning on getting together some time in Feb to have a go. I'm tempted by the Tenon cutters as they seem to make everything much easier. I've just got to see if funds allow.