A couple of times this year, I’ve started (& written about) making some of what I called “JA” chairs. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/nostalgic-chairmaking-40-years/
These are shaved ladderback chairs, based on the project in Jennie Alexander’s book (and video) called Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Working Green Wood.
This past weekend I was one of the demonstrators at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House in Warren, Maine. This event is a yearly thing and quite popular, for good reason.
There, I planned on giving a short talk for a small audience on my 40 years’ worth of green woodworking. Then Jennie Alexander died the night before I left for Maine. And my small audience turned into the entire crowd, a couple hundred people maybe. I intended to carve a spoon while I told stories of my introduction to this niche field. What I found out is that many people can’t see the details of me carving a spoon. So I sorta swung a hatchet around some while jabbering away.
But I did bring a ladderback chair with me, sans seat, for show & tell. And my talk’s recurring theme was Jennie Alexander and her impact on my life.
In our heyday, JA & I used to spend a minimum of 2 hours on the phone every Sunday morning – books, photos, notes – all spread out on the tables in Hingham Massachusetts and Baltimore Maryland as we pored over our resources, then after we hung up, off to the shops we’d go – to test our theories. This went on for about 3 or 4 years – with short breaks here & there. Then I got a job and things changed some. Recently the Winterthur Museum Library/Archives went to Baltimore and collected 5 boxed of notes from JA, some early-years’ stuff about chairmaking, and the later stuff our joinery notes.
Now, back in the shop, I’m trying to begin a new routine – I’m going to try to set Sunday aside for working on these chairs. I have two I assembled in the past few months, now putting slats in them, as I shave and bend some new posts for the next chairs. 1978 to 2018 is 40 years, and I had been motivated by that anniversary to begin re-learning these chairs. Now with Alexander’s passing, I’m doubly inspired. We’ll see how it goes, I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s a shot showing the froe as I rive some ash for posts. Never a favorite wood of Alexander; I asked why. “It’s not white oak.”
Shaving posts on the shaving horse designed by Jennie Alexander, modified by me.
A drawknife peeling nice even shavings.
This steambox should be replaced. But it keeps working, so I never bother. But if I want to steam more than one set of posts…maybe the time will come. No door on the left end, just a plastic bag wrapped over it. Actually the same at the other end, that one’s just duct-taped in place.
Limber ’em up first. Then back in the steam for a minute.
Then jam them into the form and pull the ends together.
Wrap a couple loops of seating scraps and bind the posts in place.
While I had the steambox out, I shaved & bent one of the slats for this chair I assembled earlier this year. Then ran outta time…so the top slat another day.