Curtis Buchanan’s new chair plans & videos

I’ve told some of these stories many times, but I’m still not tired of them. You might be. I first met Curtis Buchanan in 1987 when I was one of the students in his first class at Country Workshops. I learned Windsor chairmaking from him then, and made many chairs for about 5 years, when I veered off into oak furniture full-time and put away my scorp, travisher, reamer, sight-lines and all that jazz.

I was thrilled to bits last spring when Curtis came up to take part in our Greenwood Fest. There, he was working on a version of his “democratic” chair. The premise of this chair is two-fold – it can be made with a small tool kit; thus within reach of someone just starting out woodworking on a tight budget. And in theory anyway, it’s a building block of a chair. Learn this one & you can then go on to other more complex chairs.

He had two with him, while during the fest he made a third. I distinctly told him, “Don’t sell that green one (photo above) until you talk to me first…” On the last afternoon of the event, I was running around the site seeing to some of the tasks involved in winding that thing down. Didn’t get to Curtis til some time had gone by. Both chairs were gone. I asked what happened? “Oh, I sold both of those chairs…” just as matter-of-fact…turns out he cautioned the buyer that I might come for the green one. I did. Here it is again:


But now I can make my own. Curtis has just released a new set of plans; and a new video series. In the spirit of the democratic notion about this chair, he has set up the plans so that you can either buy them for full-price, or you can download them and pay what you can afford. He leaves it up to you. The full-sheets version is excellent; if I was buying them that’s where I would go. The chair is shown half-scale; the seat, legs, spindles and stretchers, bending forms are all full-sized.



here’s one of his latest versions:


here, he’ll tell you about the chair, then hunt down the youtube channel for him. He’s posted the first 4 videos for it, with more to come. 

I made a “shaved” (not turned) Windsor chair 30 years ago; still have it kicking around, but it got bumped from the kitchen table when I inherited one of Curtis’ continuous arm chairs from Jennie Alexander. I made it based on Curtis’ sackback plans, but substituted shaved cherry legs, stretchers and arm posts. I got the idea from our friend Daniel O’Hagan who had one or more shaved Windsor chairs when I visited him in that era. This chair is cherry, tulip poplar, ash, hickory and white oak. When new, they looked very different, but 30 years of use have blended the colors pretty well. Patience.

Similar colors the other day in this view of a red-tailed hawk hunting over a marshy area nearby.

7 thoughts on “Curtis Buchanan’s new chair plans & videos

  1. I loved just sitting and listening to him at Greenwood Fest! It was really inspiring!
    After the long list I have now is this democratic chair. I love the lines in it, and it seems easy enough to build.

  2. Fond memory of watch and listening to Curtis build that chair at Greenwood Fest. My plans should be arriving today. On the lookout for some oak. Time to visit the log yard.

  3. I have occasionally hear the term “Democratic” used to describe things made, rather than methods of governance. I am unsure I understand the use of the word in this context of this being a “democratic” chair..?
    be well
    Karl F Newman

    • Karl – I first learned of this use of the word democratic in Bill Coperthwaite’s book A Handmade Life. Bill talks of designing and building democratic chairs, axes and more. The basic notion is that Bill wanted designs within reach of everyday people, with ordinary tools. Bill’s democratic chair fits that notion – a saw, screws/screwdrivers and maybe a small drill. Not much else. But it also isn’t much of a chair. Curtis’ isn’t a democratic chair in that sense; it requires a scorp – a very hard-to-find tool, and I see he’s using a hewing hatchet – ditto. But it’s a hell of a chair, and a great place to study and practice skills applicable to other chairmaking, other furniture making.

  4. I have been involved in more than a few things in my life, none as meaningful and generous as this so called field of “green” woodworking. The people involved in the various aspects of this craft seem to be some of the kindest, most generous individuals I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Alexander, Dave Fisher, Curtis Buchanan and so many more it would fill this comment post up – let’s just say that crafts people seem to be a bit of a different breed, almost always in a good way. Glad to see that lovely green chair – never will get to a windsor in this lifetime but this one is a real beauty. It reminds me a lot of the stick chairs from the UK and the type of stuff Chris Schwarz has been building up to the last decade or three. Thanks for giving us all a glimpse of that beautiful chair, Curtis is one heck of a guy and a hard worker too!

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