Making Chairs from a Tree with Plymouth CRAFT

That was quite a week-plus. Plymouth CRAFT hosted its first-ever 6-day workshop; 6 students came to Massachusetts to learn how to make a chair from a tree, as JA’s book proclaimed all those years ago. For me, it was an overwhelming experience – to see all these new chairs, following Alexander’s steps, and in many cases using tools and equipment from her workshop…I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “I remember Alexander saying/doing…”

Image may contain: 7 people, including Peter Follansbee, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

Here’s some photos, a couple I clipped from Marie Pelletier’s FB thread (the group shot above for example) – she shoots all our Plymouth CRAFT events. Most of these were mine, but I often forgot to shoot stuff.

Day one, after the first riving session, students begin shaving front posts.

A lineup of chairs; from left – antique New Jersey chair, PF 2019 chair, JA one of the last batch, PF 2018, JA stool, pre-1978, JA one-slat, c. 1975, PF kid’s chair, c. 2008.

Some layout of rungs, to be split. Ash, dead-straight. We lost very few pieces.

Andy splitting some of the rungs with a froe.

Arizona Sam shaving a rear post.

 

 

Kurt helping Andy bend some hot posts.

 

They worked green wood for the first couple of days, then following the format employed for decades by Drew Langsner, after they shaved & bent stuff for the next class, I issued air-dried stock I prepped ahead of time. That’s what they made their chairs from…here’s Andy & David chopping slat mortises.

Then it’s time to bore them. Here, Kurt & Warren are boring a front post. We teamed up, at least for the first sections, good to have an extra set of eyes on the progress.

It’s a JA-innovation to assemble the side sections first. Probably overkill, but it’s how I do it still. Here, Kurt has done a mock-up once his side sections are assembled. I get it, I want to know what it’s going to look like too.

 

Then bore for the front & rear rungs.

I showed them how I size tenons by jamming them in a test-hole in dry hardwood. Spokeshave work.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

Then assembly. Make sure the shorter rear rungs are in the rear. That way the longer front rungs go in front.

 

After a short steaming, the slats are popped into the mortises. Here, I’m making a slight adjustment.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor

Some student’s first chair – (that’s a joke – it’s Brian Chin’s – he became “some student” through an innocent remark I made…)

He & Arizona Sam scored some hickory bark and had time to weave the seats on the last afternoon.

Thanks to the usual Plymouth CRAFT crowd, especially Pret & Paula, the great students who put up with me, and to JA & Drew Langsner, who all those years ago showed me what to do.

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5 thoughts on “Making Chairs from a Tree with Plymouth CRAFT

  1. It was a great class. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect except being a bit saddlesore from the extended sessions of riding a shaving horse. I feel that this class has given me the foundation to make a solo effort on a chair at home.

    I have to credit a couple of the classes I took at Greenwood Fest 2018 which gave me a much better understanding of the riving process as well as the lesson on the effect use of the drawknife.

    • Peter You know JA was right their w/ ya. commenting and critiquing your work. Im sure he wouldn’t miss it. I can’t wait to take the course myself, def looking forward to it. AND RECEIVING THE BOOK IN THE MAIL.

  2. What they said. About the class. From talking to my fellow students, I know the week meant a huge amount to all of us. The idea of putting JA’s chair in the front row of the group, leading the way, even in her absence, was beautiful and poignant and exactly right. Thanks again.

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