a couple of new chairs

butternut chair 2022

I built this chair a while ago, but added a linseed oil finish lately and now it’s presentable. I’ve lost track but this might be about the 6th of these chairs I’ve made in the past couple years. I’ve written before about my introduction to them through Drew Langsner’s long-ago article about one he made with his mentor Ruedi Kohler, the Swiss cooper. Like Drew, another big influence on my work was Daniel O’Hagan (1923-2000). I met him through Drew’s classes back in the 1980s. When I met Daniel, I owned a tablesaw, jointer, drill press, electric lathe, circular saws, portable electric drills, etc. I came home after one week with him and made a couple of phone calls and all those tools left my shop at once. That was 1985. I’ve never missed them.

I’ve had the chance recently to read through his old notes. Daniel wrote about these chairs in his shop notes over the years. That’s what spurred me to revisit making these European style chairs. They’re great fun to make. Just the right combination of ease and complexity.

1969 notes about German style chairs

This one is butternut again. The carving is a mish-mash, I really wasn’t concentrating on it, I just wanted to quickly fill the blank spaces. Mixing chip carving and gouge-cut carvings is silly, but my goal was to get on with the chair itself.

through tenons where the legs meet the battens and seat

When I first made them, I was following the article by Drew. At that point, Ruedi Kohler had adapted his chairs to use blind tenons where the legs met the battens under the seat. I did the same for my first several chairs. On this one, I decided to go ahead and bore those mortises through both the battens and the seats. This invites the seat to split – the battens run 90 degrees to the seat’s long fibers. The minute I assembled this one, I liked it. The reason? It looks like the old chairs I see in museum collections, etc. Maybe it’ll split, we’ll see. Some do, some don’t.

butternut with ash legs

I’m going to do a couple more with this format – the 3-piece back. It’s 2 extra joints, but only needs some narrow stock. And I like the open space in the back of the chair.

I also finished an arm chair based on the plans developed by Curtis Buchanan and Jeff Lefkowitz.

shaved windsor armchair

Although I tinkered a bit with Curtis’ details, I’m a copyist when it comes to a chair like this. This one’s got red oak arms, white pine seat and the rest is hickory. The major change I made I’ve discussed here before, I used a rectangular tenon where the crest meets the posts. Curtis’ is a bored 3/8″ hole in the post and he shaves the crest down to fit. I wanted to keep the crest full-height across the chair. That means I can’t “crown” the crest like he does, in fact it tends to droop a bit in the middle. It’s a trade I like. The crowning is more important to Curtis than the ends of the crest.

shaved windsor 2022

This is my 2nd attempt at this arm chair, (I’m sitting in the first one here at my desk) and I’ve made maybe 3 or 4 of the side chairs. This one went the best – no hassles. All the joints were tight but not so tight as to split any of those parts. It went like it was supposed to. Finally. Maybe I really can re-learn how to make windsors. We’ll see.

Curtis’ plans are here – https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c8/Plans_for_Arm_Chairs.html

Some of my posts about brettstuhls https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=brettstuhl

back at the bench

I’ve been in the shop part-time lately, just hadn’t taken any photographs. I have been spending part of my time making chair parts from a section of hickory I brought home from my bark-trip in July. Still trying to relearn what I used to know 30 years ago. I can’t find stuff I had last week, but I knew just where the old plans for these chairs were. This is a comb for a comb-back armchair.

bent comb for Windsor chair

And an arm for it. Not the best bend, but the best I’ve done this past week. The few wrinkles will plane out when I go to use the arm.

off the form, but tied to keep its bend til I need it

But yesterday was my first day back to joinery in nearly a month. Started making the drawer parts for the joined chest video series. I cut the drawer front to fit the opening. Looks like it’s all done, but those are the drawer sides tucked under the chest.

looks like it has its drawer

I want the front to have some space all around it so it doesn’t stick. This is why I had business cards printed all those years ago.

checking the spacing

I plowed a groove in the drawer sides to match the runner that’s set in the drawer opening.

This test-fit is too tight. Needs a couple of shavings off the top edge of the drawer side.

too tight

Like this:


Next up is half-blind dovetails, rabbets and nails.

early August update

My newest thing is being treated for Lyme disease. Found it not by a bulls-eye tick bite, but from swollen knees and ankles. I’ve been pretty badly hobbled for a week or more and am now on the mend. 

I had been moving along all right. I was planing up stuff for cupboard #2 and finishing up the joined carved chest and its videos. So if you’re wondering where the next video is, right now it’s only in my head. It’s going to take a bit of time before I am up to tackling that level of work. The chest sits there, with its drawer opening mocking me. 

I hate when the furniture mocks me

I did finish up a Windsor chair before my legs went south on me. One of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic arm chairs. I still substitute a different tenon on the crest, and yes, Curtis, it takes two extra tools to do so. My arms were a slightly different shape than his, mostly because when I first made one of these chairs, I made a mistake and ended up with a leftover arm. So just matched that arm this time. 

pine seat, red oak arms, hickory for the rest

Curtis started this democratic chair years ago when he was working on a project with Green Wood in central America. Then shelved it and brought it back out a few years back. Since that time, it has taken off and become a favorite chair for many makers. https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/p40/Full-Scale_Drawings%3A_How_to_Make_a_democratic_Arm_Chair.html

I first saw a shaved windsor-style chair in the late 1980s done by Daniel O’Hagan. I then copied that notion of shaving instead of turning and grafted it onto a sackback chair, dated 1989. 

1989 sack back

Having concentrated on Curtis’ versions of the side chair & arm chair for the past couple of years, I keep thinking back to Daniel’s versions. Here’s a sketch of one of his chairs from 1983. 

Daniel O’Hagan’s rustic windsor 1983


Last week we held Plymouth CRAFT’s first workshop since January 2020. JoJo and Sean came over from the UK for two 2-day classes sandwiched around a small gathering we called “Spoon Day”.

JoJo Wood

It was all great, except for the heat. People were thrilled to be together in person. During one of our dessert-breaks they gave us a nice presentation about their work with/as Pathcarvers – https://www.pathcarvers.co.uk/ Very inspiring. 

Re: Plymouth CRAFT – before you ask – no, we don’t know what or when next classes will be. And that goes double for “Will there be a Greenwood Fest?” The best way to get that news is to be on Plymouth CRAFT’s email list. You’ll only hear from us when we have something to say. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact

knife grips in the shade


I have 2 boxes and a ladderback chair for sale. They’ve been here a while so I reduced the prices by $200. The butternut box was called for back in June, but there was a mis-communication. So it’s still here.

butternut box

And the birds. For weeks and weeks there’s been Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) in & out of the shop. I saw them hauling in nesting material, then I could never tell if they actually nested. Well, they did. This was yesterday

My hero

[I wrote the piece below last week, right after hearing about the death of Bill Russell. It took all week to find the archival stuff to include for illustrations. Still reading about Russell and still learning about his impact in American life in the 2nd half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. An amazing man…]

My hero

My brother is 8 years older than me. When we were growing up in the suburbs of Boston, our family had no car. But we did have a garage and driveway. On the front of the garage my father had built a regulation-sized backboard for my brother’s basketball hoop. I was too small to play with him and his friends, but they put a lower hoop on a tree beside the driveway so I could be out there shooting hoops like my big brother. 

And I was 6 years old in the 1963/64 school year when I drew a picture of my hero – Bill Russell -playing basketball.

Bill Russell & Wilt Chamberlain

I won first prize in the Archdiocese Art Fair. (many people won first prizes, I see from the program…) The award ceremony was at Boston College and I remember sitting next to a girl named Casey Jones. And not understanding why she wasn’t K.C. Jones, like Russell’s teammate. 

May 1964
May 1964

One more from that event –

PF at Boston College, May 1964. Before the beard…

[the drawing of Russell above is not the one from that event, but same timeframe.]

I knew the Celtics scene backwards and forwards when I was young – and it’s due to my brother and father. We got two or sometimes three newspapers a day at home. My brother used to cut out every article about the Celtics’ games, including the box score and paste them into scrapbooks. I remember the Boston Globe then used to run cartoons or caricatures about the players and I used to copy them whenever it was a Celtic player. I think at some point I used to help with the clippings. 

from the web

[the photo above I got from the web, didn’t see a credit for the photographer, which is a shame. It’s an amazing shot.]

We went to the games from time to time at the old Boston Garden. I remember once when I was really small, we sat down near the front row. And the next time we went, we were up higher, with a better vantage point. I don’t remember this except from the telling of it – but someone tried to trade seats with my father by telling him “wouldn’t the kid like to sit down close to the players?” And I apparently said that no, we could see better up here. Something I’m sure I was parroting from my brother and father. My uncle Bob might have been with us then too. 

Russell was my absolute hero, 6 was my favorite number. I even remember wanting a goatee because of him. (never had one once it was within my reach). I watched the games all through the 1960s – he retired after the 1969 season, the year I turned 12. 

Russell & Wilt

It was easy for a young kid to be taken with those Celtics teams. They just about always won – 11 championships in 13 years. The only common theme through that whole time was Russell. Back then I read everything I could find about him, but couldn’t digest it all. 

So I guess if a kid’s going to have a hero, Russell would be a good choice. I wish I could say it was because of his stance on civil rights. He marched with King, sat down front for the “I have a dream” speech. He went to Mississippi right after Medgar Evers’ death to run a basketball camp for black & white kids, – these are just snippets of his overall defiance in the face of American racism. A symbol of his position is that he was a pallbearer for Jackie Robinson. But I was too young then to know that scene. All I knew was his basketball playing and the fact that even at my young age, I could see that Russ was “cool.” He was indeed bigger than life. A remarkable man in many respects. 

Over the past few years I’ve read the news about one after another of these players  having died. And they were household names for us. K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Tommy Heinsohn, John Havlicek – all died in the past few years. Now Russell. These names and youtube clips bring a flood of memories that all sorta slide around each other.

Through it all, I think every time of my brother. So if Russell is/was my larger-than-life hero, my brother is another kind of hero. He and I are both much older than our father ever got to be, but he reminds me of our father, Moe. The best father and husband you can be. First person I thought of when I heard about Russell. SRF, thanks for pointing the way. 


PS: I have no photos of him and me playing basketball, we rarely did together. Baseball though was something different. And halfball still something else. This photo below is from 1968, I was not yet 11 years old. The only family vacation I ever went on – all the way to Plymouth from Weymouth (about 30 miles). Me at bat, Steve catching. Shortly after this photo, I misjudged a fly ball and famously got knocked unconscious.

PF at bat, SRF catching

When I got married in 2003 my sister threw a big party for us the day after the wedding. I don’t dance, don’t drink and I hate cake. So wedding parties are not my bag. Ours was different. Steve & I got a halfball game going out in the front yard while other people did whatever it is that people do at weddings.

PF pitching

A broomstick and these days tennis balls cut in half. What more do you need?

SRF at bat

UPDATE: I meant to post this youtube video, the best one I’ve seen on Russell this week. It’s worth your ten minutes.