Make a Chair from a Tree – Plymouth CRAFT workshop May 2019

Well. Here goes. 2019 marks my maiden solo voyage in teaching students how to make Jennie Alexander’s ladderback chair. My version of it anyway. We’ll be following the general format I learned from JA and Drew Langsner, who together and separately taught this class for decades. I learned a lot from both of them about this chair; and assisted in classes at both Country Workshops and Alexander’s shop in Baltimore. In the early 1990s I worked with JA on the 2nd edition of the book Make a Chair from a Tree.

Riving, drawknife work, boring with a brace & bit, mortise & tenon joinery, steam-bending. Lots to cover in this class, it’s where I began as a woodworker in 1978.

boring mortises
chopping slat mortises

 

drawknife & shaving horse

We’re going to do it as a 6-day class with Plymouth CRAFT, just 6 students in the class. Dates are Friday May 3- Wed May 8th. 6 spots, so if you think you’d like to tackle this (and 6 days of Paula’s lunches) best sign up early.

https://www.plymouthcraft.org/ladderback-chairs-with-peter-follan

(Two things – I wrote “solo” but Pret Woodburn will be there to assist much of the time. He just never wants credit for all his helpfulness. And May? – what was I thinking? It’s the pinnacle of the birding year – right after this class, I’m going to Mt Auburn Cemetery to see warblers during their spring migration.)

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the week in pictures

Just photos, and some captions.

mortising a joined stool frame

 

I bore the peg holes to mark it “done”

 

shaving rungs for JA ladderback

 

Mortised these posts, then shaved with a spokeshave to finish them

 

joinery tested for the 2nd joined stool frame

 

some spoon carving at the end of a day

 

new old shop stool by JA; pre-1978

 

unrelated – two scrolled & molded table rails and two bed posts

 

stile for joined table; 2 3/4″ square

 

turning one of the stiles

Thinking about self-taught turning – “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

turning detail

 

Jones River this morning

 

Nice to see the sun today

PF versions of JA ladderback chair

I’ve been re-adjusting to life in the Northern Hemisphere after my trip to Australia. When I was in the airports and planes (almost 30 hours of “dead time” each way) – I had some good reading, including a draft of Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree, version 3. This book will be published next year by Lost Art Press.

When I got back up & running in the shop here at home, I assembled one of my JA chairs as my warm-up. After having read so much MACFAT it seemed the thing to do. Now I plan to get back into a rhythm and work on one of these each weekend; either seating, shaving & bending posts or assembly. Next weekend, it’s slats in this new frame. 

 

The first ones I made this year sold, and now I’ve got 5 more underway.

 

I’m going to begin taking orders for them now, and will begin shipping/delivering starting in late January. If you’d like to order one, I’m offering them for $1,200 each. I’ll take orders up to 10 chairs, beyond that I’ll start a waiting list. I’ll collect a deposit of $200 for each of the first 10 chairs. They are made of either oak (usually red, some white oak rungs or slats) and ash. It all depends on what’s on hand. Right now, it’s red oak and ash. Seating materials will vary between hickory bark (as long as I can get it), and natural rush seats. Optional seating is woven tape seats like Shaker tape. There’s a hemp version of a tape seat that JA really liked, I have yet to use it.

The chair is about 34” high, 18” wide (across the front) and 14” deep. Seat height is 18”.

Email me at peterfollansbee7@gmail.com if you’d like to get on the list. The deposit through paypal will be $206.

three things

A few things floating around. The first photo is not mine, nor my work. It’s Dave Fisher’s carved sign, made for Jennie Alexander. Finished just before JA’s death, so now what to do with it? I told Dave to keep it – but he had other ideas. Read on.

Here’s Dave’s story about this sign:

“I carved this sign for Jennie Alexander, author of the seminal book, Make a Chair from a Tree.  Since then, the leaves have fallen and the oiled oak has begun to take on a patina.  Although Jennie was able to see photos of the finished sign, she passed away before she was able to receive it.  After a lot of thought and talking with Jennie’s daughter and others close to her, I’ve decided to auction the sign and donate the money to the recently established Plymouth CRAFT Green Woodworking Scholarship.  Learn more about the scholarship here:  https://www.plymouthcraft.org/craft-green-woodworking-sch

This scholarship has already received some generous contributions, and they will allow many people over the coming years to participate in Plymouth CRAFT classes and events who would have otherwise been unable to.  I think that Jennie would have supported such an idea, especially considering the special relationship between her and Peter Follansbee, one of Plymouth CRAFT’s founders and most active instructors.

I’ll ship the sign to the winner of the auction, then I’ll donate all of the proceeds to The Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship Fund.  I will ship outside of the U.S., but will have to add accordingly to the shipping price listed.
There’s more information about the sign and the carving process in this post from my blog: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/greenwoodworking-in-white-oak/
The sign is 29 1/2″ x 7 3/4″.  The thickness tapers from roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ from bottom to top as it was radially split from the tree.  The back side reveals marks from the riving.  White oak — Jennie’s favorite.”

Link to Dave’s auction  https://www.ebay.com/itm/Carved-Sign-in-White-Oak-Wood-greenwoodworking/302962380463

 

And that brings up Plymouth CRAFT’s new Scholarship Fund. We’ve been kicking around the idea for a while of creating scholarships so those for whom our tuition is a stretch might still have a chance to come to our workshops and events. We’re still working out how to implement it, but it’s now underway. First shot is for Tim Manney’s sharpening class coming up December 15 & 16. Here’s the blurb about applying for the scholarships – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/craft-green-woodworking-sch

And here’s the one about Tim’s class. I think this will be our third time with this class, other than when he’s led Greenwood Fest sessions on sharpening, and it gets better and better. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/an-axe-to-grind

Last for today, I have a new hatchet to try out. It came already sharp, so that’s a plus.

Julia Kalthoff sent me one of her small carving hatchets to see how I like it. (Yes, there was no invoice. I’ll use this hatchet with my students, as I do with hatchets that I have either bought or received over the years from Hans Karlsson, Robin Wood, and Svante Djarv). If I was shopping for a hatchet, I would gladly pay for Julia’s – from what I can tell after only using it briefly, it’s excellent and well worth her asking price. https://www.kalthoffaxes.se/

It feels like a cross between the Hans Karlsson hatchet and Svante Djarv’s “small Viking” hatchet. Thicker than Karlsson’s at the edge, giving it slightly wider bevels. This is similar to Djarv’s in that respect. Curved cutting edge. The specs are on Julia’s site – if I remember right, Beth Moen helped Julia work out the shape and size. All you carvers out there can now add another great axe to your axe-lust-list.

 

 

 

 

more books for sale from JA collection

I’ve still got a few boxes of books to sort through. Here’s the latest batch, some green woodworking/carving/American furniture, etc. Leave a comment, then I will follow up with paypal invoices, etc. The comments are time-stamped, so it solves the “who-was-here-first” issue. One copy of each of these titles. I’ll try to keep the page updated as things sell. Sorry for the clunky-ness, there must be a better way, but I don’t have time to suss it out. Prices include media mail in the US. Other shipping is extra.

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UPDATE – 1:30 PM, ALL THAT’S LEFT RIGHT NOW ARE THREE FURNITURE BOOKS, LISTED JUST BELOW THIS NOTE. 

American Furniture in Pendleton House, RISD. This is a catalogue of the collection at Rhode Island School of Design’s museum. Softcover.

$30

 

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American Furniture at the MFA Boston. Softcover. A nice overview of the collection published in the early 1960s or so.

$30.

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American Furniture, 1996. This is the annual journal put out by the Chipstone Foundation. Yes, it’s online. To get the full set of illustrations you need to view the actual books. This one includes the first article JA & I did for them, on the oak carved furniture from Braintree, Massachusetts.

$30.

 

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UPDATE – 1:30PM. ALL BOOKS BELOW HERE ARE SOLD. THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT, SORRY THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH TO GO AROUND!

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Handmade, by Drew & Louise Langsner. SOLD

Paperback. The covers are a bit buckled, it’s an old paperback. Otherwise in fine shape. Signed by Louise & Drew…it’s their trip through parts of Europe looking into architecture, cooking, crafts, and more.

$12.

 

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Woodcarving: Tools, Materials & Equipment, Chris Pye. SOLD

softcover. I really like this book, lots of great content about the tools, their use, shapes, sharpening. I keep my copy right next to Mary May’s book.

$20.

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Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian Medieval York Carole Morris. SOLD

Archaeology books usually don’t interest me much, being mostly ceramics or metal. This one’s all WOOD! Great, great book. Large paperback, some browning on the edges of the pages, but it’s all intact and otherwise in fine condition. Now a pretty scarce book.

$100.

 

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Another English book –

Suffolk Medieval Church Roof Carvings, by Birkin Haward. SOLD

Softcover. This one I come back to again & again. Not because I’m going to carve a church roof, but because it’s captivating. Great details.

$45

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Making the Attikamek Snowshoe, Henri Vallancourt. SOLD

softcover

very well-regarded book about just that – making these snowshoes. I’m trying to picture JA in showshoes! But this book was in the collection because it’s about green woodworking with simple tools. Includes a note from Henri to JA.

$75

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Folk Arts and Crafts of Japan – SOLD

hardcover. Nice study of the subject, textiles, ceramics, wood, paint –

$20.

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The History of Chairmaking in High Wycombe, L.J. Mayes. SOLD

Hardcover. Includes a section about the old methods in Buckinghamshire, then goes into how the “craft became an industry…”

$20.

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The Cooper and His Trade, SOLD

Kenneth Kilby. Aptly titled book, I have a later paperback edition. This is the first edition, hardcover.

$20

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Tage Frid, book 3: Furniture making. SOLD

Not green woodworking, not “all-hand-tools” but some chair design. That’s all I can figure as to why it was there.

$40

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American Furniture 2008. SOLD

Same series as above, this time with a piece by JA, Robert Trent & I on “shaved post and rung chairs” –

[NOTE: I HAVE ABOUT 15 VOLUMES OF CHIPSTONE’S AMERICAN FURNITURE. SEND ME A NOTE IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SPECIFIC VOLUME.]

$30.

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Jennie Alexander’s chair

 

Alexander’s post-and-rung chair

On the Jennie Alexander chairmaking front – I worked with Alexander for years and years – and we made many of these chairs together. In the early 1990s we worked on a second edition of the book Make a Chair from a Tree and it included an afterword that described and illustrated the then-current updates to the chairmaking process from the original 1978 edition. Around that time, we shot a full-length video of the process, but JA was not satisfied with it, and scrapped the whole thing. Then later, while I was off in joinery-land, JA and Anatol Polillo produced an excellent video that shows the most current version of how to build this chair.

You probably already saw this news – but Lost Art Press announced yesterday that it’s got the video ready for streaming. Here’s the link:

‘Make a Chair From a Tree’ Streaming Video Now Available

My one comment – Chris doesn’t know what it’s called. It’s not a “Jennie” chair, it’s a JA chair. Always was.

Get it while you wait for the next (and best) edition of the book.

On the same subject, next year, I’m planning two classes on making these chairs. When I have the particulars sorted out, I’ll announce them here & elsewhere. I’ve made four of these chairs lately, and they’ve all sold – soon I’ll be taking orders for a small batch of my versions of these as well. Lots more about these chairs in upcoming posts.

the next batch of JA’s books; TOOLS

UPDATE – THURSDAY, SEPT 13, ALL THESE BOOKS HAVE SOLD.

THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE, I KNOW IT CAN BE CLUNKY TRYING TO FIND OUT IF THEY ARE AVAILABLE. I’LL SORT THE REMAINING BOOKS, MOST OF WHICH ARE FURNITURE HISTORY; MANY VOLUMES OF CHIPSTONE’S AMERICAN FURNITURE, AND A NEARLY-COMPLETE RUN OF THE BRITISH JOURNAL REGIONAL FURNITURE. I WILL POST SOME OF THESE AFTER THE WEEKEND. 

 

I sorted out some books specifically about woodworking tools. Most are inscribed with John Alexander’s name on the inside. Rarely are there notes written in them. sometime might have slips of paper in them, noting something JA wanted to come back to. All prices include shipping in US. Leave a comment if you want one. I’ll send paypal invoices tonight.

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SOLD   W.L. Goodman, The History of Woodworking Tools, hardcover. JA & I used this book a lot; mine’s a photocopy – used to belong to Benno Forman, but this is JA’s hardcover copy.

$40

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SOLD   Paul Kebabian, American Woodworking Tools hardcover, signed.

$30.

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SOLD   R.A. Salaman, Dictionary of Tools. Hardcover, used. There was a later paperback edition by Taunton Press, but this is the 1975 English edition. A JA favorite – that’s why it’s used.

$40

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SOLD   Instruments of Change: New Hampshire Hand Tools and their makers, 1800-1900, softcover. Good condition, but a glued binding.

$40

 


THE BOOKS BELOW ARE SOLD

SOLD  Henry Mercer, Ancient Carpenters’ Tools

Anyone interested in hand-tool woodworking that doesn’t have Mercer’s book is missing out. There’s a modern paperback edition. This is a 1960 hardcover edition.

$35


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SOLD   John Whalen, The Wooden Plane, Astragal Press, hardcover, excellent condition.

$50

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SOLD  John Whalen, Making Traditional Wooden Planes -softcover. Just what it says. I made planes with the help of this book.

$20.

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SOLD  The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, 1st edition. Too weird to go into, but this first edition is listed as more valuable than the expanded 2nd edition. Nonsense, I say. It’s nice, but the 2nd edition is better. Don’t buy it & re-sell it though, I’ll be mad.

$30.

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SOLD   Josef Greber, Die Gschichte des Hobels (The History of the Woodworking Plane)

This was an EAIA reprint. The hardcover book is in German, with all the illustrations. The translation is the softcover companion volume. So you read two books at once to know what’s going on, unless you read German.

$50

 

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SOLD   Kenneth Roberts, Some 19th Century English Woodworking Tools. inscribed by the author to JA. hardcover, excellent condition

$50.

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SOLD   Tools and Technologies: America’s Wooden Age, softcover. New one to me, look at the table of contents – some old friends in there.

$40.

 

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SOLD  Early Tools of New Jersey and the Men Who Made Them.

Just what it says. Hardcover

$30.