House of Chairs


black finial

My family & I took a quick trip to visit friends in Maine. No class, no workshop, lecture, etc.  Just plain fun. Scattered about the self-proclaimed “house of chairs”  is a great mis-mash of ladderback chairs. When I began woodworking in 1978, I started with this book.

MACFAT cover


It showed how to make a “shaved” chair. Same format as a turned chair, but no turnings.

Here’s a turned Shaker chair –

shaker rocker



Many years later, I learned some about furniture history & found references to “plain matted chairs” and “turned matted chairs” – matted referring to the woven seats. (See American Furniture, 2008 for an article on shaved chairs – “Early American Shaved Post and Rung Chairs” by Alexander, Follansbee & Trent. )

Here’s a nice $15 version, from French Canada. Through mortises all over, rungs & slats. Probably birch. Posts rectangular, not square. Did they shrink that way, or were they rectangles to begin with? 



sq post 1b

sq post 1a


Rear posts shaved, not bent. 


sq popst side

sq post rear


Tool marks, sawing off the through tenon, hatchet marks from hewing the post. 


sq post tool marks


Small wooden pins secure the rungs in the post. Did not see wedges in the through tenons. Tool kit for a chair like this is pretty small, riving & hewing tools – drawkinfe, maybe a shaving horse? – tools for boring a couple of sizes of holes. what else? A knife? a chisel for the slat mortises…


sq posat thru t


Here’s an armchair – also shaved.  Big. the curved rear posts angle outwards. the arms meet the arris of this post…one front post has a nice sweep to it. I forget if the other does…

sq post armchair

It was a tight spot that had enough light…so I had to tilt to get the whole chair in this shot. 

sq post armchair overall

The side seat rungs and the arms both have this bowed shape…

sq post armchair overall rear above

Although the arms have been moved down in the rear stiles. 

sq post armchair mortise in rear

I couldn’t get high enough to really capture the shape of the rear stile… I’d guess these stiles are bent this time, not shaved. 

sq post armchair rear stile

The front stile, swept outwards. 



sq post armchair front post


You should see the cheese press. A masterwork of mortise-and-tenon joinery.  Next time I’ll empty it and shoot the whole thing. 

cheese press detail


cheese press detail 2


half a pair of joint stools

half a pair
half a pair

I have two joint stools to finish to go along with a table and joined form I am making. For the seven-foot long table top I opted for quartersawn white oak. So I made the tops of the stools and form from the same material. Yesterday I planed the board for the stool tops. I kept it at double-length to make handling it easier while I planed it flat and dressed the thickness. I decided to keep it that way while I ran the molding too.

 I trimmed it to width, then dressed both faces and trued up the edges. I then crosscut both ends and marked out the middle where I eventually would crosscut it in two.

 I marked out the 7/8” wide thumbnail molding spacing with a marking gauge along both long edges. Then I followed the steps I outlined in the joint stool book for making the molding; a rabbet plane (in this case, a filester) to begin to define the depth, then bevelling off the shape with smooth plane/jointer. I fiddled a little with a hollow plane like what Matt Bickford does; I had the rabbet, then I chamfered that, then ran the hollow a bit. It was just a bit shy of the right size, and was not perfectly fettled. So it served to further rough out the shape, but I still did the final definition with the smooth plane.

filester plane
filester filetster plane
hollow plane
hollow plane


shaping molding
shaping molding

I ran this molding along both edges, then did the two outside ends. Here, I marked the width with a knife and square, rather than a gauge. Then cut it apart and finished each seat with one more molding. Usually I do the end-grain moldings first, but in this case it was worth reversing that order.

quartersawn stock
quartersawn stock

The wood is amazing quality; clear, wide and perfectly quartersawn. Air dried. The next best thing to riven. I then finished shaping the seats, and bored one & fit it on the stool. Just like in the book….

boring & pegging
boring & pegging

 Now, fresh on the success of “Riven Cedrela” I have the phrase “half-a-pair of joint stools” ringing in my head like “four-and-twenty blackbirds…” so stay tuned. It could be my first nursery rhyme. 


I haven’t written here in a while. It’s a long story, another time perhaps. Meanwhile, I’m knocked out with something just under the flu. One thing on my to-be-done list has been  learning how to convert JPEGs to PDFs, not for woodworking, but for the many books Rose has written.

But I practiced on Felebien first. So as a thank-you to all the blog readers here for their patience while I was busy bungling the latest tool sale, I’m posting the Felebien stuff I have here. The PDF here is the chapter on joiner’s work, from a reprint of the 1699 edition. Felebien’s first edition was 1676, i.e. pre-Moxon.

So while you’re waiting for Chris to finish up on the Roubo volume, now you can reach back to an earlier time in Paris, and see what Moxon was copying some of his stuff from…

plate 30

Felebien PDF

Now, somewhere I have some attempts at translation done for Alexander & I almost 15 years ago. Paula Marcoux (now the Magnificent Leaven ) took a whack at it for us… so here is a “warts n’ all” translation. this is done as a Word document, I have had enough, so I’m not converting it to anything. Have fun.

Felibien w edits accepted

some raking light & more tools

I have done some woodworking lately, just no time right now to write about it. some raking light to catch your eye….

carved box


I saw this out of the corner of my eye today, and thought, “birds’ eye maple need not apply”


birds' eye maple need not apply

I updated the tools, added a few that I ran out of time for the other night….


a joint stool from a reader…

This note from Craig D touches on just why we used a joint stool as the project in our introduction to 17th-century joinery book…you only need a short section of a log. Many find it daunting to go out & secure a large oak log. But Craig says he used an “urban” white oak that had already been cut to firewood lengths. Here’s his note & stool:


Hi Peter – I thoroughly enjoyed the Joint Stool book and used the information to build this stool from an urban white oak that had been cut into long firewood logs. Quite enjoyable and very informative.

Thanks to you and Jennie for writing the book and your blog.


top pegged

Perfect. Thanks, Craig.



If you still need a copy, get it here:


the Green Wood project

We could all use a hit of positive news – and I got some from Scott Landis in my inbox this morning. Scott you might remember as the author of the Taunton Press book on Workbenches (yes, there were workbenches before C. Schwarz!) – I met Scott when he, Alexander & I were all students in a class Curtis Buchanan taught on making a bow-back Windsor chair in 1987 at Country Workshops.

Nowadays Scott is the president of Green Wood, an organization that trains (mostly, but not only) young people in places like Honduras and Peru to make sustainable wooden products from rain forests. Curtis Buchanan, Brian Boggs and other craftsmen have made trips down there to begin training folks in these woodcrafts, starting back in 1993.

GW.yearend2012.13daa8a48c65d GW.yearend2012.21fb3776e0eda




“The photo … shows Curtis at work in El Carbón in the mid-1990s. And the middle photo shows some of the new furniture that is being made today by young artisans whom Curtis and Brian have never met. In fact, GreenWood has not visited this community for at least five years, and we have not conducted a training workshop there in nearly twice that long. These are the fruits of seeds we planted two decades ago in what could best be described as hardpan clay. El Carbón is beset by every manner of hardship—from crushing poverty and natural disaster (Hurricane Mitch) to massive hydroelectric development and the pervasive violence that plagues the whole country. This vulnerable Pech village illustrates the simple but enduring truth that, even under the most challenging conditions, good ideas will eventually take root. If that’s not sustainable development, what is?”


Rather than me trying to write about it, just follow the link and see for yourselves. If you are signed up for the newsletters from Green Wood, then you’re onto it. If not, now’s the time to see what these folks are up to. There’s a button where you can donate $$ via paypal. It came at the right time for me. Some of Alexander’s extra tools might make it down there, who knows…