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. https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

 

 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/user/curtisbuchanan52/videos 

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.

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