Building chairs from green wood is an exciting specialty in the field of woodworking.
And judging from the number of recent books on this subject, it's a specialty of growing
interest. For woodworkers seeking to enter this field, Drew Langsner has produced a
thorough introduction to the work with his book, Chairmaker's Workshop. A longtime green woodworker and instructor at his
North Carolina Country Workshop, Langsner was a teacher by choice, electing not to
build chairs for profit on a continuing basis. His long experience in instructing students
in chairmaking makes him well-qualified to provide expert instruction on a wide range of
Post and Rung and Windsor chairs.
This thorough guide takes the woodworker from harvesting and processing green timber
through the steps needed to craft their choice of chairs. Following an introduction to the
Post and Rung and Windsor styles, Langsner explores the contents of the chairmaker's
toolkit. He favors a smaller workbench; his current bench is built from 2x4s. A shaving
horse is essential for shaping with drawknives and spokeshaves; his preference is for
the dumbhead rather than the bodger's style. A hewing stump, a separate area for
grinding and sharpening, and a place to dry wood complete the essential workshop
A variety of hand tools are needed to process the wood and Langsner leads us through
saws, wedges, gluts, froes, drawknives, inshaves, spokeshaves, travishers, and hewing
and boring tools. Tools for turning are also considered, along with tools for finishing.
A chapter on sharpening, any woodworker's essential skill, follows. Three stages
make up his routine: setting the property geometry, sharpening the edge, and polishing.
Langsner discusses edge geometry, including roller bevels for drawknives, and reviews
the procedures for sharpening the variety of green woodworking tools.
Acquiring proper wood is considered in the next chapter. It begins with a primer on
wood and how a chairmaker needs to look at and evaluate raw logs. Topics covered
include finding wood, whether cutting your own or buying it from a mill, storing it, drying
it, moisture and shrinking issues, and bending it. A final section examines the choices
of wood for spindles, rungs and posts and seats.
Following these preparatory chapters, Langsner turns to the construction of a series of
project chairs. A chapter on riving stock introduces the practical steps in constructing
chairs. This is succeeded by a chapter introducing Post and Rung construction with a
ladder back chair with a woven seat. The chapter offers complete construction details,
along with many helpful suggestions and advice on fixing problems like loose rungs and
errors in boring mortises. This chapter provides the basis for the construction of the
chairs that follow in this book.
A separate chapter reviews the types of Post and Rung seating, including the use of
Shaker tape, hickory bark, and genuine rush woven in checkerboard patterns. The
method for stripping and preparing hickory bark is presented.
The following chapters present a pair of English Windsor chair styles: a stick Windsor
and a classic bow-back side chair.
Then come more chairs in American styles: a Post and Rung stool; a Post and Rung
child's chair with splayed and raked legs to keep it from tipping over; a rocker; an
American sack-back Windsor; a comb back armchair; a continuous armchair; and a
sack back settee. The final project in this section is an English double hoop-back
Several galleries of black and white photos illustrate classic and contemporary English
and American Windsor and Post and Rung chairs.
The final section of the book presents details on building a shaving horse, a
chairmaker's workbench, a shop made wood kiln, and a springpole lathe. An appendix
addresses issues encountered in building chairs: working with compound angles and
designing with wire frames.
Each project in the book is introduced with complete scale drawings, a cutlist, and a
discussion of design options. Copious photographs illustrate the construction steps.
Any woodworker choosing to build Post and Rung or Windsor chairs will find here clear,
detailed instruction that increases the chances of success. The early chapters lay out
techniques in greater detail that can then be applied as work progresses toward the
more challenging projects that appear later in the book.
This is a highly detailed discussion of green chairmaking and to my eye it is one of the
most complete and thorough treatments available. Certainly, a woodworker starting out
in this field will find here all that's needed to make a range of chairs progressing from
the basic to the more complex. For any woodworker seeking to build Post and Rung or
Windsor chairs, this is likely the only book needed. While beginning chairmakers will
benefit the most from it, all who seek to build these styles, specially the variety of Windsor chairs, will find valuable instruction and advice herein. This is a very good
book and one all chairmakers should include in their reference library.
Find out more and purchase
Chairmaker's Workshop by Drew Langsner
J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of
Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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