Kiln Construction

We have talked about kiln temperatures and kiln heaters, now onto kiln construction.

Curtis Buchanan’s kiln


The primary use of a chairmaking kiln is to super-dry tenons. It’s nice to be able to set bends in a kiln too. This requires the kiln to be large enough to fit the bend while it’s in the bending form. Some bent parts have tenons, like a loop back bow, so ideally these tenons would be super-dried. My kiln is 2x2x3′ and that’s plenty big enough for two or three chairs worth of bends and other parts. Most folks can get by with something smaller. Read more ›

Posted in How-To, Kiln


“Not a lot of money in that is there?”

“No, not a lot of money…. Still we’ve always done it… Money’s not everything.”

Bodgers were wood turners who worked in the beech woods around the furniture-making town of High Wycombe in England.  They would cut, split and turn the beech trees where they fell, then sell the legs and stretchers to another shop where the chairs were assembled. 

This kind of specialization has been common for hundreds of years in both England and America.  The Windsor Style in America has a quote from the December 27, 1775 Pennsylvania Gazette for a chairmaker wishing to purchase “40,000 hickory sticks [likely spindles] for Windsor chairs.” Nancy Goyne Evan’s Windsor Chairmaking in America has documented myriad transactions like this. Read more ›

Posted in Craft Films

Dowel Plates/New Class

Over a decade ago, a customer told me he used a dowel plate to cut the tenons on his spindles.  “That won’t work,” I replied, having never tried it myself. 

Last fall, I switched to using dowel plates to cut the upper tenon on the spindles.

Why did I switch? Primarily, I find that the cut is often cleaner than a tenon cutter’s cut.  And they have some other advantages: the dowel plates never need re-adjusting, and almost never need sharpening.  They are also self limiting: if the tenon is too big, you simply can’t drive it through the hole.

Read more ›

Posted in Chairmaking Tools and Supplies, Classes, Craft Films, How-To

Pitchforks with Curtis

I’ve made a few pitchforks for historical museums over the years, though I can hardly say I’m an expert. Curtis Buchanan called me a few months ago and said he wanted to make a pitchfork. Here’s some photos from my weekend in Jonesborough,  eating the Buchanan’s good food and making pitchforks with Curtis and a neighbor of his. We had a ball! Thanks to Curtis’s neighbor Ben for taking many of these photos:

The process starts much as a chair back does:  riving, squaring, tapering, octagonalizing…. Read more ›

Posted in How-To

Mountain Shovel Maker

I just stumbled upon this old Folkstreams video for the second time – it’s well worth watching.  A poplar or basswood log and five tools:  scribe, ax, adz, drawknife and a knife.  No work-holding devices, but a neat way to hold the shovel using his feet and legs.  That old man could work.

Read more ›

Posted in Craft Films

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