American Seat Woods

Nearly any wood will work for a Windsor chair seat. It depends on how much work you are willing to do and how heavy a chair you want to move every time you finish dinner. I refuse to use anything but the highest quality and most easily worked materials available. In my experience, this is even more important for the beginner; far better to start with the very best, for then you’ll know whether to blame the wood or another factor.

Easily carved woods like white pine are many times easier to carve than walnut. Walnut is many times easier to carve than elm. Woods with even density throughout (nearly all the woods in this list) are much easier to carve than woods that grow with hard and soft annual layers (yellow pine, ash, etc.). Power tools such as grinders and routers probably negate these differences, but I don’t care to find out. The quiet of my workshop is sacred.

Eastern White Pine
Eastern white pine is what almost all of my traditional chairs are made of. It’s a great carving wood and it’s readily available, though it does have problems with pitch and wind-shake.

Pros: –very easy to carve
–light
–common
–very stable
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Posted in Chairmaking Tools and Supplies, How-To

Turning Chess Pieces

Seth and his puppy Kodi

With the holidays, a new girlfriend and huge quantities of tool orders, I have been delinquent in my blog posts lately. This year saw a huge growth in my business, with Seth Elliott starting to help me make tools, refurbish drawknives and sell rivings. I wasn’t looking to hire anyone, but Seth does such good work and is so easy to be around that he just fit right in. He has also started helping procure delicious lunches for my classes, which has made the classes a much more congenial experience. Thanks Seth!


Turning Chess Pieces

This short video is from 1963 in Zsambek, Hungary in a small production shop making chess pieces. They are turning on a power lathe using what looks like a screw chuck. Read more ›

Posted in Chairmaking Tools and Supplies, Craft Films

Chair stories: The flaky-bark oak

My student Christophe from Australia commissioned three Pete’s Stools with white oak legs and butternut seats.  Here’s the story about his chairs:

I like the log yard when it is quiet, and the three-man crew is waiting for trucks to arrive. At those times, Junior might come down from the knuckleboom truck to talk. He’s a tall man with white bushy hair, blue jeans and a John Deere ball cap. Mostly he talks about wood — how it grows, how it’s cut, and how it’s sold. Read more ›

Posted in Chair Stories

Milk Paint Viscosity Measure/Studio Tour

The viscosity of milk paint directly affects the ease with which the paint can be applied and the smoothness of the painted surface.  True milk paint only comes in powered form and must be mixed with water before use (“pre-mixed” milk paints are really acrylic paints). Thick paint doesn’t flow off the brush easily and the resulting surface is rougher.  Extremely thin paint leaves bubbles on the surface and is runny.  Paint manufacturers often recommend a mixture of paint that is thicker than what I like.

For my milk paint DVD,  I discovered you can make a viscosity measuring cup from a pepsi bottle.  Drill a 5/32 hole in the lid of the bottle, remove any drilling burrs from the hole and cut the bottom of the bottle off.  You now have a rough equivalent of a #4 Ford viscosity cup.  It looks like this:
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Posted in Chairmaking Tools and Supplies, Chairs For Sale, Finishing, How-To

Turner’s Gate/Class Cancellations

I prefer to size stretcher tenons with a Turner’s Gate (Sorby calls it a Sizing Tool). It’s major advantage over dowel plates and tenon cutters is that the tenon shoulder can be easily removed using a skew, plus the tenons are always in line with each other.

A turner’s gate fits over a parting tool or bedan and can be adjusted through trial and error to cut whatever size tenon is required. Or if you want to get fancy, Tim Manney has come up with a way to add a micro adjust. If the tenon can be twisted 1/3 to 1/2 the way into the mortice without hurting your arm, the tenon is a good fit. You only drive the tenon in once, since you’ll never get it back out without breaking the stretcher.

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Posted in Classes, How-To

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