Democratic Chair Tool List

This is a fairly minimalist tool list for making a democratic chair.  I have a more comprehensive tool list, but many of the tools on it aren’t useful for the democratic chair, while others are handy but not required.


Hatchet – can be used instead of the froe for splitting, and it is really handy for roughing out the legs.  I use cheap vintage ones

Splitting Wedges:  If you plan to split out your own parts from a log.  New wedges all seem to have big bevels at the edge that make it hard to start a split. A blacksmith can draw them to a point, or you can buy good ones used on Ebay.  Just make sure the taper of the wedge continues all the way to the point, without any secondary bevels.

Drawknife — Barr Tools and Lie-Nielsen make nice ones, but I like old ones from Ebay.  None of the new ones has a thin enough blade to allow the drawknife to fit into tight curves such as the seat’s waist.  For that, it’s nice to have a blade that’s 3/16″ thick or so at the edge.

Spokeshave — Not necessary, but handy.  I use metal spokeshaves like Stanley #151 and the curved-bottom Boggs Shave from Lie-Neilsen (no need for the flat-bottom – the curved bottom will work for everything). Wooden bodies shaves and other low-angle shaves  are superior for endgrain, but little else.

Marking Gauge — The duller the better – a sharp one won’t leave a line on green wood. I buy used ones on Ebay.

Try square — For the reaming operation, make sure it will stand upright; some tip over if the wood is worn. Heavy-bodied machinist squares are nice (less tipsy), but not necessary.

Handsaw – whatever you have is fine.

Bench Chisel — I like a 1″ chisel, the worse it looks, the better I like it.

Bit Brace & Auger Bits — We’ll use 3/8, 1/2, 11/16  and 5/8 bits.  Read more info on my bit choices.

18″ Auger Bit Extension — Optional for boring some of the holes. Used for spindle mortices when boring without any power tools. Ebay has them cheap.

Scrub Plane, Bench Plane — For flattening the seat.

InshaveBarr’s inshaves are the best right out of the box (either one is fine) . The one made by Ray Iles is great, but you need to bend the handles up with a torch so they don’t hit the seat as you carve. Easy enough if you have a torch. Wrap the handles and the blade with wet towels so they don’t get too hot.  Good used ones do exist, but are rare.

Turning saw — The 18th century version of a bandsaw. You want a big one, 28″ or so.  Or use a bandsaw, or use a ax if it’s all you’ve got.

Reamer —  You can make one (, or buy one from me or Tim Manney.

Instructions for making some of the bigger tools:

A nice shaving horse: Tim Manney has designed a simple shaving horse that works really well. Or make a smaller version.

Free Workbench Plans: Curtis has free plans for his workbenches, which are similar to mine (mine are a little bigger and disassemble easily).

Kiln:  I have some blog posts about making a kiln.

Steam Box:  My blog has a series of posts about steam boxes.  Or just boil the crest in a big pot.