Twelve years ago, I made my first chair from a tree. I had no idea how to do it until I watched a video called Make a Chair from a Tree by J. Alexander. The process and the concept were explained so clearly that I felt empowered to give it a go. That chair is still my favorite seat in the house. As you can see, our dog, Sam, is thrilled with it. If you build chairs like Alexander suggests, you will never have to deal with a broken or loose rung.
Not only was the video helpful, Jennie’s website included plans for a shaving horse, tapered reamer, and other ideas. I built them all and learned a lot in the process. The low bench I use during bowl carving (just behind Sam and the chair) has legs fit into tapered mortises bored and reamed with the same process I learned at that time. Jennie kindly answered some questions I had through email.
The book Make a Chair from a Tree has been out of print for a long time. Old copies are expensive and difficult to find; but there is good news! I was happy to see in a recent post on the Lost Art Press blog that an updated version is in the works, as well as an upcoming book by chairmaker Peter Galbert. Alexander’s book inspired many, including Peter Follansbee (see his related blog post here).
In the meantime, I’d recommend the video. You can find it at the Country Workshops online store. While you’re there, I’d also recommend the other books and videos available. If you’d like to make some chairs, pick up The Chairmaker’s Workshop by Drew Langsner. Not only is the Alexander chair (essentially) in there, but all sorts of others, plus extras from sharpening to hickory bark harvesting. Once you’re familiar with the concepts (the most important part), you can design your own, adjusting angles, heights, and other aspects to your liking.
I made this white oak rocker and a matching one a couple months ago. Although the few specifics of the design were my own, it all began years ago with the help of Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting either in person, but I count myself fortunate to have learned from what they have shared.
P.S. I will leave my chair diversion with recommendations also for the books Welsh Stick Chairs by John Brown and Going with the Grain by Mike Abbott (as well as all of Mike’s earlier books).
David, I’m enjoying your blog a great deal. I have admired your bowlwork the last couple of years on your website and I’m glad you decided to blog. Keep at it. Regards, Bill Smithers
David, Thanks for sharing your Blog with us. Is the Rocking chair turned on a lathe or worked down with the drawknife and spokeshave? I couldn’t tell from the picture.
Drawknife and spokeshave, Bob. I really enjoy that process, beginning with the riving from the log. I just updated the post with a photo of both of them in the shop. A lot more shavings are produced than you see there, but if I didn’t clear out the shop as I went, I wouldn’t be able to find my benches!
I always noticed the “settin chair” sitting in the background of your shop pics. Glad you’ve brought attention to it. Most of the best chairmakers working today began with that chair.
Brian Boggs has taught some classes on green wood chair making and has his own shop with website.
I took a class in Kentucky at Kelly Mehler’s & built a windsor chair. It’s nice but I like the hickory seat chair you made more. Well done!
Thanks. Brian Boggs is a true master indeed.
Congratulations on building a windsor chair — what a beautiful and comfortable form when done well.