Sunday, 25 January 2015

Year of the on!

Julian and I have been talking for some time about our desire to have a go at making chairs and stools and so I'm really excited (albeit a little naively optimistic) at the prospect of spending some time this year trying to work it all out. When I first got into green woodworking, one of the first people I followed and admired was Peter Follansbee, whose jointed stools and windsor chairs I was immediately inspired by, but thought I could never really emulate. After a litte searching I then came across the work of Mike Abbott and was blown away by his lovely chairs. Now, I can't really afford a weekend in Clissett Woods, though heaven knows I would love to be able to learn the ropes from Mike - he is one of my green woodworking heroes and I was thrilled to meet him at the Wood Fair in Leicester a couple of years ago - so it's going to be quite a learning curve, trying to work it out for myself.

Fortunately, as Julian has already mentioned, we do have the benefit of some really well illustrated and written books, by many of the top crafts-folk in the world. The one I have that I will be referring to is Mike Abbott's 'Living Wood - from buying a woodland to making a chair'.

I've never read the book properly, as I have never been in the position to actually use the techniques and make a chair, but from what I have read, it is a really well illustrated and written description of the techniques that it has taken Mike many years to perfect. I can't wait to try some of them out.

I have some other books that allude to chair making, some that will be useful for method and tools. An all-time favourite book is Drew Langsner's 'Country Woodcraft'. I flick through that book, imagining I was around back in the day when Drew was first exploring and discovering traditional crafts himself. 

It was in Drew's book that I first came across a shave horse.

Five or six years ago, when I was first showing an interest in green woodworking and traditional crafts my brother Eden and his wife bought me this lovely book:

It's a good 'whistle stop' tour of trad crafts and covers quite a range of activities, but doesn't go into any depth - you couldn't learn to do any of these jobs from the book, but it's a good introduction to, and reminder of some of the skills that are dying.

I also have an old book called 'All Made by Hand' that lists and give some detail on about every traditional and country craft activity that there ever was, but what I love the most are the pen illustrations.

For each of the jobs there is one of these pictures with all the tools listed - a great reference.

I've also spent some time this week scouring the internet for pictures of chairs and blogs to do with chair making. I found some pictures of chairs I really like. the one thing I learnt above all others is that there are a gazillion different names for the many and various styles of what might loosely be termed 'Windsor' chairs and that the name of a chair in England may not be called the same in America or Europe. Anyway, I quite like these:

I just love these settles.

I love the construction detail on the staves on the back of this ercol chair.

And this is the chair I have plumped for (having just typed this sentence I realize what a stupid expression that is - plumped for). I got the picture from Peter Follonsbee's blog - it doesn't say who made it, whether it was one of his or someones else's, but it's in a post about Drew Langsner so I'm guessing one or the other of them made it at Country Workshops. Whether what I end up making looks anything like this is another thing altogether - we'll just have to wait and see.

So, it's the year of the chair - let's get making.

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