I Made a Chair

chair3I’ve done a lot of woodworking, but have not yet tackled a chair. I think I’ve been reluctant because of the way I’ve abused chairs in my life. From a teenager until not that long ago, I delighted in rocking back on the rear legs of the chair while sitting down. Perhaps I subconsciously feared all that destructive chair behavior would translate into bad karma during the building process.

chair4This winter we had some loggers come through our property to widen the right-of-way where the powerlines cross. When my neighbor learned of the impending logging, he asked if he could harvest some cedar branches from some of the doomed trees. I said, “Sure, but what do you want them for?” He explained he was planning to teach a friend of his how to build one of his beautiful rustic chairs, and needed some bent cedar branches. “Could I be a part of the class too,” I asked him? He agreed, and we worked together to get the cedar branches into his truck for the upcoming workshop.

chair5Again, I kind of forgot about the chairs, and in the middle of the spring crush of projects, I was asked when I’d like to build the chair. “How about tomorrow,” I said. I was so far behind anyway I felt that one more project wouldn’t make a difference. We agreed to start the day after that, and I showed up at his place at 9:00 am, planning to spend a couple of hours.

chair6Step one was to select the cedar poles for the uprights. These were laid out on a piece of plywood that had the uprights lofted full size, including the angles for the cross pieces. Once in place to our satisfaction, I drilled and screwed them together. These became the two sides of the frame of the chair.

chair7Next we chose some pieces of cedar of similar size that had just the sweep we were looking for to attach the sides together. When these pieces were installed, the frame of the chair was essentially complete. Lunchtime had come and gone, and the afternoon was waning. Several hours of work were all that was required to have a recognizable chair sitting on the workbench. The time flew by for me. I could hardly believe the day was over, and I was eager for the next day’s work. I was learning, contributing, and creating a very nice piece under my neighbor’s patient eye.

chair8Once the frame was in place, it was time to start bending the red osier dogwood branches that my neighbor had gathered. These would form the head, arms, and seat of the chair. We began with the arms, carefully aligning each piece so it lined up with its neighbor and swept around the angles in a pleasing manner. Then we went to work on the head of the chair. Each piece was carefully bent next to its neighbor, nailed and countersunk until the arms and head were finished. Oh, it was coming out nicely.

chair9The seat was next. Several parallel lines of dogwood were attached to the cross pieces of the seat and back of the chair, and the tops were allowed to run wild. Once they were in place so we could see what was going on, we went about weaving them near the top of the head until we were both happy with the pattern that was made. These pieces were then nailed in place, and the chair was done.

chair11We put away the tools, put the chair in the back of the truck, and took it to our place. Alice saw it and sat in it for the first time when there were still a few sharp points of nails that needed to be ground down. She was warned, but was not about to be deterred. I was strongly encouraged to get the grinder out and fix up those nail points, which I did.

Every Memorial Day, Alice likes to sit on the porch had have a beer in memory of her Dad. who passed away almost 30 years ago. This year she had her beer in her new porch chair.

3 Responses to “I Made a Chair”

  1. Woojay says:


  2. admin0 says:

    This is high praise indeed coming from you Woojay!

  3. […] I spoke with him this afternoon, and he explained that these stakes came from leftover wood from a project he and I did together a couple of summers ago, when we built a chair. […]

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