Chair Making has a long history in Appalachia and at the Folk School. When the school first opened its doors in 1925, folks in the community donated 100 hand-made chairs to be used in the school’s opening celebration. Most of those remain on campus today in places like the Keith House living room, as well Farm House, Orchard House, and the History Center. Did you know that you could take a class and make one, or refurbish one that you may have in your home?

Chairs come in different shapes, designs, and sizes. If you are interested in a traditional ladderback style chair, you may want to check out this upcoming popular class with emphasizes the use of hand tools:

Ladderback Chair frame created in Lyle Wheeler's class

Ladderback Chair created in Lyle Wheeler’s class

Basic Ladderback Chair
with Lyle Wheeler, June 8-14

Embark on chair making by constructing a one-slat ladderback side chair in red oak. Shape parts on the shaving horse with drawknife and spokeshave and assemble with a brace & bit and mortise chisel. History of the trade, discussion of green woodworking techniques, and a demonstration of splint bottoming are included. Expect to complete a chair frame. Students should have moderate hand strength and some physical endurance.

If you are more interested in learning to make contemporary chairs using power tools, this class may be for you:

Making a Dining Chair with Robert Haase, May 11-17

Make a simple, elegant dining chair that is highly customizable, while also considering the structural and comfort requirements of a chair. This machinery-based class will cover bent laminations and joinery on angled and curved surfaces. To complete the chair, fabric will be provided for a simple upholstered seat. Students of all levels are welcome.

Using the organic shapes found in branches, a student constructs a rustic chair on the Woodworking porch

Using the organic shapes found in branches, a student constructs a rustic chair on the Woodworking Porch

If rustic furniture is more your style, you’re in luck! There are two classes coming up you may be interested in:

Rustic Furniture
with Gerald Smith, April 20-26 (Earth Week)

Discover the spirit sleeping in the wood. Construct a unique chair that seems to have just stepped out of the forest, yet is refined and functional. Utilize an array of dried branches and saplings assembled with traditional mortise and tenon joinery. The size of your project will be determined by how you’re getting it home! No woodworking experience is required.

Student adds a seat to his rustic chair

A student adds a seat to his rustic twig chair

Rustic Twig Chairs
with Don Bundrick, October 12-18

Unlock your creative spirit while making a chair. Gather materials, design, construct, and finish a rustic chair while garnering skills to make other pieces at home. We’ll discuss tools, materials, joinery, and finishing. Students should be adept with basic hand tools, comfortable around stationary power tools, eager to scavenge in the woods, and possess a skewed sense of plumb and square.


And last but certainly not least, there is the elegant Windsor chair.  You have one more chance to catch the popular Windsor chair class in 2014:

Tommy shows demonstrates using a spokeshave

Tommy Boyd demonstrates how to use a spokeshave on the Woodworking Porch

Double Rod-Back Windsor Chair Making
with Brian Cunfer and Tommy Boyd, Oct 26-Nov 1

Construct a double rod-back Windsor chair using hand and power tools. Carve seats from white pine or poplar, make backs of hand-split oak, and turn maple legs on the lathe. Finishing techniques will be discussed, including old-fashioned milk paint. Expect to work hard, but you’ll leave with a beautiful heirloom. This is a beginning-level chair, but some woodworking experience is helpful.

A variety of new seats give life to old chairs

A variety of new seats give life to old chairs

Are you a basket weaver looking for a new challenge? Or a wood worker looking to make interesting seats for your newly constructed chairs?  Or perhaps you have a couple chairs at home that are in need of some seat TLC?  Check out some of the upcoming classes in chair caning and weaving that may be of interest to you.

You can try out this old art form in a weekend format in March:

Woven Chair Seats – Keep It Simple with Richard Hall, Mar 21-13


Seagrass seat

Would you like to use that old family chair, but the seat is coming apart and you haven’t found someone to repair it? Enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself! In this step-by-step class for beginning to intermediate students, we will be doing simple rustic seats (as in the old days) using splint, rush seagrass, Shaker tape, and more. Bring chairs and/or stools in good repair, surface finished.


There are several week-long classes in Chair Seats in 2014:

Caned and Woven Chair Seats Richard Hall

Ed uses the traditional lace cane technique in “Caned and Woven Chair Seats” with Richard Hall

Caned Chair Seats with Gary Marshall, Apr 27-May 2

Rescue a Chair – Chair Caning & Weaving with Kathryn Pruitt, June 8-14

Caning and Weaving Chair Seats with Gwen and Jared Chafin, July 27-Aug 1

Caning & Weaving Chair Seats and Backs with Bud Conner, Aug 17- 22

Caned & Woven Chair Seats with Richard Hall, Sept 28-Oct 3

Traditional Chair Caning & Weaving with Jo Rusin, Nov 2-8

Weaving in Shaker Tradition (Shaker Week) with Ruth Truett, Nov 16-22

We hope to see you in a Chair Making class at the Folk School in 2014!

We hope to see you in a Chair Making class at the Folk School in 2014!

Cory Marie Podielski
About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com