The chairmaking mentorship offers extensive instruction to an emerging craftsperson. This program takes advantage of 2-week classes to thoroughly explain the processes and techniques used to become a proficient woodworker. Windsor and Appalachian ladderback chairs will be explored in-depth, with spoon carving adding another glimpse into tools and finishes. Students will learn these steps under the guidance of gifted instructors, then continue to build their craft and develop the skills needed to further their career as a master.

This session is part of our Traditional Craft Mentorship Program, a grant-funded opportunity for early to mid-career artists to spend a month at the Folk School this fall, learning from master artisans. To learn more, visit our About page. To apply for a spot in our Session 2 Chairmaking mentorship, visit our Slideroom application.

Weeks 1 and 2: October 25 – November 7 (2-week class)

Windsor Chair: Skills, Tools, and Techniques

Eric Cannizzaro

Learn the basics of green woodworking and Windsor chairmaking using traditional tools and techniques. Build Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair, made primarily with the drawknife thus challenging the idea that expensive tools are required for a fine piece of furniture. Explore red oak log selection, splitting and riving, steaming and bending, hand tool use and sharpening, kiln use and construction, wet/dry joinery, and finishing techniques, including a walnut dye made in class. Learn to flatten a seat blank with a hand plane, use a brace-and-bit and reamer to bore mortises, and prepare and use hide glue. While the chair parts are drying in the kiln, give spoon carving a go with steam-bent blanks, using the drawknife, gouges, and spokeshaves, and finishing with a variety of milk paint colors and applications. 

Weeks 3 and 4: November 8 – 21 (2-week class)

Appalachian Chairmaking

Lyle Wheeler

Delve deeper into traditional chairmaking. Explore the tools and techniques that help this style of work endure. Start with sharpening, progress through material selection and conversion with basic hand tools, and assemble an iconic piece of Appalachian culture and tradition. This process-oriented class is set to produce an object of utility and enjoyment: the ladderback chair. Under the direction of a chairmaker who specializes in chairs made with traditional tools and styles from the late 1800s in native Appalachian hardwoods, craft your own in the time-honored tradition of handmade furniture. Dedicated students can expect to hone their skills and learn a little about the whimmy-diddle from a world champion. 

Eric Cannizzaro

Eric Cannizzaro spent his youth exploring the woods and fields around his Vermont home and his undergraduate days at Evergreen State College studying natural history. It was at Evergreen that he found his way to the woodshop and worked under Don Jensen and Madeline Morgan, who taught him handwork, toolmaking, lutherie, and furniture making. Eric began a residency at the Arbutus Folk School in 2017, where he focused on Windsor chairmaking and relocated to Jonesborough, Tennessee in 2019 for an apprenticeship with Curtis Buchanan, another Windsor chairmaker. Eric is currently the artist-in-residence at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts where he focuses on green wood Windsor and ladder-back chairmaking.

Visit Eric’s website.

Lyle Wheeler

Lyle Wheeler is an all-around “good ol’ boy” from Millers Creek, North Carolina. He has been working wood for most of his life, specializing in ladderback chairs and furniture from the late 19th century, and he is also an accomplished blacksmith. He has been teaching at the Folk School for over two decades, and he is a long-time member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, for which he does educational demonstrations. Little-known facts about Lyle…he is the current whimmy-diddle world champion in the professional division, and he enjoys communicating by postcard, one stamp at a time.

Visit Lyle’s website.

During these mentorships, our instructors will also be presenting a series of Virtual Demonstrations. These programs are open to the public and will cost $10 to attend via Zoom. Lean more: Traditional Craft Mentorships: Virtual Demonstrations.

All Photos Courtesy of the Artists, or from the Folk School Archives.

John C. Campbell Folk School
About John C. Campbell Folk School

The Folk School transforms lives, bringing people together in a nurturing environment for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.