A chair from a tree

  • Advertise with us
Project by jdh122 posted 12-12-2013 11:00 PM 1890 views 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a greenwood chair, following John Alexander’s plans (Make a Chair from a Tree). Made from a maple log I got in September. Split with wedges and froe, worked with drawknife. The rungs get kiln dried (I used my oven as a lightbulb kiln and then used the furnace room once it got cold) and go into tenons on the posts, which are only air dried. No power tools were used other than the chainsaw that cut the tree down.

One picture shows my steam-bending setup, although I must say I found this maple extremely hard to bend. There was some failure on the inside of every single bend I did, including the last two where I actually used a bending strap. People rate maple as pretty hard to bend and I certainly concur. I’m not sure I’ll try to do so again. I got some oak logs last week and am working on a rocking chair, will try to bend some of that within the next weeks.

Seat is woven with cotton webbing that’s probably a bit thicker than genuine shaker tape. I have four more chairs that are ready for final smoothing and finishing, and hope to experiment with willow bark once Spring comes on at least one of them.

Overall I’m quite happy with the project – green woodworking is really a lot of fun, and the drawknife is about the most addictive tool I’ve used. I’m rapidly going to have more chairs than I and all of my friends can use, I’m afraid.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

14 comments so far

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4059 days

#1 posted 12-12-2013 11:41 PM

Most awesome Jeremy. Nice job. Well done.
The axe, the drawknife, the scrub plane and the spokeshave are my goto tools for every greenwoodworking project.
Anyone who has tried green woodworking will wonder why we wait for wood to dry and make things more difficult!

I see you fabricated a glut as well. Nice – very handy tool as well. I use it more than I do my steel wedges.

Now, you have lots of chairs to give away – that’s always nice as well.

I just bent some ash (with just heat and no steam) and ash is a miracle wood when it comes to bending! I’ll be sure to stay away from maple.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3793 days

#2 posted 12-13-2013 02:52 AM

Take a look at making that bend on a larger radius. You can
still get from point a to point b but the failures won’t
happen as much and you may find the aesthetics work
for you. Even kiln dried oak can be bent using a back
strap without too much trouble.

I haven’t bent maple but I’ve had encouraging results with
oak and walnut. I always use an adjustable end
stop on the backing strap.

I’ve been pre-bending parts both ways too, which
breaks the cells on both sides and then the part
can be shaped to a slight s-curve and stuck in a
bar clamp to dry or clamped on a s-curved form.

View Von's profile


238 posts in 2358 days

#3 posted 12-13-2013 03:35 AM

where’d you get the fro? I’ve been looking for one for a few years -awesome work btw!

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4059 days

#4 posted 12-13-2013 03:45 AM

Von - you can get a froe at Lee Valley

or you can make your own, like I did – out of a car leafspring. (Small cars are good – use the eye as the handle. You have to heat it up a bit to straighten it out)
They are not precision instruments! They just need have a sharp-ish edge, be reasonable straight and be a good wedge shape from edge to back.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3865 days

#5 posted 12-13-2013 04:14 AM

Great project, looks like fun to me.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Woodbridge's profile


3574 posts in 2563 days

#6 posted 12-13-2013 04:46 AM

great chair. I certainly have to add a chair from a tree to my chair making experiences. I think I’ll have to give it a try.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View mcgyver's profile


56 posts in 2016 days

#7 posted 12-13-2013 05:37 AM

looks great! an old man that lived near my parent built green wood rocking chairs. he showed me how to make bottoms and backs woven out of sisal twine used for bailing hay. wove one once came out fair but no where near as god as mr charlie’s. his chairs and weaving are close to 35 years old and look like they are 1.

-- Mcgyver

View Thuzmund's profile


151 posts in 1774 days

#8 posted 12-13-2013 06:15 AM

That’s a terrific chair!

-- Here to learn

View hoss12992's profile


4068 posts in 2038 days

#9 posted 12-13-2013 07:22 AM

Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1250 posts in 1858 days

#10 posted 12-13-2013 08:51 AM

Lovely. I quite like the sharp bend. It gives the chair some characther. Thanks for sharing

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View jdh122's profile


1039 posts in 2962 days

#11 posted 12-13-2013 11:29 AM

Thanks for the comments.
Von, I got the froe at Lee Valley, the one that daltxguy linked to. The froe they sell is about half as expensive as any others I’ve seen and works great. A froe is a very fun tool to use (though the neighbours give me weird looks when they see me using it).
Thanks for the bending advice, Loren. I tried limbering the wood the last couple of times I bent, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Maybe I just had a brash log. I might try making a wider radius bend, although I started working on a rocking chair from the same maple, and the back posts have a much more gradual bend, still failed.
Daltxguy, I made the glut out of a piece of birch firewood, and it works well. At first I had hoped to be able to split with just a single metal wedge and the glut, but I had to buy a second one too. I need to make a better maul – I use an old piece of willow to hit the froe, which works surprisingly well, but is not as cool looking as the flintstones-style club Roy Underhill uses…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View stevo_wis's profile


128 posts in 3172 days

#12 posted 01-17-2014 03:18 PM

Nice job on the chair.
Dont worry about getting too many chairs. I need to do one of them. I met John (now Jenny) about 6 years ago and she was a very interesting person, very gracious, and very skilled.
One note on the froe. The best froes have a curved or slightly rounded shape just before the edge instead of a straight wedge. This shape acts like a fulcrum to give controlled riving instead of just splitting.

-- Stevo

View jdh122's profile


1039 posts in 2962 days

#13 posted 01-17-2014 03:39 PM

Thanks, Stevo (and thanks too for your answer about bending – like you I didn’t see the pm for a long time). I got Mike Dunbar’s book on Windsor chair making form the library the other night and may take a stab at that. If so I’ll no doubt ask you a few questions…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View helluvawreck's profile


32083 posts in 3011 days

#14 posted 01-17-2014 04:05 PM

Nicely done and I bet that you had a lot of fun.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics