Wilow Basketry

The post-and-rung ladderback is our best introduction to the skills needed for any type of traditional chairmaking. The elegant ladderback has been described by woodworking author and editor John Kelsey as a “masterpiece of economy and simplicity, of comfort, strength and beauty.” When this style has two back slats it is sometimes called a “mule ear” chair.

Chairmaking courses at Country Workshops go back to 1979. The winter tutorial is now 6 days. The extra day adds 20% to the class time for this challenging course.

The project work for the course begins with riving billets from a freshly felled, straight grain red oak log. Cylindrical wet/dry mortise and tenon joinery is explained in theory and then put to practical application. Class participants learn to shape their chair parts using a drawknife and spokeshave while seated at a shaving horse – or one of our innovative shaving mules. This is followed by steaming and bending the back posts onto special bending forms. Tenons are hand-crafted at the ends of ‘bone dry’ rungs. Mortises – round for the rungs, and rectangular for the slats – are bored or chiseled in the air-dried posts.

After the chair frame is assembled, fresh greenwood back-slats are rived and shaved, plasticized in boiling water, and then fit into slat mortises in the rear posts. Weaving a seat with colorful Shaker tape completes the chair.

Tuition for the 6-day tutorial is $1450. Tuition includes the use of specialized chairmaking tools, all necessary materials (for the chair frame and Shaker tape seating,) your private room accommodations, and meals. And you will take home a handsome and comfortable heirloom chair. Class size is limited to 4 registered participants, plus our summer intern.

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Drew Langsner
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