With many woodworking classes, the goal is for every student to end up with identical chairs, tool chests or side tables.
But that approach is opposite to the spirit of a Welsh stick chair.
Welsh stick chairs weren’t manufactured (and I hope they never are). Instead, they were usually built as a side business for the undertaker, farmer or wheelwright. Or they were made by the person who wanted a chair to sit on.
As a result, no two chairs are ever alike. Add to that the fact that many of these chairs are made using branches from the local forest, and it’s impossible for two chairs to be alike.
During Chris Williams’s class this week, every demonstration begins and ends with the admonition: Do it this way, but if you don’t end up doing it this way that’s OK because it’s your chair.
Additionally, Chris repeats some of the Zen-like phrases John Brown used as he worked. When making the front edge of the saddled seat, one should “think flat” over and over to avoid scooping it out too much. To make the tenons, “think round, think round, think round” as you make the tenon with a block plane.
There aren’t a lot of jigs to save you with this chair. And the toolkit is the smallest I’ve ever seen in a chair class.
So the chair isn’t in the jigs. It’s not in the tools. It’s in your head. Your job is to push those thoughts through your fingers and into the wood.
So step one: Think of a chair.
— Christopher Schwarz