Armchair for ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’


According to my notes, this is my fourth attempt at building an armchair for the expansion of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” And to be honest, I don’t know how many sketches I made of this design – probably 80 to 100.

Some of my designs failed for technical reasons. Others were too complex to ask of a first-time chairmaker. This design, however, presses all the right buttons. It is built with off-the-rack lumber using a toolkit that doesn’t require many specialty tools.

The wood is kiln-dried. You don’t need a shavehorse, lathe, steambox or even a drawknife. It’s built using standard timber sizes you can find at any lumberyard. The crest rail, for example, is sawn out of workaday 8/4 red oak – nothing special or expensive.


After gluing up the chair this afternoon, I made a set of detailed wooden patterns so I can replicate the design. These patterns will help me do two things: write the chapter on the chair and teach three classes in 2019 on building it.

Indeed, after a few years off, I’ve decided to teach a few classes in 2019 – one at our storefront, one in Indiana and one in the United Kingdom. I’ll post details on the classes and registration when they become available this fall.

I’m eager to share the design for this chair. Even if you don’t want to take a class with me (there are only so many squirrel jokes a person can take), I’ll be publishing the complete plans for this chair. They will be available for a free download for anyone who has purchased “The Anarchist’s Design Book” from us or any of our retailers.

Those plans probably won’t be available for another year – at least. I still have to build four or five more projects for the expansion. But this chair was the most difficult design, and I’m glad it’s behind me. Well, almost behind me. I still need to paint it.

— Christopher Schwarz


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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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29 Responses to Armchair for ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

  1. therealdanh says:

    That has the bones of one nice looking chair. I’m glad that you pursued the design of it for the last couple of years. Is it as comfortable as it appears to be?

  2. Dave says:

    Job well done- Since you indicated no special tools… scorp, travisher etc., would you mind hinting at what you used to saddle the seat. It’s very subtle and lovely.

    • You need some special tools (scorp and travisher being primary). Just not a whole suite of them.

      • Dave says:

        Every woodworker can name a tool or two they wish they were introduced to many years prior. Mine would be the scorp and travisher. They are so intimidating to look at but super useful and in many ways the most fun tools in the box.

  3. The chair looks great Chris – you can see some Welsh DNA in there, but it’s also in the same family as the other ADB chairs. Great to hear you’re returning to the UK for a class – I’ll do my very best to be at that one!

  4. Ed Sutton says:

    A course in the UK to build that chair would be fantastic. Looking forward to more details – this is one I don’t want to miss

  5. ikustwood says:

    AWSOME! That will be a great moment . Thank you Chris.

    Best regards

  6. Roland Stewart Chapman says:

    Am I missing something ? How does a person rest their arms on the armrests ?

  7. Nathan Batson says:

    Is it possible to make this into a rocking chair? Not sure if additional support would be needed on the legs. Its a great design either way.

  8. Roger A says:

    Thanks Chris.

  9. Barron says:

    Very nice. Have you decided how you will finish it? Also, it looks like you didn’t use through tenons for the legs. Was this for ease of construction, or to avoid splitting the oak seat? I may have to try and copy it without the plans, not sure I can wait that long. Between your Anarchist’s Design Book, The Charmakers Notebook and Welsh Stick Chairs I think I can pull it off. I really appreciate you sharing the design process.

    • Barron,

      The chair will be finished with milk paint (black over red). The leg tenons do go through the seat and are wedged. It’s just not visible in the photo I suppose.

      I think with the resources you have you should have no problem pulling it off. Go for it.

  10. Tyler Anderson says:

    Are the spindles dowels, or did you turn them on the lathe? Either way, its a great looking chair and I look forward to building one!


  11. Paul Mattaliano says:

    Novice question ahead….I’m used to seeing the grain on chair seats oriented front to back. Any benefit one way or the other?

  12. Lathe Free or Die!!!
    I mean… this looks interesting.

  13. Pete McKinlay says:

    The fact that there is no green wood, and no steam bending is encouraging. I eagerly await those drawings.

  14. Fred Gammon says:

    By jove, I think you’ve got it! If it sits as well as it looks.

  15. Looks great, one can see the refinement process when comparing to the book .I must say, though, that I am very fond of the three-legged chair, I cannot hardly wait to actually build one of those.

  16. Baxter Reecer says:

    “I still have to build four or five more projects for the expansion.”

    Does this mean a new edition of the book with more than just the chair? Or just a new book altogether? I’ve been waiting to purchase ever since I heard about the chair addition, but it’s been a while and I’m eager for some new projects! Great work Chris.

    • Hi Baxter,

      The expanded edition will include five new projects:

      A staked three-legged stool
      The staked armchair
      A boarded settle chair
      A high-back settle
      A mule chest

      Like I mentioned before, it’s going to be a while before the expansion is published.

  17. RS says:


  18. elenoymike says:

    I have read your book, “The Anarchist’s Design book”, good stuff. One of the persons above commented on the tapered tenon. our books and writings you favor this joint. You can find the tools to do tapered tenons but they are only available in special woodworking stores. (And very expensive) Every tool store and garage sale on the block has drills or forstener bits for a straight, round, mortise and tenon. Tools used often would be readily available and modestly priced. Lathes or draw knives will cut a tenon. Even the “rustic furniture”, now so popular, uses a straight, round, tenon. Your book and other venues you are in have comments on tapered tenons being used far back in history. What happened to the tapered tenon? As in, how did a good solid joint get relegated to specialists or side notes. Generally, a good technique for a joint (Dove Tail) gets repeated and used. What have you found in your searches on benches, staked furniture, ETC., that relegated the tapered tenon to ignored status?

    • Tapered tenons and straight tenons have existed side by side for many centuries. I don’t think that one has ever supplanted the other (at least based on all the historical examples I’ve seen).

      In general: With a straight-walled joint, the mortise was easier to make. With a tapered joint, the tenon was easier to make. With modern mechanization and hand tools, everything is about the same. So pick your poison.

      I prefer the tapered joint. It’s how my head works. Others prefer the straight joint and can make compelling arguments for it. Either way, there is a long history of furniture pieces that support both approaches.


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