Chester Cornett’s Sign for his Workshop


It’s no secret that Brendan Gaffney and I are obsessed with the life and work of Chester Cornett, a traditional Eastern Kentucky chairmaker who pushed into the world of art with his later chairs he built mostly in Cincinnati.

While Brendan and I have been studying his chairs for some time, we both have developed an odd affection for the hand-painted sign Chester had outside his workshop. The sign is made of bits of thin sheet metal that have been screwed or riveted together. The letters are orange (Brendan found a color photo that has the sign in the background).

If you don’t speak Kentucky, here’s what the sign says:

Handmade Furniture
Maker Of The
Cornett Chairs
We Make Anything
Or It Can’t Be Made

I love the misspellings. “Funiture?” “Chaires?” “Iney Thin?”


Brendan and I have been plotting to make a sign like this for our shop. Today we made a prototype using hardboard, grey primer and orange paint from the home center. After studying photos of the sign, I decided the letters were 5” high and determined the width and height of the sign based on that.

We bought an inexpensive stencil set and stencil brushes from the home center. Then we went to work. The entire project took about an hour.


We’ll hang this sign in storefront’s library. And now I’m going to find some used sheet metal so we can make the real thing. The metal sign will hang in the garden where it will age with the help of the elements.

This is one of the benefits of being unemployed.

— Christopher Schwarz

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20 Responses to Chester Cornett’s Sign for his Workshop

  1. Steve Southwood says:

    Another run of posters?

  2. dpthew says:

    I love the misspelling “Bendan and I”

  3. I wouldn’t be mad if this was a t shirt.

  4. R G Mook says:

    You have my attention

    • R G Mook says:

      IMO Chester’s dig at a culture he didn’t understand but understood they were willing in his own mind to make him a celebrity and buy his art.

  5. brentpmed says:

    That is just brilliant!

  6. SNathanson says:

    Looks like you left out the punctuation between “hand” and “made” from the original.

  7. Fancy Lad Woodworking says:

    This is awesome. It’s the most inside of woodworking inside jokes. I might have to adopt something like this for my workshop.

  8. Very cool sign

  9. Gav says:

    This is gonna confuse a lot of millennials more than the text messages they type confuse me. I have been considering signage for my work van . Very tempting.

  10. Barry MacDonald says:

    This smells like cultural appropriation.

    • As someone who grew up in the mountains of Arkansas, I can tell you to get bent. But I won’t. Momma raised me right.

    • tsstahl says:

      This origin (pronoun and adj.) Middle English; Old English: nominative and accusative neuter singular of the demonstrative pronoun thes (masculine), thēos (feminine); cognate with German dies, Old Norse thissi; (adv.) Middle English, special use of the OE instrumental singular thȳs, thīs, accusative singular neuter this, perhaps by association with thus

      smells origin early Middle English smell, smull (noun), smellen, smullen

      like origin Middle English lic, lik < Old Norse līkr; replacing Old English gelīc, cognate with Dutch gelijk, German gleich, Old Norse glīkr, Gothic galeiks like, literally, of the same body or form

      cultural origin First recorded in 1865–70; culture + -al

      appropriation origin Middle English (< Middle French ) < Late Latin appropriātiōn- (stem of appropriātiō ).

      So, Middle English, German, French, Latin, Dutch, Old Norse et. al., you have quite the egregious collection of appropriations under your belt. Folks who truly believe ‘cultural appropriation’ is a Bad Thing must never use any form of written, oral, or expressive communication. Nor can they impose such sins on children.

      Even tongue-in-cheek, the PC phrase is a pet peeve of mine. 🙂

      Credit to for the reference material.

      • Barry MacDonald says:

        Adopting elements of Chester Cornets life for decorative items such as lapel pins and wall hangings doesn’t bring a smile to my face. If you find pleasure in this kind of behavior than good for you. Next up… t-shirts!

        • If we were making fun of Chester or were trying to sell products using his name, I would agree. But it’s quite the opposite. I feel a deep kinship with the man and have studied his life and work for years. We do these things to remember him.

          But to each his own.

  11. mjstauss says:

    I love the similarities to another great vernacular artist, the Mad Potter of Biloxi, George Ohr. Ohr also had colorful handmade signs declaring himself the “Greatest Potter Liveing” [sic], “Buy a souvenir before the potter dies, or earns a reputation” 🙂

  12. Excellent timing on the post, Christ. I sat down at my minicule (like… a minuscule cubicle) this morning and saw there was a letter from Michael Davis on my keyboard. He’d picked up a few extra Cornett buttons at the LAP event a few weekends ago and mailed one to me.

    I’ll wear it proudly.

    And yeah, I’d wear a shirt with that signage on it.

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