A Fiasco in Waiting


I just completed this staked armchair this morning and it will go out to a customer tomorrow (I hope).

When I designed this chair for the revised edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” the goal was to make a staked armchair that was decently good-looking but as easy as possible for a new chairmaker to build.

As a result, many of the details of the chair are based on what sort of material is available to every woodworker. For example: The crest rail – sometimes called the “comb” — is cut from 8/4 solid material. I think it looks quite good as-is, but my typical instinct is to make combs from something thicker or to steam-bend them. But 8/4 material is simple to come by. In fact, the entire chair is built from one board of 8/4 oak and seven dowels.


Yes, the sticks start out as dowels that have been selected for dead-straight grain. Again, dowels are not my first choice when designing a chair, but using them removes a barrier faced by many beginning chairmakers. Beginners might not have access to a shavehorse, lathe with a steadyrest or even rived material. The dowels are scraped and shaved so they have a little entasis, but yeah, they’re dowels.

I’ve now built a bunch of these chairs and have (I hope) made almost all the common mistakes this design presents. So I’m ready to teach classes on how to build it (the first class is in March) and complete the chapter on this chair for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”

I’m also ready to push this design in a different direction. My sketchbook is clogged with details related to this chair that I have put off as I refined this single form. My next stick chair will be in black walnut and have significant changes to the armbow, doubler, stick arrangement and crest rail. I hope it’s not a complete fiasco. If it is or it’s not, you’ll find out here.

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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22 Responses to A Fiasco in Waiting

  1. fedster9 says:

    Any ETA for the revised edition of the ADB?

  2. Rudy Everts says:

    Beautiful chair, Chris! I’m very excited to see your new direction taking shape. Remember if there is a fiasco a sheepskin is the answer to everything!

  3. Andrew Brant says:

    Very cool! Always, a thank you for your commitment to education and sharing your work. But I’m also just as inspired by your creations when they’re completely un-limited by the concern for others, and driven by your individual will as a designer. Cheers!

  4. Steve Jones says:

    I sat in one of these at LAP one Saturday not long ago. I didn’t expect it to be particularly comfortable. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was as comfortable as any wood chair I’ve ever tried. There are a couple of these in my near future. Thanks, Chris, for all the work designing and refining a chair that’s not only within my capabilities but one that makes no apologies at all.

  5. johncashman73 says:

    If you’re going to teach a class on this chair, invest in some kneepads. You’re going to spend hours on the floor at the home center to get enough decent dowels.

    Great chair though.

  6. Pascal Teste says:

    If you decided to use black walnut on your next chair, I doubt it will be a fiasco. With such a beautiful wood it can only become a chef-d’oeuvre! Just a bit of pressure for ya… Beautiful job again on this latest one!

  7. Bob Glenn says:

    So that’s where all the good dowels have gone!

  8. snwoodwork says:

    That is the best red oak I have ever seen and I am not a red oak fan. I started the ADB stool today, hopefully the chair will be next.

  9. Roland Stewart Chapman says:

    I love the look of this chair , it combines elegance , simplicity and utility . The fact of being able to purchase the materials rather than face the task of first killing my tree may make the eventuation of hewing this chair closer to reality than watching pigs fly

  10. Jeff says:

    Freakin sweet. Love the sapwood streak!

  11. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    As a beginning chairmaker (I´m not even sure I´m allowed to call my self that yet), the Welsh stick chair was my first big chair crush, mainly thanks to you. And when you also made me realize that I can actually build one myself – that was a huge game changer for me. I´m starting on this staked armchair within the next few weeks and I´m really looking forward to it.

  12. Joe says:

    Thanks Chris for mentioning the dowels. I have been getting ready to make a chair. I was worried about the spindles as I don’t own a lathe and have never done wood turning. It’s a simple and elegant solution.

  13. Andrew Green says:

    I love this chair, and I also love how you are working to make them easier for simpletons like me to build. I am excited for the new version of ADB so that I can try a Welsh stick chair with your new instructions. Avoiding the wrath of the tortoise has been hard since you released the updated chapter, but I want to buy the updated version of the book. I love the design changes to the last few chairs. I can’t wait to see one on black walnut. Thanks for everything you and your team is working on.

  14. Ben Groom says:

    Good looking chair! What are your thoughts on inclusion of sap and longevity of the piece?
    You probably know something I don’t but I would have had a pretty rough time from my boss if I’d ever left any sap in a piece of work. I imagine it will be fine whilst in a modern centrally heated home but if it was ever to be put in storage (damp) surely it wouldn’t take long for the bugs to take hold. We all want to make things that last forever, right?
    I would be interested to hear your thoughts, if you don’t mind replying to the wiener.

    (ready to unsheathe bratwurst for defence)

    • Hi Ben,

      We don’t have nearly the problem with the worm and the beetle that the UK does. (We have termites, which will destroy your home and leave the furniture). So including the sapwood is not as big a deal here as it is there. At least in my experience.

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