Build a Welsh Backstool with John Porritt


The class I’m most excited about this year at our storefront is with furniture maker and finisher John Porritt. During the class, April 6-10, students will build their interpretation of a Welsh backstool using authentic materials and methods. And they will finish their chairs to have an aged appearance, which should be a class in and of itself.

You might not have heard of John. I hope to change that. I first read about him years ago in Good Woodworking magazine when John Brown praised one of Porritt’s chairs alongside a photo of Porritt’s chair. Fast forward more than 20 years and, out of the blue, I received an invitation to visit Porritt in Upstate New York, where he lives after moving from the U.K. (Read about that encounter here.)

Porritt has spent his life immersed in the craft, building chairs and furniture using dead-traditional techniques with wood and branches he harvested himself. He is an undisputed expert in finishing, especially repairing and coloring antiques to look like they had never been messed with. He also avoids most high technology (his wife reads his emails to him), he plays a mean guitar and is an outstanding storyteller.

During his week at our storefront, Porritt will teach students to build their own interpretation of a Welsh backstool using material from his rural New York shop. And then he’ll delve into the finishing aspects of the stool, something we don’t get to do much of during project classes.

It should be a delightful week. And I hope to lure Porritt and the students to my favorite bluegrass night at a local bar.

We have a couple places still open in the class. If you have ever wanted to get a taste of traditional rural craft, Porritt is the real, real deal. And the finishing knowledge is an impressive bonus. It’s an aspect of finishing that I know little about and I’ll be right next to you, taking notes.

I hope you can join us.

— Christopher Schwarz

Read some more about Porritt’s finishing skills here. Read about some of the chairs in his collection here.

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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7 Responses to Build a Welsh Backstool with John Porritt

  1. Richard Mahler says:

    Have you any plans for a book on Porritt, his craft and finishing techniques (which interests me)?


  2. Steven Poetzl says:

    Sounds awesome and would love to take this class but I would spend about $3,000.00 to take this class with the price of the class, materials, flying from Montana, food, lodging, and incidentals. Seems like a mighty steep financial hill for me to climb.


  3. Steve P says:

    Wow after looking at those Positive Rake articles i want to go for the finishing lessons alone. Plus i have a stack of old saws that need the handles refinished.


  4. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    Dang, the bluegrass night alone would make me want to go. And with a John Porritt class on top, that’s a guaranteed success!


  5. sryoder says:

    What’s the difference between a back stool and a chair, other than the name?


    • Steve P says:

      If I understand correctly its more of a historical term in the transition from stools to what we now know as chairs.


      • sryoder says:

        I guess that makes sense. In the Anarchist Design Book, Chris writes: “Somewhere between the stool and the chair is an intermediate form of staked furniture that has been largely discarded and forgotten: the backstool.” But that’s the end of the explanation. Are they maybe shorter than a chair that’s designed to sit at a table?


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