Editor’s note: “The Stick Chair Book” – $49 plus domestic postage – is now shipping from our Indiana warehouse. If you order it from Lost Art Press before Dec. 12, you will receive a free pdf of the book at checkout.
Though I have written a lot about the delays with printing “The Stick Chair Book,” the truth is that the book is about 10 years early.
My plan was to begin writing the book in about 2030, which is when I’d have about 27 years of experience making these chairs. During the last three years, however, I’ve been through four cancer scares (my father died of an aggressive form of prostate cancer). So after a few rounds of biopsies, MRIs and (so much) blood work, I threw out my long-term calendar and grabbed my sketchbook.
“The Stick Chair Book” is a love letter to my favorite form of furniture: a simple wooden chair that is comfortable, durable and built with simple tools plus whatever wood is on hand. Anyone – and I mean anyone – can make these chairs, which were first built by farmers and part-time woodworkers for their own households.
Unlike high-style Windsor chairs or frame chairs, stick chairs weren’t built to impress neighbors or show off wealth. They are only supposed to hold your bones in front of the fire after a long day of work.
Also unlike high-style chairs, stick chairs are made with dirt-common woodworking tools – most of which are already in your shop. And you can build them with wood from the lumberyard, the home center or your backyard.
So how do you get started? “The Stick Chair Book” is divided into three sections. The first section, “Thinking About Chairs,” introduces you to the world of common stick chairs, plus the tools and wood to build them.
The second section – “Chairmaking Techniques” – covers every process in making a chair, from cutting stout legs, to making curved arms with straight wood, to carving the seat. Plus, you’ll get a taste for the wide variety of shapes you can use. The chapter on seats shows you how to lay out 14 different seat shapes. The chapter on legs has 16 common forms that can be made with only a couple handplanes. Add those to the 11 different arm shapes, six arm-joinery options, 14 shapes for hands, seven stretcher shapes and 11 combs, and you could make stick chairs your entire life without ever making the same one twice.
The final section offers detailed plans for five stick chairs, from a basic Irish armchair to a dramatic Scottish comb-back. These five chair designs are a great jumping-off point for making stick chairs of your own design.
Additional chapters in the book cover chair comfort, finishing, sharpening the tools and answering the most common questions asked by new chairmakers.
“The Stick Chair Book” is 632 pages and printed on a brilliant white 70# uncoated paper. The pages are sewn, glued and taped for durability. And the whole thing is wrapped with 98-point boards that are covered in cotton cloth. Like all Lost Art Press books, it was produced and printed in the United States.
And though this book is coming out 10 years earlier than planned, there are two reasons that I’m glad I didn’t wait until 2030. First, when I started writing, I discovered that I had accumulated so much information on making these chairs that there was no way I could get it all into one book. (That’s why I’m writing a series of smaller follow-up books on other forms of stick chairs.)
Second, during my career I’ve known five woodworkers who had a really good book in the works that – unfortunately – died with them. So even if “The Stick Chair Book” isn’t my best work, I sure as heck didn’t want it to end up as worm food.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Health-wise I am doing fine, with no cancer detected at the moment. I have excellent and engaged caregivers, so you’ll probably get that book on campaign birdhouses that I’ve been promising – likely after 2030.