In an age where production speed and efficiency is prized over quality and character, and where artistic and craft traditions have been compromised by mass automation, this course provides an opportunity to buck the trend. Under the watchful eye of master craftsman Charles Shackleton, who for twenty-five years has delighted in making beautiful, functional furniture one piece at a time by hand, each student will cut, carve and chisel a striking chair from local ash. Using a variety of hand tools, including compass plane, hand and block planes, chisels, Japanese saw, draw knife, spoke shave and tenon saw, among others, participants will create a stunning, authentic piece of furniture that will endure for generations. By focusing on handwork, the objective is not to make a chair possessing visual perfection, but rather one that possesses soul - one that is a statement of its maker's high aspirations.

Course start time: Sunday, 5pm
Course end time: Friday, 5pm


  • Competency Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • AIA credits: 35 -- Qualifies for HSW requirements

Course Overview

The idea of this project is to make a very simple and comfortable chair.  We call it the “Bare Chair”, to go with our now famous “Naked Table”.

The idea behind the week is to make this chair, but at the same time, see how you can put a bit of your own character into the piece, using variations on the design and by using the hand tools in different ways. It’s going to be a collaborative effort, because Charlie is also interested to see what people come up with and what each individual likes and what “works”.

Charlie believes that beautiful furniture is not only about good design and materials but also as a way of expressing ourselves through our work. He believes that doing work with the human hand can give each piece a character of its own, each with its own story. This is what will gives the piece great value in the future because it will be like a work of art done by you with a message that can be read by future generations, and might give them a clue as to what sort of person you were/are!

Suggested items to bring

(if you don't already own it, that's fine; we've got plenty)

  • Pencils and sketch book
  • Set of flat or mortising chisels
  • Mallet
  • #4 smoothing plane
  • Block planes
  • Spoke shaves
  • Drawknives
  • Compass planes
  • Mortising gauge
  • Marking gauge
  • Tenon saw
  • Japanese saw
  • Scorp
  • Water Bottle
  • Feel free to bring any hand tools that you think might be helpful.

Required items

  • safety goggles
  • ear protection*

*These can be purchased in the Yestermorrow bookstore if you don't currently own them

The Chair will be made from locally grown Sugar Maple (from Woodstock, Vermont) harvested last year. It will have a pine seat (easily shaped).

Course Outline

  • Plane and thickness the wood for the front and back legs.
  • Cut out the parts to size
  • Plane and thickness the wood for the rails for the chair (1 front, 1 back and 2 side)
  • Cut out the parts
  • Cut the mortise and tenons to join the legs.
  • Roughly assemble the chair
  • Cut the joint at the top of the back legs to accommodate the top back
  • Handwork all the parts
  • Sand
  • Assemble
  • Make and carve the seat
  • Finish