Make a Chair from a Tree: Third Edition
You can download an excerpt from this book here.
by Jennie Alexander
In 2014, Jennie Alexander somewhat reluctantly agreed to a third edition of her 1978 seminal book on green woodworking, “Make a Chair From a Tree” – a book that launched the careers of thousands of woodworkers and helped ignite a green woodworking movement in this country.
Her reluctance wasn’t due to a lack of passion for the book’s subject – the simple but gorgeous object that we now call a Jennie Chair had been an obsession of hers for decades. She simply didn’t know if she was physically and mentally up to the task of essentially starting from scratch on a new book – she had learned so much since the first two editions were published that this is an almost entirely new book.
Thus, "Make a Chair From a Tree: Third Edition" is the culmination of a lifetime's work on post-and-rung chairs, covering in detail every step of the green-wood chairmaking process – from splitting and riving parts to making graceful cuts with a drawknife and spokeshave, to brace-and-bit boring for the solid joinery, to hickory-bark seat weaving.
With the help of Larry Barrett, one of her devoted students, she worked on this new version of the book until just weeks before her 2018 death. Larry polished Jennie's final manuscript, then built a chair in Jennie's shop using her techniques and tools as we took many of the photographs for this book. Nathaniel Krause (another of Jennie’s devoted students), wove the hickory seat for this book. Longtime friend and collaborator Peter Follansbee helped to edit the text into the intensely technical (but easy to understand) and personal (but not maudlin) words that ended up in this third edition.
We know Jennie would be delighted by the contributions from the people she taught and who, in turn, inspired her. (Though we also suspect she'd say we should just start rewriting the book at the beginning…. again.)
Like all Lost Art Press books, “Make a Chair from a Tree: Third Edition” is produced and printed in the United States. The book is 184 pages and measures 9″ square – the original trim size of the 1978 edition. Unlike the original edition, our version is in full color and the book is hardback. The text is printed on acid-free paper in signatures. These signatures are sewn and reinforced with fiber tape. The interior is then wrapped in hardcover boards and cotton cloth.
Publisher's Note vii
Contributor's Notes ix
Chapter 1: Hardwoods for Post-&-Rung Chairs 1
Chapter 2: Wood, Moisture & Movement 10
Chapter 3: Tools 10
Chapter 4: Work Surfaces, Holding Devices & Jigs 32
Chapter 5: Splitting, Riving & Hewing 46
Chapter 6: Drawknifing Posts & Rungs 62
Chapter 7: Steambending, Slat Mortising & Finishing the Posts 76
Chapter 8: Finishing the Rungs & Forming the Tenons 84
Chapter 9: Introduction to Post Mortising & Chair Assembly 92
Chapter 10: Mortising & Assembling the Side Frames 102
Chapter 11: Mortising the Side Frames for the Front & Back Rungs, & Assembling the Chair 112
Chapter 12: Slats 120
Chapter 13: Finishing Up & Finishing 130
Chapter 14: Seating 136
About the Author
You can read our full profile of Jennie here.