Author Topic: Want to make a chair?  (Read 2832 times)


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    • Frederick Walker, LLC
Want to make a chair?
« on: June 16, 2011, 08:55:49 PM »
At the first meeting of our chapter, many of you said that you were interested in sharing information and visiting other shops in the area.  So... shortly, I will be starting a Chippendale side chair in my Howard County (MD) workshop.  The chair that I will be reproducing is in the Philly Museum of Art (see attached photo) and is the same chair Adam Cherubini attempted in his Arts and Mysteries column of Popular Woodworking.  The original was attributed to Benjamin Randolph's shop, one of the most talented Philadelphia cabinetmakers.  This is a chair that I have made several times and I have a large number of photos and dimensions from the original.  I would be happy to share my drawing of the chair, the templates necessary to reproduce the carvings and any knowledge I have required to reproduce it.  The way I envision doing this is to have weekly (or thereabouts) meetings and demonstrations in my shop to give guidance and review progress.  My shop is very small so bench space would be very limited and you would need to depend on your shop for most activities.  I would be available via email to answer any questions, and of course, any issues can be raised at the next meeting.  When you look at the chair, be not faint of heart!  Everyone starts somewhere, and I can assure you that the first time I made such a chair, it wasn't easy.  It was, however, doable, and the results changed the direction of my cabinetmaking career.  While is does take a lot of work, it can be done - with a product of which you may be proud.  If you have never done any carving, you WILL need to have some caring tools, which are not cheap - but they are worth the investment.

I am doing this as a tribute to my late mentor, Gene Landon, who you may have heard died last week.  Gene's methods and his love for 18th century furniture need to be passed on, and this is my small attempt.

I am located in western Howard County, near the town of Lisbon.  If you have an interest, please email me at [email protected]  You can see the backsplat of my chair in the "methods" section of my website -
  If you still have some trepidation about trying the chair, I would be happy to discuss it with you either on the phone or via email.  It would be nice if we had someone who could post progress on the chair and the "classes" on the SAPFM website.

Bert Bleckwenn

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Re: Want to make a chair?
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2011, 12:04:39 PM »
Fred Walker conducted the initial workshop planning meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 in his workshop in Woodbine, MD.  Eight Chesapeake SAPFM Chapter members have signed up to be participants and include: Bert Bleckwenn, Bob Elser, Dan Brown, David Diaman, Doug Moran, Kevin Foley, Mark Maleski, and Pete Owen with Fred conducting the workshop.

Fred walked us through an introduction to the side chair, and then highlighted the construction sequence, provided carving and shaping guidance, discussed the traditional shellac finishing techniques, offered other chair building references, and discussed material selection.  Fred provided us with full scale drawings of the construction elements along with a DVD of photos of the original that he and Eugene Landon had taken at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Our next steps are for each participant to create templates from the full scale drawing and practice carving the ball & claw using some practice walnut blanks that he provided.   As Fred pointed out, we will be instructed in the "Gene Landon" method of carving which is a very methodical process and yields consistency.   Fred will be sourcing the mahogany for most of us in the next couple of weeks and we will reconvene once he has it in hand.   We plan to initially meet on Saturday evenings, but will adjust over time as we get deep into it.

As an added treat, before we departed, Fred gave us a tour of his many completed projects that he has done over the past thirty years.  While he is modest and critical of his early work, they are all great accomplishments and a testimony to Fred as a true protege of Eugene Landon.  His mentor would be proud and we are honored that Fred is passing on techniques that he learned from Gene.
Bert A. Bleckwenn

Mark Maleski

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Re: Want to make a chair?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2011, 02:03:20 PM »
Time for an update, I think.  We've held four more working group sessions:
-   The second session held July 9 2011, focused on carving of the B&C feet and shaping the front legs.
-   The third session held July 23, focused on carving the knees and shaping the rear legs.
-   The fourth session held July 30, focused on the back leg layout and construction.
-   The fifth session held August 14, focused on cutting these crazy tenons on the rails, and the shoe.
Not everyone has been able to make every session, but Bert has been posting notes and pictures via Google blogger so we're all able to keep up.  I should also note that the pace of construction above is the pace at which Fred it teaching, not necessarily the pace at which all participants are keeping (I'm still finishing up my legs, haven't touched the rails or shoe yet).

The picture below shows one of the gatherings: Doug, Ken, Mike, Fred, Dan, Pete, Kevin, David with Bert behind the camera and Mark (me) absent.