Where Would I Be Without The Tree

It all started more then twenty years ago. I found myself fresh out of college, unemployed, unable to keep up with the rent and staring out the window at a foot or two of Berkshire snow. While pondering my situation, the only idea that came to me, one that I really thought might work, was to go off into the woods and build some kind of house to live in. In the spring of that year I started work on my house, a small log cabin made of Hemlock trees. Bill Strong told me that Hemlock logs would last twenty years if you built right on the ground (it also peels like a banana in the spring). The whole project went well and in about three years we had saved enough money to buy our own land.


  I settled in Stone County, Arkansas where I built another house and started making chairs. Hoping to duplicate the success of the log cabin, I made my chairs by cutting down oak trees and splitting out the pieces. I had first read about this technique in the Foxfire 1 book. Later, I got hold of a copy of a very good book on the subject written by J. D. Alexander, How to Make a Chair from a Tree. This old time method appealed to me because it didn't require a big investment in tools and it gave me direct access to my material source.

I discovered early on that success in this endeavor lay in being able to find the right kind of trees - the good ones, the ones with healthy growth, that grew tall and straight, and had smooth bark. I learn that this type of chair making is part of a larger field of wood working that I call Traditional American Woodworking. This kind of woodworking is based on three major steps: picking out the right tree for the job, splitting out the pieces, and then shaping the pieces by eye with a drawknife.

  Along with making chairs, I learned how to make White Oak baskets from Wayman Evans, have had some success in making cedar buckets, and I used to sell wooden bowls and spoons. But, chair making has always been the mainstay of my professional career.
To see some of my baskets click the photo to the right.


  In the beginning I would sell my chairs at the craft shows. For many years I worked at a state park where I demonstrated the craft and taught several apprentices.
Now I work mostly at home dividing my time between wood working, gardening, and chasing chickens off the porch.


  Over the years chair making has been good to me. I was commissioned to make rocking chairs for former President Bill Clinton and US Senator David Pryor. In 1994 I won the prestigious Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship Award. A rocking chair I made is in the permanent collection of the Decorative Arts Museum
in Little Rock.
I have written several magazine articles that have been published in WOODWORK, Popular Woodworking, and American Woodworker.
My work has been featured in several newspapers and appears in the books, The Art of CHAIR-MAKING and The Woodworkers Visual Guild to Pricing Your Work both written by Kerry Pierce. Also, my work and is featured in The Custom Furniture Source Book, published by The Taunton Press.