Greenwood Chair Class taught by Brian Boggs
July 15–July 20, 2013 | Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, NC
I took my first class with Brian Boggs in 2006. I was attracted to the class, as many people are, by Brian’s beautiful chair designs. It was my first experience making a ladderback chair—up until then I had only made Windsors. In that class I learned about steam bending, hand shaping using a draw knife and spoke shave, using grain direction and moisture content for strong, long-lasting joints, weaving a hickory bark seat, chair design, and the myriad details that make a Boggs’ chair beautiful, comfortable, and virtually indestructible. The attention Brian paid to the smallest details was inspiring. And simple solutions, developed over a 30 year career, for things such as drilling angled mortises into round, curved parts, were worth the price of admission all by themselves. For me the class was a transformative experience, and has given me an understanding of the living qualities of wood and how to harness those qualities in a piece of furniture.
Brian knows more about woodworking than anyone I have ever met, developed from his passion to understand and control the process from beginning to end. Not only does he know wood and chairmaking intimately, but he also develops and fine tunes his tools to meet his demanding standards. Most people are familiar with the wonderful spoke shaves he designed which are produced by Lie-Neilsen, but not many know that he also understands and tunes tools that most woodworkers never pay much attention to—if you ever have a spare hour or two, just ask Brian a question about drill bits. He is gracious and thoughtful when answering any question, always giving a reasoned response. And seeing Brian demonstrate how to use a draw knife and spoke shave to shape a leg is an amazing thing to watch—his movements and economy of motion are nothing short of athletic, and his artistic sensibilities inform every cut.
If you have ever wanted to learn how to build a Boggs’ designed ladderback chair from the master himself, the 6 day Greenwood Chair class at Warren Wilson College this July will be your only opportunity this year. One of the interesting aspects of this chair is that is assembled without glue, instead using a unique combination of woods, grain orientation, and moisture content to make a long-lasting joint. You will also learn how to select lumber and mill parts for chairmaking; steam bend rear legs and slats; hand shape curved and straight parts using a draw knife, spokeshave, and scraper; drill angled mortises into round, curved parts; and sharpen chair making tools. You will go home with a beautiful, comfortable chair, ready for finishing with milk paint (as shown) or a clear finish. And maybe a transformed idea of what is possible with a piece of wood.
Included with the class is a 66 page, fully illustrated manual that explains the process from beginning to end. Although you can add your own notes, the manual substantially reduces or even eliminates in-class note taking, allowing you to focus on the demonstrations, spend valuable class time learning new techniques, and work on your chair. And it includes drawings and dimensions of every jig and form used in class so that you can reproduce this chair in your home shop.
And here is the page at the Warren Wilson College web site where you can sign up the class. The total cost is $995 which includes six days of instruction, materials, and the manual. Optional on-campus lodging and meals are also available at an additional cost.
For me there in no better way to spend a week than learning how to build a chair from a master chairmaker like Brian Boggs.
Jeff Lefkowitz | April 13, 2013