The Class Experience
Jim Thomas, Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
After much discussion about scheduling I took Jeff’s class in March. Jeff had roughed out all the parts, and bent the rear legs and slats prior to my arrival (we bent rear legs and slats for a subsequent student in order to learn the process). This allowed us to concentrate on completing the chair within the allotted class time. Jeff’s approach was well organized and clearly presented. As a graphic artist the manual he created for the class is a wealth of information. For me, one of the big advantages of the course was to leave with a set of jigs and forms to build the ladder back chair at home. Jeff’s approach is casual while well informed. He is a wealth of information and was always willing to discuss other approaches and share his vast experience in chair making. I had initially wanted to build the ladder back rocker but Jeff convinced me to start with the side chair. In hindsight this was a good decision. It allowed us to focus on the specifics of ladder back construction, part shaping and fitting, and construction techniques. I will return soon to build the rocker as I am now familiar with the process.
An added bonus was the March blizzard that snowed us in for two days. We never lost power and pushed through our projects. Due to the weather and roads Jeff invited me to stay with him and his lovely wife for two days. It was nice to relax around the table and talk woodworking and chairs in our leisure moments.
If you are interested in learning how to build ladderback chairs I can give Jeff’s operation the highest kudos. The shop, setting, and surrounding countryside are a perfect setting in which to pursue your wish to build a Boggs designed chair.
Ed Eudy, Classic Side Chair, 2012
I would echo what John Zicker has said. Having taken several classes from Brian and one from Jeff, I feel I have a good perspective from which to judge. There is a difference, but neither presents a sacrifice. Brian is the creator and this is the feeling in his classes. He loves to talk about why and to challenge the woodworker. Jeff is the teacher. He stresses the how…technique and accuracy. Having been a woodworker for many, many years, I found things in Brian’s class that made me rethink conclusions I had drawn from experience. In Jeff’s class, I came away with a more in-depth approach to the same project…building a chair. I won’t say I prefer one or the other, but I can say that if you want to know how to build one of Brian’s chairs, Jeff will greatly exceed your expectations. He is competent and intensive in his approach. His main goal as I saw it was to insure that after I left his shop, I was equipped to build the chair without help…but he offered that as well. Thanks for the experience, Jeff.
John Zicker, Rocking Chair, 2012
This year I finally accomplished a goal that I have had for the last ten years. I took a greenwood ladder back chairmaking class with Brian and have dreamed of building a Boggs style rocking chair ever since. Needless to say, ten years passed while life rolled along. Whenever I had the time and funds to take the class, it was not being offered, so Brian referred me to Jeff Lefkowitz who is now giving classes at his shop in Virginia. At first I was a little concerned that I wasn’t taking the class from Brian but after attending the class I can only give the highest recommendation possible to taking a chairmaking class from Jeff.
The rocking chair class was set up by Jeff to take six days. Depending on the chair design you want to make and what you want to emphasize, the length of the class will vary. Jeff will tailor the class to your skill level and particular chairmaking goals. At the end, I had a rocker that was assembled except for mounting the runners, sanding, finishing and weaving the seat. Jeff did a great job of crating and shipping me the chair after I returned home. I was relieved to find out that I didn’t need to bring any tools since my travel involved a lengthy flight. Jeff has a well-equipped chair making shop that gave me a chance to experience some very nice, high end hand tools. There are reasonable cost hotels in the area and plenty of options for dining. I did go to the local grocery store and buy food for lunches, so that I didn’t have to run into town every day.
As I thought about my class with Jeff and writing this post I wanted to pick the top three things that I enjoyed or learned in the class. This was difficult to do as there were so many great things to learn from him. To start I’ll say that Jeff’s preparation for the class was first rate. He did a great job of preparing specific chair parts ahead of time to allow the chair to be completed in six days. He also had a well thought out and complete manual which let me focus on the experience rather than note taking. Second, Jeff has an abundance of tips and techniques gathered from his experience in teaching other students. They may seem like small details, but they have a big impact on the quality of the final chair. (For example, ask Jeff about his method for taking a leg from square to round). Finally, Jeff’s classes are designed for a small number of students. The personal attention is extremely helpful as your progress is tailored to your current expertise and abilities. I found that I sailed through some operations like shaping the rear legs but needed a good deal of instruction and practice carving the bottom of the legs where they join with the runners.
The biggest challenge of this class for me was that it can be a bit exhausting. Not from a physical perspective but from a mental one. As a hobbyist woodworker, I almost never get to spend 8 hours a day in the shop. Keeping up the mental focus and attention to detail for 8 hours a day, six days in a row was a challenge. (Thanks for the awesome afternoon coffee Jeff!). I thought I would be heading out to explore the area but found myself going for a short walk and then relaxing the rest of the evening.
If you can carve out the time, I highly recommend you spend a week with Jeff building a chair. Not only will you learn practical, useful woodworking techniques, you will come home with a beautiful chair. Everyone that has seen the chair I built can’t believe that I was capable of building such a beautiful piece of furniture.
Jim Chadduck, Post & Rung Side Chair, 2012
I recently completed a chairmaking class with Jeff Lefkowitz. It was a GREAT experience! He is an excellent teacher and represents you and your company extremely well. I am really a beginner with regard to chairmaking and found your website when looking for a hand tool class a couple of years ago. Your class was full at the time and I understand that you no longer offer it, but I kept checking on it from time to time. When I found that the beginner chair making class was being taught so close to my hometown of Winchester Virginia, I decided to try it. It exceeded all of my expectations and I hope I can continue to build your wonderful chairs. I plan to take the advanced armchair in the next year or so. You have a real winner and a great teacher and advocate in Jeff.
Bob Leavitt, Rocker, 2010
I just finished the rocker class with Jeff Lefkowitz. I wanted to build a rocker as a retirement gift for a retiring Naval Officer whom I have known and worked with for a number of years. I wanted to attend one of your rocker classes in Asheville, but since I just took a new job I didn’t have the vacation time to do so. Jeff and I were able to work out a class schedule that fit with my work schedule. It ended up working out great, I was able to build the rocker over about a 6 week time frame. The class ran across three 3 day weekends. This allowed me to get the instruction and take work home and hone my skills. It also allowed a bit more time to accomplish finishing some of the pieces before they went together as well adjust for any issues that occurred. One such issue was the engraving of the slats, some of the letters degraded sufficiently to not be sufficient for a gift. I was able to generate another carving, and bend and shape the slat so we could continue with the class.
With the class being just me, the student to instructor ratio was great. Jeff is a very good instructor. He walked through all that I needed to know and more. I got some great advice on the lathe, bandsaw and with some hand tools that made the rest of the class much better. We went into great detail on all the steps, and since there was no one else there if I was running amok he caught me well before I had made a critical error. Jeff also provided some great guides to assist in carving the legs after they had been slotted, and the pins when they had to be carved. His approach to getting to an octagon on the legs generated the best carved legs that I have done to date. I have produced 7 side chairs besides the one I did for in your class and these two legs were heads and shoulders better than those. He certainly has an understanding for the skill levels of the hobbyist and that really helped me get the most out of the effort. Great approaches, explanations and knowledge.
Besides walking away with a chair and a gift, I walked away with the knowledge of how to build the chair, the interrelationships in the chair and a much better skill level. I also got some help with jigs which will help going forward. In the side chair class you talked about building a manual so we had a repeatable process. The manual that Jeff provided will help when a weekend woodworker like me goes home and tries to reproduce all that he learned. I don’t have the time to reinforce all that I learned so the hints, keys and suggestions help the memory recall all those important steps. All said and done, it was a great 6 weeks and I really enjoyed Jeff’s instruction and friendship. He is certainly a great credit to Brian Boggs Chairmakers and I really like the idea of expanding the offerings.
Great class, great concept on the offering and a great learning experience.