Announcing the Table of Contents: Reproducing a Yale Banister-Back Chair

Over the next couple weeks I will be releasing the table of contents for Issue Two here on the blog. Once a day, I will post about one of the articles that will be in Issue Two. The folks who saw the list at WIA universally agreed that Issue Two looks even more exciting than Issue One and so I am looking forward to sharing the list with you. Pre-orders will open November 1st here. We’re expecting a January delivery.

I’ve talked about some of Issue Two’s content already so this first one should not be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned before, the Yale University Art Gallery commissioned a reproduction of an 18th century banister-back chair for their new exhibit Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650 – 1830. This past March, Mike and I travelled down to the Furniture Study where the chair is stored to measure and photograph it.

Based on meticulous notes, I reproduced the chair with the original process as best as I could determine. By relying on descriptions of turning in historic texts and examination of surviving tools and objects, I sought to recreate that process. From riving green stock to foot powered turning, I find that process matters. The result of this kind of replication is as authentic as one can get.

This article covers more than the “how” of building. Going through this kind of process brings so many insights about pre-industrial work that you just can’t get through reading books. One of the things that jumped out above all else was that this chair is one of the places that I see the “green” woodworking community meeting “period” furniture makers. I was talking over these thoughts about period turned chairs with Peter Follansbee and he said, “It’s all “green” woodworking!” Right he is. This rigid modern segregation based on moisture content of materials is confusing and, through this project, I’ve developed an even firmer conviction that I want to bridge those worlds together. If I can inspire period furniture makers to rive their stock and not obsess about sanding the daylights out of their turnings, I will be a happy man. If I can get green woodworkers to try to expand out from bowls and plates into chairmaking that would be amazing! This article is the beginning of that effort.

Until Issue Two hits your doorstep, check out the video of the making of this chair that Yale had produced for their exhibit. This is the seven minute clip looping in the exhibit for visitors to understand what goes into the works they’re viewing. Check it out below.


Tomorrow, I’ll be announcing the second article….

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