Newsletter No. 58 / November 2017

Our first Windsor Chairmaking Workshop, with Curtis Buchanan (on the grass) . The class members are: Peter Follansbee, Tommy Harrison, Scott Landis, Jeff Graves, Jennie Alexander, ___?___, Marty McClure, ___?___, Nancy Goyne Evans, ___?___, ___?___, Jerry Underwood.

This year, as Country Workshops closed down, we asked ourselves if the CW web site should be preserved. And if so, how? The answer is Yes and No. We have decided to create an Archive that can become a resource going forward. This will be found as a Country Workshops Archive now embedded into Drew's personal website

One of the most useful (and potentially valuable) sections is the collection of e-mail Newsletters. In the Newsletter we announced what would be coming up -- now history. More relevant, the newsletters contain a variety of articles on many aspects of traditional and green woodworking that CW addressed. A few examples: several entries on sharpening techniques, understanding oil finishes, riving into thirds, chopping stumps with legs, and much more. You will need to dig through these; they are in dated sequence rather than organized by subject. It should be worth the effort.

Froes in 2 useful sizes. Developed by Drew and produced for many years at the CW workshop. (Many interns helped make them.) These are a significant improvement compared to older more traditional froes. Now produced by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. You can order direct from them.

Where to Get Department

Tools, Books and Plans

The CW Store -- which offered a refined selection of tools, books, plans and videos -- is not included in the archive. Our major suppliers in Sweden were H. Karlsson Klensmide and S. Djarv Hantverk. The Maine Coast Craft School is now the North American distributor for both of these excellent small firms. One problem is that demand in recent years far exceeds what these folks can produce. Buy them when you can.

Books by Drew Langsner that are currently in print are available directly from Drew. Country Woodcraft ($35.00) and The Chairmaker's Workshop ($50.00). S&H is $7.50 for 1 book, add $1 for each additional book. Payment by personal check. Order by e-mail or postal mail.

Our hybrid version of a shaving horse, which we call a "mule," is available directly from the maker, Tom Donahey. In our opinion it's the best shaving horse out there. And also a great value. Tom makes the classic ratchet style, and the innovative Orgami Z Mule. You can also make your own mule, with the ratchet platform. Plans are available as a free download. Plans for the Z version (in a folding configuration) are available from our green woodworking friends in Japan. Go the Facebook page for Green Woodwork Lab.

Beautiful and totally functional carving knives, both straight and left/right hooks (for hollowing the little bowls on spoons.) E-mail Phil Fuentes:

Adzes and other forged tools -- contact Jason Lonon:

Froes in 2 useful sizes. Developed by Drew and produced for many years at the CW workshop. (Many interns helped make them.) These are a significant improvement compared to older more traditional froes. Now produced by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. You can order direct from them.

Classes, Workshops, Tutorials

We decided to omit the detailed descriptions of our various classes from this Archive. Sorry, but it's just too much to wade through. and very out of date. The good news is that there are now many good instructional alternatives.

Our friends Kenneth and Angela Kortemeier have started the Maine Coast Craft School. All but one class filled in 2017, their first year. The 2018 schedule is now on their web site.

Peter Follansbee, our summer intern in 1988, has teamed with Paula Marcoux and Plymouth Craft to organize an annual Greenwood Fest. It's quite an extravaganza. Louise and I attended in 2017. 2018 will be their third year. Tickets will be hard to get -- they get gobbled up on the announcement day. Peter also teaches at other venues; classes announced in his very informative and fun blog.

Jögge Sundqvist has occasional courses in the US, besides teaching in Sweden and other venues. Jögge has a beautiful and inspiring website:

David Fisher is one of our best bowl and spoon carvers. Prolific and skillful, and always happy to share his knowledge. Dave teaches here and there. His informative blog is at:

I no longer organize classes that are publicly announced. However, I'm still doing some teaching. But only when something interesting comes up. Customized instruction can be at the Langsner's mountain workshop, or just about anywhere else. You can contact Drew by e-mail:

Honor Roll


Two of our key board members were Gregory Monahan (above) and Erik Buchakian (below). In these photos they were attending Toolmaking for Woodworkers.

You may already know that CW was organized as a non-profit educational organization. The primary advantage of this formal entity turned out to be the mandatory board of directors. This group came together as advisors, volunteer organizers for various projects, and financial contributors. Our success is directly due to this generous help. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Jennie Alexander
Mary Bennett
Erik Buchakian
Tom Donahey
John Giffels
Bill Harvey
Mia Iwasaki
Drew Langsner
Louise Langsner
Grant Libramento
Marilyn MacEwen
Marlin Mathiesen
Gregory Monahan
Jerry Plemmons
Lee Reading

Hugh Shepherd
Steve Shorkey
Phil Teeter
Tim Van Riper
Steve Willis

I apologize to any board members who may not be included. Records from our early years are not easily available. If you’re not included, please contact us to be added to this list.

An Exciting Breakthrough

Tuilp Poplar Bark Bast
Now Used For
Post-and-Rung Chair Seating

Shaving the outer bark.
Slitting bast strips.
Coiled bast.
Warp with shaving-filled stuffing pack.

Back in our early years with Jennie Alexander’s Ladderback Chairmaking workshops we were familiar with the idea that the inner bark (called bast) of tuilip poplar could be an alternative to using much more familiar hickory bast. At the time we dismissed the idea thinking that poplar bast would be a significantly inferior material. However, it happens that we have many tulip poplars growing in our woods, and just a few hickory trees—too few to harvest for chair seating. (Note: Tulip poplar is Liriodendron tulipifera which is in the Magnolia Family, and not a true poplar.)

Jack Ruttle was a student in one of these early chairmaking workshops. In those years the class didn’t include weaving the seat. (Years later we added a day and squeezed in time to utilize readily available Shaker tape seating.)

This year (2017) we received a surprise e-mail from Jack. When Jack returned home from the chairmaking course he decided to try poplar bast for his chair. Now, years later, Jack reports that the seat looks fine and is holding up well and still in use. OK! Once again an old judgement gets thrown into the scrap heap. Maybe.

This past summer Will Burney (who was our intern) and I made some time to play with poplar bast. We harvested a nice, straight poplar sapling, about 6-inches in diameter at the butt, and without many knots. We brought a section about 15 feet long into the workshop. This was put over a pair of saw horses and we got to work shaving and peeling bast.

We used drawknives to remove the outer bark. Physically this was easier than shaving hickory bark. But we had to be just as careful to shave to just the proper depth, leaving a nice layer of bast. A spokeshave was also used once the rougher outer outer bark was removed. Up to a point, thinner bast holds up better than thicker bast — which is more likely to eventually break on the tension surface where it wraps around the rungs.

When the outer bark was removed it was quite easy to score the bast and then peel nice long strips of seating material. This was rolled into coils to dry. The actual seat weaving would be done later, after the material dried and shrank in width. And for when there would be time to see how it works.

I happened to have a new, seatless red oak chair frame made in 2016. It had remained seatless because I didn’t have hickory bast. It’s sometimes found for sale, but then there’s the question of quality. Any how, I had a nice chair frame for the poplar bast.

It wasn’t until November when I got around to weaving the poplar bast seat. When I found the coiled poplar bast I saw that the coils which were roundish when green had taken on some kinks during drying. How would this effect the seat weaving? Was there consequential damage to the material? The answer might come up immediately, or something could show up over years of use.

The actual weaving was exactly the same as using hickory bast. As with hickory, the brittle coils became pliable after soaking in warm water for about 30 minutes. I used a herringbone weave for the seat layer, and a 2-on-2 checker pattern for the underside. The weaver’s knot was used to join the strips together (always on the underside.) I won’t describe the full process here. This is explained in other places, including my book The Chairmaker’s Workshop.

Finished chair seat -- red oak with poplar bark seating.

During weaving the poplar bast crumpled very slightly where it winds around the rungs. There’s no visible actual damage, so I don’t know if this will eventually become a defect. The finished chair looks fine. And Jack Ruttle’s chair is apparently doing well after several decades of use. It looks fine and feels great to sit on. This is partially due to the seat stuffing, which is dried oak spokeshave shavings, done while the wood was still wet and springy. Thanks to Brian Boggs for this idea.

Conclusion: I will probably use tulip poplar bast again. I think that the material — green when first stripped, or when using the dry stuff after soaking — could be carefully limbered when it’s rolled while green and when it’s woven on the chair frame. A little more care during handling might prevent the kinking. Mostly, I’m happy with this experiment.


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Address: 990 Black Pine Ridge Rd.; Marshall, North Carolina 28753