It all started with a chair in a window, and developed into a lifetime of chair making.
This little book, published in 1990, is a gold mine of information in regards to chair building, and woodworking in general. John Brown starts the book off with a bit of history. What is a Welsh Stick Chair? Where do they come from? Are they the same as Windsor Chairs? There are some great answers to these questions and they come from a rich Welsh history, which was proudly continued by the work of John Brown. Unfortunately, John Brown passed away in 2008, but his work lives on through his wonderful chairs, the people he touched, and this little green book.
The first section of the book is really a crash course in history. The early times of the Welsh people, how the landscape shaped the community, and how this form of chair was developed throughout the years. With historic examples you can see how this chair evolved. It is quickly apparent that these chairs are not the same as the upper class Windsor style chairs we see so much of today. They have a different, earthier, more natural, more lived in appearance, than the ornate Windsor chair. One of the unique aspects to these chairs is that they don’t have to have a high back. Many of the early Welsh chairs were low back chairs made for casual use. In fact, the Welsh stick chair in general is a casual chair, a chair made by the common people, for the common people.
John Brown is the kind of guy I like, straight to the point and no fussing around. This comes across in the second half of the book, which is really the last ¾ of the book. He doesn't spend too much time talking about tools, methods, or plans, at least not in depth Basically, John Brown started from scratch with what tools he had and just made it happen; a perfect example of learning just by doing. After making some chairs he sought out some chair making knowledge, but eventually came back to simpler methods. If you learn anything from this book, I think it is important to learn that making chairs is both easy and hard. Easy, because despite what people will tell you, you don’t need specialized tools to make chairs. The hard part is making a good comfortable chair consistently.
This last section is basically narrated photos of the step by step process John takes when building chairs. Though he admits in the foreword of new editions of the book that some of his methods have changed since the pictures were taken, for the most part they are the same. The narrated photos are really the meat of this book. The shear amount of information that can be gleaned from this section is surprising. Every time I go back through this book I pick up new methods and insights for chair making, and woodworking in general. John’s very simple, straight forward approach to chair making is inspiring and the results speak for themselves. His chairs are truly works of art and something that would look at home in anyone’s house.
Though this is just a short synopsis of this particular book, there is more information out there in regards to John Brown. One such resource is an unedited article posted on Tony Konovaloff’s website found HERE. It is not an article for the faint of heart, but nonetheless it is a glimpse into the mind and craftsmanship of John Brown.
This book is still very available just about everywhere, and its cheap. So, pick up a copy, you won't regret it.