This seat was woven in 1979.

By Drew Langsner
Yes, this lead story headline is slightly esoteric, unless you’re into traditional post-and-rung  chairmaking,  in which case you already know that the inner bark of hickory makes one of the most attractive and durable woven seats for this type of chair.  Known as bast, this is the fibrous layer just outside the cambium cells that divide the sapwood from the bark. Beyond the bast (going outwards) the fibers begin to have the network of fissures that eventually develop into the gnarly and crevassed outer bark.

During this time of year, when the cambium cells are rapidly dividing to form new sapwood and inner bark, the bast will almost slip off like a banana peel on some tree species. This can be done with any type of hickory. Bast can be peeled from other species
I prefer to use rather small trees.
(tulip poplar is one) but the resulting materialis not as durable as from the hickories. Peeling works best during this time of year. The exact starting and cut-off timing is not calendar specific – you want to do this during spring and (usually) early summer when new sapwood is rapidly developing.

To collect the bast you need to harvest a hickory tree. I prefer to use rather small trees, around 6-8 inches in diameter. Chairmakers  who are into producing chairs for sale often go for much larger diameters, for the greater yield. It’s my feeling that bast from the larger trees may not be as durable. Bast from very small trees might have too much cross-wise cup for a flat weave.

The work can be done in the woods, in which case the log can be cut into shorter lengths for chairmaking or firewood after peeling. I like to do this job in the workshop, but this means hauling long lengths by truck or tractor. Long strips mean less splicing during the weaving process. 

More on my method for harvesting bast from a smallish tree.

Summer/Fall Class Schedule
We are currently accepting registrations for summer workshops and fall tutorials. Summer workshops bring in notable guest instructors and average 8 students. Fall tutorials are taught by Drew and are limited to 4 students. As always, there are no add-on charges. Tuition includes materials, accommodations and meals. Specialty tools are provided for all classes (exception – Japanese woodworking, where tool preparation is a major part of the course.)

You can read more about each course by following these links:

June 8-12: Toolmaking for Woodworkers (Hans Karlsson) – Full
June 22-27: Ladderback Chairmaking (Drew Langsner)
July 6-10: Carving Bowls and Spoons (Drew Langsner)
July 20-25: Japanese Woodworking (Carl Swensson)
August 3-8: Post-and-Rung Rocking Chair (Tom Donahey)
August 17-21: 17th Century Joinery (Peter Follansbee) - Full
October 19-23: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking  (Drew Langsner)  – 3 Openings
November 2-6: Windsor Chairmaking (Drew Langsner) – 3 Openings
November 16-20: Ladderback Chairmaking (Drew Langsner) – 3 Openings


No one paid much attention to rustic Windsor chairs until John Brown published his classic little book, Welsh Stick Chairs in 1990. Folk art versions of commercially  made English Windsor chairs were produced in the west counties of England, Wales and Ireland during the time period when rural economies were evolving from their traditional agricultural heritage towards a more industrialized cash economy. These “stick Windsors” were mostly made by amateurs, perhaps retired farmers or boat builders who were skilled working with tools and wood, but had certainly not been trained as chairmakers.

John Brown started making his version of Welsh Stick Windsors to satisfy his personal interest, and the need to get a few chairs for himself. He soon found that friends and friends of friends would like to buy one or more of his creations. After a while, John decided to write a book on the chairs and how he made them.

Drew Langsner met John Brown in 1994 during Country Workshops’ first craft tour in England and Wales. The next summer John taught a class at CW. The course has been offered ever since, with Drew as the instructor. Now called Rustic Windsor Chairmaking,  the course is a regular offering.

When the first Abercastle Publications edition of Welsh Stick Chairs sold out, the book was reprinted by Linden Press, located in Fresno California.  This edition also went out of print, but then Stobart Davies Ltd. in Wales picked up the title. We are very happy to offer the latest edition of John Brown’s book.

Click here for ordering information.

Master Class Notes

Any woodworker (but particularly those of us who prefer to use hand tools) will face a lifetime of challenges when it comes to getting a clean  cut in endgrain.  You’re cutting through many more fibers than when doing any other type of cut, and these fibers have a characteristic of unexpectedly tearing, leaving an unsightly surface. Here’s a few things to keep in mind.
  As always, but particularly with endgrain, you must have sharp tools. You may think that a higher (and sturdier) cutting angle would be better, but actually, endgrain is the place to use tools with a lower cutting angle.
  Something that is often overlooked is the fact that even endgrain has fiber direction. The fibers are seldom actually perpendicular to the cutting surface. They usually angle slightly from 90 degrees. So, just like when doing any other cuts, you need to move your tool into ascending grain. This is the direction where the fibers are angled  upwards (away) from the cutting tool’s direction.  To make life easier, and to get the best results, you need to cut “with the grain.”

More on Mastering Endgrain


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