Make a Spindle-back Chair
Contact course provider
About the Course
A 5-day course, from tree to chair
Starting with a freshly cut log you will make your own chair and, at the end of the course, take it home with you. Hopefully it will be a friend for life and something to bequeath to future generations!
If you are looking for a digital de-tox, a few days in the woods and learning something new, this course might be for you. By following a few commonsense rules, anyone can work with greenwood tools safely and proficiently. If you like working with your hands you can discover for yourself the joy of making something useful and beautiful from green wood. No previously learned skills are required.
However some may find the course physically taxing. The working day is long, from 9.00 am till 6.00 pm each day.
The course instructor is Peter Young. Peter recently retired from directing a study retreat centre in the Scottish Borders. He is passionate about green woodworking and has learned yurt-making from the legendary Hal Wynne-Jones and chairmaking from the equally legendary Mike Abbott. Mike has done more than anyone else in the UK to rescue green woodworking from oblivion, and is supportive of these courses.
Peter feels deeply that this traditional type of work has wisdom in it, respecting both the materials and ourselves. 'We can learn a lot from it,' he says. 'We work with nature, not against it. We use only local, sustainably grown timber, often from coppiced woodland. Every bit is used and nothing wasted. But more than this, we try to see what the particular log is doing, how the grain is flowing and from this we learn what part it wants to play in the whole chair.'
The primary course venue is Broughtonknowe, a privately owned wood, 25 miles south of Edinburgh on the A701. By car, it is within easy reach for commuting daily from Edinburgh (45mins) and 75 minutes from Carlisle.
The course takes place in a woodland glade, under a tarpaulin shelter. In extreme conditions we can move operations into a shed.
From 2018 courses will also take place at Beechwood, Gorebridge, EH23 4QG. This is a reclaimed pit-head site within easy reach of Edinburgh on the Waverley Line or by bus.
What do you need to bring? Several layers of clothing for a changeable climate. Midge repellent possibly?
If booking with a CraftCourses voucher for part or all of the course fee, please fill in the contact form above or telephone us. Your voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.
What's included in the price?
All tools and equipment are provided. The green ash and seat weaving materials for making your chair are included in the course fees.
Tea, coffee, cake and biscuits are included as well as a light lunch - bread, soup, cheese, olives etc. or we might cook something, depending on how we all feel.
Embarking on the course was an adventure since I had never worked with wood before. It was soon obvious that the task was as huge as my lack of experience, and that it would be wise to let myself be carried along - by the process, the instructions, and the material itself. Every component part had to be shaved to size from a freshly cleaved ash log. I felt a like a sculptor facing a raw block of marble. The statement that it would be 'like butter' was met with some scepticism, but then we did discover the wonderful way of working WITH the wood. The meaning of 'going with the grain' was brought home constantly and tangibly. Physically it was hard work, with sore muscles and the occasional blister and splinter. But the repetitive actions and intense focus can soon lead into a meditative state, where you find 'all of yourself' being present, surrendering to the needs of the chair-to-be. Here also going with the grain, metaphorically, and a taste of what 'doing without doing' might be. Peter accompanies through the process with his skills, as well as caring and sensitive presence, quite aptly 'teaching without teaching'.
Evelyn Morrison - - #13392
It was a real privilege to be taught by Peter Young, not only the technical aspects of chair making, but more especially the opportunity to share thoughts on the 'wisdom of this work, respecting both the materials and ourselves'. I had admired Peter's own chairs at a local show and wanted to learn with him how to make these wonderful objects. I'm an experienced woodworker, but had never worked green wood. I'm also interested in the management and conservation of native woodland. So these different interests came together in this course. I had quite particular objectives. I wanted to explore the methods. I particularly wanted to 'listen to the grain' in a way that green woodworking offers much more directly than, say, frame-and-panel cabinetmaking. I also had particular concerns before I began: would I manage to learn quickly enough to actually make a chair? But at the beginning of the course I wasn't wedded to the idea of taking home a chair. An as it turned out (of course) with Peter's guidance and thoughtfulness, the whole process was fun. It was great to work with the other two students. And in the end, I made my chair. Unexpectedly, it stands there as a little achievement and beckons me to more green woodworking. I've started to make some small things from my own ash and to combine green woodworking and 'bench work' in new ways.
To make a chair in a week and learn the skills on the way is a tight programme. I would have liked an extra day or even two with Peter to explore a bit more the feel of splitting, shaving, bending green wood, of working closer to the tree, working with, and listening to, the grain. But I guess most people have just a week and within this limitation the course was organised ideally. Perhaps Peter should think of also running short introductory courses that provide plenty of time to play and to make mistakes. Maybe such a course could produce a more modest object that would become a reminder of things learned in the sun and rain in the wood. Thank you Peter for a great course. And the lovely lunches!
Duncan Davidson - - #13223
This course in Greenwood Chair making allowed me to deepen my understanding and appreciation of woodworking and the art of 'going with the grain'. I came to the course with no previous experience in woodworking, but the pace and intimacy of the course accommodated my skill level, and I was able to absorb as much learning as I could. The location was peaceful and green, and the quiet of the surroundings made for a heightened level of awareness, as we were fully immersed in the tasks at hand. Peter is a clear and responsive teacher. He offered good direction, whilst allowing room for the creativity of each student. The course allowed me to develop craft skills and to take a step outside of my routine to see things differently. And I also made a beautiful chair!
Gallia Young - - #13189
Making my chair was a challenging undertaking as I had never done anything like this before. Peter was very patient in introducing and helping me with the new skills needed.
It was inspiring to make a beautiful object starting from a log of wood and using traditional tools.
The woodland setting is perfect for this course.
I am delighted with my chair.
Irene Martin - - #13055
Review this course
Course Start DatesMonday 7th May 2018
Monday 4th June 2018
Monday 18th June 2018
Monday 9th July 2018
Monday 6th August 2018
Monday 10th September 2018
- Accessible by public transport
- Suitable for beginners
This craft course provider has been awarded Bronze status for receiving 1 or more 5 star ratings from previous students.
The Students' Choice award ensures that course providers get recognised for their efforts in the teaching and practice of UK craft.
They also allow tutors to gain valuable feedback on their courses and for new students to find the course that's right for them.