Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Furniture I Love: Curtis Buchanan Edition

Curtis Buchanan has got it figured out. He's one of the best Windsor chair-makers around. I have had the pleasure of watching him demonstrate some of the techniques he uses to make his heirloom chairs.

You could tell by watching that his skill was a time-tested mix of talent, intelligence and experience.

Though I'm not particularly inclined to make Windsor chairs, I often think of Buchanan's approach to the craft and to living the craft as a model to follow. His commute can't be beat: about 20 feet. He's got a modest but efficient workshop in his backyard that he makes a point of keeping a comfortable, pleasant place to work.

He's a Windsor chair-maker, and that's all he makes, so he only stocks his shop with tools he needs for chair-making. He doesn't let a superfluous tool (mostly the noisy variety) into his shop. Chair-making is an ancient craft and the tools for it are basically the same as they've always been. He does most of his work with the adze, the spokeshave and the auger. I saw him use a froe to split a piece of wood for a chair spindle. "This, " Buchanan said, "is my table saw." Sometimes bigger isn't better. Sometimes new isn't better.

Buchanan walks the walk in his commitment to the environment. He, Brian Boggs and Scott Landis co-founded an organization called GreenWood, "a community-based sustainable forestry initiative in Latin America," through which local artisans are trained to make furniture and other products so that they "are able to earn more by managing their forest than they would make from conventional agriculture or destructive logging."

Aside from these honorable pursuits, Buchanan makes beautiful, timeless chairs and he's a really nice guy. Visit his website at and enjoy his gallery of chairs.

Photos: Sack Back Windsor Chair by Tom Pardue and Curtis Buchanan's Workshop by Matthew Teague.