In the above video I share my recent visit to the Chair Maker’s workshop at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. If you missed part 1, watch it here to learn more about this incredible Shaker village and about the furniture making DVDs that Will Myers and I filmed footage for there.
The Shakers were well known for their utilitarian, yet comfortable furniture, including their turned and weaved chairs.
The Shaker chairs were originally custom-built in small quantities using hand tools and a shaving horse, like this:
One misconception about Shakers is that they shunned modern technology; they are often confused with the Amish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shakers embraced technological advancements and were quite innovative with their water turbine powered lathes, saws, and planers. And when electrical powered tools became available the Shaker communities embraced them, and began mass-producing their chairs to help support their fellow Shaker brothers and sisters. This old Sears Craftsman lathe was discovered by curators in one of the Hancock outbuildings:
In one of the upcoming videos I’ll share my behind-the-scenes tour of Hancock’s water turbine powered workshop!
Shaker chairs, though intentionally simple and unadorned, still came in many different shapes and sizes with various features (rockers, straight & curved backs, etc.).
The cheerful room opposite the chair-making workshop is where Hancock residents made the beautiful oval Shaker boxes. In case you’re interested in learning how to make these oval Shaker boxes, here’s a cool video that I found.
And, of course, a classic shaker style bench that is popular with modern-day woodworkers:
Here are some links to a couple of my favorite books on building Shaker furniture (warning: gorgeous furniture photos):
- “How To Build Shaker Furniture” by Tom Moser
- “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture” by Kerry Pierce
- “Shop Drawings of Shaker Furniture & Woodenware” (Vols, 1, 2 & 3) by Ejner Handberg
- “The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World” (This place is 4 miles from Hancock)
Here’s a few other photographs of this beautiful Hancock Shaker Village. I hope you can make your woodworking pilgrimage this upcoming year…I will be taking my family there!
And again, here are some of the furniture pieces that I will be releasing tutorial DVDs for, featuring Will Myers:
For some reason this chest really caught my attention and tickled my fancy: