Build a Dining Chair



Chair making is where design and function meet comfort. In an ideal world each chair would be crafted for the individual – matching the length and curvature of your spine, the separation of your hips, the length of your thighs and the length of your shins.

Chair making also drives the furniture maker to combine beauty and strength. An elegant chair looks comfy and inviting but is also built to resist the stresses of day to day use. That satisfied tilt back of a chair at the end of a great meal imposes a huge load on the joinery in the chair.

Sam Maloof described chair making as the pinnacle of furniture making. So where to start? In this six-day class chair maker Tom Dolese discusses the sources of his inspiration and practical requirements that influence his chair design choices as you build a chair of Tom’s design.

Tom approaches chair making from the point of view of a production chair maker where he balances esthetics with the need to make a living.

You go through the whole process of building a chair. Starting from a kit of blanks you’ll mill out all the components and do the joinery. You’ll do the detailed shaping of the components. Then glue and assemble the chair. Finally you’ll make make a plywood seat bottom. We’ll discuss options for upholstery, but will not be doing the upholstery in this class.

Tom uses FSC Sapele for the kits he prepares for this class. If you are interested in using another wood, please contact Tom directly to make arrangements.

Class Description

Specifically the class covers:

  • Learn how to design a chair
  • Understand and practice making strong joinery for all the elements of a chair
  • Use templates for back legs
  • Use curves for crest and seat rails and the bottom of the side and front rails
  • Compare using a shaper (or router table) with hand tools for shaping chair components
  • Make all the components of the chair
  • Mark out the joinery
  • Glue up the chair
  • Prepare a seat bottom for upholstery and discuss options for upholstery. (We won’t be doing upholstery in this class.)
  • Understand practical finishes for a chair


  • Safety gear – dust mask, ear defenders and safety goggles
  • 5mm mechanical pencil
  • Pen
  • 6 inch ruler
  • Eraser
  • 6 inch double or adjustable square


Tom uses a variety of setups on table saws and routers to create the joinery. Plus he uses jointers and planers during the class. Students should have some basic training on using these machines and be comfortable using them. If you are unsure if your experience is adequate, please feel free to contact us.

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday.
This course takes place in Building #304.

Materials Charge: $ 200

If you cancel your registration for a course less than or equal to 10 days prior to the beginning of class, we will keep 50% of the course fee.
If you cancel on or after the first day of class, you forfeit 100% of the course fee.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking

Our mission is to inspire a lifelong passion for craftsmanship through education in woodworking and traditional building trades. We range in age from 10 to 85. At first glance you might wonder what brings us together. The answer: a shared love for woodworking. We’re serious about technique, we maintain a tireless work ethic, we thrive on helping each other problem solve, and we believe the only failure isn’t trying.

Our passions include: hand tools, joinery, fine furniture, Northwest Coast Arts, woodturning, tiny homes, Vardo Wagons and creating an inclusive, supportive community.

More classes from Port Townsend School of Woodworking

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