Mark Hochstein and David Blois each built a 3-Slat Post & Rung Side Chair in 2012. This six-part blog series follows them day-by-day as they learn to build the chair.
Arm Chair, 2017
I am a hobbyist woodworker. I have been working with wood for around 30 years and have built quite a few pieces of furniture, mostly mission style. I am self taught and this was the first woodworking class that I have taken. Boy, I wish I had taken this class 25 years ago.
In Jeff’s class I built the 3-Slat Ladderback Arm chair. My class included two other woodworkers — a gentleman who has taken multiple classes and does woodworking for a living, and another hobbyist woodworker taking his first class. Jeff was able to tailor his instruction to fit our various skill levels. He helped all of us to do our best work and each of us went home with a beautiful chair.
Most of my previous work has been done with machines and I had never used a spokeshave, drawknife or card scraper. Jeff started the class by showing us an excellent way to sharpen each tool and then we began to use those tools to develop our skills on practice parts. That was one of the keys to Jeff’s instruction. For pretty much every new skill Jeff introduced us to, he first demonstrated and provided us time to practice before applying it to our own chair. This provided time for Jeff to watch and help each of us improve our techniques.
Jeff has a nice shop and each of us had ample tools and room to work independently. And Jeff has jigs and forms that make the entire chair building process possible.
This is an intense week of instruction and learning. By day three, I was wondering if I would ever be able to build a chair on my own. By day seven I had much more confidence, however I’m sure it will take me longer than seven days in my home shop. I must say that the seven days went by faster than I could have imagined.
The other item that Jeff’s class provides is a very professionally done class manual with all the steps required to complete the chair illustrated and described in detail. The manual along with Jeff’s excellent blog posts make me confident that I can reproduce the work I did Jeff’s class. I strongly recommend Jeff’s class to any woodworker regardless of your skill level.
One last comment, when I first signed up for the class I intended only to purchase the jig and form templates and build them at home. I changed my mind right before the class and decided to buy the jigs and bending forms from Jeff. He was able to provide me with a complete set. These jigs are very well done and I highly recommend them — that way you can spend your time building your next chair, instead of trying to create the jigs.
Arm Chair, 2016
I just completed a busy, educational and fun week building a post and rung arm chair in Jeff’s class. This note is not an exhaustive description of the class; instead, it’s a few words about some things that stood out to me.
Jeff’s technique demonstrations are excellent. For instance, he showed us how to cut a facet on a leg slowly, clearly showing how a drawknife works in different orientations, and how to use a spokeshave efficiently. He showed us exactly the results we should work towards, and the different ways each tool can be used to handle tricky grain. He then cut another facet at his full working speed, demonstrating how well and quickly this work can be done with increasing skill.
Topics like selecting wood for different chair parts are less demonstration and more presentation. Jeff’s presentations are simple, clear and complete. When asked a question, the answers are well-considered and organized. Application of the concepts presented generally follows directly. Jeff is a great teacher, never confusing or complicating, always explaining and simplifying.
I was continually impressed with Jeff’s level of preparation for each and every aspect of the class. The schedule is very well organized, breaking up work sessions with demonstrations and presentations, and ensuring that chairs can be completed by the end of class. Tools, jigs and needed workspace are available for each student, so there is little contention for any item and little need to avoid another student’s space. Illustrated checklists ensure that jig sets are complete. This class clearly does not require students to bring any supplies, Jeff has everything you will need. I never felt like I had to wait for him to find an item, or like any needed part or supply was missing. I can’t help but be impressed with this level of preparation and attention to detail.
Jeff’s manuals deserve a special mention. The manuals are thorough and complete, and detailed enough that we students could focus on observing demonstrations and developing skills instead of taking notes. The manuals also show off his expertise as a graphic designer, being full of clear line-drawn graphics that eliminate distracting backgrounds, highlighting the essential elements of a chair part or tool technique.
I also have to mention that I was in Jeff’s first three-student class. If Jeff hadn’t told us, I would’ve assumed the class was always done this way. I felt like I got all the personal attention I needed. When the chance to employ a technique was limited, Jeff divided the work into small tasks that rotated among the students. For instance, when bending legs, one student did clamping, while another seated the leg and did the actual bend. The students then switched tasks for the next bend. Nobody was left out of any part of the chairmaking process. Jeff definitely did not “wing it” when adding another student to his class. He was fully prepared for the change, and made sure it had no negative impact on the class experience.
To top it all off, Jeff is a calm, considerate and genuinely nice person. He is aware of his student’s temperament, providing attention when needed, but also allowing students to work uninterrupted for reasonable times. He clearly loves teaching this class, and was as excited as we students looking at our completed chairs.
Thanks, Jeff, for such a great chairmaking experience. Your class has my highest recommendation!
side Chair, 2015
Like you, I read the testimonials posted on this page before I enrolled in his Boggs Post and Rung Chair class. Having now taken the class, I reread those postings and found that my experience closely matched those of previous students. The week was great fun and the results were very gratifying.
Rather than restate what appears to be a common, and very positive experience, I’d like to offer a few thoughts from an educator’s perspective. I am a retired teacher and school administrator and can’t help examining each of my own learning experiences through that lens. Here are the components that I am pretty sure make for effective teaching: 1) a genuine appreciation for that which is being taught; 2) a sensitivity to the readiness to learn of the students being taught; 3) a mastery of the subject being taught; 4) an understanding of how complex tasks can be broken down to a series of understandable sub tasks; 5) thorough preparation in advance of instruction; 6) creation or use of clear instructional materials; 7) orderly sequencing of instruction; 8) creation of opportunities for student exploration and mastery of new concepts and skills; 9) monitoring and adjusting instruction based on observed student progress and comments; and 10) creating an atmosphere where learning is pleasurable. There are undoubtedly other factors but I’d like to expand on these in light of my experience in Strasburg.
Appreciation of Boggs’ Chairs
I didn’t fly across the country to take this class because I had an indifferent attitude to Boggs’ chairs. I love the designs! When I sat down with Jeff on Sunday prior to the class, it was apparent that we shared that appreciation. Surrounded by a half a dozen of Brian’s chair designs we talked about the various details, why they worked and are pleasing, and how they evolved. His knowledge and respect for his subject matter was apparent throughout the following six days of instruction.
Understanding Student Readiness to Learn
In any class situation, students arrive with varying levels of readiness. Although my classmate, Dave, and I seemed to be in the same universe of readiness, he had considerably more experience in chair making. Jeff was sensitive to this difference and was able to make accommodations that kept us moving at pretty much the same pace. This was impressive because we were making similar but different chairs (side chair and arm chair). Jeff asked questions of us which probed our understanding and then provided additional individual support as required.
Mastery of Subject Matter
Jeff understands chair making in general and the Boggs’ ladder backs in particular. From aesthetics, to engineering principals, to material properties, to production processes, Jeff demonstrated the expertise that gives his instruction authority and us, as his students, complete confidence that we can and will be able to recreate a Boggs chair in six days.
Breaking Down the Complex to the Understandable
I’m sure that you are well aware that behind that elegant simplicity of design, creating a Boggs chair is really rather a complex process. Those beautiful flowing lines don’t just happen but are the result of knowing the properties of wood, the processes of bending and shaping it, and the ability to create exceptional and uniquely angled joints that hold the light weight components together. It is really quite marvelous to ponder and a bit intimidating. Jeff breaks it all down in a way that is understandable, doable, and repeatable. His manual is both detailed and clear. Instruction progresses in a logical manner. The content is comprehensive.
Jeff was well prepared for each step in this class. The stock was rough milled, bending had been done by a previous class (as we did for a subsequent one), and the needed jigs were waiting for us at each step of the way. Our comprehensive manuals were always available as a reminder of the instruction we received. Because Jeff communicates so well in advance of the class, we were prepared with appropriate tools. It was a pleasure to explore more specialized tools that Jeff had available for our use.
Clear Instructional Materials
Jeff has created the most wonderful instructional manuals for the Boggs’ chairs. They provide both a narrative and graphical explanation of each step. As I look back on my notes taken during class, I can see that most of them are already covered in the manual. In addition to the manual and clear instruction, Jeff has and continues to create a blog that provides rich detail into the process. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to learn not only how to do each step but the theory behind those steps. This fostered a deeper understanding and the ability to generalize in the future.
Orderly Sequencing of Instruction
Some things are obvious in the order in which they are done, others less so. Jeff has taught this class long enough to understand how to sequence student practice and work. An example which seemed to work particularly well involved the draw knife and spoke shave. Some students like myself come to this class with minimal if any experience with these tools and yet their use is essential. Jeff has students progress from simple chamfering of a practice leg blank to refining those chamfers to approximate rounds (and tapered rounds) to shaping of the front legs, to shaping the more complex back legs and chair arms. I found that I was building skill and confidence at each step of the process.
Mastery of New Skills
It would be an overstatement to suggest that I mastered these skills but I was able to produce an acceptable product and did develop the confidence to believe that I have a grasp of the basics. This, I think, is reasonable progress for a week long course. Developing competence and confidence in a student is part science and part art. The science part involves the set-up, sequence, and opportunity for practice. As noted above, Jeff has refined these elements. He is also a disciplined teacher who carefully observes his students’ progress, allows for exploration of technique, and corrects incorrect technique before frustration sets in. This, I think, is the “art” part. I was exhilarated at the end of each day with the knowledge that I could now do that which was new to me at the start of class.
Monitoring and Adjusting Instruction
Jeff knows how to move a class along. As noted above, he pays attention to his students’ work and progress toward skill development. At the same time, he knows what has to happen for a novice to finish a chair in six days. He is quite skilled at finding the right balance between the need to linger on a task or skill development and the need to move on. Where necessary, Jeff expedites the process by helping with a troublesome detail or creating multiple parts such as the chair rungs. When we became tired at the end of several long days, rather than risk errors that would later be difficult to correct, Jeff suggested we call it a day and resume a little earlier the next day. Good teachers learn from their students. On several occasions over the course of the week, Jeff shared that his approach had changed based on observations of students and their suggestions for improvements.
Pleasurable Learning Experience
At the end of the day, you want to be able to say: “I’m really glad I am doing this!” That is the way I felt as I drove away each evening after class. How Jeff took me to that state each day is, I suppose, the result of all of the above plus communicating the sense that what I was learning was significant.
arm Chair, 2015
It’s been a little over a week since I completed the Brian Boggs designed 3-Slat Arm Chair Class taught by Jeff Lefkowitz. I had and still have full intentions of building a set of six side chairs and one additional arm chair. Prior to the class I purchased the white oak boards necessary for building these chairs and started receiving the coaching I needed from Jeff to insure I was handling the drying process correctly.
When I arrived for class I felt like I already knew Jeff and felt immediately comfortable in his shop. I was amazed to be taking a class that was limited to just two students. All of the woodworking classes I have taken in the past, usually involved 8 to 10 students and you never got the type of personal attention Jeff provides. Each and every step of the arm chair build was explained in detail, including important concepts such as the role grain orientation plays in a successfully built chair. As we learned new techniques, we were always provided an opportunity to practice. I never felt like my chair parts were at risk due to my inexperience with a particular step in the process. Confidence was gained through practice.
And in the end, I was thoroughly pleased with the white oak arm chair I was able to take home. But the coaching didn’t end there. I still needed to lightly sand and finish the chair when I got home and Jeff provided continuing support through the finishing process. Although I am getting ready to start prepping the wood for the remaining white oak chairs in my set, I am looking forward to returning to Jeff’s shop this fall to learn how to build a rocking chair — in walnut this time.
You can follow Dane on InstaGram to see his continuing progress.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2015
Brian and Melanie,
Just a note to thank you both for the opportunity to have studied under Jeff in making the 3-Slat Post & Rung Side Chair. Last fall I had stopped by Asheville to see your new digs and was very impressed with the quality of work your company produces. I was fortunate to have found a spot with Jeff in his one remaining class opening that was run earlier this month. This class far exceeded all of my expectations in both the quality of instruction and in the thoroughness of class content. Not only did I learn the basic concepts of chair making but I also learned other skills I never knew I had.
Having first been introduced to woodworking by my Junior High School shop teacher in 1964, I have spent the last 50 years or so of my life either working in woodworking or in a related trade. I spent 13 years employed as a cabinet maker with the Smithsonian, later operated and managed a custom woodworking business for a dozen years and branched out eventually into construction management, a field in which I now currently work in. What particularly impressed me while taking this class was the degree of precision used in constructing joints and the tight tolerances used in fashioning wooden chair parts. This precision of course is the key to the success of the chair’s stability and longevity. Jeff is extremely well suited for teaching these concepts and is careful to not overwhelm one with new concepts before being ready for them. His syllabus is well thought out and easy to follow. Taking a class like this one had the potential to be a “Chevy Chase Christmas Eve Nightmare”, but it was quite the opposite experience for me.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
I am sitting here a couple of hours after leaving your place with a completed 3-slat post & rung side chair in the style of Brian Boggs. Thank you very much for making this happen over the last 6 days. This experience amounts to the 5th chairmaking (ladderback, Windsor, and Welsh stick) class that I have completed in the last 7 years. Hands down it was the most organized, methodical and effective. Your teaching style is extremely effective. For every task we had a discussion and overview, you performed the activity and then I performed the activity with you watching and providing feedback and coaching.
When I had a question you were always there to respond and help me determine the cause of my problem. You had a schedule which we needed to adhere to but you never pushed me to accomplish at the risk of compromising quality. I am extremely pleased with the product of this week’s efforts, my learnings and skill acquisitions, and of having had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, you. I am confident that I will be able to return home and make additional chairs; especially since I leave with a full set of jigs for making the chair.
I want to thank you for opening your shop, and home, to me and providing me with such a positive experience.
Arm Chair, 2014
Learning how to make a chair was a challenge I had wanted to come to terms with for some time. After looking at hundreds of pictures of chairs, I fell in love with the sculptural simplicity of the ladderback chairs. I found this chair building class on the website and signed up. The complexity of the job was daunting, and I feared I would not be up to the task. My initial apprehension was set at ease by Jeff’s measured and detailed instruction. His written manual covered every step of construction in meticulous detail. The six day class was intense and exhausting, but very rewarding. I look forward to trying my new skills in my own shop.
Isabel is shown here with her classmate Higinio Pintado Cortina. Higinio took his chair back to Mexico unassembled for easy (and cheaper) transport.
Geert van der Donk
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
Since 2008 I’ve had the desire to make a Brian Boggs chair. In that year I had the unforgettable experience to sit in a Boggs Classic side chair. The unsurpassed comfort is the real secret of that chair—in fact of all Boggs’ chairs, as I felt later.
In 2014 the golden opportunity was there: Brian would visit Europe (close enough to my home in The Netherlands) and teach the making of his Greenwood side chair. Unfortunately that class was canceled. Disappointedly I contacted Brian to ask him whether he would be willing to sell me the manual for the course. But Brian had a much better idea, and he kindly referred me to Jeff Lefkowitz’ classes. Brian added: ‘I would also like to recommend Jeff’s blog on ladderback chairmaking. It is getting fantastic reviews and is the most comprehensive ladderback blog I know of’.
Reading all the posts of Jeff’s blog, I realized it would be difficult to build the chair and the jigs all by myself, having no measures nor drawings. Later on my intensive study of the blog appeared an advantage, because I already knew the terminology and technical woodworking jargon the English language has. And Jeff’s Dutch isn’t very good.
Finally, after some thinking and browsing for cheap tickets, I decided to pursue my dream and took Jeff’s class in October. It was very intensive, and very good. All the stages of the building process are explained AND executed. While building your own chair, Jeff will show you your mistakes and failures. He prevents you from making big mistakes by using the blue tape as a warning. He teaches and refines your skills with hand tools and machines. He makes you feel proud by stating ‘Wow, you guys are really doing very well’. Also my Canadian co-student, gifted with the same sense of humor I have, added to the positive and relaxed atmosphere we had that week. We had a lot of fun.
I would highly recommend Jeff’s class to anyone who wants to learn how to build serious chairs in a serious manner. If English is not your native tongue, I would advise you to prepare well, by reading Jeff’s blog. But do not panic if you miss some information in class: Jeff has made a crystal clear manual, with superb images. After the six day class you will be able to make a second chair all by yourself in your home shop, have a lot of nifty jigs, loads of knowledge and ideas, all measures and drawings, and a great experience to remember.
Geert is pictured above with a greenwood side chair that needed a hickory bark. Since he took his own chair back to The Netherlands unassembled (for easy and cheap transport) weaving this seat gave him the experience he’ll need to weave his own seat in his home shop.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
Hi Brian and Melanie,
I just wanted to send a quick note to let you know how much we love our Sunniva Rocking Chair and how much I enjoyed the side chair class with Jeff.
The rocking chair is currently “inside” the house, until the spring. Both the rocking chair and the side chair from the class are highlights for discussion every time we have guests.
I had high expectations for my class based upon the Chairmaker’s Journal blog on the website. I am pleased to say that the class exceeded my already high expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working side by side with my co-student from the Netherlands, as we shared a similar sense of humor. Jeff was very methodical and patient with us. The course materials and optional jigs that were included as part of the class were very professional. The side chair I went home with is a great representation of Jeff’s skilled instruction. I look forward to another class in the future.
I would like to thank Jeff for a great week and the staff at Brian Boggs Chairmaking for my Sunniva Rocking Chair.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
I am a good friend and fishing buddy of Bill Burslem. I have heard so many stories about you that I feel like I know you. I also own a Boggs Rocking Chair that I love to sit in!
Bill recently talked me into getting into chair making as I near retirement and suggested I take a class with Jeff Lefkowitz. So I signed up for making a side chair this past August.
I am a completely inexperienced woodworker and I want to say that Jeff worked miracles with me. Not only did I make a beautiful walnut chair to match my rocker, I also learned about wood, about tools and how to use them, and also about what I would call the spirituality of learning about wood and working with it.
Jeff is an excellent teacher and explains theory, the why and how of doing things, as well the hands-on teaching of techniques. I cannot say enough good things about my experience with Jeff and his shop.
Thank you for the good experience that I had with Jeff!
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
I just took Jeff’s class to learn to make the Boggs 3-slat post and rung side chair. What a great class. Jeff is an excellent instructor. He is so exacting—the chair I made was perfect. It was really an excellent combination of instruction and hands-on learning. The mortise and tenon joints were so precise and snug I couldn’t believe we would be able to glue and assemble them, but of course we did. I showed the chair to my family. They couldn’t believe the legs were shaped with hand tools. They were sure the legs were turned on a lathe. My parents were also very impressed. They own Nakashima furniture including a set of dining room chairs, which they bought 55 years ago. My mom said she likes this chair better. The lines and curves are beautiful.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
So how do you do something that is very satisfying, intellectually stimulating, mentally challenging, extremely enjoyable and provides you with a sense of accomplishment and pride? Take this class, period. Best money I have spent that I can remember.
I have taken previous woodworking classes. I even built a continuous arm Windsor chair (though is was largely pre-fabricated). This class was much, much better. From understanding the theory of wood selection, starting with a slab of wood and walking away with a completed Brian Boggs designed ladderback chair in a weeks time is unbelievable. Jeff is a very patient and skilled trainer/educator/craftsman. The class manual is a work of art and the ability to practice some of the more complex activities before you execute them on your chair was a huge bonus. Building a quality chair is full of math and angles…and Jeff teaches you and walks you through the theory and the math…and then shows you how he has made it very easy.
I can’t wait to go back and build the rocker.
Thanks Jeff for a great week.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
Dear Brian and Melanie,
I wanted to take just a few minutes and share a few thoughts with you about my experience in building a Boggs side chair with Jeff Lefkowitz last week. I first sat in one of your chairs at a friend and professional acquaintance’s office about 2 years ago. He went on to explain to me how he had taken a class to learn how to build the side chair, and subsequently took another class to build the Boggs Rocking Chair. I was hooked and knew I had to find a way to try and build these two myself.
My brother in law, Jeff Lee, and I signed up for the Boggs 3-Slat Post & Rung Side Chair class and completed it last Saturday. Our woodworking experience up until this class had been limited to mostly craft type furniture and I am also a bowl turner. Neither of us owned or had used a draw knife or spokeshave or built anything as precise and accurate as a chair.
I would recommend Jeff and the class to anyone interested in learning the correct way to build a Boggs side chair and really any chair that requires the precision and accuracy that this project entails. He told us before signing up that we were welcome to bring what tools we had or to buy a set from his tool list, but quickly suggested that we come and try his before investing in any tools. Wise counsel. He had everything we needed and was so organized in every step that it made the process and project so enjoyable.
I particularly enjoyed Jeff’s time and attention to the “why” behind every step from wood selection, grain orientation, tool selection and operation to finishing. His facility is set up perfectly for two students and himself to move about freely and work on their projects without ever feeling cramped or crowded. He responded to questions with more information than initially expressed and encouraged and coached us through new techniques and processes.
In short, I would highly recommend Jeff as an instructor to anyone interested in learning how to build a Boggs side chair. He took two rookies, myself and my brother-in-law, and in a week’s time taught and helped us construct the chair. It will long be cherished as a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing addition to my collection of woodworking projects. It was a great experience. My only problem is the number of requests I’ve already received from family and friend for additional chairs!
Pictured above is Jeff Lee (left) and Alan Jordan.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
Brian & Melanie
I had the great opportunity to take the Boggs 3-Slat Ladderback Side Chair class with Jeff this past week. This is something I have been wanting to do for some time (since I met you and saw your chairs in Asheville a few years back). Jeff’s class went beyond “building a chair” to teaching the how and why of chair construction. The small — almost one-on-one class size is the ideal setting. Jeff went out of his way to accommodate our different skill levels and other situations that came up. He made sure we understood and were comfortable with any technique, offering encouragement to practice more, but also offering praise when merited. This is the first woodworking class I have taken since junior high shop over 40 years ago, and it met all my expectations. I learned new skills, and techniques that will help me do my woodworking better. I look forward to building more chairs, and hopefully if the opportunity presents itself return for the rocker class someday. Thank you for creating this way to learn chair building.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
The Boggs chairmaking class is a culmination of a idea that I have had for many years and have now finally been able to realize.
Jeff Lefkowitz skillfully guided me to using hand tools in a manner that I had mostly only read about. And my readings have been long and varied over the years. I remember reading about a young Brian Boggs making post and rungs in his kitchen with only a draw knife. And I have watched the changes (via literature and DVDs) of his chair designs and the jigs being used. I even bought one of the original Boggs concave spokeshaves, that I have never used. I traded it to Jeff for an updated, modern version manufactured by Lie-Nielson. I felt it was better served in Jeff’s possession, since he is spreading the Boggs’ legacy.
Jeff’s shop is a joy to be in with so much light and a very comfortable setting. I am considering a light tube for my shop, and I did look around to see what ideas I could steal (borrow) for my shop. His class was highly organized, with a manual, but at the same time he allowed me the time to learn and perfect my hand tool woodworking skills … at a comfortable pace and with a high degree of proficiency. The class has given me new ideas and aspirations/inspirations.
I have many hand tools, most of which have never/slightly been used, but the actual wood working time is very limited. And I initially had second thoughts about the class, as it might be too much for me (almost 70 years old), but after the first hour, under Jeff’s tutelage I started imagining … that I just might make a chair. And I did make an exquisite ladderback in walnut. Every day I say good morning to the chair with a cup of coffee in my hand. My sons insist that I make more, as it is so beautiful visually and ergonomically satisfying.
My plan is to do just that, but first next year I’d like to take a rocking chair class with Jeff.
Bob and Zachariah Sobieck
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
Bob: The class was really great! I read John Alexanders book “Make a Chair from a Tree” in the 80’s. Brian Boggs improved the design and Jeff is a superb instructor that puts making this chair within the capabilities of the average woodworker. The chair is a wonder. It is hard to explain until you actually sit in one. It is very light, strong, and most of all comfortable. Jeff’s thorough documentation and jigs will allow us to complete more chairs in the future. It was a fantastic father-son vacation with something worthwhile to bring home.
Zachariah (age 19): I really enjoyed visiting Virginia and working in Jeff’s shop. Coming home with a chair tops coming home with only pictures. It was fun!
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2014
I had a very good week with Jeff Lefkowitz learning how to build the Boggs 3-Slat Post & Rung Side Chair and came home with a nice red oak chair. Jeff was very friendly and he “encouraged” me to do my very best. He was always pushing my comfort zone saying I “highly recommend” that you work on this a little more. It’s nice to have a teacher that can push you to expand your comfort zone and give you the confidence to risk trying something you’ve never done. He was also there when it didn’t go as well as I hoped and then showed me how to repair my “oops” moments.
Every time I see my chair I think of all the work that went into it and how many new techniques I learned that week. Each morning before class I would be wondering how I would do and if I would make a mistake and ruin all my prior work, but Jeff always got me through and I’d leave the shop impressed with how I did. The class was the most enjoyable week I have spent at any woodworking class I’ve taken.
Jeff and his wife made our week very comfortable allowing us to use their kitchen table and try out Jeff’s “everyday” hand built chairs for our lunch seating. I now have a very fine piece of furniture that will be in my family for many years. I smile every time I sit in it. I am also looking forward to attending the Classic Rocking Chair class in the future.
6-Slat Rocking Chair, 2013
I recently completed a Brian Boggs designed 6-Slat Ladder Back Rocking Chair with Jeff at his shop. As usual, the build and week went by like a blur and the result was a wonderfully crafted chair that I had wanted to build for quite a while. For those of you who have built, or plan to build, a side chair with Jeff you should seriously consider the ladderback rocker as a natural follow up. Many of the techniques are the same, and this familiarity allows you to concentrate on the build rather than learning techniques from scratch.
Jeff is always well prepared and students receive a carefully conceived and detailed 3-ring binder with all the details and steps laid out in sequence. A real plus from these courses is that if you want, you can also build the bending forms and mortising jigs for your own use after the class. While I consider myself an experienced woodworker I often find myself starting to make mistakes in the rush to complete one step along the way. Jeff’s attention and gentle corrections always ensure that I don’t make a fatal mistake. In my previous side chair class I brought all my own tools. However, during this visit I flew in so ended up using Jeff’s shop tools — a real plus if you are traveling light.
A veteran of several chair classes and woodworking courses I would rank Jeff’s offerings at the top of the list. One-on-one (or two) instruction, a quaint location in a nice historical setting, and an instructor with a wealth of information and explanations that cannot help but increase your skill and precision in woodworking are the major draws for potential students. I recommend Jeff’s classes to anyone considering the side chair, rocker, or other builds of interest. You won’t be disappointed and you will complete your time with a finely crafted piece of furniture and an increased skill set.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
I just completed my chair class with Jeff and it met all my expectations.
The only other chair class I completed was Joe Graham’s Lenox windsor chair 10 years ago. There were six of us in that class. With Jeff I was fortunate to be the only student so it was truly a one-on-one experience. The following are just a few of the reasons why I was so pleased. First of all Jeff is a dedicated teacher as teaching is his first priority, not the mass production of chairs. Jeff has a kind and peaceful personality and as such there was no stress or feeling like there was a deadline to meet. I wanted to do steam bending and he made the process much easier than anticipated. Jeff has a repertoire of “pearls” — whether that be sharpening techniques or the use of the skew on the lathe — which he is more than willing to share. And Jeff wrote the 82 page manual which is an absolute necessity going home to build your first chair alone. Jeff is also a graphic designer which explains the precision of the manual. This was simply a very positive experience.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
Jeff’s classes are limited to a maximum of two people so you can be assured of a personal touch. When I arrived at Jeff’s shop he had a manual in a three ring binder for each of us. Jeff is a graphic designer by trade and it shows. He has created an excellent manual. It goes step-by-step through the entire chair building process. It even has complete measurements for all the jigs. After looking at the manual I felt completely at ease without taking any notes at all. I was able to just relax, listen to Jeff and digest the information he was teaching. It was a great experience.
The first day started with selecting lumber from the woodshed. This is when Jeff’s organizational skills first became evident. We were selecting wood to use to make the rear legs of the chair, but we had to steam bend them and then let them dry for several weeks. No problem, we would actually be bending the legs for the next class. The legs we would use for our chairs were already bent and dry, but we got to go through the entire process none-the-less—which was excellent. This continued throughout the course. Jeff always had things organized and ready to go. There was never any last minute scrambling.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
Having completed the class Building a Boggs 3-Slat Post & Rung Side Chair, taught by Jeff Lefkowitz, I feel that I accomplished a number of things:
Understanding of chair construction: The ladder back side chair is one of the most complex pieces of furniture I have made—complex because there are few square joints. Except for the front panel, everything is a trapezoid! Jeff showed us how to break these trapezoids down using “rise-and-run” measurements. This greatly simplified the process and allowed us to cut mortises without worrying about specific or exact angles. The jigs derived from these measurements took care of making accurate mortises. I now have a set of jigs and an instruction manual and feel comfortable building chairs in my home shop.
Learn new skills and complete the chair in six days: Never having used a drawknife or spokeshave, it was a new experience to use these hand tools to take a square (and curved) blank to a round tapered leg. Jeff led us through a practice leg with a series of individual steps which, again, simplified it into a controlled and manageable process resulting in a beautiful round chair leg. Using the jigs and understanding how the rise-and-run measurements were used to construct them helped visualize the whole process. I will certainly use this way of looking at things in my non-chair furniture making. Jeff had the six days planned out so I could work at a constant, but comfortable pace and was able to complete the chair.
A chair to be proud of: Throughout the process, Jeff was there to provide gentle advice, from how to hold a spoke shave to when a piece was “flat enough” or needed more work. He was also there to help remedy the inevitable when things didn’t go exactly as planned, e.g., unexpected grain tear-out. His experience and understanding of where things can be flexible and where they can’t really helped. I felt throughout that there was a shared goal of making a chair we both could be proud of—mission accomplished!
It was one of my most enjoyable weeks of woodworking—Jeff was a great teacher, I learned new skills and I have a beautiful new chair.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
I’ve always loved the simple lines and elegant curves of ladderback chairs. On a recent trip to the two Shaker communities in Kentucky I finally got the opportunity to examine them in person, not just on paper. When I sat down in many of them, I was amazed at just how uncomfortable they were. There was a vast disconnect from what they looked like (and what I wanted them to feel like) to what they actually felt like. It almost seemed like a kind of penance to sit in them for long periods of time.
Woodworkers have said over the years that Shaker furniture embodies the principle form follows function, but experiencing the Shaker ladderbacks first hand made me question that. Isn’t a key element in a chair to be seated in comfort? Isn’t that an inherent part of its function? If so, did they really succeed then? Five minutes of sit-and-squirm discomfort in a Shaker ladderback forced me to say no.
When I saw Brian’s innovative improvements and read reviews of his chairs, I knew I wanted to rekindle my interest in ladderbacks. Brian succeeded where the Shakers had failed: he combines beautiful form with amazing comfort. Now form really does follow function.
And when I found out there were courses being offered by Jeff to build them, I couldn’t say no, even though the task seemed daunting to a rookie such as myself.
Jeff walked me through the whole process, step by step. He is a gifted teacher who has both an encyclopedic knowledge of the process as well as the rare ability to explain it in a clear, logical manner.
I wholeheartedly agree with what other reviewers have said about his style and gracious personality, adding only a couple things. First, you will leave a better woodworker than when you arrived. Jeff showed me, for example, how to get my tenons to the exact specs required and graciously challenged me to do so without compromising. I needed that challenge to raise my skill level, and so do you.
Second, Jeff helped enormously with all kinds of jigs to make my post-class chairs a reality. While I was shaping the legs, he was busy cutting out forms for me. We knocked out most of the more complicated jigs, saving me a TON of time and energy. I’ve not met many instructors who worked this hard with such personalized instruction and service. Amazing.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
I had the pleasure of taking the 3-Slat Post & Rung Ladderback Chair course with Jeff Lefkowitz last week. Jeff is a great teacher and a real craftsman. He covered a complex process thoroughly and as completely as was possible in the allotted time. He was able to convey large design concepts while teaching specific techniques and explaining how and why to use tools and jigs. His technical skills are excellent and he patiently showed us what to do at every point. Jeff was thoroughly prepared and put enormous energy into his teaching.
I was a little bit concerned about taking such a small class, but Jeff made me feel comfortable immediately. He made us welcome in the shop and his home and generously shared his meals. In the kitchen, over lunch, we would talk about chairmaking and design, review the morning’s work and layout the afternoon schedule.
There were two of us in the class and Jeff adapted easily to our different knowledge and skill levels. The pace of the class was intense at times, but there was a lot to do in a week! Jeff’s enthusiasm for the chair design and the chairmaking process was infectious.
As I started the class I felt a bit overwhelmed and wondered if I could finish this chair and make others. Jeff was very encouraging and made it clear that he intended to be a continuing resource for his students as questions come up. Although there wasn’t time to do everything, we made most of the jigs that are necessary to make the chair and I found the clear and well-illustrated manual to be an excellent resource that will serve as a necessary guide for the next chair.
I had never taken a chairmaking course and Jeff made it a great experience, introducing me to this amazing aspect of woodworking and the Boggs design. I look forward to finishing this chair and others in the future.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
I am a cabinet maker in Baltimore city. For some time now I’ve wanted to branch out beyond the traditional cabinet work I have done for more than 10 years and try my hand at a kind of woodworking that was completely new to me. Chairmaking, with all of its design subtleties and complexities, seemed like just the challenge I was looking for.
I found postings about Jeff’s classes for the Boggs post and rung ladder back chair and contacted him to find out if any slots were available. Since I live relatively close to his shop he invited me down to meet and talk about the classes he had available. I knew right away that this was the class I needed to take and this was the instructor I wanted to work with.
Jeff teaches the six-day intensive class with patience and enthusiasm. The concepts behind the design are complex but not impossible to understand. It takes a good teacher to break it all down into clear, simple ideas. The same goes for learning to use the different hand tools. Jeff guides you carefully with tips on how to use them properly.
I highly recommend the class to any woodworker looking for a challenging project to develop his or her skill set from a foundational to more advanced level of woodworking.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2013
After much discussion about scheduling I took Jeff’s class in March. Jeff had roughed out all the parts, and bent the rear legs and slats prior to my arrival (we bent rear legs and slats for a subsequent student in order to learn the process). This allowed us to concentrate on completing the chair within the allotted class time. Jeff’s approach was well organized and clearly presented. As a graphic artist the manual he created for the class is a wealth of information. For me, one of the big advantages of the course was to leave with a set of jigs and forms to build the ladder back chair at home. Jeff’s approach is casual while well informed. He is a wealth of information and was always willing to discuss other approaches and share his vast experience in chair making. I had initially wanted to build the ladder back rocker but Jeff convinced me to start with the side chair. In hindsight this was a good decision. It allowed us to focus on the specifics of ladder back construction, part shaping and fitting, and construction techniques. I will return soon to build the rocker as I am now familiar with the process.
An added bonus was the March blizzard that snowed us in for two days. We never lost power and pushed through our projects. Due to the weather and roads Jeff invited me to stay with him and his lovely wife for two days. It was nice to relax around the table and talk woodworking and chairs in our leisure moments.
If you are interested in learning how to build ladderback chairs I can give Jeff’s operation the highest kudos. The shop, setting, and surrounding countryside are a perfect setting in which to pursue your wish to build a Boggs designed chair.
Classic Side Chair, 2012
I would echo what John Zicker has said. Having taken several classes from Brian and one from Jeff, I feel I have a good perspective from which to judge. There is a difference, but neither presents a sacrifice. Brian is the creator and this is the feeling in his classes. He loves to talk about why and to challenge the woodworker. Jeff is the teacher. He stresses the how…technique and accuracy. Having been a woodworker for many, many years, I found things in Brian’s class that made me rethink conclusions I had drawn from experience. In Jeff’s class, I came away with a more in-depth approach to the same project…building a chair. I won’t say I prefer one or the other, but I can say that if you want to know how to build one of Brian’s chairs, Jeff will greatly exceed your expectations. He is competent and intensive in his approach. His main goal as I saw it was to insure that after I left his shop, I was equipped to build the chair without help…but he offered that as well. Thanks for the experience, Jeff.
Rocking Chair, 2012
This year I finally accomplished a goal that I have had for the last ten years. I took a greenwood ladder back chairmaking class with Brian and have dreamed of building a Boggs style rocking chair ever since. Needless to say, ten years passed while life rolled along. Whenever I had the time and funds to take the class, it was not being offered, so Brian referred me to Jeff Lefkowitz who is now giving classes at his shop in Virginia. At first I was a little concerned that I wasn’t taking the class from Brian but after attending the class I can only give the highest recommendation possible to taking a chairmaking class from Jeff.
The rocking chair class was set up by Jeff to take six days. Depending on the chair design you want to make and what you want to emphasize, the length of the class will vary. Jeff will tailor the class to your skill level and particular chairmaking goals. At the end, I had a rocker that was assembled except for mounting the runners, sanding, finishing and weaving the seat. Jeff did a great job of crating and shipping me the chair after I returned home. I was relieved to find out that I didn’t need to bring any tools since my travel involved a lengthy flight. Jeff has a well-equipped chair making shop that gave me a chance to experience some very nice, high end hand tools. There are reasonable cost hotels in the area and plenty of options for dining. I did go to the local grocery store and buy food for lunches, so that I didn’t have to run into town every day.
As I thought about my class with Jeff and writing this post I wanted to pick the top three things that I enjoyed or learned in the class. This was difficult to do as there were so many great things to learn from him. To start I’ll say that Jeff’s preparation for the class was first rate. He did a great job of preparing specific chair parts ahead of time to allow the chair to be completed in six days. He also had a well thought out and complete manual which let me focus on the experience rather than note taking. Second, Jeff has an abundance of tips and techniques gathered from his experience in teaching other students. They may seem like small details, but they have a big impact on the quality of the final chair. (For example, ask Jeff about his method for taking a leg from square to round). Finally, Jeff’s classes are designed for a small number of students. The personal attention is extremely helpful as your progress is tailored to your current expertise and abilities. I found that I sailed through some operations like shaping the rear legs but needed a good deal of instruction and practice carving the bottom of the legs where they join with the runners.
The biggest challenge of this class for me was that it can be a bit exhausting. Not from a physical perspective but from a mental one. As a hobbyist woodworker, I almost never get to spend 8 hours a day in the shop. Keeping up the mental focus and attention to detail for 8 hours a day, six days in a row was a challenge. (Thanks for the awesome afternoon coffee Jeff!). I thought I would be heading out to explore the area but found myself going for a short walk and then relaxing the rest of the evening.
If you can carve out the time, I highly recommend you spend a week with Jeff building a chair. Not only will you learn practical, useful woodworking techniques, you will come home with a beautiful chair. Everyone that has seen the chair I built can’t believe that I was capable of building such a beautiful piece of furniture.
Post & Rung Side Chair, 2012
I recently completed a chairmaking class with Jeff Lefkowitz. It was a GREAT experience! He is an excellent teacher and represents you and your company extremely well. I am really a beginner with regard to chairmaking and found your website when looking for a hand tool class a couple of years ago. Your class was full at the time and I understand that you no longer offer it, but I kept checking on it from time to time. When I found that the beginner chair making class was being taught so close to my hometown of Winchester Virginia, I decided to try it. It exceeded all of my expectations and I hope I can continue to build your wonderful chairs. I plan to take the advanced armchair in the next year or so. You have a real winner and a great teacher and advocate in Jeff.
Rocking Chair, 2010
I just finished the rocker class with Jeff Lefkowitz. I wanted to build a rocker as a retirement gift for a retiring Naval Officer whom I have known and worked with for a number of years. I wanted to attend one of your rocker classes in Asheville, but since I just took a new job I didn’t have the vacation time to do so. Jeff and I were able to work out a class schedule that fit with my work schedule. It ended up working out great, I was able to build the rocker over about a 6 week time frame. The class ran across three 3 day weekends. This allowed me to get the instruction and take work home and hone my skills. It also allowed a bit more time to accomplish finishing some of the pieces before they went together as well adjust for any issues that occurred. One such issue was the engraving of the slats, some of the letters degraded sufficiently to not be sufficient for a gift. I was able to generate another carving, and bend and shape the slat so we could continue with the class.
With the class being just me, the student to instructor ratio was great. Jeff is a very good instructor. He walked through all that I needed to know and more. I got some great advice on the lathe, bandsaw and with some hand tools that made the rest of the class much better. We went into great detail on all the steps, and since there was no one else there if I was running amok he caught me well before I had made a critical error. Jeff also provided some great guides to assist in carving the legs after they had been slotted, and the pins when they had to be carved. His approach to getting to an octagon on the legs generated the best carved legs that I have done to date. I have produced 7 side chairs besides the one I did for in your class and these two legs were heads and shoulders better than those. He certainly has an understanding for the skill levels of the hobbyist and that really helped me get the most out of the effort. Great approaches, explanations and knowledge.
Besides walking away with a chair and a gift, I walked away with the knowledge of how to build the chair, the interrelationships in the chair and a much better skill level. I also got some help with jigs which will help going forward. In the side chair class you talked about building a manual so we had a repeatable process. The manual that Jeff provided will help when a weekend woodworker like me goes home and tries to reproduce all that he learned. I don’t have the time to reinforce all that I learned so the hints, keys and suggestions help the memory recall all those important steps. All said and done, it was a great 6 weeks and I really enjoyed Jeff’s instruction and friendship. He is certainly a great credit to Brian Boggs Chairmakers and I really like the idea of expanding the offerings.
Great class, great concept on the offering and a great learning experience.