Russ Filbeck lives in San Diego, CA. At the age of 17, he joined the United States Navy and retired from the Navy’s Submarine Service in 1985. He then attended San Diego State University and graduated with Bachelor and Masters degrees in Industrial Studies in 1989. He also has a furniture repair and refinishing business (Wood It Be Beautiful!) which he created in 1986. He retired from the Palomar College Cabinet and Furniture Technology Program in May 2010.
After teaching his two-slat, three-slat, four-slat arm chair and six-slat rocking chair designs for nine years at Palomar College, he decided to write a book about making them. Until this time, his students only had Jennie (John) Alexander’s book about making the simple two-slat chair to supplement his lectures. He not only wanted to describe every step of the process from harvesting the wood to making the chairs, he wanted to document a bit of the history of these chairs. That history extends back to the 17th century High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. The English immigrants brought their chair making skills to the Southern Highlands of the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of America. Russ also wanted to document a few modern day craftsmen who are still keeping those immigrant skills alive. In the late 1970’s, Alexander wrote “Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Working Green Wood”. This book was the inspiration for Brian Boggs of Brea, KY to start making these chairs. In the early 1980’s, former President Jimmy Carter taught himself to make these chairs from broken remnants of is grandfather’s green wood chairs and books that he could find. Roy Underhill was making these chairs on his television show “The Woodwright’s Shop” at this same time. Russ interviewed and included these chair maker’s techniques in his book.
Russ created a small, private woodworking school that started in August 2010. Classes include chair making, tool making, tool sharpening, wood bending, wood finishing and furniture touch-up and repair.
He often travels and does guest speaking seminars on these topics throughout the United States. You can often find him at Lie-Nielsen tool shows demonstrating how he makes oval Shaker boxes, spoke shaves and chairs.
Each summer since 1995, Russ has traveled to Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania to harvest hickory bark for seat weaving and freshly cut oak, walnut and cherry trees so his students have the raw materials needed to make these early American chairs.
In 1984 Russ joined the San Diego Fine Woodworker’s Association. He has served in several Board of Directors positions and as President for two years (1987-1988).