Making Ladder Back Chairs with Russ Filbeck


SKU: 0003 Category:


This detailed step-by-step book will take you through building your first 2-slat Appalachian-ladder back style chair, 3-slat side chair, 4-slat arm chair and 6-slat rocker. The book clearly illustrates the bending forms that need to be built, the hand and power tools required, and how each of these are used to create a finished heirloom-quality chair that will last for generations. The wood technology section of the book explains the importance of understanding how differential moisture content between legs and rungs enables the joints to be mechanically locked with wood shrinkage during chair assembly. The oil finishing section illustrates how to properly finish and care for your chair after it is built.

Additional information

Weight 3.0 lbs
Dimensions 15 × 9.5 × 1 in

hard-cover, soft-cover


  1. Bill Krier, Former Editor-In-Chief (retired), WOOD

    There is perhaps no higher expression of the craft of woodworking than the creation of a beautiful, durable, and well-functioning rocking chair.

    If you’ve ever had an inkling to make a ladder back chair, you’re in luck because Russ is the this country’s preeminent expert on the subject and has made it easy for you to learn the techniques it’t taken him a lifetime to acquire. Russ, who has helped us produce articles in WOOD about steam-bending and other topics, has now self-published a book titled “Making Ladder Back Chairs with Russ Filbeck”.

    I’ve read the book and can tell you that Russ spared no expense in producing this beautiful and easy-to-follow guide. The hard-cover 230-page book has hundreds of color photos that show every step in the process, along with background information on the history of these classic chairs and the tools used to make them. Of course a book this nice doesn’t come cheap: the price is $85 plus tax (California residents) and shipping/handling.

    If you want even more assistance than the book can provide, the news keeps getting better because Russ recently retired from his job teaching woodworking at Palomar College. So now he has the time to work with you in his home, building an heirloom chair your family will cherish for generations. Russ works with no more than two students at a time. The class lasts a week.

    I know that I run the risk of this blog post coming across as a sales pitch, and I never endorse products in “WOOD Magazine”. But in this case, I make an exception because Russ is such a rare talent and so generous with his advice. You won’t find a more knowledgeable or gracious woodworker anywhere.

  2. James Woodside

    James G. Woodside
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Exceptional Book!
    August 29, 2018
    This is an exceptional book for anyone interested in chairs. The format is outstanding and the graphics and photos are superb. The author explains the tools needed and the jigs required to make an assortment of chairs from a basic two-slat country “sittin’ chair” to a magnificent six-slat rocking chair. He carefully explains the structure of wood and how the grain direction and moisture content is critical to the strength and longevity of a chair. He also describes the steam bending process and how it is critical to the shape and comfort of a chair. Additionally, he demonstrates the process for using hickory bark as a beautiful, rugged seat bottom. And finally, he gives an excellent description on how to properly apply a oil finish that enhances and protects the wood. As an added bonus, there is section on the history of famous “Chair Bodgers” and information on current chair makers in the U.S. and U.K. Each chair is this book is accurately measured and graphic plans of all chair pieces and jigs required to accurately assemble a treasured family heirloom are provided. I have several books on chair making and this by far the best. If you want to learn how to make chairs or just interested in the history and process chair making, this book is highly recommended.

  3. Chris H.

    “Making Ladder Back Chairs with Russ Filbeck” can be considered the course textbook to Russ’s ladder back classes. Certainly it is better to take his classes and have his book as a resource afterwards, but if one doesn’t have such an opportunity, the book alone should help immensely. Russ covers chair making from log to finish with a discussion from wood and joint theory to all the various tools that he uses in his process. Perhaps one note to keep in mind is that the writing can be quite concise in the building steps and the techniques build upon each chair. This is a bit different than many other books which provide detail in long form. If a step seems a bit short on detail, it may have been covered earlier in the book. This method might be a bit frustrating for some, but it allows for Russ to keep the page count and cost down while allowing for plenty of color photos to document the process. Personally, I prefer to think a bit and fully internalize the steps needed to achieve each action. Too much text can get in the way of the important parts sometimes.

    The treatment on tree anatomy from a woodworker’s perspective alone is enough to keep this book on your shelf. In addition, the techniques used to take advantage of inherent wood properties and the detailed step-by-step process to chair making are hard to find in any other text currently. Lastly, with this book in hand, you should build at least one of the chairs to fully appreciate the beauty and comfort of a ladder back chair, because you know… you can’t sit in the book. It’s not quite the same.

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