Jennie Alexander, aka JA (1930-2018) passed away on July 12, 2018 after a long and full life.  Her passions for greenwoodworking came through very clearly in her writing, teaching and collaborations with other woodworkers.  She cherished the connections she made through woodworking, and kept in contact with both old and new friends right up to the end.

Her iconic post-and-rung ladderback chair is her legacy.  It started long before the 1978 publication of Make a Chair from a Tree:  An Introduction to Green Woodworking.  Years of study of old tools and old chairs led Jennie step-by-step along her path.  Decades of teaching workshops about the chair resulted in great refinements in the process.  Alexander was always looking for ways to make the chair better, and to make it easier to build.  Even after her health prevented her from regular shop work; students, colleagues, friends, and professionals in related fields were all well-accustomed to hearing from Jennie on a regular basis about fine details related to improving the chair-making process.

Recently, her notes and papers pertaining to over 40 years worth of study were donated to the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, DE, for research.  As we collect and organize her effects, we will update this site with announcements about the upcoming third edition of Make a Chair from a Tree,  Jennie always welcomed questions, we'll do our best to continue in her stead.  For greenwoodworking questions, try peter.follansbee@verizon.net or search his blog  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/.

JA always said, "Wood is Wonderful!"

Harper Alexander Burke
Peter Follansbee

Make A Chair


From A

  My name is Jennie Alexander. Until 2007, my name was John Alexander. I thank all those who have been so supportive and kind. Yes indeed, people change, times change, wood continues to be wonderful! 
    I am a chairmaker. I have made traditional post and rung chairs with hand tools for over 40 years. In 1978, I wrote Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Working Green Wood (1978),  a practical book about of post and rung chairmaking. An enlarged edition was printed in 1994. Both are now out of print. The book has been a part of the growing interest in the actual practice of traditional crafts. It led me to coin the word “greenwoodworking.”
    In 1999, Anatol Polillo, a good friend and a craftsman, produced a two-hour DVD of Make a Chair from a Tree. It is available on this site.
    The two books, and DVD, extensive teaching and research have led me to the wonderful world of kind and sharing traditional craftsmen and scholars. I have learned more than I have taught. Thanks to them I have grown both as a person and chairmaker.
    I am working on a Third Edition of Make a Chair from a Tree.

Make A

Turned Stool Drawbored Stool Turned Stool

From A

     The principal reason for delay is my intervening interest in 17th-Century joinery. Through the kindness of Charles Hummel, Benno Forman, Robert St. George and Robert Trent, and the continuing support of Trent, Hummel, The Winterthur Museum and many other persons and institutions, I have been permitted to examine many period pieces. I was fascinated by the almost exclusive use of rived oak, the unique drawbored mortise and tenon joint and questions regarding moisture content of various joined members both upon fabrication and assembly.
    I studied surviving period pieces, tools, tool marks and documents. I tested various hypotheses in the shop. The joint stool was chosen as the simplest example of joinery basics and pole lathe turning.
    Early on in this journey, I involved my friend Peter Follansbee, then a post and rung chairmaker and oak and ash basket maker. Joinery possessed him from the beginning.  For some time, Peter patiently followed suggestion.  He experimented and traveled down many blind alleys suggested by me.
    Prior to our use of the Internet, we created a six-foot shelf of correspondence and diagrams. Together, we taught our first joinery class at Drew and Louise Langsner’s Country Workshops in 1991. I wrote a first draft of Make a Stool from a Tree, An Introduction to Seventeenth-Century New England Joinery.
    In the meantime, Peter has completely passed me by and is, I feel, today’s preeminent 17th-Century joiner, carver, teacher and researcher. Since 1994, he has practiced all areas of joinery on a daily basis at Plimoth Plantation. Our first article about joinery is Peter Follansbee and John Alexander, “Seventeenth-Century Joinery from Braintree, Massachusetts: the Savell Shop Tradition” in American Furniture, ed., Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 1996)  pp. 81-104  It can also be accessed online at www.chipstone.org (see publications: American Furniture, "Seventeenth Century Joinery from Braintree, Massachusetts: the Savell Shop Tradition")
    Peter’s written and furniture output has been prodigious. This site reprints Stephanie Stone’s article from Woodwork magazine about Peter.  For an update on Peter's work, see his blog.
    I no longer teach.  In the future, I plan to return to my first love, post and rung chairmaking and complete the third edition of Make a Chair from a Tree.
    A number of my articles about greenwoodworking are available on this site. I thank all my teachers, students, teaching assistants and apprentices of 40 years for their friendship, challenge, spirit and ideas. 

Wood is Wonderful!

Jennie Alexander