Backwoods Ingenuity: The Kentucky Stick Chair

When I first heard the words ‘Kentucy Stick Chair’ it was hard to dismiss the image of a piece of furniture somehow constructed from pieces of deep-fried chicken. It turned out that what we were really talking about was no less extraordinary.

The original Kentucky Stick Chairs would have been made from humble sticks and slung together with rope. All that would have been needed was a saw and a way to make holes in wood – a perfect example of ‘off grid’ innovation. Our chairs are made with cut timber and threaded bar, but they stay true to the spirit of their ancestors by using whatever is to hand and keeping the original simplicity of the design.

These provided comfort at our recent stand at Neville’s Cross festival, caught the imagination of trainees and potential customers alike, and now we can’t make them fast enough.

A project like this typifies the heartbeat of Handcrafted, when we use the ‘power of woodwork’ to

  • Combat waste by recycling and up-cycling materials
  • Provide rewarding and meaningful activity
  • Foster creativity
  • Stimulate teamwork
  • Give back to the community

To begin with, some of our chairs began as a couple of old doors mouldering in the recesses of the workshop and waiting to be recovered into something beautiful. They say you ‘can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’, and there’s usually no shortage of volunteers when it comes to smashing something up in order to salvage it. It’s good to see how “You hold it while I hit it” brings people together!

Taking discarded materials and up-cycling them into something to be proud of is too obviously paralleled with the experiences of many of our trainees who find they can do more than they dreamed of.

Once the raw timber is recovered, it is sawn into ‘sticks’ and cut to specified lengths. Then the simple magic happens under the hands of one of our trainees, Colin, who has adopted the oversight of production and created some innovative approaches of his own. I watch as he spins a bolt rapidly down a length of threaded bar by clamping the bar in a drill and running it. He also demonstrated a smart way of getting the right angle to sit the chair flat without using a ruler and protractor.

In a spirit of creative experimentation, he has produced decorative versions of the chair with alternating hard and soft woods and settled on a ‘de-luxe’ version in softwood with hardwood for the weight-bearing legs.

The verdict on the finished piece? “Surprisingly comfortable, actually.” The chair folds up to be more transportable and, when opened, it has a degree of mouldablity to the seat, not to mention the pleasing gappiness for air circulation in warmer weather. Perfect in any garden, for the dog days of summer!

If you’d like a stick chair of your very own,  just contact us. They are available in a range of timbers at prices from £35.


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