Canadian Woodworking

Morris chairs

Author: Vic Tesolin
Published: June July 2010

Mike Smrek leads a class on making a Morris chair.

My shop class is more than just wood­working; I teach fundamental life skills that will never be obsolete. Showing up on time, being ready and willing to think, problem solve and learn. I teach dedication to sticking with something that requires time and effort and to see a project through to completion along with pride in work, workmanship of risk and some manual skills with tools and machines. This was my approach with a group of young men that walked through my workshop doors this September. As a group, we decided to build Morris chairs. They saw a nice piece of furniture; I saw a tool with which to teach these fundamentals.

The students did not work from a set of plans. They had to develop them themselves. Then, using mostly hand tools, they built prototype chairs using a twisted, warped pile of spruce 2 x 6s we had lying in the shop. They learned how to measure, lay out, use chisels and hand planes and sharpen them. They learned to use most of the tools and machines found in most woodshops. From here they learned how to set up machines and jigs to produce their Morris chairs.

These students deserve a great deal of credit for persevering and completing the projects. All 15 students completed their projects to a near professional quality. Not only do they have a beautiful chair to take home and hand down to their grandchildren some day, but they have developed all important life skills that will help them in the future, whatever that may be.

By Mike SmrekBy Mike Smrek

1 comment

  1. Big Mike, it’s David Catanese (aka Catman). Not sure if you remember me but reaching out to a number of people from my Canisius days to catch up and say hello and say thank you for giving me such a great life to remember. Hope you are well and healthy. God bless.

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