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10 Day Chair Making & Green Woodworking Course Overview

Chairs are a part of the world's culture for a long time. The first stick chairs appeared in Viking societies in the 8th to 10th century. We deeply admire the character, simpleness and practicality of this kind of chairs and with a help of experienced master chair makers we'd like to give a unique one of a kind opportunity to learn the craft of making traditional stick chairs.

Course participants will learn a very traditional way of making stick chairs and green woodworking/wood carving in a practical educational course using only hand tools and also learn about the historical and cultural context of joinery, chair making and green woodworking in Latvia and Northern Europe.

Students will learn to make a stick chair with hand tools and it's associated skills such as sharpening, etc. The focus of the course will be on initiating the students to the mindset in which these chairs were traditionally made before the widespread of machine woodworking. A heavy focus will also be put on efficiency with hand tools, not out of a desire to save time & cost but out of a pursuit for a deeper mastery of the skills and tools at play. 

The main tutor Ozan is an experienced chairmaker who can work quickly and the second tutor Andreas is a very fine cabinet maker able to work to the highest level of finish. Together they hope to answer any questions the students might have about stick chair craft.  Meanwhile Richard - main tutor and owner of the course location (Woodcraft Museum), will reveal all the knowledge that he has gathered through many years while working on green and solid wood. 

Each student will make a stick chair from start to finish. You will also learn crafting smaller and larger wooden bowls, spoons, dugouts from solid wood. Each chair or any carved wood product can be adjusted to the skill of the student to allow the experienced and the beginner to learn accordingly. Ozan and Andreas will also make a chair alongside the students for them to observe.
 


In practical terms, students will be initiated to
 

  • Understanding and using different traditional joiners and wood carvers hand tools (17th - 20th century) from different cultures - French, German, English, American, Latvian, Finnish, Japanese - chisels, axes, bench planes, combination planes, rip and cross cut saws, dovetail saws, draw knives, augers, marking tools - their history, sharpening and techniques using them.
  • Selecting wood for chairmaking and riving/sawing
  • Freehand sharpening on natural stones
  • Sharpening axes, saws and augers
  • Steambending wood
  • Drilling mortises by eye
  • Making round parts without lathes or specialty tools
  • Drawing, cutting and carving chair parts freehand (without plans or patterns)
  • Finishing treatment for wood
  • Carving traditional Latvian bread making bowl from aspen or lime log
  • Making smaller wooden bowls from birch and white oak logs
  • How to sharpen gouges, chisel and plane blades on natural Novaculite Arkansas bench stones
  • Preparation and drying of green wood to avoid cracks and splitting
  • Finishing techniques of wood using Japanese Shou-Sugi-Ban fire burning technique. Beeswax and propolis finish

The class will be split into two groups of 7 students, working on the green wood carving and the chair making respectively. After 5 days, the groups will switch. As such, over 10 days, 5 days one group of 7 students will work on the green wood working and other group of 7 students will work on the traditional joinery. After 5 days the groups will exchange and will work another 5 days. So in 10 days each student will learn basics of chair making and green wood carving.

We will divide our course schedule between the morning, daytime hands-on learning of woodworking skills as we cut our joinery and carve the green logs, and the evening free sessions, where we will view slides and discuss a variety of topics relating to different crafts, history, traditional forestry, joinery, furniture making and design, green woodworking and dugout canoe making, lifestyle and enjoying being together. Some special wild food dinner upon course completion and 5 educational excursions.


Course Tutors



Rihards Vidzickis (1979)

Richard is an experienced green wood worker, wood sculptor and dugout canoe maker. Richard’s passion to green wood and solid wood creations has grown together with him since his childhood days. Richard’s father is also a wood worker and carpenter and has led his son into the beautiful world of working with wood. Richard has gone through all the traditional steps of becoming a master woodworker - starting from an apprentice, then journeyman and then receiving his Master degree in Latvian chamber of crafts. Richard’s passion to wood is not only sculpturing and carving it but also knowing the wood in a scientific level. So Richard has studied in Technical university as a student and reached his degree of Doctor in engineering materials science, so he has combined the craft, nature and science in his life and work. While working in furniture making during the studies and doing different kinds of difficult wood carving for Jugend, Barrocal, Renesance design style furniture meanwhile, Richard discovered that he tends to get back to more rustic, robust and natural forms of wood, so he created a park of massive wooden sculptures, The Woodcraft Museum and a live workshop where Richard lives and creates wooden bowls, plates, boats and accepts visitors and teaches students to share his work and lifestyle. Richard is a father of 3 boys.

Andreas Pfister (1989)

Cabinetmaker. Andreas is currently living and working in Schlehdorf, a small village close to the German Alps. After completing a degree in philosophy in 2014, Andreas felt a need to put his hands to work and after a series of coincidences he decided to study at the Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking in Western Canada. There he was exposed to a much slower and uncompromising way of working than what was available to him in Germany. It included a healthy mistrust in novelty for the sake of novelty, a strong emphasis on hand tools and most of all the conviction that the human hands are superior to a machine when it comes to precision and freedom of expression. Some distancing from the original ideas and aesthetics of his education together with his background in philosophy: both have formed his own style and given him the awareness that hands and mind do not exist in opposition, but rather inform and compliment each other. In 2020 Andreas opened his own workshop and is now making furniture full time.

portrait of Andreas Pfister


Ozan Demirtas (1991)

Ozan makes chairs in Switzerland. He was born in Sweden, travelled around Europe and settled there around 2005. Before being a woodworker, Ozan went to university and became a dentist. He got to teach students for a few years. He taught various topics like general anatomy on cadavers, conservative and endodontic dental care. At the same time, Ozan wanted to learn a craft so he started with metalworking but those tools were not for him. One day, he got to hold a hand forged chisel and that was it, Ozan had found his trade. After some time he became attracted to the simple shapes and joinery of traditional peasant furniture. He made furniture, doors and sash windows before he realised that he was meant to be making chairs. Ozan liked the chairs that originated in Wales. They were built by peasants, wheelwrights and so on. An object of necessity, they were made with the hand and eye as the only guide and none of them were the same. Now he makes chairs the same way daily - there are no rulers, squares, levels, plans, patterns, jigs or guides in his workshop. No machines either. Only a vise and a few good tools. Ozan is married, he has two children – a boy and a girl.


General Information

All the woodwork will be carried out with traditional hand tools ONLY (axes, chisels, hand saws, augers, beam drills, drawknives, planes and e.t.c.) – both those made by us - Northmen Guild, and also old, restored hand tools.

This event will happen in the Woodcraft Museum, on the grounds of the beautiful Gauja river National Park area in the village of Ligatne in Latvia. Students will be living/sleeping in the nearby (6km away) guest house in Ligatne historical village, eating daily organic local food and enjoying the rural countryside and nature of Latvia while learning the craft from the Northmen Guild's master craftsmen. All meals will be daily catered in the workplace at the Woodcraft Museum.

Cost: 3650, Euros - includes everything in-country: tuition, accommodation, all meals, organized field-trips. Participants are responsible for their own international transport, travel insurance, and extra-curricular costs. Half (50% deposit) of the courses cost needs to be paid during online registration (via PayPal or Credit/Debit card) and the remaining 50% - one month before the start of the course.

Conditions for cancelling your participation in the course: if you cancel the participation 3 months before the starting date, we give back 75% of the deposit, if you cancel it 2 months before the start of the course, we return 50%, if you cancel later, we do not return the payment.

Age limitation: 15+

Woodworking experience: Participants are not expected to have any joinery or green wodworking experience but any woodworking experience is appreciated.

Training site: The course will be held in Gauja River National Park at the village of Ligatne, Latvia at the Woodcraft Museum.

Full lodging and 3 local organic food meals (per day) is provided from the day of arrival till the departure. In the evening of arrival will be provided dinner at 7pm. On the departure day will be provided last breakfast at 8am.

Language: The course will be held in English.


Special Wild Food Dinner

On the last day of the course (Thursday) evening we will visit a Latvian wild food chef and a close friend of ours - Eriks Dreibants, in his special place ""Pavaru Māja"" which has just received a Michelin Green Star. He lives in the middle of the Gauja National Park forest rangers house and we will go over Gauja river with the only (last) wooden ferry boat in Latvia and take a walk through the woods to his house. Erik will cook wild food meal on open fire for all the students and tutors. This will be our course completion celebration.

 


Educational Excursions

The workshop curriculum includes:

  • Sunday morning open air breakfast and swimming in a crystal clear “Mežmuižas” Seven Springs lake.

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  • A Sunday excursion to Latvian Etnographical open air museum in Riga

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  • Taking part in a traditional smoke sauna in a Historical Smoke Sauna at Brother Jurjani Historic House Mengeli

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  • An evening walk to nearby Old Ligatne paper mill village by the shores, woodlands and cliffs of river Ligatne.

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Apply For A Course

The course will be held in English.
Teach the young! Honor the elders!
More information & questions - courses@northmen.com