How to Make Willow Chairs

Follow Ernest Lewis in a step-by-step process on how to make willow chairs. Learn how to gather willow, tools needed for the job and willow chair design.

| January/February 1977

If you like to work with your hands and you've always wanted your own backyard or garage business—but you lack "seed money" to invest in such an operation—why not make willow chairs?

Ernest J. Lewis earns a couple hundred dollars weekly making these wonderfully old-timey pieces of furniture, and there's no reason why you can't do the same! All you need are a few simple hand tools, the desire to make a quality item and the knowledge of how to do it. On the assumption that you already have the first two requisites, here is Ernest's shared knowledge on how to make willow chairs.

Gathering Willow

When the plant's buds begin to swell and leaf tips start to appear on its branches—in other words, when the sap starts to flow—that's the time to go after willow. (Any variety is suitable.) Here in northern California, where the winters are relatively mild, I'm able to begin my harvest in early February.

You'll find willows in abundance wherever there's water (along riverbanks, around lakes and ponds, etc.) and, quite often, along road rights-of-way. (State and county highway departments seldom object to the trimming back of roadside willows, since that's usually one of their unending chores. It might not be a bad idea, though, to ask for permission before you start hacking away.)

Take along either a pruning saw or a carpenter's saw (pruning shears also come in handy on your forays). And plan on cleaning up your on-site trimmings...unless, of course, you take your collection of branches home untrimmed.

Note: If you have a goat — as we do — you won't have any cleanup problems at home...but beware: goats do have a taste for willow bark and will devour your unseasoned chairs with gusto if given the chance! Fortunately, our goat friends don't seem to care much for seasoned chairs.

2/7/2018 5:33:06 PM

Mr Lewis , would you consider a private class? I’m up in Forest Ranch

Sherry Litke_1
7/21/2010 4:35:12 PM

Have you ever thought of teaching a weekend class on making willow furniture? I bet you'd get a lot of business- I know I would definetly be interested! Please consider it!

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