Masters of the Craft

Masters of the Craft

Steve Brown Takes the Measure of a Chair

comments (8) February 10th, 2011 in blogs

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
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Learn the secret to Steve Browns beautiful period reproductions. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Learn the secret to Steve Brown's beautiful period reproductions.

An education in craftsmanship. That's how Boston's North Bennet Street School describes the experience it offers its students. With programs ranging from violin making to restoration carpentry, the 126-year-old school ranks among the premier institutions in the world for learning a traditional craft.

Steve Brown is the head of North Bennet Street's Cabinet and Furniture Making Department, which places a strong emphasis on learning how to make furniture by studying and reproducing outstanding period pieces. Brown and his fellow instructors regularly take students to museums to examine furniture, and in this slide show Brown takes the viewer along with him to one of his favorite museums for such trips--the Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library, in Hartford. 

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Adrian Potter: Thinking Furniture
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Doug Mooberry: Kinloch Woodworking
Michael Hurwitz: Planks into Poetry
Brad Smith: Story of a Stool
Hank Holzer and Judith Ames: Labor of Love
Michael Fortune: The Clever Chair
John Cameron: A Musician in the Woodshop
Allan Breed: The Past Recaptured
Kintaro Yazawa: Joint Wizardry
Grant Vaughan: Subtropical Virtuoso
William R. Robertson: Micro Maestro

The museum has an extensive collection of period furniture and a welcoming policy toward woodworkers, researchers, and others interested in seeing museum-worthy period pieces up close. Set up with a Queen Anne side chair by Rich Malley, the museum's head of research and collections, Brown shares many of his techniques for recording the critical dimensions, shapes and construction details of a piece of furniture.

Brown went through North Bennet Street School himself in the late 1980s and has been a teacher there for over a decade. In between, he spent 8 years working for Phil Lowe, a frequent Fine Woodworking contributor and a winner of the Society for American Period Furniture Makers' Cartouche Award for lifetime achievement.

Steve Brown's heartback side chair, which is on the back cover of Fine Woodworking issue 218, was the last project he worked on as a student at the school. He is currently building a second version.


posted in: blogs, period furniture, chairmaker, reproduction, North Bennett Street School, steve brown

Comments (8)

santafewoodworker santafewoodworker writes: I discovered this along with other reports by Jon Binzen that I hadn't seen before. For me they are consistently among the best things on the FWW site and the main reason I'll continue to subscribe.
Posted: 11:33 am on December 14th

ctsailor ctsailor writes: No disrespect to the other directors that I don't know or are not coming to top of my mind at the moment.
Posted: 6:51 pm on November 7th

ctsailor ctsailor writes: I agree, Steve is a master of his craft, and a great teacher. The Best parts of Rough Cut are his short appearances, in my opinion.

The cabinet program at NBSS has had a long line of GREAT masters and teachers to watch over it, those I can name without research: George Fullerton, Phil Lowe, Lance Patterson, and Steve. I mean to take nothing away form Steve by mentioning the others, but the program has been around a long time. Steve is one in a long line of GREAT stewards of the program, and I suspect he would be the first to say the same).

I would like to see more of Steve in FWW in print and video!

Posted: 6:48 pm on November 7th

jtpesq jtpesq writes: Thanks for a very interesting and informative show
Posted: 4:56 pm on March 3rd

Bruce_Lundegard Bruce_Lundegard writes: The Federal era hearback chair is absolutely stunning! Congratulations to Mr. Brown.

Are measured drawings of this chair available? I'd like to try making my own.

Thanks, Bruce Lundegard
Posted: 11:26 pm on February 20th

mrqs2 mrqs2 writes: I'm a member of the Eastern Massachusetts Guild of Woodworkers and this month's meeting was at Phil Lowe's shop.

Phil covered "measuring furniture for reproduction". Everything that is covered in this article, is exactly what Phil covered. The demo was on a Massachusetts Queen Anne side chair. It appears this article used the same or very similar piece for the sample.

It's really great to see that there are others out there that have the knowledge and are willing to share it like Phil Lowe.

This was a great article, please keep up the great work! I'm looking forward to more articles from Steve. Until then happy woodworking.

Posted: 8:02 pm on February 15th

DanM DanM writes: Fascinating. The archaeology of a chair. Beautifully done.

And the chair on the back cover of FW218 is absolutely magnificent. Beautiful.

Posted: 4:16 pm on February 15th

Periodcraftsmen Periodcraftsmen writes: Steve Brown is one the one the smartest & talented craftsmen alive. This man has soooooooooooo much to offer to the woodworking world. It is great to see Steve get recongnized for his talents. For if it wasn't for Steve Brown being in charge of NBSS Furniture Making Department who knows what this section of shchool would be like today. I think it would had just suffered a painful death.

The Furniutre Making Department is as good as it is because of Steve. FWW needs to get Steve to write more articles for he has a lot offer. Great Job Steve! For it has been awesome getting to know you.

Posted: 8:15 pm on February 11th

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