Tuesday 9 October 2012

Making a Chair from our Hazel Trees

We're fortunate to have hazel trees on our smallholding and we've made the most of the timber from them.  This is straight-grained and hard; and as well as making walking sticks from it (for older family members), we burn it for firewood.  We've also used the timber to make a high-backed chair from a very simple (i.e. made up as we went along!) design.

The Hazel Tree

Hazel was one of the first trees to recolonise Britain after the last ice age, helping to form the early wildwood.  As one of our oldest trees, it's the subject of plenty of folklore.  The Celts believed hazel trees were trees of wisdom and poetry and hazels were thought to be found in places where the boundaries between the worlds were thinnest.  Wizards' staffs were thought to be of hazel, and hazel twigs were used to fend off witches, to point out thieves and to seek for buried treasure.  Today, they are still used by diviners to find water.  Until the middle ages, hazel nuts were associated with fertility and could also be used to reveal the health of a marriage!

Hazel is deciduous, shedding its leaves each year.  It likes heavy soil, although this mustn't be waterlogged - and because it comes from the ancient wildwood, it tolerates shade (our hazel is found in the shadows of large oak trees).  A hazel will live about 60 years or so before it dies back, but it lives much longer if it is coppiced (and we coppiced our trees this year).  We've also included hazel in a new hedge we've planted on the smallholding and we've had to protect this from rabbits, deer (especially muntjac) and our own sheep.  Hazel nuts are seized upon by grey squirrels.

Hazel in a new hedge

Making the Chair

We cut a few whips of hazel back to the tree stump and used the wood at once i.e. it wasn't given time to season.  We then sawed the wood into the lengths we wanted and pre-drilled holes into the wood before screwing (to avoid splitting).  The lengths/height are detailed below. 

Finally, the wood was varnished, not so much to give it extra protection, but for appearance.

The chair is robust, and, with cushions, comfortable. We've placed it in the kitchen/rest area of our new barn, where we're making most of the furniture ourselves from local wood (with more, DIY designs!)


  1. Thats so beautiful we have hazel on our land i will be checking out how big the sticks are later we too have to fight the squirrels for the nuts

    Hubby has a great book on stick chairs for christmas 'Green Wood Chairs: Chairs and Chairmakers of Ireland' cant wait to see what he makes first

    1. I'm pleased you like the chair. When we started to make it, we weren't sure how much we'd use it, but we actually use it a lot.
      Hope your own chair-making projects go well.

  2. Relly beautiful chair. It's inspired me to attempt to make one to go with the bender i made :)


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