Comb-back Chair in Red Elm – Lost Art Press

This is the first stick chair that I’ve built entirely with red elm. It’s a bit extraordinary that this chair exists because the species (Ulmus rubra) is rarely found in commercial lumberyards around here. Plus, finding enough straight and clear sections of red elm to make the sticks, legs and stretchers is unusual.

But I got lucky. My regular lumberyard got a small load of red elm from a mill in northern Indiana. I bought every bit of it, except for a couple boards with structural defects. (I have just enough of that wood to make a second comb-back in red elm, which is in-process now on my bench.)

Red elm is pretty much a perfect wood for making chairs. It is lighter in weight than red oak, but because of its interlocked grain it is impossible to split. That means that the pieces can be thin and incredibly strong. The downside? It’s a bear to work (but worth it).

Red elm also has incredible luminosity – like ash but with a browner tone.

This comb-back chair is set up for dining or keyboarding, with a back that tilts back about 12°. And a seat that tilts about 6°. It’s an all-around comfortable chair, though I wouldn’t call it a lounge chair.

The seat is 17” off the floor. The overall height is 41”. Like all my chairs, the joints are assembled with hide glue and oak wedges, so the joints are strong but can be easily repaired by future generations. The chair is finished with a home-cooked linseed oil/wax finish that has no dangerous solvents. The finish offers low protection, but it is easy to repair by the owner with no special skills or tools.

Purchasing the Chair

This chair is being sold by silent auction. (I’m sorry but the chair cannot be shipped outside the U.S.) If you wish to buy the chair, send an email to before 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday, Aug. 24. In the email please use the subject line “Elm Chair” and include your:

  • Bid
  • First name and last name
  • U.S. shipping address
  • Daytime phone number (this is for the trucking quote only)

Shipping options: You are welcome to pick up the chair here in Covington, Ky. I am also happy to deliver the chair personally for free within 100 miles of Cincinnati, Ohio. Or we can ship it to you via LTL. The cost varies (especially these days), but it is usually between $300 and $550. 

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The next chair for sale will be painted with linseed oil paint and sold for a fixed price at a drawing.

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