Russ Filbeck, Master Chairmaker
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Wood Magazine

Russ Filbeck, Master Chairmaker

I am a woodworker, chairmaker, sailor, husband, father, grandfather, friend, mentor, teacher, and leader. These are but a few words that describe me.

Wood crafts teacher
Russ Filbeck
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Russ Filbeck
Russ Filbeck
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Russ Filbeck
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President Jimmy Carter
sits in the cherry rocker
made for him by Russ.

Wood crafts teacher

Retired from the United States Navy's Submarine Service, I graduated from San Diego State University with Bachelor and Master degrees in Industrial Studies. These days, I'm an Associate Professor in the Cabinet and Furniture Technology Division at Palomar College located just north of San Diego in San Marcos, CA, where I teach beginning, intermediate, and advanced furnituremaking; beginning and advanced wood finishing; classic American chair Designs (Appalachian Ladder Back and Windsor chairs); wood bending; and tune-up and sharpening of woodworking tools. In my spare time, I also run a furniture repair and refinishing business (Wood It Be Beautiful!).

Each summer, I travel to Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky to harvest oak, walnut, and cherry logs, bringing them back to San Diego. My chairmaking students then have the fresh, riven (split) material needed to make the Windsor and Ladder Back chairs. I also harvest the hickory bark from fresh cut logs to weave the Ladder Back chair seats.

I believe in conserving and protecting our natural resources, going back to when I was a mere boy. Long before it was in vogue to do so, I recall my father telling me to "use it up, wear it out, or do without."

Trees are one of the most important, renewable natural resources on planet Earth. Currently, the human population is consuming, using, and wasting our natural resources at an unprecedented rate. This consumption and waste is generating water, earth, and atmospheric pollution that is now affecting, and will continue to affect, Earth's climate.


 

Minimizing waste and designing for comfort
Russ Filbeck
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Russ' wife thought it would
be rude to gift the President
and not the First Lady, so
Russ also made these
Shaker boxes for
Rosalynn Carter.
Russ Filbeck
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Russ Filbeck
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Minimizing waste and designing for comfort

I choose to work in a way that minimizes waste and pollution. Yet, I also want to make things that are comfortable and functional. I strive to make things that will last for generations to come, which requires a clear understanding of wood movement caused by humidity changes. It also demands precise joinery to endure many decades of use. Esthetics and beauty are also necessary within the design elements.

I view craftsmanship as the ability to transform raw materials into beautiful, comfortable and functional products. The process includes using the simplest of tools as well as modern technology. As a craftsman, I strive to teach and keep the skills and discoveries of our forefathers alive. I know the pieces that I make today will be heirlooms of tomorrow.

--Russ Filbeck
San Diego, CA

See photos of more of Russ' chairs and learn more about his visit with fellow chairmaker Jimmy Carter at Russ' Website. You can also learn how to make and apply Russ' prize-winning finish, and how to steam-bend wood from his articles that have appeared in WOOD magazine.


 

shim

Wood Magazine