Mike Abbott makes chairs that are light but strong, elegant yet comfortable, and timeless enough to withstand the whims of changing fashions. When he moved to Herefordshire, Mike delved into the work of a Victorian chairmaker called Phillip Clissett, who made frame chairs such as the spindle-back and ladder-back. He was impressed by Clissett's simple yet efficient approach to chairmaking. Like the bodgers of the Chilterns, Clissett also used the shaving-horse and the pole-lathe to produce his chair parts. Unlike the bodgers, he made the whole chair, from buying the logs to selling the finished chairs in the local market. This is the tradition that Mike has chosen to follow in his own workshop at home. Although he uses a chainsaw to harvest the wood, he still cleaves and shaves all the components by hand to retain the maximum strength of the grain.
Like Clissett, Mike uses locally grown ash trees but nowadays he prefers to leave his chairs with a 'hand-made' shaved finish. Mike has searched far and wide to source a range of materials for the comfortable woven seats of his chairs. Using a native American tradition of woven bark, Mike harvests locally grown wych elm bark, which he weaves into an attractive herringbone pattern. He also uses a plaited palm cord shipped from craftspeople involved in development projects in Tanzania as well as Danish cord manufactured from a woven paper-based material.
Green woodworking Books. In 1989 Mike wrote his first book, Green Woodwork, which was reprinted 10 times but is now out of print. In 2002 he published Living Wood “From Buying a Woodland to Making a Chair”, which has now gone to its four edition. Following his 10 minutes of fame on the BBC2 series Mastercrafts in 2010, he published “Going with the Grain” - Making Chairs in the 21th century. Mike's fourth book Square Pegs in Round Holes is due for publication in 2016.