Award-Winning Newberry Chairs


Shown below are excepts from a few articles about the Newberrys which have been written over the years.

"Appalachian Chairmakers
Tradition and Revival"
By Curtis Buchanan
June 2001
Page 48

The Newberry family's chairmaking roots extend back at least five generations, the only break being years ago when Louie worked construction in Nashville for three years.  His distaste for living in or even visiting other places than Macon County, Tennessee, is evident.  "I didn't lose nutin thar," is one of Louie's typical short responses.

Louie and his son Mark are a rare find today.  Living on the same land and working in the same shop as Louie's father, Dallas, they continue to make chairs in much the same manner.  Dallas, born in 1892, provided for this family with chairmaking until three years before his death at 98.


"Craftsmen make ladderbacks like their dads did"
Nashville Banner
July 28, 1992
Page B1

The sign is of the hand-lettered variety, black words on a piece of white plywood.

"Newberry and Sons, chairs."

That's the sum of Louie Newberry's advertising strategy, but it's all the Macon County craftsman needs to attract a steady trade.

"We've been making chairs for so long that people know where to find us," Newberry says.  "It's been in our family now for generation after generation.  We've all taken up chair making."

The family shop, a converted shed, is just off Highway 56 about six miles south of Red Boiling Springs.  Shavings litter the floor, and the air is thick with dust.

Newberry holds a cutting knife to a lathe-driven piece of wood.  Within minutes, the square block of oak is trimmed to roundness.  It will be a rung, connecting one chair leg to another.

It's not difficult for [Newberry] to brag on his handiwork.

"There's no glue in that chair," he says, nodding towards a finished product.  "We use green oak for the posts and dried oak for the rest.  As the green wood dries, it closes up tight against the dried oak."


"Newberry and Son's Chairs
The Fifth Generation"
By Sandra Hire
The Tennessee Magazine
April 1994
Page 16

"There is still a lot we do by hand, like getting the bark off for the seating material -- there's not a machine to do that, [Louie Newberry] adds.  "That's a job to get that bark off."

To get the bark from the tree, the Newberrys use a hand-made drawing-knife they made be welding a boy-scout knife to the end of a jack handle.  The rough outer bark is shaved down to the smooth inner bark that is shaved off in strips about 1-inch wide and split again to the appropriate size for weaving the seats.

The seats are woven with two strips of bark over and one under.  "We only make the one pattern for our seats," Louie explains.  We like it better than any of the other designs.  We pretty much use the same chair patterns as my dad used."


"The Old Hickory Rack"
By Arthur G. Fugua
The Tennessee Conservationist
Volume XXXVIII, February 1972
Page 8

"Did you ever rock in an old rocking chair and relax for a while," queries Dallas Newberry?  Buy one of our hickory bottomed chairs and rock till your heart's content as we did in those "good old days."  You can watch our chairs become antiques because you won't break them or wear them out," he asserts.

The craftsmen begin with the trees standing in their farm woodlots.  After selecting the desired tree, which may be cherry, walnut, maple, ash, or oak, the trees are cut in lengths for chair posts.  The cuts are permitted to dry or season for a limited time and then split with wedge and sledge.  The wood for the post is then ready to go into the handmade lathe.  The lathe is powered by a used appliance motor instead of a foot treadle like their fathers used.

The back and chair rounds are seasoned in a smoke chamber over burning shavings then driven into the chair post.

As the chair seasons the posts tighten in the back and rounds.  No nails are used.

These craftsmen are actively interested in the Appalachian Forest Improvement Association since its goal is to improve management and marketing of woodland products.  Larry Dudney, manager of the Association, provides technical help in woodland management and marketing when he visits these and other craftsmen in the Association's eleven-county area.


"Porch Settin' in a Tennessee Rocker"
by Thelma Moore Johnson
February 23, 1997

Since the Newberrys first settled here in the early 1800s, they have made wooden rockers by hand.  Mark and Terry Newberry are the fifth generation to make the chairs.

A Newberry chair is built to last, but more important than longevity is its comfort.  The chairs are ample and sturdy with invisible refinements of more than a century of experience.

A factory-built chair may "walk" and the seat may sag, but a Newberry chair is sturdy and stays put.

Years of experience have refined the process so the chair's occupant is pitched at the most comfortable sitting angle.  A good chair has plenty of support underneath, Louie Newberry [fourth generation chair maker] says.