Scapa Crafts

Traditional Orkney Chairs

Our quality and finish!

Jackie has been making Orkney Chairs for over 30 years and takes great pride in his work.  He is supported by his wife Marlene who carefully prepares the straw for the strawbacks and by master joiner, Ian who crafts all the chair bases.  He is pleased to be now passing the tradition down to his daughter, Bridget and family friend Michael and to his granddaughter Leah who is learning the craft.

Orkney Chair Hood StitchingJackie stitching an Orkney ChairJackie's signatureOrkney Chair stitchingStitching an Okrney Hooded Chair

"Each chair carries our signatures and the Scapa Crafts quality seal.

We stitch every chair. Every strawback is different but every one has to be just right before I’m happy. 

A strawback can involve several hundred individual stitches and each one has to be right.  I'll stitch a full week for a strawback traditional chair and two weeks to finish a chair with a Hood."

Jackie stitching an Oak Orkney ChairJackie stitching an Oak Orkney Chair close upJackie with a Driftwood Hood, Driftwood and StrawCustomers

"Michael and Bridget are developing their own styles, you never get two identical chairs but they’re getting so good it’s difficult to tell my work from theirs. It takes time, you need to be patient and it has to be right from the first stitches." 

Training in making an Orkney ChairMichael stitching and Oak Orkney ChairOrkney Chairmakers Jackie & MichaelBridget stitchingBridget stitching 2

"The quality of our strawwork starts with the straw.  The straw we use is locally grown in Orkney by Allan Scott in Deerness. The long, strong, golden oat straw is perfect for the strawwork of our chairs.  It's specially harvested using old methods, modern farm machinery would break the straw strands and spoil them.  We want the strands to be as long and smooth as possible and unbroken." 

Harvesting Orkney Straw for the Orkney ChairsMarlene & Leah cleaning strawCleaned and uncleaned strawAbove from left - Orkney Oat Straw drying in the wind & sun ready for Scapa Crafts, Marlene & Leah cleaning straw, cleaned golden, yellow straw (left) beside uncleaned straw (right) compare the difference!

The straw then needs to be painstakingly cleaned by hand, only carefully cleaned straw with give a chair with a golden shine to the straw.  Marlene explains, "The straw just has to be right you see. It needs it to be clean of any dry and loose pieces and I strip every single piece of straw to prepare bundles of clean straw all of an equal length. It takes time but it's beautiful." 

It will take Marlene almost 3 days work to clean the straw required for a hooded chair.  To ensure an even colour only the straw from the same season, the same year, is used in a single chair or in any set of chairs. Scapa Crafts takes in new straw each autumn for the forthcoming year's collection of traditional Orkney Chairs.

We take as much care with our woodwork.   Ian takes particular pride in the quality of the finish and polish of his Orkney Chair bases. 

"The base for a chair with a drawer will take me about a week, then to get the good smooth finish Scapa Crafts is proud of will take me another good half day, sometimes longer. A chair with a drawer and rush seat involves fitting over 30 different pieces of wood together and making over 30 handcrafted joints." 

Ian preparing the base for an Oak Orkney ChairIan checking the woodwork for an Orkney ChairIan checking a drawer

The Orkney chair has come a long way from the days where whoever was ‘well-handed’ would made the chair, and from whatever wood could be gleaned from the shore.   Orkney Chairs today are crafted by dedicated chairmakers and grace family homes, castles, museums and galleries.   They are the perfect birthday, wedding, anniversary or retirement gift.

Jackie & Marlene, Michael, Bridget, Leah, Ian and Allan want you to feel you have bought something very special, a treasured heirloom for generations to come. 

As Jackie says “With every chair I feel I have made something special.  If you are handmaking a piece of beautiful furniture which will last not only your own lifetime but into the next, you want it to be right, perfect in fact.  Take a look for yourself!"

Family in their Orkney ChairsOrkney Chair WorkshopBridgetLeah in a Driftwood Hooded Chair