My first chair

This past August I started working with my friend Jim Crammond building a Windsor chair. Jim is a hobbyist woodworker who happens to enjoy making Windsors. He also teaches classes at Tillers International in Scotts, MI on how to make Windsor chairs and stools. I met Jim through the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and bugged him to give me a one-on-one lesson.

I got the interest in learning to make one of these chairs after seeing a sack back that Mike Dunbar made at Roy Underhill’s mill. (Talk about name dropping!) Since seeing that chair I bought John Brown’s Welsh Stick Chairs and Drew Langsner’s The Chairmaker’s Workshop. Since getting these books and seeing all the different styles, I really came to love the comb backs, sack backs, and the stick chairs that John Brown made.

So after meeting Jim and convincing him that it would be a good idea to teach me how to make a chair, we decided to start with probably the simplest of the Windsors, the bow back. Jim’s thought was that the bow back gives you lessons in use of the drawknife to make the spindles and back, steam bending to form the back, turning the legs and stretchers, carving the seat, and assembly.

On my first visit, we split out a red oak log for the spindles and then shaped those with a drawknife and spokeshave. On my last visit we split out a piece of red oak for the back, shaped it, and then steam bent it. I also started to turn the maple legs. Hopefully I’ll be heading back to Jim’s in a couple of weeks to make some more legs. I am guessing it should take three more visits to get the turning done, make the seat, and then assemble it. So far the whole process has been great. Jim is a very good instructor and courteous host. My only regret is that I can’t really practice any of the lessons learned in my current living situation. Unfortunately there really isn’t any room for a pile of logs, a shavehorse, or a lathe in an apartment. I also have serious case of shop envy.

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About messimerwoodworking

I'm a hobbyist woodworker. I live in a two bedroom apartment that I am fortunate enough to have a workbench in. Hand tools, lumber, time, and hopefully some acquired skill will produce some respectable furniture. We'll see...........
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5 Responses to My first chair

  1. Jamie Bacon says:

    Awesome! A Windsor is high on my bucket list. I really like the philadelphia comb backs. Jim Rendi’s book, “Traditional windsor chair making” is a great reference for these. Well written with lots of good step by step photos. Can’t wait to follow along on your progress with the chair.

  2. Dean says:

    Hello Andrew, I don’t think my reply is relevant to leave here, but I couldn’t find an email contact for you, or a place that I could leave a message. I discovered your blog only recently. Being an apartment dwelling woodworker wannabe, your blog subtitle caught my attention. This particular post is the first time I’ve seen a picture of your shop which is why I’m replying here.

    I was wondering if you have other pictures (maybe a shop tour?), that I could get some ideas from for my apartment. After looking at your first May 2011 post it sounds like you had your shop already up and running when you started your blog. I was hoping you could share some insights you’ve gained from setting up and using your apartment shop. Maybe in a future post.

    Thank you Andrew.

    • Dean,

      The shop picture in this post is actually my friend Jim’s shop. There is a picture of my “shop” at the end of the post “A bit more” from last March. Not knowing your current living situation, I’ll just give you a quick run down of what I have.

      My “shop” is the 2nd bedroom of my apartment. It shares the space with a queen size bed, desk, book shelf, and two cd racks. I have a bench, two small tool chests, and some random boards in that space. My bench is from the plans from The New Yankee Workshop. It is just a 2×4 frame, with a plywood and hardboard top. It is far from ideal but it serves its purpose. I had made that while I was still living at home and had access to power tools. My full size tool chest currently lives in the living room. I keep only the wood I need for the project at hand. Currently I am building a Shaker style hutch (which I’ll eventually get around to writing about) and the assembled carcase is currently in the main bedroom. (Full disclosure: I have an awesome wife who puts up with my woodworking craziness.) The apartment itself is on the first floor. So far I haven’t gotten any noise complaints but I do my best to work on weekends or no later than 9pm during the week. I will take stuff back home to work on occasion when I need more room, and always when it comes to finishing.

      Hope this gives you a better idea of how I work.

      Thanks for reading, Andrew

  3. Dean says:

    Thank you for some very useful and encouraging information. What I found amazing, after looking at the pictures of your shop area, is that it’s almost exactly what I’m going to have to work with. I have about 46 sq. ft. off the end of the bed in our master bedroom. It’s about an 8’ x 5.75’ area. It seems to be sufficient space to at least put a moderately sized workbench with room to work in front of the bench. I also have a blank wall space to mount something on but haven’t decided what yet. I too have an awesome wife, however she occupies the second bedroom with her things (about 120 sq. ft.).

    Your pictures are very encouraging. Now, I still have to figure out how to get a workbench together, and get some additional tools. However, I have some extra motivation now, and I thank you for that.

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