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.