Process

Step One:

These traditional bench-made Windsor Chairs are constructed utilizing the methods that craftsmen have used for more than 200 years. Each chair starts with a 2-inch thick piece of pine or white wood used in the seat. The bows and arm rails are rived from a log, and the legs are turned out of maple. Being produced one at a time, each style chair has its own uniquely designed pattern/template which is used to replicate that particular chair, over and over again. The process begins with the pattern being traced on the seat blank. Once the seat is sawn to shape, the saddling of the seat begins with the use of an archaic-looking tool called an adze, which looks something like an axe with a curved blade. Standing over the seat, the maker begins chopping away at the blank. The adze removes a lot of wood quickly, and the maker continues this process until he feels he has removed enough wood to move onto the next saddling tool: the scorp.

Step Two:

The scorp is a forged, curved blade with two handles. The maker clamps the seat to the bench and begins cleaning up the marks made by the adze, bringing the seat closer to the desired depth. He then uses a series of tools – compass plane, drawknife travisher and spoke shave – to refine the seat to its final shape. He checks his progress by rubbing his hand along the seat, feeling for irregularities. He will continue to work at it until the surface is smooth and uniform.

Step Three:

Setting the legs is next. Referring to the template, the maker strikes a series of layout lines on the seat blank to mark the location of the legs and the angles at which they are drilled. After carefully drilling all four legs, he uses a tapered reamer which matches the top of the legs, and begins tweaking the hole to the exact position needed for symmetry and stability. Once all four legs are correct, the stretcher system is measured, angles are calculated and holes are drilled into the legs. This is a very important step in building the chair. When a person sits, most of their weight is exerted to the undercarriage (the legs and stretchers). The chairs I build take that into consideration. When measuring the stretchers, a certain amount of preload is added to the length of the stretchers to keep the undercarriage tight for many generations. When all is right, the undercarriage can be glued onto the seat. Glue is applied to the leg holes, and the entire undercarriage assembly is then inserted from the bottom. The legs are tapped to seat them firmly, and then they are wedged from the top.

Step Four:

Next, the tops of the legs are trimmed flush with the seat. The chair is then leveled, and the legs are cut to achieve the desired height. The maker then refers back to the template to lay out the location of spindle and stump holes. These are drilled, making them ready to accept their corresponding parts. The maker then turns his attention to the arm rail and bow. These parts, along with the spindles, are usually made several days in advance because they are rived from green wood and steam bent. They must be dry before being inserted into the chair.

Step Five:

The arm rail, bow and spindles are finish dimensioned scraped, sanded and fit to the chair after the holes are drilled in the arm and everything has had a test fit. The arm assembly is then glued and wedged into the seat.

Step Six:

Last is the bow. After the holes are drilled, the bow is test fit, then glued and wedged. A final sand and paint are the only processes remaining before you have a finished chair.

Step Seven:

The paint is applied to the finished chair.