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First Windsor chair - all hand tools build



more pictures at the end of the article

Summary

I’ve been working on this chair over two years on and off following the Windsor chair videos of Curtis Buchanan and making use of Peter Galbert’s Chairmaker’s Notebook as well as the companion plans. This is the bamboo style fan back side chair. It takes some time to wrap your head around all the individual steps that go into such a chair, but I’m happy with how it turned out and look forward to making more chairs.

Material

Crest, stretchers, posts and undercarriage are from domestic oak. The seat is made from laminated low grade hardware store fir and it showed in the processing and the result, though the end result works well enough. The finish is milk paint black on barn red coated with linseed oil and polished with beeswax paste.

Tools

The chair is made solely with hand-tools, no machines or power tools have been used, not even a cordless drill (full disclosure: I did use an electric wallpaper steamer as a steam source for bending the crest, not sure I’d call it a tool, though)

Since this was my first chair I had to build some equipment to perform certain tasks (I did utilize a cordless drill in building these):

  • foot powered treadle lathe
  • shaving horse
  • kiln/drying cabinet
  • bending form

Hand-tools

  • wedges
  • froe
  • mallet
  • axes
  • drawknives
  • spokeshaves
  • adze
  • inshave
  • travisher
  • brace and augers
  • egg beater drill and bits
  • tapered reamer
  • sliding bevel
  • measurement tools (tape measure, folding rule, steel rule, square, compass)
  • turning chisels
  • backsaw
  • bevel-edge chisel
  • v-chisel
  • hammer

Process history

It started in January 2017 with building a foot powered lathe to plans by Richard Maguire (TheEnglishWoodworker). This would allow me to turn the legs and stretchers of the undercarriage as well as the two posts. After some turning practice, I made a reamer for tapering the leg and post mortices in the seat. It broke eventually so I had to make a new one during the build.

In February and March, I printed the plans from Peter Galbert to size on paper, stitched them and transferred the parts to polystyrol sheets to get templates that would last a while.

During April, I was able to start riving using some 2+ year old firewood in meter pieces that was still chunky enough to be sufficiently green to be worked well with hand tools. I built a shaving horse to Tim Manney’s instructions so I could start on whittling the spindles. I also prepared the blanks for turning and started to rough out the turnings.

In May I got a fresh log of oak from a nearby forrest to complete the parts like legs and crest.

Had some lull in June an July where I dabbled in bowl turning with a self-forged turning hook, trying to built a travisher and failing at the steel preparation of the process and built a few other pieces of furniture.

August saw me doing a test foot stool to get an idea of how the tapered mortis and tenon works out as well as testing the milkpaint and oil finish.

In fall I got started on the seat I had glued up by drilling the holes. I made a kiln and roughed out the crest. Got sidetracked with building a Swedish children’s house in the garden and building a big oak dining table so progress on the chair was limited.

In 2018, I built a coat rack, a kitchen lamp and was generally busy with setting up my workshop, so it wasn’t until September, that I got back to the chair with steam bending the crest, starting to kiln dry the parts and roughing out the shape of the seat.

That fall I started fitting the legs and posts as well as the stretchers and the crest with posts and spindles but I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, so I can’t reconstruct the timing accurately. Also the seat was completed at that time and the crest finished with carving and grooves.

By January 2019 the chair was fully assembled and glued up as well as prepared for finishing. I applied two coats of barn red milk paint and 2-3 coats of black milk paint. Over a lengthy process of 6-8 weeks, I applied 3-4 coats of pure, filtered linseed oil, each drying for about two weeks. A final coat of beeswax, dissolved in turpentine to a paste, completed the chair.

I haven’t tracked the hours and a lot of time was spent on figuring out the process itself, but this was a significant project for me for what it taught me about chair making and using the tools required for it.

Process details

If I am notified of interest in details of the individual process steps, I may add them here.

Various photos throughout the built

foot powered lathe



chair plans

reamer and tapered round tenon test



raw material

shaving horse and spindles

turning legs, stretchers and posts





drilling the mortises



steam bending the comb



kiln

carving the seat

reaming the mortises and fitting legs



fitting comb and carving back of seat

finishing



completed chair and details

















Thanks for reading!