Windsor Chairs

by Tony Peirce of Windsor Heritage

What we do

Windsor Heritage makes handmade Windsor chairs, dining chairs, kitchen counter chairs, tables and other fine furniture for the discerning customer using 18th century hand tools and craftsmanship. Windsor Chairs are beautiful accent chairs and are classic chairs found at dining room tables throughout North America. Windsor settees and arm chairs are both practical and can be used to grace an entrance or veranda. Every piece tells a story and is ergonomically hand crafted. Windsor Heritage chairs are made to last generations and are finished with milk paint and natural oils, which makes them environmentally friendly. We also offer a one-on-one chair making course in Windsor Heritage's workshop, which is located in Stanbridge East, one of the most beautiful villages in Quebec, Canada.

About the Chairmaker and Course

The Chairwright (Chairmaker)

Tony Peirce has been making Windsor Chairs since 2000. He believes that comfortable chairs are one of the most important attributes that a home or cottage can offer its owners and guests. His passion for chairs and furniture making comes by him honestly. His grandfather was a master craftsman who owned a furniture factory during the 1930s and his great-great grandfather made chairs in England. Tony is a Chairmaker Instructor as recognised by Windsor Chair Resources, Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement and Artisan Canada. Tony has been featured in newspaper articles that ran in the National Post, the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and Le Journal St Armand. He has also been featured in a documentary on Mountain Lake PBS.

Windsor Chair Making Course

Have you ever thought of making a chair? Windsor Heritage offers a 5 day chair making course where you can make your own Windsor Chair.

Windsor Heritage is located in Stanbridge East, one of the most beautiful villages in the Eastern Townships and an hour's drive from Montreal. During the course, you will learn how to sharpen and use the hand tools required to make a chair. At the end of the week, the aspiring chairmaker leaves with their own, hand made chair! The one-on-one course includes all materials and the use of all hand tools that are required to build a Windsor chair.

A little on history and chair construction

The Windsor chair is a timeless classic that dates back to the 17th century. It is said that prior to the French Revolution, chairs were reserved for nobility. One tale is that a farmer, who lived near the town of Windsor in England during the late 16th or early 17th century, took a stool and added a back creating the “Windsor chair”. The design was quickly adapted in North America and a range of styles were developed throughout New England and what was Upper and Lower Canada.

Whereas the back and back leg of a traditional dining chair are one and the same, the legs and back of a Windsor chair attach to the seat. This enables the chair maker to modify the angle of the back independently of the legs, making the Windsor chair extremely comfortable. Tony uses this key feature as well as the sculpted seat and chair height to meticulously adjust each chair to meet needs of his clients.

Most Windsor chairs made in North America are made from three different kinds of wood. Pine, poplar or basswood is used for the seats allowing them to be deeply sculpted to fit the natural body contours and to support the legs in their tapered sockets. Hardwoods such as maple or birch are used for chair legs and arm stumps. Tony turns his chair legs on a lathe and does not use a copier. Oak, ash and hickory, which are both strong and flexible, are used for the spindles and bent parts. The wood is split or “rived” by hand, such that the grain is continuous down the length of the riving ensuring that the wood is flexible and easily bent. The spindles, arms and bows are carved by hand with a drawknife and spokeshave. The bows and arms are all steam bent.

Windsor chairs are held together mechanically as well as with glue. A tapered hole or mortise is bored through one piece and the matching tapered end of the second piece or tenon is inserted in the hole. A wedge is then driven into the end of this tenon, flaring it tight in the hole. The excess wedge and tenon are trimmed flush with the surface. Windsor chairs usually have stretchers connecting the front and back legs and a cross stretcher connecting the two side stretchers. The stretchers actually push the legs apart and keep the legs under tension, which is why hand made Windsor chairs almost never come apart.

More detailed information on Windsor Chairs can be found in the classic reference: “The Windsor Style in America: The Definitive Pictorial Study of the History and Regional Characteristics of the Most Popular Furniture Form of 18th Century America 1730-1840” and on Wikipedia. Tips on chair construction, tools, other chairmakers and courses can be found at Windsor Chair Resources.

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© 2018 Tony Peirce