Make your own Windsor chair with Tony Peirce in his workshop in the beautiful Eastern Townships of Quebec. Tony is a chair maker Instructor listed by Windsor Chair Resources and Canadian Woodworking. The one-on-one course includes all materials, the use of all hand tools required to build a Windsor chair as well as a detailed instruction manual on how to make a Windsor chair. At the end of the week, the aspiring chair maker leaves with their own, hand made chair!
The first step is to prepare the seat blank, which is made from two 2" X 10" boards, which are planed, jointed and glued and clamped together. The glue holding the two halves of the seat blank together must cure for 24 hours.
Components of the chair back are then rived from green red oak that is split using a froe. This ensures that the grain of the wood goes from one end to the other, which makes them both strong and flexible.
All the back components, the spindles, the bow and the arm are shaped by shaving the wood from green blanks using a hand plane, drawknife and spokeshave. Homemade gauges are used to help guide shaping the parts to the correct size.
Once they are shaped the arm and bow are steamed, which plasticizes the wood. After the appropriate length of time, they are bent on forms and then allowed to cool and dry overnight.
The seat blank is cut to its proper shape and then carved to form the seat "saddle" using the gutter adze, the scorp, the compass plane and travisher, which are shown above from left to right. During the course, I also teach how to sharpen and use these tools.
The edges of the seat are shaped using a drawknife and spokeshave so that the seat is rounded under. In this photograph, Richard, one of my first students, is learning to smooth the seat edge with a spokeshave.
The saddle of the seat is carved out nearly 1” deep. A gutter adze, a scorp, compass plane and travisher are used to accomplish this. The saddle makes the Windsor chair, one of the most comfortable chairs there are. In this picture I am demonstrating the use of the scorp.
The seat is prepared to accept legs using a brace, spoon bits and a tapered reamer. The course teaches how to drill mortises in the legs at the proper angles to accept the stretchers using spoon bits. The student learns how to adjust the positioning of the legs as well as how to adjust the length and angles of the legs and stretchers.
A key to the strength of Windsor chairs is that stretchers are made a little long so that when assembled, they are always put mechanical pressure on the legs. The chair undercarriage is assembled this way and the legs are wedged in place where they pass through the seat. Chairs assembled in this way never come apart!
Once the chair is legged up, mortises for the arm stumps and spindles are drilled in the seat at the appropriate angles. I teach how to vary the angle of the back to fit the owner comfortably, much like we adjust the angle of a car's seat back!
The spindles, arm and bow are prepared for assembly by scraping and sanding them. Mortises are drilled in in the arm and bow at the appropriate angles using a brace and spoon bits to accept the spindles and arm stump.
The arm is then mounted on the arm stumps and the angle adjusted using a tapered reamer. Every spindle is adjusted so that each one helps to support the arm.
On the last day, the bow is fit to the arm and spindle mortises are drilled freehand in the bow using a brace and spoon bit.
The bow is assembled and the spindles are glued and wedged in place. Once the glue has dried, wedges are trimmed and the chair is prepared for finishing.