During Jan. and Feb. 2013, one of my main projects was a Windsor chair.
The origin of this chair is England, and the design is over 300 years old. They have come a long way since then though- as the English first used these chairs outdoors in their gardens. Eventually the chairs were adapted to use anywhere in the home, and as more new variations emerged, became quite a fashion statement. The type that my chair is patterned after is a distinctly American variation- the Comb-Back.
This chair was primarily made in and around Philadelphia, and is often referred to as the “Philadelphia Comb-Back”. I used all traditional American materials: a thick yellow pine seat, oak for the shaved spindles, and “green” maple for the legs.
It was a blast making this chair, although the work is not for the faint of heart… It takes a bit of practice to properly use the hand tools in carving and forming the pine for the seat.
This is a shot of the seat just before the carving was complete.
The oak used can also be quite unforgiving...
Several times during the process of spindle-making, when the wood was not cooperating, I had to discard half-made spindles, and start fresh with a new piece of wood. It’s all part of the process though, as I learned that a big part of making these chairs is just working efficiently, and knowing when to toss an unruly piece to the side and start again with a better one.
-Here are my spindles when I was about halfway through with shaping them.
-The real charm of the chair started to emerge after it was assembled, and was ready for paint.
As I began to apply the milk paint, (the finish traditionally used on these chairs) all of the different types of wood were unified into a single form, and the overall shape of the chair could be seen. I couldn’t help but stand back and admire it, almost as if it was a living thing.
To finish it off, I used a careful distressing technique, to give it a well-loved and worn-in look, as if to say to the person about to sit down: “take a load off, old friend- generations of relaxed, satisfied users don’t lie.”
All in all, I am really pleased with the final result, and I have already begun constructing a second Windsor in a different style- the continuous-arm chair, another distinctly American twist on the classic Windsor chair.
-Thanks for reading!