The American Windsor Chair
America has a rich tradition of craftsmanship. Are forefathers were Innovators, inventors, intellectuals, rebels, hustlers, go-get-ers, and we were certainly willing to work hard and do what ever it takes to be the best of the best. The term American made has always been synonymous with the best quality. The American Windsor chair is a perfect example of this ingenuity and innovation.
Although the Windsor chair has its roots in Europe, it is a well known fact that it reached the highest levels of quality in the hands of the American craftsman in the mid to late 1700's. Our fearlessness and rebellious nature forced us to take a European design and revamp it. Changing the chair so much that it became something completely different.
One thing that help usher in this new era was the natural resourced that america had to offer. In the Northeast and Especially here in Michigan, we have unique access to very special trees that have very specific properties. Hard Maple, Oak, And Eastern White Pine. American Craftsman quickly learned how to exploit these wonderful properties of these trees and this is what allowed the american craftsman to perfect the design of the chair.
What is a Windsor Chair?
The highly sculpted seat is the keystone of the windsor chair. All or most of the parts are anchored into the seat to seam as is all the parts are "growing" from the seat. The design is incredibly elegant and efficient. All the parts are joined into the seat in such a way that everything becomes one part.
Windsor chairs are always made of many different types of woods. This is why windsor chairs are most always painted. The harsh contrast of three different types of woods in a natural finish would be to jarring. especially after the wood begins to oxidize and change color. Each wood used has very specific properties that perform a particular function that other wood could not do.
Hard maple is used for all the turned parts of the chair. This wood has the properties of being very fine grained which takes fine details well. Hard maple can take such sharp details that is can actually cut you like a knife. Luckily for me, I live in Adrian, Michigan which is known as The Maple City. Our high school team mascot is the Maple leaf. We are the Adrian Maples.
White or Red oak:
Oak is used for all the parts that require flexibility. The spindles for comfort, and all the steam bent parts because oak bends well. Oak Is extremely durable and extremely flexible. This wood is plentiful in Michigan and especially in my neck of the woods.
Eastern White Pine:
This is the state tree of Michigan. This wood is used for the seats because of its stability, strength and lightness. It is said that America was built of Eastern White Pine. The Seats come from one very large piece of wood and exposes a beautiful grain pattern underneath the paint.
Learn Windsor Chairmaking with Luke A. Barnett
Classes are offered at the Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute in Adrian, MI. We will start with logs on Day 1 and finish with a Windsor Chair in classes ranging from 4 to 8 days depending on chair style. Students will learn how to obtain and choose the ideal logs for a chair. Student will learn how to rive the logs to get perfect straight grained lumber. We will learn steam bending and how to build a kiln and control the moisture content in the wood to get the best out of it. We will sculpt the spindles and carve the seat. These are hand tool intensive classes. Register for classes with Luke A. Barnett at LongLiveWood.org