I have friend’s who lives nearby they just happen to be artisan brewers this is their facebook page La Brasserie Verte but that’s not the point of the post, Helen and Stuart also own a commercially made Windsor chair which has become a small bone of contention within the family. Helen’s father Doug finds it the most comfortable chair he has ever sat in and has dropped many a hint that he would like to own the chair, Helen remembering that I made Windsor chairs redirected Doug’s attentions about chairs to my ability and after a little deliberation Doug has commissioned a chair from me.
I had seen the chair on a couple of occasions and new it was a substantially made chair from a large scale manufacturer who had designed from the point of view of speed and ease of manufacture, but never the less it fits Doug’s stature and looks good sitting in Helens kitchen dinner. Doug sent me some photos to reference in the making of his chair.
We have swapped a couple of emails shared a couple of cups of coffee and some ideas Doug has seen some of my own chairs at home and likes the walnut seat with chestnut spindles and he wants it to be comfortable, while I don’t like the design of the chair and find it uncomfortable there are a few reasons Doug find the chair comfortable which have to be replicated to meet the comfort requirement. The seat is a standard hight from the floor but the arms are narrow so the chair does not invite you to sit but once you do sit the arms hug you. The back is high and the angle is more acute than I would normally make and the slats curve too high for me but ideally for Doug as he is long in the body. The back slats in the original chair are cut to shape and consequently thicker that they need to be and not as flexible as they could be, I will improve on this by steam bending the new ones which will allow me to use thinner material and will be more flexible and more comfortable, and now its time to start making the chair.
I purchased the dry walnut slab from the local mill but used chestnut from my own property which has already been drying for a couple of years in the round.
I cut the checking from the end of the slab revealing the amazing grain of the walnut and then cut some chestnut logs to length ready for splitting.
I split the timber for all the spindles and slats traditionally this ensures the grain runs undisturbed for the full length of the spindle, note I’m splitting it in half.
Then half again and again for the back slats if you try to take smaller sections off to one side the grain will split out and drift off thin at the end and you will waste material.
Here is all the timber I need to make the chair plus some extras in case I fined some faults hiding inside
Now its time to take off the corners with an axe before taking the timber to the lathe. Here is the timber mounted between centres on my old Wadkin RS6 lathe.
I will only use one tool at this stage to rough each spindle down to a 6cm cylinder, the roughing gouge does what it says on the label it rough cuts large amounts of timber away quickly.
Here you can see the before and after of the spindles the one on the left after I use an axe to take the corners off and the one on the right after rough turning no measuring at this stage its all done by eye.
Once all the turning is done I hand work the slats with a draw knife before finally putting them through my planner this again ensures the grain runs through the whole slat without too much disruptions this is essential to maximise the strength and longevity of the chair. Once all the work is done I have a pile of spindles to put to one side for dying.
Now I tuck the spindles in beside the Rayburn to help them dry a little quicker, but note not the slats they stay wet ready for steam bending.
Next time I will show you what I do with the walnut slab to form the seat of the chair.