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techdirections January 2014 : Page 24

A Tech Directions Classic Windsor Chair Makes Great Capstone Project By Daniel S. Cote C HALLENGE a talented and experi enced stu-dent of woodworking with making a Windsor chair. It’s a project that combines experience in lathe work, steam bending, and carving, and that re sults in useful proof of technical skills acquired. From my own experi-ence of making two Windsor chairs in an industrial arts class, I feel that a student could build one of these beautiful pieces in a few months and gain considerable knowledge and under standing of the processes I’ve mentioned. The Parts and Their Formation The seat, connecting with spindles, legs, and back, unites and anchors the parts of the chair. It is gouged or carved by hand. Begin by cutting a pattern (Fig. 1) from a pine board using saw and jack plane. When the shape is about right, fasten the board to a solid bench. To avoid splitting or splintering, keep a keen edge on the gouge, and work perpendicular to the grain. Depth and curvature can be deter mined by eye. Since the seat greatly af fects the chair’s appearance, much care, time, Fig. 1—Seat and sanding must go into its con-struction. The legs and the stretchers that spread and reinforce them (Fig. 2) are turned on a lathe using hand-held tools. A dupli cator will not cut the fine lines required by fancy turnings. The bamboo design is easy to turn with a gouge and chisel, and lends grace to the lines of the chair. I used birch for the legs and stretchers because of its ease in turning. For strength and beauty, the spin-dles of the back must be straight. Again, I used birch because it is easy to work. Because of their small di-ameters (3/4" to 1/2"), the spindles cannot be turned on a lathe without chattering or breaking. Cut square strips on the table saw, clamp the stock in a vise, and whittle to size with a drawknife. File and sand to remove ridges. The back is, perhaps, the most frus trating, yet rewarding, part to produce. Steam-bent by hand, it gives the chair its distinctive, pleas-ing form. It is the real eye-catcher. The Windsor back, unlike the rigid backs of most chairs, will give under stress and spring with body move-ment. Here, I used fresh-cut white ash because of its straight grain and easy bending. To bend the back: 1. Prepare a bending jig (Fig. 3). 2. Half fill a pressure cooker with water and put it on a hot plate. 3. Connect the pressure cooker to the capped end of a 4" = 6' PVC 24 tech directions X JANUARY 2014

Windsor Chair Makes Great Capstone Project

Daniel S. Cote

<br /> CHALLENGE a talented and experienced student of woodworking with making a Windsor chair. It’s a project that combines experience in lathe work, steam bending, and carving, and that results in useful proof of technical skills acquired. From my own experience of making two Windsor chairs in an industrial arts class, I feel that a student could build one of these beautiful pieces in a few months and gain considerable knowledge and under standing of the processes I’ve mentioned.<br /> <br /> The Parts and Their Formation<br /> The seat, connecting with spindles, legs, and back, unites and anchors the parts of the chair. It is gouged or carved by hand. Begin by cutting a pattern (Fig. 1) from a pine board using saw and jack plane.<br /> <br /> When the shape is about right, fasten the board to a solid bench. To avoid splitting or splintering, keep a keen edge on the gouge, and work perpendicular to the grain. Depth and curvature can be deter mined by eye. Since the seat greatly affects the chair’s appearance, much care, time, and sanding must go into its construction.<br /> <br /> The legs and the stretchers that spread and reinforce them (Fig. 2) are turned on a lathe using hand-held tools. A duplicator will not cut the fine lines required by fancy turnings. The bamboo design is easy to turn with a gouge and chisel, and lends grace to the lines of the chair. I used birch for the legs and stretchers because of its ease in turning.<br /> <br /> For strength and beauty, the spindles of the back must be straight. Again, I used birch because it is easy to work. Because of their small diameters (3/4" to 1/2"), the spindles cannot be turned on a lathe without chattering or breaking. Cut square strips on the table saw, clamp the stock in a vise, and whittle to size with a draw knife. File and sand to remove ridges.<br /> <br /> The back is, perhaps, the most frustrating, yet rewarding, part to produce. Steam-bent by hand, it gives the chair its distinctive, pleasing form. It is the real eye-catcher. The Windsor back, unlike the rigid backs of most chairs, will give under stress and spring with body movement. Here, I used fresh-cut white ash because of its straight grain and easy bending. To bend the back:<br /> <br /> 1. Prepare a bending jig (Fig. 3).<br /> 2. Half fill a pressure cooker with water and put it on a hot plate.<br /> 3. Connect the pressure cooker to the capped end of a 4" 6' PVC pipe with a 1" dia rubber tube. Allow steam to pass into the pipe where ash strips are stacked in a way that insures even steam distribution.<br /> 4. Keep steam in the chamber by plugging the pipe’s open end with rags.<br /> 5. After steaming one hour, try bending a strip. Once you’ve succeeded, leave the strip in the jig for several days to dry.<br /> <br /> Now you’re ready for assembly. To add to the learning experience, unlike a simple production run, each accurately produced part must still be fitted individually. If a piece doesn’t fit, correct it by sanding or filing.First, fit the legs and stretchers to the seat. Fit the back to the seat.<br /> <br /> With bit and brace, drill the spindle holes, and fit the spindles. Mark each part and take down the chair. Finally, reassemble using glue and wooden wedges.<br /> <br /> The finished chair weighs only about 5 pounds and will support the weight of a 250-pound person.<br /> <br /> References<br /> Dunbar, Michael. Windsor Chairmaking. New York: Hastings House, 1976.<br /> <br /> Gattshall, Franklin H. Reproducing Antique Furniture. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971.<br /> <br /> Pain, F. The Practical Wood Turner. New York: Drake Publishers, 1974.<br /> <br /> This article first appeared in the February 1981 issue of this magazine. Daniel S. Cote was, when he wrote the article, a student of industrial arts and technology at the University of Southern Maine at Gorham. When this article was first published, he was teaching industrial arts at Fort Kent (Maine) Elementary School.

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