WD: Chair Maker’s Hall of Shame

wd_hall_of_shame_openerAs I scanned my earlier articles, I realized that they are not exactly linear on how to build a Windsor chair; they don’t describe how to construct it from start to finish. If you ever saw my shop, this would not be a surprise (Fig. 1). Windsor chairs are a large part of my business, but not all of it so I’m constantly moving from one project to another. A set of chairs here, a little millwork there and a bit of restoration over there. Mistakes can be and are made, so along with this linear recap, I have included a few photos cataloging the mistakes I’ve made over the years. I keep them in my “Hall of Shame.” It keeps me humble.

(Fig. 1) There’s a lot going on in my shop. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult for me to work consistently on a single project – that can carry over into my writing.

Because I do so much handwork, my pea-brain can handle doing only about 12 of any operation. I can carve 12 knuckles or crest-rails, scoop 12 seats or paint 12 chairs. Problem is, an order of 12 is rare.  It’s rare, in fact, to get an order for six side chairs. And it’s even more rare for me to make them from start to finish without being sidetracked. 

In a perfect woodworking world, I would get a call from a cash-paying customer every Monday morning who would order eight side chairs and two armchairs – small unmarked bills in a plain brown bag would be nice. They would also tell me to use my judgment on the finish, and that if they got them by Christmas of 2018 that would be great! (I want the Phillies to win the World Series too, but we know how that goes.)

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3 thoughts on “WD: Chair Maker’s Hall of Shame

  1. One of the best articles to appear on 360 yet.
    Especially this part:
    “Rushing to assembly is always a trap, even for experienced woodworkers. Take a breath; make sure all parts are as ship-shape as they can be before assembly. When broken down into simple woodworking operations, a daunting project turns into an heirloom piece.”
    I’m going to print this out & hang it in my shop.

  2. Some good points here but a little dogmatic on the one piece seat vs
    glue up. I advise the readers to look at Chair Notes .Jan. 13 2011
    “Seats Glue up Revisited by Peter Galbert. I have built many one piece and
    some glue ups and have never had one failure so far.

    1. Kerry,
      Joe, in my opinion, is coming at his chairs from a true reproduction point of view. I doubt that you’ll find a period Windsor chair that has a seat glued from two or more boards unless that seat was repaired sometime during its life. As you are aware from reading my articles and posts throughout the years, I prefer to use wide boards for case sides, drawer fronts and other areas instead of glued-up panels. If, however, that option is not available, I say use what you have. Glue is stronger than the wood it joins, but as Chuck often says, “All glues fail at some time.” I don’t necessarily want to be sitting on that chair when the glue decides that it’s had enough.

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