Windsor Chair Resources

Windsor chairmaking tips-tools

 || Tip Index ||

QUESTION: I am into making my first stick windsor. I have Drew Langsner and John Brown's books as a guide. My questiion is how to determine the location of the legs. It appears that the front legs are spaced wider and closer to the edge of the seat than the rear legs in examples in both books but I can find little discussion of what factors when into these locations. I see Langsner's diagram with the stated angles, but I am unclear as to what is the starting reference point to obtain those angles. The one windsor chair I have at home has a near perfect square pattern of the four legs. Does it matter or is this an individual decision? My seat blank is poplar and all other parts are ash. I am making a template and recording all measurment as I go, so I would like to get it close to right from the start. If you can help, I will be thankfull.

REPLY: Where you locate the legs and at what angles is a matter of design, appearance and personal choice. Many windsors have the rear legs at a greater angle towards the rear which was probably to combat tipping or leaning back. Then they could use the front legs to help stabilize things side to side. That's just a guess as I've never heard any historical record of design objectives. Many agree that early windsors were likely 3 legged. The tables in Langsers book are great as once you determine your angles, usually by eye, drawing or a model you can calculate the sight lines to reproduce them. JT 4/8/04

REPLY: My recommendation: Adopt a bold attitude and Experiment! There is no right or wrong answer to this particular issue. After you make a few you'll probably change the design anyway. My legs are usually wider and closer to the edge in the front. My back legs have more splay. Alternatively, get a copy of Kassay's book and pick a leg splay you like from one of his very detailed drawings. BG-WKG 4/8/04

REPLY:  A guy from West Virginia told me when I started learning to play the banjo: "Their ain't no notes to a banjo, you just play it." It took me a while to figure that out.

If you're a typical home woodworker with an assortment of machinery at your disposal, the "just go for it" advice you will get from experienced Windsor chair makers probably seems cavalier and risky. After spending so much of your time and effort on making chair parts, you don't want to risk blowing it. Drew Langser's and John Brown's books may also not appear to be very reassuring, or helpful. They are coming from the same place as the rest of the people who make chairs by hand, and you're not there yet. Drilling those leg holes is an adventure, no denying it.

You're looking for a cook book, and I've got just the book for you. But you should know that Drew Langser, and the guys in this Forum, are right. You'll find that out if you continue making chairs.

The book is "Country Chair Making" by Jack Hill. In it he has a "recipe" for a "Low Bow-Back". Having no stretchers, it is an adaptation of a Welsh stick chair- abeit a scaled down version. I made the chair following his dimensions and angles, only I used a brace and bit with a bevel gage instead of a drill press and jig like he instructs. I also used stick parts roughed to the octagonal rather than the dowel stock he specifies. However you approach making your chair, it might be good to read Jack Hill's instructions, and then go back to review Drew Langsner's. The light will come on. GB 4/10/04

REPLY:  I believe the answer to your question might be found in an article written by Michael Dunbar. In Woodwork magazine, issue #50, April 1998, Micheal explanes that the chair's major planes are directed toward a common vanishing point behind the chair (about 6'6"). The lines from the legs can be extended above the seat and they will converge to a point that is also in line with the rear convergence. This is difficult to describe, but Michael does a great job in his article - the pictures helped too. Woodwork magazine is still selling issue #50 in their back issue section. I hope this helps. BT 4/12/04

REPLY: I have made a couple of stick chairs, so this comment is from a beginner's point of view. Whatever you do about spacing, make sure you have enough rake and splay. It really makes a difference to the look and stability of the chair. That may seem obvious, but in my opinion it's easy to underestimate the rake you need. I mean, go with 20 degrees or more. Don't be timid! I'd like to hear the opinions of experienced chairmakers on this. SW 8/19/04


© Copyright Windsor Chair Resources, All Rights Reserved