Windsor Chair Resources

Windsor chairmaking tips-tools

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Steambox for Settees:

I bend one end at a time; use half the regular C. A. or Sackback form. No special form or long steambox needed. DS 10/29/99

I have a steam box I made from 1/4 inch plywood a little over 5' long.I just butt jointed the corners and screwed it together with drywall screws. It works fine and it's several years old now. When I needed a longer box for a settee, I just made an extension the same way but added a sleeve to slip over the end of my box. My advice is to concentrate on your burner and boiler to make sure you get volumous quantities of steam and don't spend a lot of time or money on the box. WKG 7/24/99

I though I'd made a steambox long enough for most chairs and then got an order for a Cont. arm settee. I ended up bending the rail in two parts and making an epoxy glued scarf joining the two halves. It worked great and I really didn't want a seven foot steambox anyway. JT 6/22/99

Some chairmakers use a standard steambox and steam each end separately for a settee.  It can get rather cumbersome to have a long length steambox in the workshop unless you are planning on making a number of settees, and even those may vary in length.  It is also  less efficient to use a long box length for steaming shorter rails.  I have a wooden steambox of cedar on which I can attach a second box for longer rail steaming.

The back rails on settees can vary greatly in size depending on the style and length of the settee. Langsner offers a sack-back plan in his book, and Kassay's book has measurements for a long settee. You can get an idea by finding a settee style you like, and measuring the back rail. PE 6/9/99


Fine Quality Braces:  Keep looking until you find a Yankee brace. I didn't know what a good brace was like until I found one at a flea market for $10.00. WKG 3/22/99

The only half way decent one that is still being made is the top of the line Stanley. Lee Valley has one that they claim holds round shank drills but I can't get it to hold anything well. But there are tons of good used braces out there for $10-$20 and that is the way most people go. Take a bit along to make sure it holds securely and that bushings and things seem tight.  JT 3/9/99


Bow Saws: There is a good article in the American Woodworker magazine about making your own bow saw. WKG 2/20/99 ( Note: AW#63, Dec.1997, How to Make & Use a Bowsaw, Yeung Chan WCR)

I have a bowsaw from Garrett Wade, that I bought in kit form. If I had my drouthers, I would have only bought the handles, blades, and maybe the string. The woods they use, a mix of tropical hardwoods, do not have the straightest grain, and were really prone to chipping when cutting the tenons. There was a thread on this subject, not long ago, on the old tools mailing list, check the archive for a more in depth discussion. JH 3/19/99


Travisher:   The travisher by Fred Emhoff, Wharton Chairworks (see tool page) is regarded highly as a quality tool.  No personal experience yet, as I'm still awaiting the arrival of mine (there is a several month wait for the handcrafted tool.)  You can read a review of it in the October 1997 issue of Fine Woodworking, on page 102.  PE  8/19/98

It's worth the wait for Fred's travisher. They are all they are advertised to be. I have the second one he made (1995) and love it. DW 9/27/98

I haven't used Fred's travisher, if it works as well as his reamer and spoon bits I'm sure it's great. I have one of Leon Robbins though and it also is a wonderful tool. It came unbelievably sharp and ready to go right out of the box. Leon also makes a small compass plane that is beautiful as well as a useful tool. JT 9/29/98

Fred was nice enough to loan me what he called a "pretty beat up" travisher while he is making mine. Not only does the loaner make quick work of finishing a seat, but it's a very nice looking tool, actually a beautiful tool.  WKG 10/1/98

Since my post in '98 in Chair Tips regarding Fred Emhoff's travisher I have also acquired a Crown travisher - the tightest radius one. It also works extremely well. I use it only on the most deeply sculpted part of seats where Fred's won't reach as well. If I had to use only one, I'd use Fred's, but I'm very pleased to have both. WKG 3/15/01


Compass Plane: I checked the Emhoff travisher and Crown's little compass plane and the compass plane has the tighter radius. I didn't actually measure the radius but it appears to be significantly tighter (although it is still a gentle curve).  PE 11/17/99

Compass Plane: The compass plane is typically used after an inshave or scorp to refine the shape and start to remove ridges etc. I use the travisher last, set fine to remove most tool marks amd leave a finished surface. I've never had a problem with the adjustment. I had made a small compass plane previously which worked great but Leon's plane was too beautiful to resist. The tools used for saddling the seat vary between chairmakers, some don't use an adze and do most of the work with the scorp, I used a large gouge and mallet for a time. Now I use an adze, then a scorp followed by the compass plane and lastly the travisher. Then a light sanding and I have the finish and texture I want, which shows tool marks slightly. JT 10/8/98


Adz/Scorp/Inshave: On the subject of tools, I use Drew Langsner's adze and inshave. Both are absolutely first rate tools. The adze designed by Drew beats any other I have used and the inshave can produce a near finished surface. They also hold an edge. I've had both several years and have never had to resharpen them but I hone them after each use on a hard felt wheel. WKG 10/1/98
Treadle Lathe Plans: Don Weber wrote an article in the Oct 96 American Woodworker on "make a treadle lathe with stuff available from a home center" and also teaches a class at Conover Workshops where you make the same thing except you use a bow instead of the  bungee cord in the article. A picture of one I made in his class last year is at www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/8862/galoot.htm   It is very nice in that it knocks down into pieces that max out at 5' long and will fit in the back of a Honda Civic hatchback, so you can take it places. It also keeps kids amused for an amazingly long time....  EH 3/12/99


Big Shave:  Who makes the blade?  Have any of the "name" chairmakers used/reviewed the shave? PB 10/5/99

Reply: I have the big shave made by Woodjoy. The blade is made by Ray Larsen at Genuine Forgery. I'd like to put a Hock blade in it. Dunbar uses one sometimes in his chair classes and recommends them to all his students. I still find mine awkward to use. MT. 10/16/99


Reshaping a Round Bottom Spokeshave

I have a Record Stanley Round Bottom Spokeshaves. One thing which has been frustrating me with these tools is that the round bottom spokeshave just doesn't produce a nice smooth cut like my other tools. The round bottom shave is, however, a necessary tool in my opinion for shaping the inside of bows among other things. By trial and error, I stumbled upon a simple reshaping of the plane which produced startling good results. By rubbing the bottom on sandpaper on glass, I shaped a flat area on both sides of the mouth, about 3/16 inch wide on both sides. Just enough to provide a little support on both sides of the blade. Worked great! BG 6/11/00


Tenon Cutters/Jigs: 

I bought a Lee Valley tenon maker a year ago and couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the tool and how it works. I use 5/8's tenons on my stretchers and that size tenoner mated perfectly with my 5/8 spoon bit as it came from from Lee valley. I haven't needed to sharpen it yet but the main body serves as a sharpening jig so I can't imagine it will be difficult. It saves me 10-15 minutes every chair and does as good or better a job. JT 3/10/01

2. I have a set of tenon cutters that lay in the box now for the most part. I am now using a steel plate with a series of holes for tenon and spindle sizes. I have also "sized" bits to match the holes for the tenons, this gives me a good fit since I do not put facets on my spindle tenons. The facets work ok in a soft wood but just do not meet the need in hardwood such as cherry. JGH 3/29/01

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QUESTION: I am making a chair with a shaped seat similar to a windsor chair seat and have purchased an inshave to help with the process. Mine (Ox Head brand), arived with a double bevel. How is this tool supposed to be shaped and sharpened? I had assumed that the cutting edge would be shaped like a carving gouge or drawknife, bevel on the bottom and straight on top. Should I return it and buy a different brand? If so what brands would you recommend. MH5/8/04.

REPLY: I can't advise as to returning your inshave, or what I call a scorp.I've never seen a double bevel on this type of tool.I have two different ones that I use all the time,and these both have a knife edge, which works well for me and is easy to sharpen.My first was a Genuine Forgery (contact info on this site)- which is excellent, and the other is a Barr Tools scorp that has a larger radius, and is very well made.I can't help but wonder how this double bevel works on a scorp...maybe great, I don't know. I do know that with any inshave/scorp....if you've never used one before...it can be awkward at first, and one must get acquainted for a bit, to truly become one with this tool. MWT 5/9/04.

REPLY: For me,double bevel has meant a secondary steeper bevel ground out near the final edge of the tool,say on chisels.I've seen this also refered to as a micro bevel.A distinct line can be seen along the edge where these two angles meet.The knife edge I maintain on my draw knives and scorp,I would call a convex profile.So if the original tool in question has a knife edge and not a micro bevel,or whatever......then he just needs to get the hang of it.Maybe also I need to sharpen my terminology. MWT 5/10/04

REPLY: The discussion on inshaves or scorps is a recurring theme here. There are several brands that are available, and they all can be made to do the job with varying amounts of grinding and sharpening.

In addition to the bevel, the cross section of the cutting edge is another variable. Some, like Genuine Forgery's are made with a circular cross section. Drew Langsner's Country Workshop inshave and the German one sold by Woodcraft come in more of U shaped cross section. Some like this because it gives them a variation of curve radii to work with. Flatter in the middle, more curved on the sides. One thing to keep in mind is that working with the flatter part of the edge means you are biting into more wood, which means more work and probably more propensity for chattering.

Genuine Forgery's inshave comes with two rounded bevel edges that I believe are the best geometry for an inshave. The tool will require a bit of honing after its arrival. Drew Langsner's inshave comes sharp as all get-out, but I believe that the flat double bevel angles are a little steep. The amount of work required to change the geometry to a less steep, slightly rounded geometry is about the amount of work it takes to put an adequequately sharp edge on the Genuine Forgery. The Woodcraft one needs both grinding and honing, and you'll never be as happy using it as you would a G.F. or one of Drew's but the price may fit your budget better. (I have no experience with Barr's or Ox Head Inshaves.) GB 5/18/04 clear

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