At last I've caught up, after, for me, a not very good winter. My intention was to produce two new chairs, the sack-back Windsor and the continuous arm Windsor, in time to include them in an exhibition in Portsmouth, NH from April to September. I just made it with the sack-back Windsor along with the older Shaker, Governor Carver, bow-back, and sack-back Windsor chairs.
The Exhibition Balcony Gallery
My Miniature Chairs
The gutter is the break line between the flat rear area and the carved out sitting area.
Another photocopy. The arrow points to a, very feint, gutter line. Inside of that I've drawn another line 1/2" inside of it.
Cut and trace that curve onto, in this case, 3/8" MDF, and then bandsaw the shape.
Attach it to the underside of a piece of 3/4" plywood that is the exact width of the seat blank. Add a side and end fence to make it easy to locate the blanks in their correct location. Finally add a De-Sta-Co style clamp (mine is from Harbor Freight) to hold the blank in place while routing the gutter
Why 1/4" at the first photo? I have located a 1/2" rod on my drill press. The holding jig will rub along this rod, while the 1mm Dremel cutter, at the highest drill press speed, routes out the gutter. The quill had been lowered to the correct depth.
Making the holding/routing jig and setting it up on the drill press took two and a half hours, with interuptions. Routing and sanding the gutter took one hour.
I realized early on with my first miniature chair, that development time could not be included in the final price if the price was to be kept within reason. So I rationalize by think of jig/development time as my hobby, and only production time contributes to the selling price.
I cut seat blanks to 3-1/2" x 2-3/4" x 3/8". The pine I had yielded 32 pieces. I'm aiming for 20 good seats so this will give me leeway. Some of them will be used up during the gutter routing process - more on this later.
A center line is added, and then the template can be used to draw the perimeter and the locations of all of the holes to be drilled except for the leg holes - again, more on this later.
The seat template never comes out symmetrical. Drawing, eyesight, transferring from paper to metal, and finally cutting the metal creates many opportunities for inaccuracies, and I seem to take at least some of those opportunities. Not to worry though, I lay the template on the wood, center line to center line and mark out one side of the center line, flip the template over and repeat for the other side.
After my last post I got to thinking that maybe I should ask Mike if it was OK to use his name and experience in public to further my work, so I tracked him down to ask for absolution. I knew that he had stopped his Windsor chair building classes, but wasn't aware that he was now producing wonderful free videos of the whole process of making, by coincidence, a sack-back Windsor.
The screenshot above is from his introduction to his first video. Check them out - www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Kzd_AqiBA
This is the seat drawing from Mike Dunbar's book.
Scale measurements added.
My graph paper, at 17 squares, was exactly 3-13/32", and the depth of the seat at 2-19/32" was exactly 13 squares.
So, I made a 17 x 13 square grid on the copy with the scale measurements.
I laid this drawing onto a piece of aluminum flashing and transferred the shape and drilling points. It is important to mark the center line as it will be used for aligning this template correctly on the wood when marking out.
And finally I drilled a small hole where spindles and legs will go. I used a #60 drill bit.
Last week I started on my next miniature chair, which is to be the sack-back, or double bow, Windsor. I have six books, plus a web download, of sack-back working drawings, some with just the scaled drawings and some with text that describes to a greater or lesser extent the process of making full size chairs using traditional tools and methods.
Which should I use?
Spreading out the seven variations I see that they are all very similar except that each of the authors, all of whom are/were themselves chair makers, made their chairs based on models from different times and places in the USA. One difference stood out, however : some of the chairs had baluster turnings (the leftmost of the two shapes), and some had later, 1780s, bamboo style turnings (the other one), which is what I went for. I decided to use Mike Dunbar's book Make a Windsor Chair. Mike, who I only know through his writing, is a long time teacher and maker of Windsor chairs
Sources of Sack-back Windsor Chair Working Drawings
-Make a Windsor Chair - Mike Dunbar - Popular Woodworking Books,2013
-Windsor Chairmaking - James Mursell - The Crowood Press, 2015
-Classic American Furniture - Time Life,
-Measured Drawings of 18th Century American Furniture - Ejner Handberg - Countryman Press,1993
-The Chairmaker's Workshop - Drew Langsner - Lark Books,2001
-Chairmaking Simplified - Kerry Pierce - Popular Woodworking Books,2008
-The Book of American Windsor Furniture - University of Massachusetts Press,1998
-A Classic Windsor Chair - Woodarchivist.com
Below are two pictures of your beautiful chairs in my doll house. I am so happy with how they finish the parlor. Thank you. I wanted to tell you that the new chair arrived about 30 minutes before my friend Christopher Gurshin came to photograph the doll house. Christopher is the artist who painted the picture above the mantel in the picture. Christopher is a prolific artist originally from Newburyport, MA, who now lives in Glastonbury, and I have filled the walls of my doll houses with his work. He also writes an article for Primitive Place magazine quarterly, and his next article due out this fall is about my village. I am hoping the editor chooses the picture of the parlor to be included in the article. I will let you know.
Now about the beautiful wooden bowl you included with the chair. Thank you so much, it is really incredible. It is so delicate. It will have a special place in my real house. I will be checking your website often to see you new Windsor chair. I just might have the perfect spot for one.
Thanks again, Sharon.
Here are two pictures of the new chair in the parlor of my dollhouse! It looks even better than I had hoped. I think I am about to buy another one so there will be a pair by the fireplace! I am so happy that I found you, your work is beautiful. I will be looking forward to the Windsor chair coming out in June! Thanks so much!
The top, or yoke, of the fan-back Windsor chair that I am STILL working on is made from 1/8" thick ash, which is steam bent and has twelve 1/16" diameter holes drilled in the lower edge to receive the tops of the back spindles.
After bending them I realized that it would be easier to drill the holes before I bent them. After flattening them and drilling the holes I began to re-bend them, only to find that the ash crimped at each hole because the wood there was only 1/32" thick. Curious. They are in the process of being totally remade.
The back of the chair, in relation to the seat, leans back 5 degrees from the vertical, so I carefully set the table on my drill press to 18 degrees off the vertical and drilled all 12 holes in each of 36 seats. You are probably wondering why 18 and not 5 degrees. I wish that I had a rational explanation but can only put it down to a senior moment. I'm in the process of remaking the seats while the otherwise completed seats were used for kindling for my wood stove.
After a 10 month hiatus from miniature chairs, I am once again doing what I love. I am in the final stretch of completing the Fan-Back Windsor chairs that I started a year ago. They will be ready for shipping by the end of February.
In December I went to Concord, NH to the headquarters of The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. There I displayed my miniature chairs to a 3 person jury of woodworking members of the League to see if they thought that my work was of a sufficiently high standard for me to also become a juried member of the League. It was! Thanks to jury members Ted Blachley, Jeffrey Cooper, and David Lamb, and, also, thank you Catherine Green, Standards and Gallery Manager. Two jury comments included with my acceptance letter - "Every aspect of your work is well thought out and successful. The detail is exceptional: incredibly finely scaled work". "The presentation is very professional". `If you are visiting New Hampshire and would like to check out these miniatures they are currently on display at four of the leagues stores - Concord, Hookset, Meridith, and Nashua. More outlets to follow.