Windsor Chairs are a tradition dating back centuries.
History of Windsor Chairs
The Windsor chair originated as a vernacular form of furniture. The legs and back were simply turned on a rudimentary lathe. The real advance was the single bow arm piece which some historians belive was something english woodcarvers gained skill in producing following the bowmaking skills they were required to learn during the long battles with France of the 13 hundreds.
The name Windsor chairs came about in the Seventeenth Century when locally made chairs were shipped from Windsor downstream to London for sale in the markets there. The Windsor chair also proved popular as a design in North America from early times.
Windsor chairs have been made in many forms but the style we know today (the Stickback Double Bow) is acknowledged as the true classic Windsor Chair and is much sought after for its comfort, style and above all durability.
Elm was common for seats whereas oak or ash was the wood of choice for the spindles.
Making Windsor Chairs
The process starts with the seat. This is made from a solid lump of seasoned wood. What makes the Windsor chair so comfortable is the saddle. The seat is actually hand carved to have a raised centre and two depressions either side, making it fit the contours of the bottom far more confortably than a flat surface. Most owners find no need to cushion the seat of a windsor chair because the saddle works so well in distributing their weight evenly across the seat.
The curved armrest is made by shaping a straight length of wood and then boiling or steaming it for many hours until it is supple enough to be bent into shape. This bending itself often takes many hours as it needs to be held in tension until it dries enogh that the new shape is fixed into the wood. Obviously the wood itself will be chosen for its beauty and quality of the grain.
The uprights are the least difficult to produce and were often made by itinerant workers rather than professional woodcarvers. These uprights would be sold en mass and the woodcarver would select the best to create his chair.
The whole windsor chair would then be glued together, beautifully sanded and polished with many layers of protective varnshing before being sold.