Under nav

Newsletter – Spring 2020

We are well into the appallingly wet 2020! The workshop is busy with courses and you will find new dates to the end of the year now on the website. This newsletter is full of fascinating videos, which I hope you will enjoy.
Best wishes

Course dates to the end of the year

I have now added course dates to my website through to the end of the year: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

If you are interested in a course, please contact me to check availablility.

2015 calendar

Craft in Focus: Wisley Gardens 29 April – 3 May

My first show of the year will be at RHS Wisley Gardens at the end of April. The show will be running from Wednesday through to Sunday this year because the Bank Holiday has been moved from the traditional Monday to Friday 8th May.

If you have not been to this show before, it is huge! There will be around 200 superb exhibitors and you have the wonderful gardens to explore too! It would be lovely to see you there.

1300 students!

For some time now I have been estimating that I have taught over one thousand students, but when I actually counted, the figure turned out to be over 1,300!

My first course was at West Dean College in May 2004 and I began teaching at home that autumn. I would like to thank everyone that has come on a course over the past 16 years.

I believe the greatest number of returns for one person is 9 times. 5 times is almost common now!!

Without wishing to jinx myself, everyone to date has still gone away with a completed chair, or stool.

West Dean College – May 2004 My first course!








The Windsor Workshop – February 2020 My most recent course!







First continuous arm course

It’s always interesting running a new course for the first time. The new continuous arm chair was made 3-7 February with 5 students and one other, making a pair of high chairs!

An amazing record was set by Hugh, who completed his chair, age 92!! The previous record was 87, which was impressive enough. I do not expect this to be beaten anytime soon.

The steam bending, which is the most challenging aspect of this chair, went well. As always with a new chair, we identified a number of improvements for the next course 11-15 May and this continuous process of development will continue, until the system settles down –  usually after 2 or 3 courses!

Record breaker Hugh @ 92!

Ergo well established

The Ergo chair is now a firm fixture on the calendar and is proving popular. 8 chairs were produced on the first course of this year, back in January. If you have not seen it, the most distinctive features are the steam bent spindles, which support your back. These are bent after shaping, at the same time as the crest.

Videos, videos, videos……

We live in the age of video clips. The young seem to learn almost everything from YouTube! Over the past three months I have been sent links to the following selection of fascinating and mainly chair-related clips. I hope you enjoy them:

Ben Orford and travisher blades

Ben Orford makes the blades for my travishers and has done so for many years now. He also makes beautiful bushcraft knives and green woodworking tools. His website is: https://benandloisorford.com/

The latest video shows the finishing of travisher blades, including grinding and sharpening: https://youtu.be/CeBxkp4SLNg

In addition to being a great craftsman, he makes fascinating videos. It’s well worth subscribing to his channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClMEnHqmmxP3QRnMF4fAZdg

Norwegian chairmaking

The other day I was sent a link to a fascinating video of chairmaking in Norway. This was from 1978, when safety was not perhaps such a priority as today! I thought I knew most of the ways that people make Windsor chairs, but this opened my eyes to a number of new techniques – well worth a look, even if you do not speak Norwegian:


BBC 4 Jim Steel – slow TV


You may have seen this film first time round, from a few years ago. Jim Steele is shown making a Windsor chair. There is no voiceover, as in the tradition of ‘slow-TV’ but it is interesting nonetheless. Perhaps rather too much time is devoted to angle-grinder work and not enough showing chair making techniques, but this strongly suggests that the film maker was not a chairmaker himself!

Jim is an old friend. He and I were involved in putting on ‘Chairs 2004’, a three day gathering of 120 chairmakers from 12 different countries!

Old chairmaking – bodging

My thanks to Ralph for drawing my attention to another historic film about Windsor chair making. There is no soundtrack, but that doesn’t matter. It gives a flavour of the life of the bodgers!

East Anglian Film Archive: Chair Bodging and Chair Making in the Chiltern Hills, 1934-1935

The production of wooden components for chairs and chair-making in the Chiltern Hills in the 1930s. Genre: Amateur; TNA Project. The production of components for chairs is compared and contrasted at three locations in the Chiltern Hills.

Totem pole making and raising

One of my student from last week told me about this film of the 1968 carving and erection of a totem pole, on the west coast of Canada. Although not about chairs, the woodwork involved is fascinating.

It is an inspiring story of how a tradition is reborn after missionaries forced the destruction of totem poles in earlier years:


Newsletter – Winter 2019

Please accept my apologies for two newsletters in a short space of time!

I really want to make sure that you are aware to two great craft shows that I will be exhibiting at in the next 3 weeks. Please make use of the links to FREE TICKETS below.

In addition, I am relaunching a continuous arm course. This chair is a contemporary and new design and I will have it with me at the shows. There are two courses scheduled for it in the next 9 months.

James Mursell

Craft Shows

Craft in Focus – Winchester, 22-24 November

This is actually two shows in one! I will be in the large craft fair section and one big hall is devoted solely to jewellery. There should be something for everyone.

FREE TICKET: https://www.craftinfocus.com/web-offer-winch19/contact_winchester.html

Sussex Guild – Midhurst Rother College 30 November – 1 December

This is our largest and arguably the best show of the year. It is perfectly timed for the run up to Christmas and with 60 of the finest craftspeople in the Sussex exhibiting, you will find lots to tempt you. I will have all my course chairs on display and will be there to discuss all aspects of my courses. There will be food available in the foyer.

Click here for free tickets.

Continuous arm chair

I have completed this chair just in time for the two shows and I hope you will like it!

It is a contemporary version of a design first made in 1790 and will fit into any setting. It is generously sized and very comfortable and can be used either as a carver at a table, or alone as an armchair.

Course dates for this chair: 3-7 February and 11-15 May, 2020

Please contact me if you wish to book a place or know more about the chair.

Newsletter – Autumn 2019

It is a fair while since my last newsletter, but that doesn’t mean that nothing much has been going on at The Windsor Workshop! Courses have been running steadily throughout, including the first Ergo course last month. I have developed new chairs for courses, although one turned out to be a non-runner – see below. I am now working on a new continuous arm chair, which I hope to introduce next year, provided my planned improvements to the bending of the arm are successful! Finally, my travishers continue their bid to populate the Windsor chairmaking world.

I have two great shows coming up at the end of November/ beginning of December and you can download free tickets for the Sussex Guild show at Midhurst.

James Mursell
October 2019

New course dates for 2020

I have dates on my website for courses through to July next year. Do have a look if you are considering a course: Course Dates

I have scheduled a new continuous arm course for 11-15 May and will release pictures and details of the chair as soon as it has been finalised.

Shaker Bench

(h = 765mm; w = 920mm; d(max) 490 mm)

The first course for this small bench is 3-7 February 2020. This is one of my new designs and is heavily based on a traditional Shaker design. It is the same height as a normal chair and will take two people. It can be used up to a table and would also be ideal, for example, in a hallway for sitting on while changing shoes.

The bench shown has a cherry seat, but the course will be with a tulipwood seat with the option for ash. The remainder of the bench is ash.

Do please get in touch if you are interested in attending this course.

Pair of children’s chairs – a lesson from the market!

Earlier this year I had the idea of offering a course where two children’s chairs could be made – either two the same, or one of each design.

At the end of August I took them to a show (which was very successful) but there was literally zero interest in the chairs. Perhaps it was the paint finish, but I am not so sure? For now I have shelved plans to offer them on a course, but if this is of interest, please let me know.

The chairs are ¾ scale and will be useable by a child for a surprising number of years. In fact, I (6’3”) can perch on them at a push!!

Painting the chairs is not essential, but I felt that it was appropriate for children’s chairs.

Ergo chair course

The first course for this chair (September 30 – October 4) went very well and you will see from the picture how good the chairs look. For a closer view, try watching this slightly dizzy-making video clip!

The next course for the Ergo is January 6-10, 2020 and there are currently just two places left!

Craft Shows

Combined ‘Jewellery and Silversmithing Fair’ and ‘Craft and Design Fair’

Winchester Guildhall  22-24 November 2019

One ticket for both events

I did this show last year and met lots of people who have since come on courses. The show is in the magnificent Guildhall and is unique in combining a Craft Fair, with a Jewellery and Silversmithing Fair. There should truly be something for everyone to appreciate.

The Guildhall is very close to the cathedral and minutes away from the High Street and plenty of options for food and drink!

Sussex Guild show at Midhurst Rother College, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9DT

November 30 – December 1, 2019

Download a free ticket for two people here.

This is the Guild’s largest show of the year, in a wonderful building and is timed perfectly in the run-up to Christmas for finding unusual gifts.

As one of the organisers of this event, I am a little biased, but it a fabulous show. We will have about 60 members exhibiting and there will be delicious food and drink available in the foyer.


I was very lucky to have my daughter Becky, who is training to be a professional photographer, with me for the continuous arm course in June. She took loads of great pictures and here is a small selection which I hope will give a flavour of the courses, if you have not yet been on a course, or a reminder if you have!

Students’ Work

It is always a pleasure to include images of work of past students.

Neil has been on two courses to make a pair of Classic chairs which are shown here. They are finished with Osmo Polyx satin clear oil. The chair on the left is the older of the pair and has darkened more due to its age. A fine pair, I am sure you will agree!

Two chairs

Windsor Rocking Cradle

Steven has been such a regular supporter of the Windsor Workshop that I have forgotten just how many times has been here! It must be about 8 times and that’s even more impressive given that he comes from Newcastle – a long way!

Steven has made lots of chairs at home and here is his latest creation – a rocking cradle (Windsor of course). I think it is fabulous. Many Windsor rockers were made, particularly in America, in the 1700’s and this is right up there with the best. Nice one Steven!

Newsletter – Spring 2019

I write this on the Spring equinox and wonder where the time has gone! It has been a frustrating period, with a month out to getting rid of a troublesome gallbladder. Anyway, I’m almost back to normal now and I have just posted course dates for the rest of the year to the website. There’s a new chair on offer (the Ergo, as in ergonomic!) and a second chance to make the relatively new low back. The new travishers have been selling better than I had hoped for, particularly the Deluxe model, and there have been plenty of bookings for our self-catering accommodation units.

The main story in this newsletter is about steam bending. A bend made two years ago has finally made it into the restoration of a 1930’s steam train and I include several other videos of different types of bending.

Finally, my show list for 2019 is complete and that is now available on the website.

James Mursell

Course dates

Course dates for the remainder of 2019 are now on the website: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

These include the new Ergo armchair (see below) and just the second low back armchair course along with the other regular favourites.

2015 calendar

Ergo Armchair

First course: 30 September – 4 October, 2019. Contact James Mursell if interested.

This is a new chair and the key feature is that it has steam bent spindles which fit to the shape of the sitter’s back and make it very comfortable. The shape is quite striking, I feel and it should fit well in any situation. It is probably better suited as an armchair rather than as a carver at the head of the table, but the latter role should not be ruled out. As with most of my chairs, this can be made by novices and experts alike!


My first show is a departure for me, being in London at Alexandra Palace. This is the Country Living Spring Show 28-31 March. Details can be found here: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/shows-and-chair-making-exhibitions/

Following this show I will be returning to Craft in Focus at RHS Wisley Gardens 2-6 May. Details here:

The full list is on the website and includes several Sussex Guild shows in the second half of the year.

It is always good to see old friends and prospective chair makers and the shows are the perfect opportunity to try the chairs and talk about courses.

country living

Steam Bending

Steam bending is one of the key processes in Windsor chair making. Even after 23 years of making, it is still surprising that it works! The main story here is about bends made for a steam engine restoration (see below) and afterwards I include video clips of chair bends using a range of contraptions for the different parts.

Steam Bending for a Train

A couple of year ago, a cabinetmaker friend of mine, Roger Smith, was asked by his brother if he could bend some wood for a steam engine restoration at Didcot. Roger made the former and brought it here to use my steam box. From the video you will see that it was quite an effort to bend the wood and needed three people to complete the job.

Bending for the train: https://youtu.be/B5mHMErAPEg

The bends were then taken to Didcot and installed in the engine as you can see in the pictures. The purpose of the bend is to give the driver something comfortable on which to rest his elbow!

For those with a deeper interest in  steam trains, here are a few notes that should help you to identify the engine involved. If you have any questions, I will not be able to help you, but I know a man that probably can!!

“It’s a Great Western Railway class 72XX  2-8-2T (i.e. tank engine) built at Swindon in 1930 as a 2-8-0T and lengthened in 1934 with an extra set of wheels to carry more coal and water so that it could run further without refuelling. It was withdrawn by BR from service in S. Wales in 1964 and was rescued from Barry scrapyard in 1973 by its present owners, The Great Western Society, at Didcot. Restoration is well advanced but with much work still needed to the boiler it could be a further five years before it’s running again.

 The LH side wood is coming on nicely – see two pics of WIP – meaning the spare curved section you made probably won’t be needed for 7202 in which case I will give it to another group, based at Quainton near Aylesbury, who are restoring an identical loco No. 7200.

 The other engine in the shot is Castle Class 4-6-0 No. 5051 Drysllwyn Castle – but your trainspotting followers will know that!”

Miscellaneous Steam Bending

Here are a few clips of bending wood for different part of chairs. If you have not been on a course yet, this is the first job of the week and has to be completed before we can move on to anything else!

Amazing 2″ x 2″ walnut ‘U’ bend:  https://youtu.be/8rAYq62o0vo

Low back: https://youtu.be/tc95bYRMGo4 and https://youtu.be/I0_tTQuCMp4

Rockers: https://youtu.be/80Vba4rHioE

Crest for settee: https://youtu.be/l0Mwsg0uEtw

Bending an arm: https://youtu.be/oroDoLET8Bc

Bending a crest: https://youtu.be/Q-7DhM3bu94

New Travishers

I’m delighted to report that my new travishers are going well, especially the most expensive Deluxe version. They are now in use all around the world!

Read review from top chairmaker Bern Chandley:

travisher deluxe

Newsletter: Winter 2018

This is a little later than I had hoped, but I have two significant developments to tell you about! My new travisher is finally on the market and is receiving very positive responses on Instagram; and both of our self-catering accommodation units are complete and available for anyone taking a chair/stool course. Finally, there’s an inspiring piece for any of us who are concerned about our age!

Wishing you a merry Christmas and happy New Year!
James Mursell

New Travisher

I have been selling my wooden travisher for the last 10 years and they are spread all around the world! However, even from the beginning I have been considering making a version from alternative materials. This is the result of much thought and a good number of iterations and I’m really pleased with it!

This tool is machined from a solid block of the engineering polymer Delrin. There is also a brass insert in front of the blade, which should last a lifetime of normal use! The tool is wonderfully heavy, just like a high class plane and it is a joy to hold.

I will have several of these available for students to use on my chair making courses and I’ll bet there’ll be a scramble for these ones!

This is definitely a top-of-the-range tool. It is not inexpensive, but being unique and ideally suited to its job, I feel confident that it justifies its price tag!

There is more information on my website: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/travisher/

Self-catering Accommodation

We have had builders on site for nearly a year, but it has been well worth it. The Stables and The Old Workshop are now complete and available for hire!

The Stables was created from a brick and tiled building which was most recently used as stables for horses, while The Old Workshop was my original chair making workshop! They can be found on either side of a private courtyard which we have created. We will have tables and chairs here in the warmer months!

Here are some videos of how they have turned out. Do have a look and please get in touch if you are interested in renting them!

There is more information and photographs on my website: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/churchfield-cottages-self-catering-accommodation/


Pat has been coming to the workshop since being given a course by her husband for her 79th birthday! She has made 4 chairs and 3 stools in that time and last month she came to make the third stool.

She has been asking me ever since her first visit whether she was the oldest person that I have taught and this time at 87 ½ (!) she most certainly takes that title. Well done Pat!

I was delighted that she was our first occupant of The Old Workshop.

Chairmaking Courses

If you are considering booking a course for yourself, or someone else, please have a look at the table below which show the number of places available as at 5/12/18. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I am always delighted to produce a voucher if this is helpful when giving a gift.

Course Vacancies at 5th December 2018




Continuous arm



Low back




Classic double bow




Full-English double bow







Rocking chair







Classic double bow




Continuous arm




Classic double bow


Newsletter – Autumn 2018


This is just a brief newsletter, to let you know about a new show that I am doing in Winchester next weekend and to announce new course dates for next year.

I will probably squeeze in one more communication before Christmas.

Best wishes


Craft & Design Fair, Guildhall, Winchester: 2-4 November 2018

This show is put on by the excellent Craft in Focus team which runs the May Bank Holiday show at Wisley. In addition to the craft show, there is a Jewellery and Silversmithing Fair at the same location.

It would be great to see you there.

Download a FREE ticket for 2 people

One ticket secures entry to both events.

This is the biggest and best of the Guild shows, although I may be a little biased since I am helping to run it!

Please put the dates in your diary and come along. It’s a perfect opportunity for Christmas shopping.

Free tickets will be available for download in my next newsletter.

Midhurst Rother Craft Show

Course Dates 2019

Please find below all of my course dates through to July next year. If you are interested in taking a course, please get in touch and I can let you know availability for particular weeks.


January 7-11 Continuous arm

January 21-25 Low back

February 11-15 Classic double bow

March 18-22 Full-English double bow (returning students only)

April 6-7 Stool (weekend course)

April 15-19 Rocking chair (includes Good Friday)

May 13-17 2-seat Settee (returning students only)

May 27-31 Classic double bow

June 10-14 Continuous arm

July 1-5 Classic double bow

Newsletter – Summer 2018

The heatwave is well and truly established and I have just one course left before a summer break. It’s been busy since my last newsletter with lots going on, the highlights of which I’ll share below.

James Mursell
July 2018

Course Dates into 2019

I have just updated my website with courses in January, February and March next year: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

These include the ongoing favourites (continuous arm, Classic double bow and rocking chair) and also my two new chairs, the ‘low back’ and ‘Full-English double bow’. More details of these new chairs are given below, but I should point out that the ‘Full-English’ is reserved for returning students only, due to the large amount of work involved!

2015 calendar

Chair making course photo

Course Vacancies in 2018

I thought it might be useful to give details of vacancies for my courses over the rest of the year, in case you are planning to come and make a chair!

September 3-7 Rocking chair             6 places

October 15-19 Continuous arm          FULL

November 10-11 Stool (weekend)     1 place

November 19-23 Rocking chair          6 places

December 10-14 Classis double bow  1 place

If you’d like to book a course, please drop me an email to check that the place is still available and then let me have a deposit of £275 to secure the booking.

2 New Chairs and Courses

I hate making the same old chairs again and again, with no variety, so I’m always trying to come up with new designs. Also, it gives serial-chairmakers something new to get their teeth into! Inevitably, some are a great success and others are not so popular, but I think that these two chairs will stand the test of time.

The two chairs could not be more different. The low-back is totally new and is based around some very serious steam bending, while the Full-English is completely traditional.

Low Back Chair

The first course for this chair will be January 21-25. Please email me if you are interested.

My first comment should be to reassure you that it does not have to be black! I painted this chair to hide an unsatisfactory wood-colour combination and quickly to get it to a show! The next version will be in natural wood.

Low back chairs, often known as Captain’s chairs or Smoker’s Bows, are almost always made with a ‘sawn-arm’ as opposed to a steam bent arm. The traditional arm is made of 3 pieces (two arms and a crest) which are screwed together and shaped. To achieve good comfort, the crest needs to be quite deep to support the back as the spindles play no part.

This new chair is quite compact and is the most comfortable chair that I have ever made. It’s not just my opinion, as the response at two recent shows that I have taken it to, has been almost universally positive! The arm/crest is made from a single piece of steam bent ash which measures 1 ¼” x 5” x 48” before shaping.

The chair is of a deliberately modern design and is quite compact (w 22″ x h 27.5″ x d 19″). There are many traditional influences in the chair, perhaps the most obvious being the four parallel spindles under each arm, which are part of the Welsh Windsor tradition.

The bending was quite a challenge. I built a new bending rig with a 1 tonne, double-geared winch and some heavy duty cables. I was helped by my friend Roger Smith for the first bending session and it was quite a workout. Have a look at the video (posted on Instagram) of one of the bends. I am now contemplating buying an electric winch!

The first course for this chair will be January 21-25. Please email me if you are interested.

Low back Windsor #1

Low back Windsor #2

Low back Windsor #3

Watch this video to see the arm of the low back chair being bent. The ash was 5″ x 1.25″ x 48″ and spent 90 minutes in the steam before bending.

Full-English Double Bow

The first course for this chair will be March 18-22. Please email me if you are interested.

First, I should explain the name! I have called it ‘Full-English’ as it has almost all the features that a traditional English chair can contain, apart from perhaps a splat and cabriole legs. It will be a challenge, like a Full-English breakfast, to make on a 5-day course!

At first glance it may appear very similar to the Classic double bow. However, closer inspection will reveal a totally different chair. Primarily, it is a bigger chair all round. It has a crinoline stretcher, curved armposts and 9 as opposed to the Classic’s 7 long spindles.

I am reserving the chair for those that have already made a chair at The Windsor Workshop. This is due to the amount of work involved and the need to squeeze a lot of chairmaking into 5 days.

The first course for this chair will be March 18-22. Please email me if you are interested.

Full English #1

Full English #2

Full English #3

Shows for the Rest of 2018

I have three more shows scheduled for the rest of the year. Each show is quite unique and it would be a pleasure to see you if you are in the area.

August 3-5 Sussex Guild at Michelham Priory, East Sussex

I have not attended this show for at least 10 years, opting instead for Pashley Manor at the end of the month, but it will be great to return to this lovely location.

The show is 3 days long and a feature of it is that most makers will be demonstrating their craft in some way. I plan to take some spokeshaves and travishers to shape some seats.

Sussex Guild Michelham 2018

November 2-4 Craft in Focus, Winchester

The organisers are the same as for the wonderful May Bank Holiday show at RHS Wisley. I have not done this show before, but it will take me to a new area and I’m confident that it will be worthwhile.

Craft in Focus Winchester

December 1-2 Sussex Guild at Midhurst Rother College

I am a little biased about this show as I am one of the organisers, but it is the Guild’s largest show, in a great location and timed perfectly for the run up to Christmas! Nearer the time, I should have free tickets for this show that you can download from the website and a newsletter.

FREE tickets and further details will be available in the autumn

Do please put the dates of these shows in your diary. It would be great to see you and you would have an excellent day out at any/all of them!

GDPR – Thank You!

Hopefully, you will have by now forgotten about the constant stream of emails from suppliers about GDPR. If you receive this newsletter via email, it means that you indicated your wish to continue on my mailing list. The response was most gratifying – thank very much for continuing to take an interest!

Needless to say, if you change your mind and wish to unsubscribe, you can do this at any time using the link at the bottom of the email. For further information, please see my Privacy Policy on my website.

Accommodation Progress

We have had builders on site for 6 months now! All the drainage work that I mentioned in my last newsletter and which caused such an upheaval is now a distant memory. The larger of our two holiday-let units is close to completion and work is under way on the second.

My wife, Louise, and I are thrilled with the way ‘The Stables’ has worked out. There’s a mezzanine bedroom with views all the way to the South Downs and downstairs there’s a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, along with a lovely living area which will contain a double sofa bed. It will be luxury for one, perfect for a couple and also suitable for a family!

This video will give you some idea of what we have been up to, and how it will look.

Full details, at least of The Stables, will be given in my next newsletter……..

If you are coming on a course in the autumn, or next year, I hope you will give serious thought to staying on site!

Travisher Alert

Not wishing to let the grass grow under my feet, I have been giving my travishers serious attention recently.

I have no details for you yet and this is just a teaser to let you know that new versions will become available in the next few months!

The travisher has remained unchanged for about 8 years and proved remarkably popular and I am excited by the upcoming developments………..!

Good Old Royal Mail!

I send all my tools around the world using Royal Mail. The service has been very satisfactory over the past decade, whatever stories one hears to the contrary, and this recent experience is worth sharing:

I took a travisher, addressed to Illinois, USA, to the Post Office at 10.55 am Thursday 21 June and received an email from the customer, timed at 11 pm Monday 25th June, thanking me for such a speedy service.


Royal Mail

Newsletter: Spring 2018

Another year is well under way. My show season begins soon, courses are running regularly, there’s a new course chair and there are big changes happening on the farm! European GDPR legislation will soon be with us and this means that I will shortly be contacting you to ask you to confirm that you are happy for me to hold your name and email address on file and to receive newsletters! More about all this below….

Please read on and I hope that your enjoy this newsletter.

Best wishes

New Course Dates

There are now course dates through to the end of the year on the website at: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

If you wish to take a chair-, or stool-, making course I suggest that you choose the type of chair that you wish to make and then check to see if there is a course with convenient dates. Once chosen, please contact me to check availability.

If you are not familiar with my chairs, why not come along to one of the shows mentioned below and see them in the ‘flesh’!

New Course Brochure available to download

2015 calendar

New Chair – ‘Modern Comb Back’

I have been working on a new chair recently and this is now available to make on a course (September 17-21, 2018). I am calling it the ‘modern comb back’. The shape of the chair incorporates influences from England, Wales, Japan and Australia! I am very pleased with the way that it has turned out and particularly with the shape of the seat. The back is broad and flexible, which makes it comfortable, and the low arm should not interfere with the sitter’s back.

This example is painted with golden ochre milk paint (home made – see my previous Newsletter from January 2017). Chairs made on the course will not be painted (though they could be!) and I will make an unpainted version shortly.

See Me at Craft Shows

My first two craft shows of the season are in April (Sussex Guild – Horsham) and May (Craft in Focus – Wisley). Do please come along. It would be great to see you and you will also find a superb range of other crafts at both events.

FREE tickets are available for the Horsham show – see below

Sussex Guild – Horsham April 7-8

This is just the second year of the show and last year’s was a great success. It is held in the old Sun Alliance building, off the Carfax.

Download free tickets here. I do hope you will be able to come as there will be a wide range of crafts and craftspeople exhibiting.

Craft in Focus – RHS Wisley, May 3-7 (including the first May Bank Holiday)

There will be 200 exhibitors in marquees and it is a great opportunity to visit the fair and explore the gardens at the same time.

Self-catering Accommodation Onsite

We will soon be offering accommodation on-site for students taking chair making courses. No more commuting and a great pub in easy walking distance!

If you have been on a course since December you will know that we have the builders in! We have been in complete chaos with deep trenches across the drive and new foul and rain water drainage being put in. This has been to serve a couple of units of accommodation that we are creating from two old buildings.

We will have ‘The Stables’ and ‘The Old Workshop’. The latter was my original workshop and where I began to run my chair making courses back in 2004! ‘The Stables’ origin is, I think, self-explanatory!

When completed, ‘The Stables’ will offer characterful and comfortable accommodation for a couple (sofa bed for 2 more), while the Old Workshop will be a bedsit for up to two people.

The conversion is going fast, now that all the major external groundworks are completed and we look forward to being able to offer this accommodation to those attending courses (and others) from the autumn onwards.

If you have attended a course you will also be delighted to know that our 33 year old Portalooo is no longer! We will have a warm, clean and purpose built toilet shortly, though I am a little sad, as this was the first thing we added to the farm when we arrived here at the end of 1985!

Big septic tank, even bigger hole!

‘The Stables’ undergoing conversion


You may well be aware that there are new European regulations coming into effect in May about mailing lists. If you receive this by email, then I have your email address and name on file.

I will be sending you a separate email about this in the next few weeks, asking you to confirm that you are happy for me to continue to hold this information and that you are prepared to continue to receive occasional newsletters.

I hope that you enjoy the newsletters and find them interesting. I have no intention of using your information in any other way and will certainly never share it with any other organisation.

Please look out for my email on this subject and take the opportunity to respond, one way or another. I have no wish to send information to anybody that does not wish to receive it, so this will be an opportunity, beyond the option to unsubscribe at any time (see below), to make a choice.

Restoration of an old Windsor Chair

Before Christmas, I was approached by Stuart Warren, an antique dealer from Haslemere, about whether I could help him restore an old chair. He brought the pieces over to the workshop and I found an arm bend and a couple of cabriole legs that I had never used. These were for a similar chair (there’s a whole chapter in my book about it), but I never got round to making it.

Recently Stuart sent me photos of the finished chair and some work in progress shots. I have no idea how to restore chairs myself, being purely a maker, but the end result seems to me to be very impressive!

I was sceptical about the point of restoring a chair in such poor condition, but this exercise has changed my mind. I will not be getting into that field myself, but I have great respect for those that can effect such transformations.

The chair has now been sold!

Stuart’s contact details are as follows:

Stuart Warren
The Ark Stores, Town Car Park, Haslemere
Surrey  GU272HG
01428 641817
Instagram: @thearkstores

Jonathan Squires

Jonathan has been on a number of courses over the years and he recently completed this lovely set of chairs for his daughter. He also made this beautiful rocking horse!

Roger Murphy

Roger has also attended a number of courses and there’s not much left for me to teach him! This contemporary double bow is a stunner, with a black walnut seat and the rest in ash. Superb, Roger!

The plans are available from the website.


Newsletter – Winter 2017


Another very busy year is coming to an end and I thought I would slip in one more newsletter. There are new dates for 2018; a settee course in March for those that that like a challenge; a 4-day course in January; and lots of great chairs made by former students.

I hope you have enjoyed this year’s newlsetters and perhaps they will inspire you to take the plunge into chairmaking, or take it further if you have already begun!

I wish you a very happy Chirstmas!

James Mursell

Christmas is Coming!

Courses, as gifts, are becoming ever more popular as people move away from giving things to giving experiences!


I can offer custom-made vouchers for weekend, 4-day and 5-day courses. The voucher can be for a particular course, or the recipient can choose a course at their convenience. As the giver of a voucher, you can pay the deposit or the full amount, whichever you prefer. Any balance is due at the start of the course.

Get in touch if this is of interest and I will help in any way I can.

Chair Making Course Voucher


The second printing of ‘Windsor Chairmaking’ is available from the website – everything one needs to know to make a chair!

Windsor chair making book

Chairmaking Tools

Tools for aspiring chairmakers are always popular, with travishers, spokeshaves and rasps on offer.



2018 Course Dates

Course dates through to the end of July 2018 are now on the website. Click here for details. There is a choice of weekend stool courses, a 4-day chair course and the regular 5-day courses.

2015 calendar

Course Focus

I’d like to draw your attention to two specific courses in the first half of 2018:

Settee double bow 2 seat

2-seat Settee (12-16 March)

I try to offer one settee course per year. It involves almost all the challenges of Windsor chairmaking in one piece and is a real challenge to complete in 5 days, but everyone has succeeded to date! If you have a spot in your house for a compact 2-seater and have already made a chair, why not have a go?!

Low-comb side chair (22-25 January 2018)

The first 4-day course for this chair will run 22-25 January (Mon – Thurs). The chair has proved very popular at the last two shows that I have attended. It will work well at a table, as a work chair (no arms to get in the way!) and as a bedroom chair. Do contact me if you are interested.

The Sussex Guild

The guild puts on shows around the county (East and West) throughout the year. We had our final show last weekend at Midhurst and it was a great success! Do have a look at the website for next year’s dates. My first show will be in Horsham 7/8 April. Hope to see you there!

The Sussex Guild

The Sussex Guild

Chairs of Past Students

As a teacher, one of the most satisfying results of my work is to see past students continuing to make chairs, after their course(s). Over the last six weeks I have received a range of emails and pictures from past students. I thought you might like to see them:

Crown Windsor: Riccardo came on the first Crown Windsor course back in March and he was my first visitor from South America – Brazil! He took his chair home as a flat-pack in his suitcase and has recently assembled and finished it to a very high standard!

Bar Stool: Roger has attended a number of courses and this bar stool is his latest creation, with a sweet chestnut seat and coloured ash for everything else.

Rocking chair: Erez, from Israel, visited last year and has continued to make chairs, in spite of almost no native wood being available. His latest rocking chair is of Peter Galbert’s design and is stunning!

Modified Sack-back: Andrew has been on a couple of courses and this time he wished to do something a little different. He wanted to lose the spindles below the arm at the back of the chair and also take the hollow of the seat to the back edge. It is very comfortable and quite intriguing!

Contemporary Comb-back: Ian has taken a couple of courses and is in the process of setting himself up properly for chair making. This is his first solo chair. I look forward to seeing a stream of new chairs as he fulfils his ambition to surround his dining table with a complete mixture of Windsor chairs. I can vouch for the fact that this is a great idea!

Malloof armchair: Charlie came on a course a number of years ago and continues to make chairs. This beautiful example is designed by my hero, Sam Malloof. Although not a Windsor, Chalrie notes that the base of the seat has a wonderful rippled texture, created with his travisher across the grain!

Newsletter – Autumn 2017


Autumn is really with us now. Cold nights, yellowing leaves and the geese flying overhead in their wonderful ‘V’ formations are convincing signs.

In this newsletter I announce a new 4-day course in January; report on my travels in Australia – including meeting a number of chair makers; and give you notice of two excellent shows that I will be attending in October and December. Finally, there’s a picture from a former student, Garry Wood, who has been busy making chairs at home.

Best wishes

James Mursell

Course availability for the remainder of 2017

Places for the rest of the year are now limited:

9-13 October     English double bow           1

20-24 November  Crown Windsor                3

However, at present there are plenty of places on courses in the New Year.

Course availability calendar

2018 Courses

January 8-12 Rocking chair

January 22-26 NEW! Low-comb side chair – 4 days

February 5-9 Continuous arm

February 26 – March 2 Classic double bow

March 12-16 Settee

March 26-30 Crown Windsor

April 16-20 Rocking chair

April 28-29 Stool

May 14-18 Farmhouse double bow (English double bow with turned arm posts)

If you wish to book a course, please contact me to check availability.

If a place is available, I ask for a deposit of £275 to secure the booking. On receipt, I will email to confirm and give you the final joining details.

New 4-day course: Low-comb Side Chair

As a departure from the usual course pattern I will be offering a 4-day course for a new side chair 22-26 January 2018. This is in place of the sack back course that has previously been advertised.

This chair has been very well received by students and by the general public at the Sussex Guild show at Pashley Manor at the end of August.

It is designed to be a compact side chair, which is ideal for eating at a table and also as a desk or bedroom chair. There is excellent lumbar support, making it comfortable for long periods.

The course will involve steam bending the crest, shaping the legs on a lathe and shaving the seven spindles. The seat will be carved entirely by hand. The standard wood for the seat will be tulip wood, with an option to upgrade to ash for an additional £30.

The course will run Monday to Thursday and generous food/refreshments will also be provided during the day to the same standard as the usual 5-day courses.

Cost of the course: £530

Contact me to check for availability.


I have two shows scheduled for the rest of the year:

27-29 October: Craft in Focus

at Crowthorne, Berkshire (Wellington College) http://www.craftinfocus.com/next-fair/crowthorne-wellington-college
This is an excellent show with a very wide range of exhibitors from around the country. Unusually, it is open Friday afternoon through to Sunday.

Craft and design fair

2-3 December: Sussex Guild

at Midhurst Rother College, Midhurst, West Sussex. This is the largest and most popular of our Guild shows and we will have nearly 60 members exhibiting in the run up to Christmas. I strongly recommend that you put this in your diary. Click here to download free tickets and there will also be a link on my homepage.

Sussex Guild Craft Show


In August, my wife and I spent 3 glorious weeks in Australia. I am lucky to have cousins near Melbourne and in Sydney and it was great to visit them again after 37 years!

More relevant to this newsletter and thanks to the power of Instagram, we also visited six chairmakers, making it something of a busman’s holiday. Although my wife was not entirely certain about such a wood-weighting to the holiday when we departed, by the end we both agreed that it was probably the best feature of the holiday!

Australia map


What a civilised city! Not too big in the centre, easy to find one’s way about, lots to see and not too crowded. The latter may have been caused by the fact that our first day was apparently the coldest August day in about 40 years! Unexpectedly, I bought a pair of long Johns that same day!

Melbourne panorama

Jane Tribe chairmaker

We were shown around the city by a former student of mine, Jane Tribe. Jane had taken one of my very early West Dean courses and we showed us her chair from 2005. I am delighted that she is still making chairs, currently working on a Shaker bench.

Jane introduced us to Alistair Boell and took us to his Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodwork workshops. Alistair runs a number of courses (including Windsor chairs) and has several woodworkers operating from his shop. It was great to share experiences of running courses and to talk Windsor chairs, inevitably.

Alistair Boell chairmaker

Bern Chandley Windsor chair maker

While we were in Melbourne we also met Bern Chandley. Bern makes sublime Windsor chairs, many to his own designs and we found that we had a lot in common. We talked for hours! You will find one of his chairs on the back cover of Fine Woodworking – just about the ultimate endorsement from the woodworking community!

Roughly 100 miles from Melbourne we also met Greg Stirling. Greg has been making English style chairs and other furniture for many years. He and his wife were also very generous with their hospitality.

Finally, I was hoping to meet up with Glen Rundell again after he took a course with me last autumn, but he was in America instructing! However we did call in to see his amazing shop in the lovely small town of Kyneton, which he runs with his wife Lisa.

Greg Stirling

Links (website and Instagram)

Alistair Boell



Bern Chandley



Greg Stirling



Glen Rundell



Red Centre

After the normality (to a Pom) of the Melbourne area, we headed for the centre and spent 5 days travelling from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon and back to Alice.

Unusually heavy rains in 2016 meant that much more of the red soil was covered by grasses, mainly spinifex, and this softened the landscape significantly. Ayers rock was magnificent and we walked around sections of it, but did not climb.

King’s Canyon, which I had not visited before was fabulous in a different way. We walked around the rim and it reminded us of Mesa Verde in New Mexico.

All in all, a wonderful area and one that I would recommend anyone to see. The irony is that the weather is mainly very dry and hot, but much of the landscape has been shaped by water. This is clearest from the plane flying over the endless desert.

Australian sunset

Australian red rock

Australian outback

Australian outback valley

Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

We spend a day on the rather sad looking barrier reef off Port Douglas. There was much evidence of bleaching of the coral, but it was still well worth visiting. While we were in the area we also spent a day in the Daintree rainforest, but sadly didn’t see any cassowaries!


Rolf Barfoed is a superb woodworker

We had a quick visit to Canberra to visit Rolf Barfoed. Rolf is a superb woodworker and specialises in short production runs of high-quality furniture and particularly chairs. Have a look at his Lily Pad chair on his website. It was great to catch up with him 7 years after he attended one of my courses to pick up yet another set of skills. I’m delighted that he uses Windsor techniques frequently in his work!

Rolf Barfoed            http://www.rolfbarfoed.com.au/  @rolfbarfoed


Sydney from the air

Finally, we had four days in the exciting city of Sydney. One cannot help but love the harbour and we took the climb to the very top of the Harbour Bridge – a major experience in its own right. This was a great place to finish and we had exhausted our list of woodworkers to visit, though we met up with some of our daughter’s friends that she had met in Kenya – a small world!



Garry Wood’s chairs

Garry came on two courses back in 2013 and 2014. He has continued to make chairs at home, frequently using plans available from my website. He recently sent this image of his latest creations, the small armchair being for his second grandchild! Great work Garry!

Garry Wood’s chairs

Garry Wood’s chairs