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Newsletter – September 2020

Welcome to this very brief newsletter! I wish to alert you to two vacancies, which have just occurred, in an upcoming course and also to tell you about a show that I will be attending at the end of this week at Hever Castle, in Kent

James Mursell
6 September 2020

Course Vacancies

2 places have just become available for the Classic Chair making course 21-25 September.

I have very few vacancies before Christmas and this might be an opportunity to make a chair sooner than later!

If you are interested, please email me as soon as possible and I will be able to confirm whether a place is still available.

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classic double bow

Hever Castle Craft Show

10-13 September 2020

9.30 – 5.30 Daily

This is a new show for me and is from the Craft in Focus team, who put on shows at Wisley Gardens and Winchester Guildhall, which I attend.

If you would like to come, then you will have to book timed-tickets beforehand.

You can get a useful discount by using the code ‘CRAFT2020‘ for the special offer price of £10

Hever Castle Craft Show

Newsletter – Summer 2020

I have just been looking at my last newsletter, written shortly before lockdown and have been amazed at the complete lack of awareness that anything untoward was about to happen! It seems so naïve now to have been promoting craft shows and courses through spring and summer.

Back in March, I took the decision to cancel all my courses through to July and to try to restart at the end of August. I am grateful to everyone that was booked onto a cancelled course for being so understanding and for the majority opting to transfer their bookings to later in the year. As a very small business, this made a huge difference and along with a Government grant, received via our District Council, it means that The Windsor Workshop is very much alive!

I feel exceeding lucky for the opportunities that Lockdown has presented. As a family, we have all been together, with both daughters escaping from London in time. This has been a most unexpected treat and one that is unlikely to be repeated. We have all been pounding the footpaths and roads keeping fit and our greatest family pleasure has come from an improvised table tennis table – see below. In the workshop, I have had time to explore new chair designs, develop new tools and continue to send tools around the world.

This newsletter is fuller than usual and I hope that you find plenty of interest.

I wish you and your families the very best for the coming months.

James Mursell


As mentioned in my introduction, my courses will begin again at the end of August. I am hopeful that in another 6 weeks, or so, I will have a much better idea of what will be involved in making this safe and therefore what changes will be needed. If you are already booked onto a course, I will be in touch nearer the time to let you know what to expect!

My ‘terms of booking’ are quite strict in relation to cancellation. However, in the current situation, I will be very flexible with deposits in the event of Covid-related cancellations by offering transfers or refunds. None of us really know how this will play out!

If you are considering enrolling on a course, you will find my course dates here: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

Please get in touch if you would like any further information.

2015 calendar

One Course During Lockdown

My teaching skills have not been completely unused since March as my daughter Caitlin made her first chair. She is on furlough and chairmaking was a welcome distraction. Having not picked up a woodworking tool since she made a 3-leg stool when she was 9, she made a superb job of it. Now both daughters have made a chair and I am a proud father!

Windsor Chair Maker

Windsor Chair

Low Back Chair

Two former students contacted me to say how much they were enjoying their low back chairs, made at the beginning of the year. This was encouraging to hear as I have always felt that this would make a brilliant office chair.

Rex wrote:

Back in January I attended your low back chair making course. I thought you would be interested to hear that I am very much enjoying sitting in my chair. Due to current circumstances I have been working from home for the last two months and so have been sitting in it every day for more than eight hours. It is comfortable and ideal for sitting at my computer

Joanna was on the same course. She must have one of the most desirable workshop locations in this country – and a great chair to sit on. She wrote:

Like the rest of the world I am working from home and self isolating.  Thought you might like to see how intrinsic to well-being is my lovely low back chair I made at the beginning of Feb!”


With craft shows being gatherings of lots of people, it is hard to know the effects that social-distancing regulations will have on the three shows that I am booked for, in the second half of the year. I sincerely hope that they will go ahead in some form. They are:

Craft in Focus at Hever Castle 10-13 September

Craft in Focus at Winchester Guild Hall 13-15 November

Sussex Guild at Midhurst Rother College 5-6 December

Craft Fair at Hever Castle

Tool Sales and Walnut Spokeshaves

While chair making courses have been the largest part of my business for many years now, I have been very lucky to have tools to sell in Lockdown.

If anything, orders have been coming in faster than before, as woodworkers spend time at home and in their workshops. Although there have been some issues with shipping, resulting mainly from clogged Customs at ports of entry, all orders have been getting through and sometimes quicker than usual!

I have spent a considerable time recently developing two new chairmaking tools. They are not quite ready for the ‘big reveal’ and you will have to wait for the next newsletter!

I have been able to reintroduce my small spokeshave and in future they will all be in black walnut. This wood, in conjunction with brass, is gorgeous and I hope to have the same combination for my medium shaves before too long. I have plenty in stock!

Ben Orford, who makes my travisher blades and who has featured in several newsletters, has been extremely busy making and selling his wonderful bushcraft knives. Apparently people cannot get enough axes too!!

It has been easy, during Lockdown, to feel that almost all businesses have closed down, given the almost complete closure of high streets. However, virtually all my suppliers have continued to work for most of the time, which has been great news.


Going Viral

If you have been on one of my courses, you will no doubt remember that I am very keen on Instagram. It has done my business so much good over the years and it is fun. It has also proved a wonderful tool to keep in touch with the woodworking community around the world, which is a real bonus when working alone.

I have heard the expression ‘gone viral’ (unfortunate in current conditions!) for many years now, but never experienced it myself until recently.

Steambending videos are always popular, but this one was extraordinary.

It was not even shot very well, with key parts cropped out of view, but the results speak for themselves: Reached 492,084 accounts; viewed 352,178 times; and liked 4,088 times

Click here to see the post

I have tried to analyse what made this particular video so successful, but my 2 conclusions are that there is a lot of luck involved and people are fascinated by bending wood!

Steam Bending

Table Tennis

As a family we must have one of the smartest table tennis tables in the country! Meals for courses are eaten at our Barnsley dining table, which was made for my father in 1957.

Early in Lockdown I remembered that I had 4 quarter-sheets of 12mm MDF and wondered if we could use them for table tennis. I taped the sheets together with blue masking tape and clamped on an existing net – we were in business! Although we had a few irregular bounces from the central seams, the standard of our play has continued to improve and we have had so much fun. The table is lit by the two floodlights that I used to use for shows!

This week we upgraded to two pieces of 25mm MDF, a little wider than before, but still below regulation size. This is a big improvement and we all feel that if we played on a proper table we would never miss, having become used to a smaller table!

Finally, I made my own bat from balsa wood, to give me a longer handle that suits my grip. Three layers made balsa plywood and shaped MDF scales finished it off.

Table Tennis Table

Table Tennis Table

New Chairs

Back in March, I began work on a couple of new chair designs that I found in my notebooks from about 15 years ago and felt that this was a good opportunity to try them out.

As is the nature of all new designs, some work and others don’t. I think that these two verge towards the latter category, but they were fun to make.

The ‘ball chair’ intrigued me as a concept. I found that I could easily source the beech balls from a maker in Germany (https://www.wooden-balls.co.uk/index.php) which now seems to have a UK website! This is the very first version and I have a second under construction at the moment.

The second, ‘ski jump’ chair is version 2 and I am much happier with this, though it would benefit from a different crest shape. If I am inspired, I will make another!

Ball chair

Ski Jump Chair

News from Students

Over the last two months, I have heard from a number of former students. The common thread was making the most of the spare time and getting on with projects in the workshop.


Steven has been to the workshop many times in the past 10 years and is a consultant in Newcastle. Below are snippets from our correspondence, giving a glimpse of how therapeutic a workshop can be in times of stress:

“I am thinking fondly of my times at TWW a lot at the moment as I retire to my workshop and work on two child’s armchairs – and a rocking moose which is sort of Windsor.  It is such a relief from the Armageddon-management-planning atmosphere at work just now when I can just quietly travish away to myself.  That last sentence has probably never been written by anybody before in history.”

The lucky recipient of the child’s chair is:

“The one-year old daughter of one of my neurosurgeon colleagues. I was revising with this one – it’s ten years I think since I made one with you…. I’m also nearing completion on a rocking moose – a rocking horse with antlers in effect.

My colleague, compared my workshop to his working environment with all the specialised tools. So, in summary, you are a brain surgeon in disguise!”

Coffee stain

Philip finally got around to staining and finishing his English double bow chair that he made here a little while ago. He writes:

‘Well someone (my wife) suggested I put 6 teaspoons of Nescafe Gold Blend into a cup of boiling water, which seemed to do the trick!!”

I agree!

Gothic Revival

Richard sent me this fascinating link which describes the construction of the bow in a Gothic armchair. This level of detail is not for everyone, but having never seen one of these chairs in the flesh, it was a revelation!


Edinburgh Tool Library

Jonny made a rocking chair on my last course before lockdown. He works for and is a key figure in a wonderful organisation in Edinburgh, where tools can be borrowed in the same way as books from a library. They also run courses and take on projects.

Website: https://edinburghtoollibrary.org.uk/

School project: https://youtu.be/aXgygRsiSjE

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.