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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 – 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

Newsletter – Summer 2017


As I write this, I have just one course remaining before my summer break from courses. I usually try to use the time to develop new chairs for courses, but this year will be different. An impending significant birthday is the excuse for my wife and I to travel to Australia for three weeks! We will be visiting several Australian chair makers and woodworkers and I will report in future newsletters, though you can follow progress on Instagam if you wish!

In the meantime there’s a lot to read/watch below. Please enjoy!
James Mursell


Courses though to Christmas are filling fast. The following courses still have spaces:

25-29 September        Continuous arm
9-13 October           English double bow
21-22 October          Stool (one place only)
20-24 November        Crown Windsor
11-15 December        Classic Windsor

If you are interested in taking a place, do email me to check current availablility. Otherwise there is more information on my website.

2015 calendar

Continuous arm chair
classic double bow


I will be attending three shows up to Christmas, so do please make a note in your diary of the dates:

Pashley ManorSussex Guild Show – 26-28 August

I have 15 FREE TICKETS (normally £8.50 each) for this lovely show. Please email me if you would like one, or two, and let me have your postal address so that I can send them. Please let me know soon, as it’s first come first served and I need to send them before departing for Australia!

This is a marquee show in the grounds of the beautiful Pashley Manor. The associated gardens, with many examples of contemporary sculpture, are well worth a trip in their own right. A wide selection of Guild members will be exhibiting. The tickets get you into the show and gardens free of charge.

Wellington College, Crowthorne – Craft in Focus – 27-29 October

This show is from the same stable as the wonderful spring show at Wisley Gardens and you can be guaranteed a fine collection of exhibitors.

Midhurst Rother College – Sussex Guild Show – 2-3 December

This is the Guild’s largest show of the year and I hope to be able to offer free tickets to download nearer the time.

I am helping to organise this show, so am a little biased, but the location, number of exhibitors and closeness to Christmas make it a brilliant outing!

New Book on Windsors: “Celebrated Chairs

Denis Lake has researched and written this fascinating history of Tasmanian Windsor chair making and produced a beautiful, limited edition book. Windsor chairs spread all over the globe and didn’t get much further from their origins than Tasmania! Anyone with an interest in their history should read this book!

Bern Chandley, one of Australia’s finest chair makers writes:

“Several months ago Tasmanian furniture restorer/ author Denis Lake sent letters out to assorted folk he felt may be interested in a book he had written and self-published on Windsor chair making in 19th and 20th century Tasmania. I’ve been longing for a copy ever since and this week, with an impending birthday at hand, it finally arrived.

All hats off to Denis. He’s done a remarkable job. It is everything I was hoping it would be. Now I’m fired up to build a couple of ‘peddle chairs’. The forward is by Bernard D. Cotton, author of ‘The English Regional Chair’.

It is a limited run of 500 with only 100 remaining. So if you are interested in reading a beautifully written and illustrated book on the traditions of Windsor chairmaking in Australia then you might want to get a hustle on.”

For more information, and to purchase a copy, click here.

Video of Course

Back in March I ran my first Crown Windsor course. It inspired two of the students to go public with their record of the course.

Have a look at Merlin Beedell’s video of the week. It’s well worth watching all the way through!

Magazine Articles

Two articles relating to The Windsor Workshop have recently been published:

Living Woods Magazine– article by George Smith, who also attended the first Crown Windsor course.

Click here to read

Chair making course article

Furniture and Cabinet Making – an article on spokehaves, featuring the Windsor Workshop’s spokeshaves and travisher.

Click here to read

Spokeshaves article

Travishers Around the World!

My travishers head out around the globe and I thought I would share just a couple of pieces of feedback that I have recently recived:

It’s always a pleasure to have feedback from happy customers. Don, from Canada, recently sent me an image of his travisher which he made from The Windsor Workshop’s travisher kit. He plans to use it on the back of a cello that he is currently making.

Windsor Workshop Travisher

I recently sent just my second travisher to Russia. The first (several years ago) took a long time to arrive, but this one was delivered in under 2 weeks. Imagine my surprise when I saw this beautiful video clip on Instagram. Now that’s how to make the most of unpacking a new tool!

Bruce’s Return

Bruce and his wife Judy run the local Post Office Stores. He came on a course 7 years ago to make a sack back chair. During the course he suggested that he should be supplying me with food for the courses and that he could deliver each day! Since then this has been an excellent arrangement. I email my requirement in a spreadsheet the week before and we receive daily deliveries of freshly baked bread, cooked meats, chutney, Scotch eggs, pork pies, local tomatoes, cakes and biscuits!

In May, Bruce returned to make a continuous arm chair for Judy.

Thank you both for all your support!

Bruce and Judy's chairs

Bruce and Judy’s chairs!

Judy and Bruce in the West Chiltington Post Office Stores

Judy and Bruce in the West Chiltington Post Office Stores

Newsletter – Spring 2017


Thank you to everyone that has helped to make the first few months of 2017 so busy! Courses have been well subscribed and tool sales have been good.

This newsletter marks the introduction of a new course chair and I can report on the first course of the Crown Windsor which took place last month.

Naturally most students come from the UK, but it is always exciting to have students come from abroad and there have been visitors from Poland, Brazil and Croatia recently. Also you will see below examples of past students who have been busy at home building on the lessons learned on their course.

I have a number of shows coming up (details below) and as always it would be great to see you again. Thanks to all of you that made it to our recent Sussex Guild show at Horsham.

I recently became aware of an excellent new book about Windsor chairs – about a couple of chair makers who took their craft to Australia and established a thriving business in Tasmania. There’s a brief piece below and I will expand with more details in my next newsletter.

Finally, if you would like to get a student’s view of a course, Bruce Sandeman-Craik has put together a website documenting his experience. It’s a fun read and there are lots of photos.


Craft in Focus, RHS Wisley Gardens,  GU23 6QB

Thursday 27th April to Monday 1st May, 0900 – 1800

This is a tremendous show, with a large number of excellent exhibitors from around the country. The gardens which should be in their spring splendour, will make a visit a great day out. Further details here.


Sussex Guild at Parham House, Storrington, West Sussex RH20 4HR June 17-18, 2017

I am returning to the show after a break of two years. The Guild will have a marquee in the beautiful gardens and members will have a great range of crafts for you to see. The house is also well worth a visit. Although I have lived nearby for over 30 years, I toured the house for the first time last autumn – it’s a gem!


2015 calendar

New Course Dates

On my website I have recently added course dates through to the end of March 2018. These courses include the new Classic double bow and there is another opportunity to make the 2-seat settee on 12-16 March. This latter course is a big challenge and should only be attempted if you have already taken at least one course and are confident that you can work quickly, as there are so many components to make!

Settee double bow 2 seat

New Course chair – The Classic Double Bow

This new double bow will be offered for a course for the first time December 11-15, 2017. There are similarities to the English double bow. It is slightly more compact and definitely more shapely. I will have it with me at all my shows this year, so do come and give it a try!

First Crown Course

Last month I ran the first Crown Windsor course. The course was full, which was gratifying for a new chair and all turned out well! If you like the chair and wish to make your own, the next course is November 20-24, 2017

Celebrated Chairs – New book coming soon!

I recently received a copy of a fascinating new book from Australia. It is a chair-making and social history about two Scots who trained in chair making in High Wycombe and ended up plying their trade in Tasmania.

I hope to stock this book on my website shortly and will give a much fuller description in my next newsletter!

Travishers for cricket bats

A couple of months ago Chris, from ‘Batmaker of London’, bought a travisher to help in the making of his bats. It is always great when tools jump from one craft to another – I use farrier’s rasps in my chairmaking – and he sent me these few words and the photo of him at work!

Have a look at his website: http://www.batmaker.co.uk/

Chris wrote: ‘Firstly a wonderful tool. The cut is so clean with a minimum of pressure, the design fits perfect in the hands making contour cutting simple.  I search everywhere for quality tools as they are so rare these days. I have never had a travisher or spokeshave cut so clean, willow is dreadful for chatter and scalping if your tools are blunt or not setup properly.’

Bruce Sandeman Craik website

Bruce made the English double bow chair last autumn. He took lots of photos during the week and afterwards put together this website documenting his experience.

If you would like an independent view of my chairmaking courses, this is it!


Manta Ray

Eric Gower, who very kindly and efficiently proofed my book back in 2009, recently sent me a link to a most unusual Windsor chair. I think it is magnificent, though would not be surprised it not everyone agrees with me!

Have a look at this link to see more views and how it is made:


Stuart’s chairs

Stuart made a sack back chair here in November 2015 and has just completed his first set of chairs on his own. Impressive work!


Pat first came to the Windsor Workshop as her 79th birthday present from her husband. A couple of weeks ago she came again for the 7th time, She is very proud to be the equal-oldest person at 86 on one of my courses. Congratulations Pat!

Amanda’s photos

Amanda and her son attended the continuous arm course in February this year. Here is a small selection of her photos:

Period Living: Windsor chair article

Here’s an article from Period Living about Windsor chairs with a link to The Windsor Workshop at the end! Always interesting to read someone else’s take on Windsors.

Newsletter – January 2017


Happy New Year to you all! 2016 was a remarkable year for The Windsor Workshop. Courses were better subscribed that ever and orders for tools kept me busy to the end. I was very pleased to work on three new chairs during the year and the Crown Windsor has been proving very popular at shows. As a result there is just 1 place left on the debut March course. The other two chairs  are still being developed and I hope to finalise them soon. The new double bow features below, mainly as a surface for milk painting – I am currently working on what I hope will be the final version!

There is quite an Australian theme this time. Glen Rundell, a professional Chairmaker from Melbourne, visited in the autumn to learn about English Windsors and the resulting article in Furniture & Cabinet Making is below. Phil Spencer built the Wheelback Double-bow Windsor from my plans (https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/wheelback-double-bow/ ) and has also written an excellent article about his experiences.

With a rather significant birthday approaching this year and continuing the Aussie theme, my wife and I are planning to visit Australia in (our) summer. We hope to meet lots of chair makers in and around Melbourne and Canberra, some of whom I have already met and others that I have got to know on Instagram. Expect further ‘news from Down Under’ later in the year!

Finally, former students continue to be busy making  great chairs and I include a few for you to see at the end.

Best wishes

Course dates 2017

I have updated the course programme on my website through to the end of the year. You can also download the current course brochure here.

Demand for the sack back seems to be dropping so I’ll be offering that less frequently, which is a shame because it’s one of my favourite chairs. However, it will give the space to offer some new options in due course.

I am leaving the course beginning 20th November blank at present. I would like to have the flexibility to put in a new chair course in that slot – possibly a 4-day course making the splatted sidechair that featured in my previous newsletter. As soon as I have made a decision I will let you know

2015 calendar

Another prototype chair!

I thought you might be interested to see a chair developing. The article after this explains how I have achieved the black over red milk paint finish, while below I lay out the changes that I plan for the final version.

This small double bow chair is largely English in design. The seat is the main feature and I am developing a new shape. This version is a little too extreme at the front corners, but I am hopeful that the next one will be just fine. I love the front corners of old English chairs and I’m trying to emphasise this by making a clear transition between the side and front edges. There are deliberately no arm posts and the arm is supported entirely by short spindles. Finally the top bow will be changed slightly in the final version. The ends are currently parallel where they enter the arm and the next ones will be pointing in slightly to the centre of the chair.

It’s a really comfortable chair, thanks in good part to the seat, and I am already turning my mind to a side chair version!

Milk painting from scratch

You may already know that I am always keen to paint chairs, even though it is not hugely popular in this country! You can buy the paints direct from the US from www.milkpaint.com or, make your own – far more fun!

The ingredients are very simple: lime putty, pigment and  dried milk powder (e.g. Marvel). I get lime putty from Conserv at: www.lime-mortars.co.uk/lime  Pigments of many kinds are available from Cornelisson at: www.cornelissen.com Dried milk powder from your local supermarket.

I will describe the full process to achieve the black on red finish seen in the chair above.

Making the paint:

Mix say a table spoon of putty with water and stir to give a single cream consistency. Add roughly the same volume of milk powder. You may need to add a little more water. Then add your pigment and stir for a couple of minutes. If the pigment does not wet well then I found that a little Fairy Liquid (or equivalent) helps. Leave the mixture overnight.

I used cadmium deep red for the base and lamp black for the top coat.


Apply a thick coat all over. Allow to fully dry and rub down thoroughly with used 240 grit paper. This coat seals the wood and gives a good surface on which to build the paint finish.

Apply a second thinner coat and when dry, rub down with 0000 wire wool and burnish with rags or burlap/hessian.

Repeat the second coat and rubbing/burnishing. This should give you a good consistent red colour.

I then applied two thinnish coats of black on top of the red. These were then burnished with burlap/hessian after very gentle rubbing through with 0000 wire wool, if necessary. It’s easy to rub through too much!


The paint now needs to be sealed. I prefer to use French polish, but many people swear by hard wax oils.

Apply a coat of Garnet polish (to add warmth to the finish) with a brush and allow to fully dry. Rub down with 0000 wire wool to make smooth.

Apply a final, quite thick, coat of Garnet polish.

When the polish is fully hard (leave overnight in warm place), load up 0000 wire wool with a generous amount of your chosen furniture polish and rub down the whole chair. This process will remove the brightness of the French polish. Leave for at least 20 minutes and then buff up to a glorious sheen!

As you will realise, this is not a quick process. However, very satisfactory single-colour

quickly painted chair with base colour gradually appearing with wear

finishes can be achieved with much less effort, particularly if you are prepared for the paint to be burnished over time by your bottom!

Have a go. It’s pure bucket chemistry and you will probably end up with your own secret recipe that you like best.

Glen visits from Australia

Glen Rundell, lives just outside Melbourne and runs Rundell and Rundell with his wife: www.rundellandrundell.com.au He came on a course in the autumn to learn about English Windsor chairs and also spent time at West Dean to pick their brains about running a multi-disciplinary craft organisation.

On the last day of the course Derek Jones, editor of Furniture and Cabinet Making turned up and the end result was a great article. Read it here. Download as a PDF

Phil (also from Australia) makes the Wheelback double-bow Windsor

Phil Spencer bought plans for the Wheelback double-bow Windsor armchair from my website last year and although he had never made a Windsor before worked his way through to an excellent conclusion.

Phil has written a comprehensive article about the process, with the express purpose of encouraging others to enter the ‘Windsor world’ – a sentiment that I wholeheartedly support!

Read his article here. Download as a PDF

Michael’s snowy white rocker!

Michael came on the rocking chair course last February and made a great chair. Visiting him shortly before Christmas he proudly showed off his now painted (distressed white) chair in his new extension. Previously he had often fantasised of playing his guitar while rocking on a veranda – I think he’s living the dream!

Stephen’s wheelback

Stephen bought the plans for the wheelback side chair earlier this year and he completed it shortly before Christmas. Great job Stephen!

Roger’s Minimalist Armchair

Roger has been on several courses in the last 18 months and seems to have the chair making bug pretty badly. Here is his latest chair, made at home. It’s my minimalist comb armchair https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/minimalist-comb-armchair/  and he has painted everything except for the elm seat in black over mustard milk paints. I think it looks fabulously dramatic!

Newsletter – Autumn 2016

Autumn is here and I am back in the swing of chair making courses after a couple of busy months doing other things. I include a number of brief sections, including: new course dates; upcoming shows (free tickets to download for Sussex Guild show at Midhurst); travisher and spokeshave news; a new chair; reports of chairs made by past students; and finally Mary Crabb and her WW1 shell baskets.

Hopefully you will find things of interest!

With best wishes
James Mursell

Chair Making Courses: settee, continuous-arm…. and now Crown Windsor!

On my website you will now find courses through to the beginning of July 2017. I have never planned so far in advance before and hope I am not tempting fate!

All the usual chairs and stool are available, but I’d like to draw your attention to two that are less familiar.

For those that have been before and can work quickly there is a settee course on 14-18 November. This is one of my favourite courses, busy from the beginning with 4 bends for each piece! If you have a spot in your house suitable for a compact 2-seater, this is your chance to make it! It will be at least another 12 months before I repeat this course.

For something completely new, come and make my Crown Windsor on 13-17 March next year. It is a wide chair and virtually everyone that has sat on it says that it is very comfortable, because of the steam bent splat. This is definitely a relaxing chair. I think of it as ideal for reading the newspapers over the weekend. It is not designed for use at a table. Although it is quite a big chair, it is relatively simple to make and would be suitable for those with, and without, previous experience.

Windsor settee

2-seat settee


Crown Windsor


I will be attending two shows in the remainder of the year and would be delighted to see as many people as possible! The shows are:


Craft in Focus at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire  RG45 6DY 28-30 October

I did this show for the first time last year and it has been moved a month later this year. This is a commercial show, run by the same organisation as the excellent Wisley spring show. There will be an extensive range of fine crafts to be seen.


Sussex Guild at Midhurst Rother College, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9DT 26-27 November

This is always a superb show in the run up to Christmas and has become the largest event in the Guild’s calendar. I am helping to run it this year, so hope it will be as good as ever!!

For free tickets, click here to download!

New chair

Having taken the Crown Windsor to several shows and had it seen and sat on by many students, I thought I would develop the idea of using a steam back splat – this time in a compact side chair.

This is the result. At present it doesn’t have a name, so if you are inspired to give it a moniker, please let me know. I’d be most grateful!

This is version #2 and I think there is one more iteration required before the design is absolutely settled. All that will be changed is the front of the seat, which will come up to a point in the middle.

The chair is wonderfully light in weight and takes up very little space. I am pleased that the circular hole in the splat both ‘lightens’ the look of the chair and provides a great way of picking the chair up. If you wish to be all ‘Shaker’ then you could hang it on pegs on the wall……

The back seems to be very strong, thanks to the strut which is dovetailed into the seat, and like the Crown is very comfortable. So far it has been well received.

Once I have made the definitive version I will include it in a newsletter. I believe that it could be made on a 4-day course. Do let me know if this is of any interest (no commitments either way at this stage!).





October 2016 Fine Woodworking copyright Taunton Press

Travisher article

My summer has turned out quite differently from how I planned it, thanks to an article in Fine Woodworking which extolled the virtues of my travisher! I had been warned about 18 months ago that an article might appear, but with such a long interval I had begun to doubt that it would ever appear.

I was on holiday at the end of July when my email lit up with orders, almost all from the USA. They have quietened down now, but over about six weeks I made and sold about a year’s worth of tools!! Thank you Fine Woodworking and Fabian Fisher, the author. I must also thank Ben Orford for keeping up with demand for the excellent blades which he forges for me.

At least I have been doing my bit for the balance of payments. The fall in the pound has certainly made my tools very competitive abroad!

Download article here!

Trav kit photos


Craig Regan, known as ‘seatsculpter’ on Instagram has recently posted a set of pictures showing the key processes involved in making a travisher from one of my kits. Craig’s resulting tool looks great and his images are very clear. I have put them on my website for aspiring tool makers to see. Thank you Craig!

New Medium Spokeshave

After many years of making all my tools in hard maple, I finally branched out and have used black walnut and lacewood as variations for the medium spokeshave. Both look great, but my favourite must be the walnut. The colour goes with the brass fittings so well!

If you would like one of them, please order in the usual way and then email me with your wood preference. For the time being the price will be the same for all woods, though I can’t promise that this will not change in the future.


walnut bodied medium spokeshaves

Work of Past Students

I have recently received emails from a number of past students including photos of their work. It is so exciting to me to see what is produced at home following one or more courses at The Windsor Workshop. I’m sure you will agree that there is some great work being done!

Charlie Payne

Charlie came on a course with his son back in 2014. He has been very productive since then. In a previous newsletter I included a picture of his 4 bow back. He has now finished a rocking chair – Peter Galbert’s excellent design I think.


Ian Goodall

Ian came on a course earlier this year and has just completed his first chair on his own. He also sent me a picture of an amazing row of sack backs from Mount Vernon – home of George Washington. I have been there, so have almost certainly seen them, but it was before I had been bitten by the Windsor chair bug, and so don’t remember them. If you have a long veranda and are a keen maker, this would be a major project for you…..!


Windsor Chairs in Israel

Erez came on a course at the beginning of this year to make a sack back. His first challenge was to get the chair home with him on the plane and that was successful having wrapped it very thoroughly in bubble wrap and cling film.

As there is no green wood available in Israel, Erez could not use exactly the same techniques, but he has just completed a charming Windsor bench made entirely from dry wood.


Phil Rhodes

Phil has completed 6 comb backs since attending a course in 2014. He has 4 more to go! Phil is by nature more of a straight-line/right-angle man, but has taken to the rather different nature of Windsor chairs with great success!


Mary Crabb project to make a WW1 shell basket


Mary Crabb with her turned shell former standing on its base with shaved splints on the bench.

Mary is a basket maker and she approached me a while ago to help her with a project recreating baskets used to protect shells in transport during WW1. Mary came for a day and used the lathe to make a former and a drawknife to make splints which are woven into the basket. In her own words, Mary describes the project:

“A couple of weeks ago I joined James for a day at the The Windsor Workshop to assist me with a project I’m working on. In the past year I have been researching objects relating to my Grandmother’s boyfriend, killed in France in 1916, with the aim of creating a collection of work incorporating facts and figures relating to their story. I’m a basketmaker and my work makes connections between traditional/contemporary basketry and textiles.

As part of my research I visited the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) to view a WW1 artillery shell basket in their collection. Shell baskets were used to transport shells to the Front either in a limber, behind a gun carriage or on horseback. My enquiry led me to become part of a project specifically researching basketry in the First World War, set up by the Every Day Lives in War Engagement Centre University of Hertfordshire and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Council.

The focus of my work at the moment is to weave a replica of the shell basket in the collection at the (MERL). The shell basket was woven in cane and willow around a wooden former, presumably made to match the dimensions of the shell. It has four wooden splints running up the side of it. The make is proving to be quite a challenge as I’m going to have to work much larger scale than I am used to, weaving with a type of cane, Kooboo, that I am not familiar with. Before weaving with the cane, I have to split it lengthways. This is a long process, done by hand, splitting with a knife before scraping the sharp edges. As I’ve already discovered, it’s a tricky material, that’s very hard on the hands and the process is very slow. Following weaving I need to add a leather cuff to the wide open end of the basket.

I requested the assistance of James to enable me, with his instruction, to turn a former using the lathe and shape the wooden splints using hand tools. Although I had used a lathe before, as a child, I had never used one for turning. I really enjoyed the process, and learnt a great deal in a short space of time. As I mostly weave with metal wire and fine flexible threads, handling wood was a change, but most interesting. Working from a design I had drawn up, James also produced a stand for setting the former on.

My day spent at The Windsor Workshop has not only enabled me to progress the shell basket project but also learn some new skills. It was a really great day. In particular, I really appreciated working alongside James – thinking aloud and sharing some of the questions raised about the making of the basket. Thank you very much!”

Newsletter: Summer 2016


Summer is almost with us and I have just three more courses before taking a break from teaching through most of July and August. I am looking forward to some serious chairmaking myself over those two months. You will see below that I have recently developed a new chair and hope to add a couple more over the summer.

Thanks to everyone that has been on a course this year – you have kept me very busy!

Do come to see me at one of my upcoming shows – details below – and take advantage of free tickets for the Pashley Manor show in East Sussex.

I hope you find plenty of interest to read in this newsletter.

Best wishes

James Mursell

New Course Dates

Course dates through to the end of March 2017 are now on the website at:


If you wish to book a course, please choose a chair, check the dates for a convenient course and check with me for availability. I then ask you to let me have a deposit, at which point I confirm your booking in writing.

2015 calendar

Last minute vacancy on Rocking Chair course 13-17 June

One vacancy on the rocking chair course has just become available. If you would like to book on please get in touch as soon as possible and let me have a deposit to secure the place. First come first served!

Double-bow Windsor chair

Contemporary Double Bow Course July 4-8

The contemporary double bow is a generous sized and very comfortable armchair. This is only the second time that I have offered this chair on a course (previously this was an advanced course) and with new simpler techniques, this can be made by all – beginners through to experienced chair makers!

There are currently three places remaining if you are interested in booking a place.


I will be attending two shows over the coming three months and would be delighted to see you at any of them:

West’s Wood Fair 18-19 June 2016


Last run in 2014 this is a gem of a wood show. An idyllic location, up a valley in the South Downs not far from Chichester hosts a wonderful range of wood themed stalls and activities. Well worth a day out!


Sussex Guild at Pashley Manor 27-28 August 2016

Pashley cover

(usually £8.90 per adult)

I will have a limited number of free tickets for this show. If you would like one or two please email me with your address and I will post them to you. First come first served!

I have been attending this show now for many years and it is one of my favourites. Although it is at the far end of East Sussex from me, it is well worth the trip. We have a large marquee in front of the manor house and in addition to the show the beautiful gardens with varied sculpture should not be missed. Wonderful food in their restaurant too!


Pashley back

Crown Windsor

On the Queen’s 90th birthday I completed this chair and due to the remarkable resemblance of the front profile to a crown, I have named it my ‘Crown’ Windsor.

The most distinctive features of this chair are the long steam bent arm and steam -bent splat which gives excellent lumbar support.

The response from those that have already seen and sat in it has been very positive, with the bent splat proving comfortable for sitters of all heights. The chair is generously wide and is designed for relaxing in – say reading the paper – rather than for sitting up to a table.

You can make one yourself on a 5-day course March 13-17, 2017. If you are interested please contact me and I can confirm whether there is a vacancy. If so, I will ask you to let me have a deposit of £275 to secure the booking.

2016-04-21 09.55.15-22016-04-21 09.55.15-3

2016-04-21 09.55.15-12016-04-21 09.55.16

John Burris rocking chairs 001

John’s Rockers

John came here in April 2015 to make the English double bow chair. He was hoping to make a rocker earlier this year, but unfortunately wasn’t well. However it didn’t stop him from making two at home, on his own – fabulous chairs! I particularly like his collection of chisels in the background!

Grow your own chairs

Jim Wells sent me a link to this remarkable operation growing your own chairs. I had heard of something like this, ten or so years ago, but this looks really professional. If I’m quoting to make a chair I usually quote about 12 weeks delivery, but this would require a different timescale altogether!

Have a look:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32977012?ocid=socialflow_facebook

grow own chairs


Ash dieback

It is probably nearly 3 years ago now that ash dieback hit the headlines of the national media and there has been no sign of it around here in West Sussex until the last couple of weeks. I have been looking out for the last 3 years and beginning to think that we might escape, but it has arrived with a vengeance.

Just a few weeks ago, as a number of young ash trees coming onto the farm came out in leaf, it became quickly apparent that there was a problem. The trees had seemed 100% healthy in the autumn, but now much of the crown was dead.

The die back seems mainly to affect trees less than 10 years old. However I fear that the prospects are not good for the species around here. I will be building up a stock of wood for all aspects of chairmaking, but it will only last for so long before it becomes infested with beetle.

I am beginning to think about chairmaking after ash, but sincerely hope that there are a good number of years before having to change species.


Ash die back and below, Dutch elm disease. Both photos taken from the same place.


Great New Book!

Barry Mays ‘The Green Wood Companion’

I’d like to alert you to a new book about trees, wood, green woodworking and associated crafts, chair making and the countryside. This book is unusual. In addition to many wonderful chapters full of fascinating information, there are also lots of lists such as: wood related sayings and their origins; acronyms of the woodland industry; a compendium of terms for tools, woodlands and crafts; and so on… It finishes with a really useful bibliography.

The book is very readable and well worth buying from the author at: http://www.barrymays.co.uk/index.html.

new book cover

Goodbye to West Deanwest dean logo

After 12 years of teaching at West Dean College, I have finally stopped running courses there in order to concentrate 100% on teaching at The Windsor Workshop.

I am very grateful to the College as that was where I was introduced to making Windsor chairs, with Jack Hill, 20 years ago. When Jack was stepping down due to ill health (2004) I was asked to run a course there and that was the start of my teaching career….

If you are interested in courses in the arts and crafts (apart from Windsor chairmaking of course!) I can thoroughly recommend it. Have a look at their website:


Taking your chair home with you on the plane!

Already this year, two students have come from abroad by plane and needed to take their chairs home with them. The solution seems to be to wrap the chair very thoroughly in bubble wrap and cling film and to then cover it in ‘FRAGILE’ tape. Using this method, both chairs have arrived safely, one to the US, the other to Israel.

The moral is that if you are thinking of coming for a course from afar, then getting your chair home is not an insurmountable problem!



Hard wax oil on sealed wood

I have been using hard wax oil on some of my chairs for a couple of years now. Although it recommends using it on the bare wood, the other day I tried sealing the wood first with dilute French polish and then rubbing it down with 500 grit paper before the oil. What a great result. I recommend it!


Newsletter: November 2015


I thought I would slip in one more newsletter before Christmas!

Free tickets are available for the fabulous Sussex Guild show at Midhurst. New course dates are on the website and there are articles about: chair arches, one-arm Windsors, Pinnstoler (Swedish Windsors) and finally perhaps (or not) an opportunity to revive the chair maker’s hat!!

Best wishes
James Mursell

New course dates

New course dates through to July 2016 are now on the website. There are two places remaining on the English double bow course 7-11 December if you are keen to get on with some chairmaking before Christmas, otherwise there are plenty of places available in 2016.

Please get in touch if you have any queries.

2015 calendar

sack back American double bow

double bow Windsor chair

Windsor settee


Vouchers for Christmas

More than half of my students have been given the opportunity to come on their course as the result of a present – usually birthday or Christmas!

With Christmas not too far away it’s worth noting that I can provide tailor-made vouchers, if you wish to give a course as a present. You can pay the deposit or the full course fee, whichever you wish, and I will produce a personalised voucher that you can give on the day.

The voucher can be for a specific course, or the date can be left open and the recipient can choose their course at a later date. Vouchers are valid for 2 years. If a deposit is paid, then the balance will be based on the course fee at the date of the course. If the full fee is paid then there will be no further charge even if the cost of courses increases.

Please contact me if you are interested.

Free Tickets to Sussex Guild Midhurst Show 28/29 November

The Sussex Guild has its largest (and best!) show at Midhurst 28/29 November. Free entry can be obtained by downloading tickets here.

There will be about 60 crafts people from Sussex exhibiting at the show in the wonderful buildings of Midhurst Rother College. Hope to see you there!

Chair arch

Carol and Norman attended a course recently and afterwards sent me a picture of a chair arch that had been built to promote a housing estate near High Wycombe! Background to its construction can be found at: http://www.publicworksgroup.net/projects/sitting

There is a long tradition of building such arches in High Wycombe. Read more about it at: http://www.wycombe.gov.uk/council-services/leisure-and-culture/local-and-family-history/chair-arches.aspx

One-arm Windsor Chairs

A short while ago on Instagram I came across a one-armed Windsor chair made by Mokkouyamagen (http://www.mokkouyamagen.com/ ) On enquiring why he had made a chair with a single arm, he explained that his client had requested a chair that he could sit on cross-legged! You can see more images at: https://instagram.com/mokkouyamagen/

The only other one-arm Windsor that I have come across is one designed for a cavalry officer so that he could sit with his sword in place. See: https://pegsandtails.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/the-original-campaign-chair/

While there is probably not a large market for these chairs it is great that they have been made for such specific purposes.

Swedish Windsors – Pinnstolar

Another fascinating conversation on Instagram – this time with a maker in Sweden who has given me some of the background as to how they began to be made there.

I had always believed that Windsors historically were only made in English-speaking countries. This still seems very strange, given what an effective method it is for making chairs, so I was very interested to hear that they had been made in Sweden for some time.

The following is from Bosse Blomquist:

“During the 1850’s a upper class lady living on Hooks Herrgård in the southern part of Sweden, Henriette Killander, either saw Windsor chairs on a trip to England or discovered them on a picture – I have not been able to confirm which version that is correct but probably the latter as most early Swedish chairs look more American than English. So it is most likely that it was an American chair she got interested in.

She had a sketch made of a fan back that she left to the local village carpenter and spinning wheel maker Daniel Ljungqvist in Svennarum who made a few chairs from the picture for her. He used birch, and seven sticks for the back. The chair also got a saddle seat.

He continued to make and sell these chairs and they became very popular, and other producers started to make variations of them.

In 1863 the maker Tunander in Vrigstad constructed a water power driven lathe and started a factory where stick chairs were made.

Another maker was Carl Johan Wigell in Malmbäck. Besides the standard stick chair he made a model with only six sticks in the back because of women complaining that their corsets were chafing when leaning against the middle stick. In 1893 the company got a gold medal at the world exhibition in Chicago for their chairs.

The factory still exists and their first chair model is yet in production. Can be seen here http://www.wigells.se/stolar/classic.aspx The design of that chair is very typical for the early Swedish look.”

See more of Bosse’s work as a Chairmaker and photographer (using early techniques) at:



Chairmaker’s hat

My daughter is studying at Bath University and when my wife and I visited her there we looked around the city art gallery.

It’s not often that you see pictures of chair makers, but this one was prominently displayed. I was particularly interested in his hat, as I always wear one outdoors (lack of hair!) but I don’t think I will adopt this style, even if it is a ‘chair maker’s hat’!

Newsletter – October 2015


James Mursell

Today, as I write, is officially the first day of autumn!  2015 has been amazingly busy and I describe below some of the things that I have been up to over the summer.

The biggest change has been to increase capacity in the workshop to 8 students from 6. Having run courses for the past 11 years at West Dean College with 8 students I know that it works well and I am certain that students will still get all the personal attention that they need/want. Read below to find out how I have fitted in another 2 people. Also I introduce my brother, Tom, who will be helping out at the end of the weeks, particularly with drilling the arms and seats.

There are a few places remaining on the courses before Christmas and then plenty in 2016. Having said that, there is just one place left for the rocking chair course in February. If you are looking for a course I hope you will find dates that are convenient. You’ll have a great time!

Do consider having a look at my feed on Instagram (more below). It is like a visual blog showing what I get up to day by day – more below.

I hope you’ll find plenty of interest to read!

Best wishes
James Mursell

6 to 8! Changes to the Workshop to allow two more students


Re-organised workshop with extra bench and extraction trunking to bandsaw

I built my current workshop in 2006. It has been a fantastic space from the beginning and over time I increased capacity from 4 to 6 students per course by adding another bench and lathe. That was easy! Earlier in the year I decided to increase again, this time from 6 to 8. This has not been so simple! At least this is the end of my expansion plans – there’s just no more room.

In 2006 I had more space than I needed, but with 8 students it suddenly became scarce and had to be used more efficiently. The end result was a complete re-organisation. Three of the four lathes were relocated to a room at the end of the workshop that had become a dumping ground for unwanted/prototype chairs. The room needed to be rewired to give decent light and sockets for the lathes. In addition, and this led to the biggest job, there wasn’t enough room for the individual extractors that I had had for each lathe.

lathe room

Lathe room

The solution to the dust problem was to buy a new Startrite 2-bag extractor (MDE-HCT) from Scott and Sargent, a local woodworking machinery supplier. This looked as though it would have enough suck with an 8” input and being capable of shifting 5,000 m3 of air per hour (1.4 m3 per second)!

The extractor looked fine in pictures and I had a spot selected on an outside wall to build a ‘shed’ for it. I was a little taken aback when I assembled it and found that it was at least 2.5m high with the top bags on. (I should have talked first with Ben Orford, who makes my travisher blades, because he has a similar machine and had made it take up much less space by adding a cyclone before the extractor which takes out most of the waste allowing the use of much smaller bags!).

The extractor seemed quite good value at around £750, but the trunking turned out to cost the same again. Combined with the wooden shed that had to be built and the two pieces of sheet metal for the roof, it was a fair investment.

extractor and ducting

Extractor and trunking before installation

extractor shed

Extractor’s outdoor shed

6 inch core drill

Starrett core bit and hole in outer cladding of workshop with hole across the lathe room into the main workshop in centre!

I had fun drilling 6” holes – one through the composite panel on the outside of the workshop, using a 6” Starrett core drill; and the second through the inner wall made of engineering bricks. I made a generous sized hole stitch-drilling with a 10mm SDS bit. These two holes would allow me to extract from the three lathes and my bandsaw in the main workshop. The trunking was very simple to assemble.

It is a huge improvement now to be able to use the bandsaw for extended times with all the noise outside (well baffled), no fine dust escaping from the extractor into the workshop, and little risk of filling the bags. Just for this, I am very pleased to have done the work

Course Dates

A complete list of courses is available here.

first course of 8

September 2015 – first course of 8 at The Windsor Workshop

There are a couple of places left on the sack back course (November 2-6) and the English double bow (December 7-11). Also there are several places remaining on the settee course (November 16-20) This course is restricted to those that have been before and are confident that they can work fairly quickly in order to complete this challenging project in 5 days!

There are plenty of places on all 2016 courses with the exception of the rocking chair course (February 8-12) which is almost full. A few places remining on the weekend stool course (February 20-21).

Magritte Chair

My wife and I have been given this fabulous ‘Magritte chair’ by Judith Brown,  an art teacher at the school where my wife teaches. This is the second chair that she has transformed. I wrote about the previous chair which was in the style of Mondrian in another newsletter. This chair was to inspire her students to do something similar.

This ‘Magritte chair’ is actually a copy of one of his paintings, rather than ‘in the style of’. The original Windsor was a prototype that I made many years ago and remarkably it can still be used as a chair in spite of being converted into a work of art – it won’t be sat upon I’m sure! Thank you Judith.

Read more about the picture here.

magritte 2

magritte 3


With the increase in student number from 6 to 8, I have recruited my brother Tom to help out on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings. These are the times when all the holes in the arms and seat are drilled. I can be quite tense and his cheerful expertise will be an enormous help.

Tom recently retired from running a small business ‘putting things into cans’. It is amazing some of things that he has been asked to put into cans! Before that he was a fruit grower, as I was. He is very practical and will be able to provide plenty of guidance and encouragement when most needed!


Tom Mursell – drilling assistant!

Students’ Work

Percy wheel backs steven continuous armPercy has been on a number of courses at The Windsor Workshop, including making the rocking chair and settee. He is now making chairs at home independently including these two magnificent English wheelback double bow armchairs. Great work!

Steven is another regular at The Windsor Workshop. Here are some images of his first solo continuous arm. Next up a settee. Quite a production line!


You will have probably gathered by now, I am a keen Instagram user. I see this as a great way to produce an informal, but hopefully informative, visual blog.

You don’t need to interact unless you want to!  You can just look at the pictures and read the comments, but whatever your interests you will find lots to see, including Windsor chairs!

I post pictures most days and you can see what’s going on here by checking out the website on your computer, or by downloading the app on your phone or tablet and searching for ‘WINDSORWORKSHOP

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Hurst flyerI have two more shows this year, both with the Sussex Guild.

Download free tickets for Hurstpierpoint here.

Email me if you would like free tickets for Midhurst when they become available.

Both shows are a great chance to see the work of a large number of talented designer craftsmen and women. The show at Midhurst is in the fabulous new Academy buildings and comes at the perfect time before Christmas for finding unusual gifts.

Further details can be found at: http://thesussexguild.co.uk/sussex-guild-events/

Hurstpierpoint College         7-8 November

Midhurst Rother College       28-29 November

New Bench and Vices

As part of the upgrade to the workshop, I built another bench. Those that have been to the workshop may remember the very simple construction of plywood and 4” x 4” for the legs, all screwed together to make a box. Four small screws anchor the whole thing to the floor.

The new bench needed new vices. My pattern makers vices on the other benches are quite expensive now and take a while to fit, so I had a look around to see whether there might be an alternative.

I found these green painted ‘pattern makers vices’ from www.fine-tools.com in Berlin. They don’t have quite the flexibility of the others, but they work just fine for chair making and mount with a single bolt through the bench top.

Apparently they are very popular with guitar makers too!

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New bench ready for its top

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New bench complete with pattern makers vices

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Pattern makers vice on my mini ‘spindling bench’

360 degree workshop

Earlier in the year I was introduced to an app called ‘360’. It’s an amazing tool that allows one to photograph a scene in every direction (around, above and below!). Here are two versions of the same image of my workshop with the new bench.

When viewed in the app one can scroll in all directions around the image and it’s just like being there. The images shown here are a bit of fun, but get the app and enjoy!


360 panorama

Summer Chairs

It has not been all building work over the summer. I did have the chance to make a few chairs too! I have a couple of new designs in my head and am looking forward to getting to work with them at some point!

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Large double bow and low back

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Continuous arm

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two child’s armchairs


Here are a few images of my tools. Sales have been good for the past year and the travisher particularly is gradually populating workshops around the world. Without the internet, this just would not happen!

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Travishers chasing their tails!

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Medium spokeshave

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Small and medium spokeshaves with travisher