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Newsletter – October 2015


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

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.

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.


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 the 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 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


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

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!

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!

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!


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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all aspects of Windsor chairs & Windsor chair making

Delivered by email, each newsletter (4 a year) contains new course dates, Windsor chair making tips and other useful information.

*By subscribing you agree that James Mursell can email his newsletter to you. You can easily unsubscribe at any time.