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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