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Newsletter: July 2013


Courses are over now for the summer, I have lots of chairs to make, the weather is very hot and suddenly there is plenty to fill a newsletter!

There are 9 courses scheduled from September to the end of the year and they are booking up well. If you are considering coming on a course do have a look at the dates below and get in touch. 2014 dates will be announced late-August.

I am very grateful to several past students for sending in reports and photos of chairs that they have recently made at home. The quality looks great and there is obviously lots of pleasure being had making chairs. If you have a story to tell of successes, or even failures, do not hesitate to send them in and I do my best to include them in a subsequent edition. There are always lessons to be learned from other people’s work.

Training for my 10km run on August 17th in aid of the British Heart Foundation is going well at present – more details below!

After a period of worry about ash earlier in the year I am currently very well supplied and all that I bought seems to bend well, which is a great relief. Even better is the fact that I have not yet seen any signs of blight on ash trees here on the farm, although that doesn’t tell anything about its spread about the country. There will be lots to hear about it later in the year I am sure.

After the first half of the year filled with courses, tool making and wood sourcing, it is a real pleasure to be back making with some orders to get my teeth into. There is nothing worse than teaching something that one doesn’t do oneself and I am pleased that I still get a kick out of solving chair making challenges – see below.

I wish you a very enjoyable summer and will write again before too long.

James Mursell

James Mursell

2013 Courses

Here are the dates of courses for the remainder of 2013. You have the choice of making a double-bow or continuous-arm chair, or a stool over a weekend. If you have already made an armchair and would like to make something else do get in touch and we can discuss your options.

If you wish to attend a course, please email me to check whether a place is available. If so then I will ask you to let me have a deposit to secure the booking. On receipt of the deposit I will write to confirm the booking and give you the final joining instruction.

September 2 – 6  Double-bow
September 14/15 Weekend Stool Course
Sept 30 to Oct 4Double-bow
October 14 – 18 Continuous-arm
October 28 – November 1 Double-bow  FULL
November 11 – 15  Continuous-arm
November 23/24 Weekend Stool Course
December 2 – 6    Double-bow
December 14/15 Weekend Stool Course

James' 10 km run for BHF

Training for my 10 km run in Greenwich Park on 17th August in aid of British Heart Foundation is currently going well. Although I lost about a month to a bad back and other niggles, the last three weeks have been very productive. Last weekend I broke the 5 mile (8 km) barrier for the first time and the full distance now feels to be in reach.

The right kit really does seem to make a difference. Wicking clothes, a waist mounted water bottle, energy bars and gels all help (I need it all!). When I began I depended on an iPod to drown out the sound of my breathing, but that has now been abandoned and I am appreciating the routes much more as a result.

If you feel able to make a donation (however small) to the British Heart Foundation I would be most grateful AND it would provide an even greater incentive to get around the course!

Make a donation

Dave Cripps

Dave Cripps has attended a couple of courses over the past few years and has continued making at home. He has featured in previous newsletters: Summer 2012 (Advanced Course) and Summer 2011 (bending rig). He sent me images of a child’s chair that he recently made, along with the following explanation:

“I have attached some photos of a child’s chair I have made at home, this is the fourth one, it is a rather plain design which I quite like. The shape is more or less based on one I saw at Acton Scott Farm museum near Church Stretton (the place where they filmed the Victorian Farm series that was on TV a couple of years ago). There is no steam bending in it I’m afraid! The seat is of American red oak and the rest European oak with 3 turned ebony pins for the spindles in the back of the crest. The seat height is 13″.

“It took a couple of goes to get the sight lines for the legs how I wanted them, the first one didn’t look quite right to me (Version #1). There is also a picture of a similar chair but with no shaping to the seat in a book Woodturning by Oliver Plant who originally taught me to turn. The one problem I did have was with the crest being cut out rather than bent, when I drilled outermost holes to accept the spindles there was a tendency for the wood to split along the grain and the split run out onto the front of the crest. Drilling very slowly seemed to minimise the risk.”

Loading Ash

A few weeks ago I picked up some ash logs from a local estate. I will use these mainly for spindles. The video clip shows just how easy it is to handle heavy logs if you have the right kit!

Jesus Settle

I included a piece about a new 2-seat settee in the Christmas 2012 newsletter and mentioned that inspiration came partly from a settee (one of a pair) owned by Jesus College, Oxford.

Bob Yates, who was at Jesus and attended one of my courses some time ago, picked up the reference and took the trouble to obtain photographs in situ. These were taken by a member of staff at the college. If the college is able to dig up information on their provenance I will include it in a future newsletter.

The settee will be familiar to aficionados of Windsors, appearing in Nancy Goyne Evans encyclopaedic book American Windsor Chairs (Ch. 1 p 48). She dates them to 1740-55.

One of the settees was exhibited at West Wycombe Park in May 2012. This exhibition was organised by Michael Harding Hill (Windsor Chairs) and the notes in the catalogue read as follows:

“This mid-eighteenth century two-seat comb-back settee is constructed of various woods with a grooved elm double saddle seat, a well-formed arm bow and a pleasingly shaped and grooved comb-rail but no stretchers. Also like armchairs and backstools dating from 1756 in the Bodleian Library it has the same type of strut leg with a ‘blade’ foot, i.e. with the inside leg taper reversed and shaped to form an edge. As has been suggested, this may indicate the same local (Oxfordshire) maker, rather than one in the Slough/Windsor region of the Thames Valley”

‘Black-and-white’ or ‘Mirror Image’

I mentioned above that I am working on a number of chairs at present. One commission is for four low back chairs to be copied. Copying presents extra challenges to the normal making and getting the correct angles and sight lines for all the components is one of the key tasks. Old chairs are often not symmetrical and have frequently been restored, as in the case of this model chair which is made of elm and mahogany.

Imagine my delight when the leg angles worked out first time as you can see from the picture where the pale mock-up fits almost perfectly onto the legs of the original. I wasn’t quite so fortunate with the armposts which are actually leaning backwards, but I nailed them on the second attempt.

Now I just have to make all the parts and put them together…………. Photos next time.

Michael Toomey has been busy making another ambitious chair.

He contributed a piece to Students’ Stories in the Autumn 2011 newsletter.

He writes: “Here are some pictures of my latest chair. You should recognise it as being similar to the one that used to live in the corner of your workshop that I had admired and found so comfortable. If you remember, you provided me with a bent arm bow and a seat plan when I last visited you; I also took several pictures.

It has taken me a long time to complete the chair. I had the stool finished at least 6 months ago, and had the spindles dried etc, but then I needed to be able to work outside because I don’t have the room to work on a chair on the floor in my small shed. The weather ensured that any time I did have couldn’t be spent on my chair!

Anyway, here it is and very comfortable too 😉 Spindles are further apart at the crest than in your chair where they are parallel, I think.”

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Join my


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.