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Newsletter – October 2012


The Windsor Workshop is 8 years old and the first significant changes to the courses are about to be introduced, beginning 1st January 2013. Read more about this below.

It seems hard to believe that so much has changed already. For the first two years courses were run in my original workshop where two students and myself could just squeeze in. There was no heating other than an oil-filled radiator, and that took some time to raise the temperature. Lots of clothes were essential in the winter months!

Six years ago the new workshop was opened with plenty of space for 6 students and with the luxury of heavy insulation and central heating! Three new lathes were added and lots of hand tools. The meals, which have always been an important and enjoyable part of the courses, have continued to be in the farmhouse but have been greatly improved by the delivery of freshly baked bread and other excellent food from the village Post Office.

Since the beginning in 2004, the structure of the courses had remained remarkably constant, while techniques being taught have evolved enormously. It is very satisfying to improve techniques over the years by constant experimentation, however many ideas have come from students, either as conscious suggestions or just as frequently from watching a person do a job in a slightly different, and better, way. I have tried to summarise my approach to the courses below.

In all, hundreds of people have learned to make Windsor chairs here over the past eight years and a good number continue to make chairs regularly. I hope that with the changes about to be introduced, many more will be introduced to the pleasures of making Windsor chairs over the coming years.

James Mursell

James Mursell

Double-bow chair becomes the standard course chair

Until now, courses have been separated into three categories: introductory, intermediate and advanced. Virtually everyone taking a course for the first time has made a bow back side chair. However, from 1st January 2013 these categories will no longer apply.

In future, everyone coming on a 5-day course for the first time will make a double-bow chair. This change has been made in response to popular demand and I hope that it will prove popular. Students will learn some extra chairmaking skills; they will take home a more impressive chair; and the cost of the course will be less than the cost of commissioning a double-bow chair from me!

Those that wish to return for a further course will be able to choose from several other armchairs, which will allow them to build on the skills acquired on the first course. Alternatively, they could make a pair of side chairs or bar stools. See website for details.

Course dates for 2013 - including more weekend stool courses


 January 7 – 11Double-bow
 January 19/20 Weekend Stool Course
 January 28 – February 1  Double-bow
 February 11 – 15  Choice of chair for returning 5-day students
 March 2/3  Weekend Stool Course
 March 25 – 29 Double-bow
 April 15 – 19  Double-bow
 April 29 – 3 May Choice of chair for returning 5-day student
 May 11/12 Weekend Stool Course
 May 20 – 24 Double-bow
 June 10 – 14 Double-bow
 June 24 – 28 Choice of chair for returning 5-day student

Prices of courses have been held for the past two years and with the change to a larger chair, involving more preparation and materials, the price has increased so that all 5-day courses will now cost £530. There will be a supplement of £60 for those making a pair of side chairs or bar stools. Weekend stool making courses will cost £205.

As before, the cost includes everything: materials, use of all tools and generous catering during the course.

sack back American double bow
Double-bow Windsor chair, shortly to become the first chair for all new 5-day students

Summary of approach to C.O.U.R.S.E.s at The Windsor Workshop

I have tried to summarise in a few paragraphs my approach to chair making courses:

Challenging:         Beginners will learn a wide range of woodworking techniques. Existing woodworkers will also learn new techniques and be introduced to a different approach to woodworking. Preconceptions of what is important in making furniture may be challenged.

Open to all:          Windsor chair making is accessible to everyone that wants to learn, though my insurance insists that students must be over 18. Each technique is simple and easily mastered, but there is a large number of them and that is the challenge.

Understanding:   Students will gain an appreciation of the history of Windsor chairs and how they have evolved, both in the UK and America. By the end of the course they should be able to recognise all the main styles of Windsors and have a good understanding of how they were made. They will never look at a chair in the same way again!

Resources:         By the end of a course, students will have the knowledge and techniques (the resources) to begin making chairs for themselves at home.

Simplicity:         Throughout the courses, the simplest possible techniques will be used at every stage. Hand tools, such as the drawknife, spokeshave and travisher will be central to the methods introduced. A minimum of power tools and jigs will be used. This approach allows the making of the finest possible chairs and minimises the investment needed to begin making chairs at home.

Elegance:           Design and shaping are all-important in making chairs that will be appreciated for years to come. The course will develop an appreciation for the finer points of shaping that will distinguish the excellent chair from the ordinary.

Spokeshave article in Popular Woodworking (US) and British Woodworking

Earlier in the year I wrote an article about the use of wooden spokeshaves.

When I use them, I tend to set the blade very coarsely and I find that I am able to take both fine and thick cuts (and every size in between) without altering the setting. This was a technique that crept up on me and arose from my preference always to work as fast as possible, while maintaining quality. I had not really worked out how I was using the tool – it was instinctive.

Writing the article forced me to think through how I was making these different cuts and then pass the idea on to other interested woodworkers. So many people treat spokeshaves as little planes with handles, but they are so much more flexible than that!

I was fortunate to have it published by Popular Woodworking in the US and British Woodworking in the UK. Click here to read the article

Keep in touch with Facebook and blog

Do please keep in touch using Facebook.

I will post whenever anything of interest occurs, but for more detailed news and stories have a look at my blog on this website.

Currently there are a series of posts covering the making of a 2-seat settee which should be completed in the next few weeks.


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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.