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Newsletter – Spring 2020

We are well into the appallingly wet 2020! The workshop is busy with courses and you will find new dates to the end of the year now on the website. This newsletter is full of fascinating videos, which I hope you will enjoy.
Best wishes

Course dates to the end of the year

I have now added course dates to my website through to the end of the year: https://thewindsorworkshop.co.uk/chair-making-courses/course-dates-booking-and-prices/

If you are interested in a course, please contact me to check availablility.

2015 calendar

Craft in Focus: Wisley Gardens 29 April – 3 May

My first show of the year will be at RHS Wisley Gardens at the end of April. The show will be running from Wednesday through to Sunday this year because the Bank Holiday has been moved from the traditional Monday to Friday 8th May.

If you have not been to this show before, it is huge! There will be around 200 superb exhibitors and you have the wonderful gardens to explore too! It would be lovely to see you there.

1300 students!

For some time now I have been estimating that I have taught over one thousand students, but when I actually counted, the figure turned out to be over 1,300!

My first course was at West Dean College in May 2004 and I began teaching at home that autumn. I would like to thank everyone that has come on a course over the past 16 years.

I believe the greatest number of returns for one person is 9 times. 5 times is almost common now!!

Without wishing to jinx myself, everyone to date has still gone away with a completed chair, or stool.

West Dean College – May 2004 My first course!








The Windsor Workshop – February 2020 My most recent course!







First continuous arm course

It’s always interesting running a new course for the first time. The new continuous arm chair was made 3-7 February with 5 students and one other, making a pair of high chairs!

An amazing record was set by Hugh, who completed his chair, age 92!! The previous record was 87, which was impressive enough. I do not expect this to be beaten anytime soon.

The steam bending, which is the most challenging aspect of this chair, went well. As always with a new chair, we identified a number of improvements for the next course 11-15 May and this continuous process of development will continue, until the system settles down –  usually after 2 or 3 courses!

Record breaker Hugh @ 92!

Ergo well established

The Ergo chair is now a firm fixture on the calendar and is proving popular. 8 chairs were produced on the first course of this year, back in January. If you have not seen it, the most distinctive features are the steam bent spindles, which support your back. These are bent after shaping, at the same time as the crest.

Videos, videos, videos……

We live in the age of video clips. The young seem to learn almost everything from YouTube! Over the past three months I have been sent links to the following selection of fascinating and mainly chair-related clips. I hope you enjoy them:

Ben Orford and travisher blades

Ben Orford makes the blades for my travishers and has done so for many years now. He also makes beautiful bushcraft knives and green woodworking tools. His website is: https://benandloisorford.com/

The latest video shows the finishing of travisher blades, including grinding and sharpening: https://youtu.be/CeBxkp4SLNg

In addition to being a great craftsman, he makes fascinating videos. It’s well worth subscribing to his channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClMEnHqmmxP3QRnMF4fAZdg

Norwegian chairmaking

The other day I was sent a link to a fascinating video of chairmaking in Norway. This was from 1978, when safety was not perhaps such a priority as today! I thought I knew most of the ways that people make Windsor chairs, but this opened my eyes to a number of new techniques – well worth a look, even if you do not speak Norwegian:


BBC 4 Jim Steel – slow TV


You may have seen this film first time round, from a few years ago. Jim Steele is shown making a Windsor chair. There is no voiceover, as in the tradition of ‘slow-TV’ but it is interesting nonetheless. Perhaps rather too much time is devoted to angle-grinder work and not enough showing chair making techniques, but this strongly suggests that the film maker was not a chairmaker himself!

Jim is an old friend. He and I were involved in putting on ‘Chairs 2004’, a three day gathering of 120 chairmakers from 12 different countries!

Old chairmaking – bodging

My thanks to Ralph for drawing my attention to another historic film about Windsor chair making. There is no soundtrack, but that doesn’t matter. It gives a flavour of the life of the bodgers!

East Anglian Film Archive: Chair Bodging and Chair Making in the Chiltern Hills, 1934-1935

The production of wooden components for chairs and chair-making in the Chiltern Hills in the 1930s. Genre: Amateur; TNA Project. The production of components for chairs is compared and contrasted at three locations in the Chiltern Hills.

Totem pole making and raising

One of my student from last week told me about this film of the 1968 carving and erection of a totem pole, on the west coast of Canada. Although not about chairs, the woodwork involved is fascinating.

It is an inspiring story of how a tradition is reborn after missionaries forced the destruction of totem poles in earlier years: