The Windsor chair, with its independent back and leg assemblies anchored to a solid seat, and the post-and-rail chair—or simple stick chair— in which the back is an extension of the rear legs, have long been favorites with woodworkers. Windsors are noted for both comfort and elegance, but they arc a challenge to build.
Most spies call for steam-bending many of the parts, such as the continuous arms. The joints must also be cut to very close tolerances. Simple stick chairs, on the other hand, are easier to assemble; most designs feature simple round mortise-and-tenon joinery.
This chapter will show you how to build a hybrid of these two styles, a slab-and-stick chair like the one shown on page 50. With the solid seat and separate leg-and-back assemblies of the Windsor, this chair can be very comfortable. Like the stick chair, most of its parts are assembled with round mcrtises and tenons, which simplifies its construction.
Both Windsor and stick chairs are traditionally made of green, or “wet”, wood—freshly hewn stock that has not been seasoned or dried. The benefits of working with green wood are many. Wet wood is relatively inexpensive and it is easier to shape and join. Fitting a dry leg tenon into a mor
tise in a wet chair seat, for example, can make a snug joint even tighter. Once the joint is assembled, the tenon will absorb moisture from the seat, swelling the tenon and shrinking the mortise. Provided that the tolerances are close, such joints may not even require glue.
Although the chair featured in this chapter can be constructed with green wood, the procedures shown in the following pages assume the use of dry, seasoned lumber. As a result, the mortise-and-tenons are glued together. The joints attaching the legs to the seat are reinforced by wedges and the slat-to-back post connections are strengthened by pegs. Although cherry is designated in the cutting list, you can use any wood that can be worked easily and is unlikely to check or crack after the chair is assembled.
As with any piece of furniture, form should follow function. The shape of the seat and the slope of the back shown here represent only one of many design possibilities. The chair you build should conform to the needs of its eventual user. Read the introductory essay by John and Caroline Grew – Sheridan (page 11) to learn more about how ergonomics can affect a chair’s design.
The chair at left combines a ladder back with a sculpted Windsor-style seat, creating an elegant hybrid that is relatively simple to build. The contrasting wedges in the leg tenons and the concentric rings in the legs, stretchers, and back posts add a decorative element to the functional design. The rings were burned in on the lathe by holding a piece of thin wire against the spinning blank.