The legs, stretchers, and arm posts of a Windsor chair can be shaped with a drawknife, but many woodworkers work with a lathe instead, using a story pole for each component (page 52) as a
A hand brace fitted with a spoon bit bores a mortise in one side stretcher of a sack-back Windsor chair. The mortise will house a tenon of the middle stretcher. The mortise must be angled; a spoon bit enables you to start drilling the hole straight for the first ‘A inch before tilting the tool to the correct angle.
guide to produce the turnings. Refer to the illustration below for dimensions, and use calipers to check key diameters as the work progresses. Start by turning the legs and the arm posts... >
The seat of a sack-back Windsor chair is best cut from a single plank. As shown in the photo at left, the blank is roughed out by hand with a frame saw or bowsaw. Then the seat is given its basic shape using a variety of hand tools—the edges are rounded over by a drawknife (page 85), the top surface is scooped out with an adze and an inshave (page 86), and some final touches are etched with a veiner (page 87).
SEAT DIMENSIONS AND ANGLES
The final step is to bore mortises into the seat for the legs, spindles, and arm posts (page 90). As shown in the anatomy illustration below, the arm post mortises are the largest: / inch in diameter; the leg mortises are / inch in diameter, while the spindle mortises must be drilled with a H-inch-diameter bit... >
The arm and bow of the sack-back Windsor anchor the chair’s backrest, tying the spindles into a strong and comfortable structure. The graceful curves of both pieces are achieved through steam bending, a process that may well be the most challenging part of making the chair.
The two essential elements of woodsteaming are a steam generator and an enclosed steamer. The version shown in the photo at right and described on page >
83 is shop-made from ABS pipe. Be sure to make the steamer longer than the bow and arm, and seal it tightly to keep the steam from escaping. Include a small drain hole at one end and place the steamer on a slight incline, however, to allow the condensed steam to run out. If you are using a gas-powered steam
source, it is safest to do your steaming outside...
Windsor chair making starts with a freshly cut log. Because green wood is swollen and lubricated with moisture, it is easy to cleave and bend. It is also less work to shape. Splitting wood from a log offers other advantages. First,
it is stronger, because the break follows the wood fibers rather than shearing them, as a sawmill does. And second, wood seasons better if it is shaped while still green. A chair spindle, for example, will season more quickly and be less
prone to cracking than a board, which may cup or check.
If you have access to a woodlot, you can fell your own trees using a chain saw. Otherwise, you may be able to obtain green logs from a sawmill, a local firewood supplier, or your local roads department... >
The Windsor chair is a study in contrasts. Originally designed as an artless furnishing, it is now considered to be a sophisticated example of modern chair making. The simple elements of a Windsor—the sculpted seat and the hand-shaped legs, stretchers, arm posts, and spindles—belie the precise engineering required to assemble it. And despite its relatively lightweight components, the Windsor chair is very strong and durable.
First made in rural southern England, Windsor chairs came to North America in the mid-18th Century. Perhaps as a result of its practical design and unsophisticated construction, the style quickly flourished with America’s pioneer homesteaders... >
execution. The bevels that create the octagon must be laid out so the eight sides are equal as the post tapers from base to tip. Although the layout method shown below is straightforward, it demands precise drafting.
With its solid, square base giving way to an octagonal section that gradually tapers to a narrow tip, the pencil post shown at right offers both strength and refinement. The curved bevels that mark the transition between the square and octagonal segments are known as lamb’s tongues.
MAKING PENCIL POSTS
Outlining the tapers
For a bed of the dimensions shown on page 50, mark a line for the start of the taper all around the blank 20 inches from the bottom end. Then outline the octagonal taper on the center of the top end... >
The sunrise motif of the headboard featured in this chapter is a popular design, particularly in American Gauntry furniture. Whatever design you choose, however, the primary challenge in making the end boards for a bed is cutting the pieces symmetrically. The boards are too unwieldy to do the job accurately on the band saw. You will be much better off shaping the boards with a router guided by templates, as shown starting on page 61.
When the time comes to glue the end boards and rails to the bedposts (page 64), try to enlist the aid of an assistant or two to help you maneuver the stock and the six long bar clamps you will need. For maximum flexibility at glue-up, use white glue rather than yellow adhesive;
it takes longer to set, allowing more time for adjustment after it has been applie... >
Turning the bedposts of a four-poster bed may appear to be a daunting challenge, but the project is manageable if broken down into its component parts. The design of the posts is simple; each one comprises only a few recurring elements, such as pommels, beads, vases,
The pommel, or bottom section, of a four-poster bedpost is turned with the help of a story pole and calipers. A story pole can serve as a shop-made turning guide. Cut from a strip of plywood, it includes key dimensions and diameters as well as the location of decorative elements like beads. A French curve is a good design tool for drawing on the pole. The calipers are used to check the size of the blanks as turning proceeds.
and tenons... >
Turned in four individual sections connected by tang joints; vase sections are glued together, but other tang joints are left dry for disassembly. Glued to end rail and to either headboard or footboard; joined to side rails with knockdown hardware. Hole is drilled into top end to accept tenon at bottom end of finial
Side tester (page 65)
1"x r/z"x&6". Rests on top end of post; has haif – iap at each end that accepts a matching cut in end testers. Hole drilled through each end for tenon at bottom end of finial
ALTERNATE DESIGN: PENCIL POST
The four-poster bed is a dramatic and imposing piece of furniture that descends from the canopy beds of the Byzantine and medieval periods.
Once, only heads of families could occupy a bed with a full canopy; others contented themselves with half-canopy beds, or unadorned beds.
The use of a canopied bed, then, was certainly a mark of status, but it also conveyed some practical benefits as well.
The heavily quilted drapery that hung from the framework of boards called testers provided privacy, a rare commodity in a day when bedrooms served as family living and entertaining spaces.
The folds of fabric also shut out the cold winter drafts that were common and, in summer, the drapes were replaced by light netting to keep insects at bay.
Status and utility aside, Americans have always s... >