I Spent Five Days At The Windsor Workshop ...

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Woodchips2

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El Barto":2ppfjpb9 said:

Thank you, appreciate it. To be honest I don't know how green the timber was. It had been in James' timber store which is partially covered, but I'm not sure for how long.
When I did a chair-making course the tree had been felled that morning :lol:
Regards Keith[/quote]

It wasn't quite that fresh! Where did you do it?[/quote]
I did a course with Goodrun Leitz in Ledbury http://www.greenwoodwork.co.uk/ . Being so green the wood was a delight to turn on the pole lathe. The only bit of seasoning was the spindles which Gudrun popped into her AGA overnight.

I made the chair about 20 years ago and even though no glue was used the joints are as solid now as when it was made.

Regards Keith
 

Honest John

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Thank you for a brilliant review. I also think we must be distant relatives :D
Your finished result looks great and I’m sure that you could now do another, perhaps avoiding the things that caused you problems/ extra time with this one. It’s refreshing to here an honest review. Well done.
 

El Barto

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Honest John":11swbw75 said:
Thank you for a brilliant review. I also think we must be distant relatives :D
Your finished result looks great and I’m sure that you could now do another, perhaps avoiding the things that caused you problems/ extra time with this one. It’s refreshing to here an honest review. Well done.

Thanks John! Yes I'm already planning my next one. It'll be similar to this one but with changes to the areas I didn't like quite as much.
 

El Barto

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Small update to this topic: I received a copy of James Mursell's book today and from what I've read (which is actually quite a lot), it's really good. It covers a whole lot of stuff that I was hoping to learn on the course and is very easy to read.

By contrast, I also recently got Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert (available at Classic Hand Tools) and although it is a truly beautiful book, it's definitely not as accessible as James'. I don't doubt that both are excellent and I hope to learn a great deal from them, but I feel that for the novice Windsor chairmaker James' makes you feel like you can really get into it with the minimum of fuss. Very impressed already.

Nb. I got James' book here because the shipping was far more reasonable.
 

custard

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El Barto":34qbyc4p said:
To be honest I don't know how green the timber was.

For the seat and "straight" spindle components there are pros and cons in using kilned versus "wet" timber. Plenty of windsors have warped as the seat dries out, although shaping and saddling a wet seat is an awful lot easier than working with kilned boards. In these antique windsors the warping has added to the charm, but there are examples where the distortion is far more extreme, and in any case the chair will rock atrociously until the warping settles down and the legs can be re-levelled.

Warped-Windsor-01.jpg


Warped-Windsor-02.jpg


Warped-Windsor-03.jpg


But when it comes to steam bent components there's no longer any "on the one hand" type debate. Kilned timber is massively inferior for steam bending. I've steam bent components that were freshly felled, air dried, and kilned. In my experience you might get a 90% success rate with freshly felled and 80% with air dried, but with kilned timber the success rate plummets to 30 or 40% at best. In other words freshly felled and air dried aren't all that different from a practical perspective, but kilning permanently changes the timber at a cellular level and renders it almost impossible to reliably steam bend beyond the very shallowest curves.

That's why I previously said that although windsor chair making is a superb route into woodworker for the hobbyist (in that the skills and technique are surprisingly easy to acquire, so you can produce "real" furniture within a few months or even weeks), the biggest obstacle for the newcomer is likely to be sourcing appropriate timber. Air dried or freshly felled billets simply aren't available from the vast majority of timber yards. Added to which, the Elm, Yew, and European fruitwoods that you'd want for the very best windsors aren't mainstream commercial timbers, so are also difficult to find. Given that buying hardwood timber seems to be the number one problem for many hobbyists the adding difficulty of buying windsor hardwoods would be an insurmountable obstacle for most newbies.

It's a pity because otherwise windsor chair making has a huge amount to offer.
 

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JWLeaper

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That was a great review, I am sure James will take a lot from it. I am a technical instructor in my day job, print engineering related, and there is nothing as useless as the 'tick very good' review at the end of the course, I don’t learn a thing from these and no pointers where to up my game or what worked or didn’t.

The banter thing is interesting. Having spent a lifetime in the forces I am adept at delivering and receiving banter at the brutal end of the scale but learnt a long time ago that one man's banter is another man's bullying. I am not sure that a monistic type environment would work on a course like this and personally the social interaction with other complete strangers would be as important as the course itself, strangers' stories are so interesting.

Now if James were to do a Captain's /Smoker's chair I’d be there like a shot, Windsors just don’t do it for me.
 

El Barto

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custard":2ctzlyut said:
El Barto":2ctzlyut said:
To be honest I don't know how green the timber was.

For the seat and "straight" spindle components there are pros and cons in using kilned versus "wet" timber. Plenty of windsors have warped as the seat dries out, although shaping and saddling a wet seat is an awful lot easier than working with kilned boards. In these antique windsors the warping has added to the charm, but there are examples where the distortion is far more extreme, and in any case the chair will rock atrociously until the warping settles down and the legs can be re-levelled.







But when it comes to steam bent components there's no longer any "on the one hand" type debate. Kilned timber is massively inferior for steam bending. I've steam bent components that were freshly felled, air dried, and kilned. In my experience you might get a 90% success rate with freshly felled and 80% with air dried, but with kilned timber the success rate plummets to 30 or 40% at best. In other words freshly felled and air dried aren't all that different from a practical perspective, but kilning permanently changes the timber at a cellular level and renders it almost impossible to reliably steam bend beyond the very shallowest curves.

That's why I previously said that although windsor chair making is a superb route into woodworker for the hobbyist (in that the skills and technique are surprisingly easy to acquire, so you can produce "real" furniture within a few months or even weeks), the biggest obstacle for the newcomer is likely to be sourcing appropriate timber. Air dried or freshly felled billets simply aren't available from the vast majority of timber yards. Added to which, the Elm, Yew, and European fruitwoods that you'd want for the very best windsors aren't mainstream commercial timbers, so are also difficult to find. Given that buying hardwood timber seems to be the number one problem for many hobbyists the adding difficulty of buying windsor hardwoods would be an insurmountable obstacle for most newbies.

It's a pity because otherwise windsor chair making has a huge amount to offer.

Yes wood selection or at least the sourcing of it seems to be the biggest challenge now that I want to continue doing this at home. I'm lucky that I have a large amount of ash to fell and do with what I want, so hopefully it'll give me enough stock to use and not worry about mistakes. But for the seat or for more premium chairs the wood still seams a bit of hurdle.
 

Bm101

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https://www.google.co.uk/shopping/produ ... C2UQ2SsIEg

You might be interested in this book Bart. It's aimed at the general public rather than anyone more 'specialised' for want of a better word. The man who made things out of trees. Good read though. One mans quest to chop down an Ash and see it put to many uses from hurley stick to arrows to cartwheels. I gave my copy to DTR who then gave it away to someone else. I suggested at the time it could be the start of a book sharing movement (of sorts) but I think the last fella just kept it. :duno: There you go. That's people for you I suppose. Maybe he will see this post and remember to pass it on.
Enjoyed your honest write up of the course. Must be very difficult to cater a course to suit the middle ground for a target market that varies so splendidly not just in skill set but personalities too. For every grumpy antisocial malingerer like you (and me :wink: )there must be folks who really enjoy the social interaction of it all. It must be a fine line to walk.
The chair looks brilliant. Congratulations.
If you're anything like me, it's only other people who see me as grumpy, short tempered and antisocial. Luckily I don't care for their opinions. Personally I'm quite happy. Long as they leave me alone. :D

Regards
Chris
 

woodbrains

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El Barto":ku3kcxfu said:
Small update to this topic: I received a copy of James Mursell's book today and from what I've read (which is actually quite a lot), it's really good. It covers a whole lot of stuff that I was hoping to learn on the course and is very easy to read.

By contrast, I also recently got Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert (available at Classic Hand Tools) and although it is a truly beautiful book, it's definitely not as accessible as James'. I don't doubt that both are excellent and I hope to learn a great deal from them, but I feel that for the novice Windsor chairmaker James' makes you feel like you can really get into it with the minimum of fuss. Very impressed already.

Nb. I got James' book here because the shipping was far more reasonable.

Hello,

Beware the measurements in the book. Unless the book has been reprinted with an edit since I got mine, some of the measurements extrapolated from the drawings don't tally with the printed dimensions. I asked James which to go with if there was a discrepancy, and he told me always the drawings.

Mike.
 

Sheffield Tony

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I like Jack Hill's country chairs. He makes complexity seem plain, in contrast to many who seem to achieve the opposite !

I think James has probably got it right with his course. Although I understand and sympathise with the OP wanting just to get on with learning to make chairs, a lot of people sign up for courses with the hope of spending a few days with friendly, like minded people. I tried a weekend green woodworking course originally to try and introduce some less rectilinear features to my woodworking. I am naturally not one for banter either, but about 5 years on I still count some of the people I met amongst my friends. And I still scrounge green wood from one if them :D
 

xy mosian

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Woodchips2":16ocw58z said:
When I did a chair-making course the tree had been felled that morning :lol:
Regards Keith

Sorry Keith I missed this earlier. That timber must have been dripping wet. Still very nice to work I would think. Thanks for the response.
xy
 

El Barto

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Thanks for the kind words guys. Don't get me wrong I'm not averse to making the occasional friend or "banter" or whatever, it's more the chit chat/faffing/time wasting element that sometimes gets to me. And you're right, there are people from lots of different backgrounds who go on these things for any number of reasons and meeting likeminded people is surely one of them.

James was telling us about a group he had before us who had all met on one woodworking course, had become friends and now went on all sorts of courses together. Thought that was pretty neat.

@Bm101: thanks for the recommendation, will check it out! Looks cool.

@woodbrains: noted! thanks for the heads up.
 

ro

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El Barto":6gzwssh5 said:
Small update to this topic: I received a copy of James Mursell's book today and from what I've read (which is actually quite a lot), it's really good. It covers a whole lot of stuff that I was hoping to learn on the course and is very easy to read.

By contrast, I also recently got Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert (available at Classic Hand Tools) and although it is a truly beautiful book, it's definitely not as accessible as James'. I don't doubt that both are excellent and I hope to learn a great deal from them, but I feel that for the novice Windsor chairmaker James' makes you feel like you can really get into it with the minimum of fuss. Very impressed already.

Nb. I got James' book here because the shipping was far more reasonable.

So, I picked up a copy of James's book on your recommendation. It's really good! You're spot in that it's much more accessible than The Chairmakers Notebook. One thing I did notice though is that he recommends cylindrical tennons for the legs over tapered ones. Did he give you any more detail on the course on this choice?

Oh, and next on the buying list is one of his travisher kits...
 

El Barto

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ro":3dc1rp9o said:
El Barto":3dc1rp9o said:
Small update to this topic: I received a copy of James Mursell's book today and from what I've read (which is actually quite a lot), it's really good. It covers a whole lot of stuff that I was hoping to learn on the course and is very easy to read.

By contrast, I also recently got Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert (available at Classic Hand Tools) and although it is a truly beautiful book, it's definitely not as accessible as James'. I don't doubt that both are excellent and I hope to learn a great deal from them, but I feel that for the novice Windsor chairmaker James' makes you feel like you can really get into it with the minimum of fuss. Very impressed already.

Nb. I got James' book here because the shipping was far more reasonable.

So, I picked up a copy of James's book on your recommendation. It's really good! You're spot in that it's much more accessible than The Chairmakers Notebook. One thing I did notice though is that he recommends cylindrical tennons for the legs over tapered ones. Did he give you any more detail on the course on this choice?

Oh, and next on the buying list is one of his travisher kits...

I haven’t read that section yet but I can say that on the course we used tapered tenons and he also explained why (for the increased strength over time etc). Strange that non-tapered would be in the book :-k
 
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