Learning some Windsor wisdom

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Every year we bring in specialist tutors to teach our students how to make that most iconic of English chairs, the Windsor chair.

So we’re privileged this week to welcome Tom Thackray and Stephen Langton who are master craftsmen in Windsor chair making.

The reason for teaching this form of furniture making is, says Tom, “that if you can make a Windsor chair, you can make pretty much anything.”

A Windsor chair is built with a solid wooden seat into which the chair-back and legs are round-tenoned, or pushed into drilled holes.  The back and sometimes the arm pieces are formed from steam bent pieces of wood.

Students, who will this week work in teams of four, are learning a whole variety of techniques and methods of assembly, and will be making their chairs from locally-sourced woods.

The origins of the Windsor chair go back to the 16th century and they grew in popularity through the following two centuries – with Windsor becoming a hub for their distribution, and hence the name.

Legend has it that King George II, seeking shelter from a storm, arrived at a peasant cottage and was given a multi-spindled chair to sit on.  Its comfort and simplicity impressed him so much he had his own furniture-maker copy it.

The Windsor chair quickly also found its way across the Atlantic, and it’s believed that US president Thomas Jefferson used a Windsor chair while preparing the American Declaration of Independence.

Charlie Camp from New Zealand is pictured here with Stephen forming the seat of her team’s Windsor chair, and we’ll post more pictures of students’ finished chairs next week.

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