The magic of the Windsors

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Last week was all about making Windsor chairs.

Students worked in teams of four to complete their Windsor chairs, under the expert guidance of Tom Thackray and Stephen Langton.

Tom has been making Windsor chairs, and teaching others how to make them, for some 50 years and, together with son-in-law Stephen, they are a renowned teaching duo.

Learning how to make a Windsor chair makes perfect sense because it involves skills such as turning, precision drilling, stick making and steam bending.

In other words it brings together a whole variety of different skills in one complex piece of furniture, and also tests how well each team is able to work with one another!

“It’s also a great introduction to professional woodworking because making a good-looking functional chair is, in many ways, the very basis of furniture design and making, “says Tom.

Perhaps the greatest exponent of the Windsor chair was Sam Maloof, the American woodworker whose chairs were bought by film stars and US presidents and whose work is in the collections of several major American museums.

Sam Maloof always called himself a “woodworker” because, as he said, “it’s an honest word.”

“Honesty is what making a Windsor chair teaches you,” says Tom, “because every joint and drilled hole is always visible, so there’s nowhere to hide if you get things wrong.

“It’s a quality that all good woodworkers have in abundance, because honesty is about taking the greatest trouble over every aspect of the design and making process.

“That’s the beauty of the Windsor chair – a deceptively simple piece of functional furniture that embodies within it many of the lessons that every woodworker has to learn.

“As in previous years, I’m delighted that the Chippendale students have taken that philosophy on board and are working hard to make excellent and honest chairs,” says Tom.

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