• Windsor ChairA type of wooden chair constructed of turned, slender spindles and legs that are socketed into a solid, saddle-shaped wooden seat.

I'm often asked how we found this place and how John started building chairs? Tired of reading real estate listings, and not sure where our lives where heading, we stumbled on an advert in the Clare Shopper. dscn3742On a whim, we decided to check out the Windsor Chair making business. Despite not really knowing what a Windsor chair was, or why we were remotely interested, the following day saw us pulling into a driveway, lined with lofty maple trees. It was August and the gardens were in full swing. Ripe tomatoes hung from vines, cucumbers were ready for the pickling jar and golden sweetcorn stood tall, with melons tangled around their feet. The backdrop to it all, was a sloping carpet of wild blueberries.

The chairmaker met us and showed us the workshop, explaining the chair building process as we went. He also told us that the trees in the driveway, were in fact, sugar maples and that each spring, he and his wife made their own maple syrup!

"Oh, and by the way, the house is also for sale" he casually mentioned.

John spent ten days in the workshop, learning the craft of the chairmaker, while I spent lazy afternoons with my boys, then aged 12 and 13, picking sun-warmed blueberries. We were sold!

Continuous arm Windsor chair
John, in 2006, with his first Windsor chair; a continuous armchair.

Fast forward ten years and John is now an accomplished maker of Windsor chairs. His chairs are mostly commission pieces, built to customer's individual specifications, including a 'whale' chair for a television remake of Moby Dick, starring Ethan Hawke and William Hurt. Built for Captain Ahab's office, the Comb back chair had carved sperm whales for arms.

Comb back windsor chair with carved whale knuckles
Comb back windsor chair for Moby Dick television remake

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Sperm whales were carved to remind Captain Ahab of Moby Dick.

Each of John's chairs are built using wood carefully selected and cut from our 60-acre woodlot. Then using classic Windsor Chair designs and chairmaking tools of the 18th century, John individually handcrafts each chair....straight from the log.

windsor-chair-book
John refers to several books for details and building plans, including this one by Michael Dunbar. Available from Amazon.

There are many stages to building a Windsor chair, so rather than explain it in words, I put together a slideshow to show the process.

To learn more about John's chairs, visit his website.

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