I finally made it to Lee Valley. It's nearly a three-hour drive from
Champlain, NY, but the prospect of attending a Windsor chair making seminar
made it worthwhile.
First off - store impressions: Nice, but too much Plexiglas. About 1/2 the
products are secured behind locked Plexiglas. While I'm sure that the staff
would be more than willing of allow fondling of the goodies, that is simply
unrealistic on a Saturday afternoon. That place was packed. Believe it or
not, I left empty-handed, but not unfulfilled. The seminar was outstanding.
The seminar was held in a 600 sf room, directly adjoining the showroom
floor. The seminar was fully booked at 10 attendees. The layout was
semi-circle of chairs surrounding David Fleming, the presenter.
Mr. Fleming brought with him a large collection of mostly antique hand tools
and demonstrated the use of the Froe, Adze, Inshave, travisher, drawknife,
spokeshave, Bit&brace with spoon bits and reamer, as well as a spring-pole
Starting with what was essentially a pile of firewood, he was demonstrated
how each component of a Windsor char was made. Although the time constraints
of a six-hour seminar did not permit fabrication of all of the parts a
entire chair pretty much all of the bases were covered.
One particularly nice feature of the seminar is that all of the attendees
were, for the most part advanced hobbyist woodworkers, but new to
chairmaking. The pace and length of the length of the presentation was just
right. A hands-on seminar would not have worked in that time frame, but
there was opportunity for each of us to touch and try out the tools.
If I had just shown of and gotten an adequate explanation of how to measure
and execute all the compound angles of the legs spindles and rungs I would
have been satisfied, but I got much more.
He even steam-bent a compound-curved chair back/arm. I found this
demonstration particularly useful as I had never seem steam-bending done.
I've read about it, but I did not have a sense of what (ease/quantity of
bend) could be achieved until I saw the process in action. Reading that you
have about 45 seconds from the steamer to the form is just not the same as
See the "ross chair" in this link http://www.spokeshave.ca/chairs.html
I have never watched a spring-pole lathe in action. It certainly goes a fair
way to dispel the notion that you need 1300 lbs of ballast on your Oneway
before you can consider yourself "in the game" ;-)
His spring-pole lathe pictured here: http://www.spokeshave.ca/shop.html
(although not a great picture).
I took a couple of cuts on it, and damned if it did not work reasonably well
once you got a sense pumping with your left foot and backing off the chisel
for the backward return spin of the workpiece. It felt like a carving but
with the same rhythmic sense of hand-sawing.
As an accessory to the lathe, he had what he called a back-steady. It just a
steady-rest, but it had a pivoting jaw behind the workpiece. The nice thing
about this arrangement is the rest does not have to be adjusted to a
particular spindle diameter. The pivoting jaw would just "fall" against the
back of the work-piece and was given constant light pressure by a weighted
wedge behind the jaw. The wedge was loose and just danced around a bit has
he turned and reduced the spindle diameter, even right in front of the
His setup has inspired me to make a couple of accessories for my Jet 1442.
First, I think I will make a similar back-steady. His was locked in it's
horizontal position by a wedge under the maple ways. I bet that I could use
rare earth magnets to mount a similar accessory directly to the machined bed
of my lathe. Has anyone else tried magnet-based accessories on a caast-iron
Also, he had a tool bin, not unlike a quiver for arrows, mounted on the
right front leg of his lathe. I have been looking for the right solution to
the "where do I set my tools, while turning?" problem for quite some time.
This looked like a pretty good answer to me. Once again I think that
magnet-based mounting might be the way to go as it is simple, flexible, and
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