Windsor Chair question

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I am going to give a try at making a Windsor. I have access to many good bending hardwoods (red and white oak) and although I am always concerned with wasting wood, I am going to give hand riving a try and probably end up sacrificing a few BF of good wood.
My question is in regard to the seat. From my not-so-extensive research, poplar and white pine seem to be the most common woods to make the seat. I have heard basswood and a few others make a good ass rest also. I have never heard anyone speak of Yellow Pine as a seat however. I live near a mill that cuts SYP (Loblolly is the prevelant species) and I would have unlimited access to tons of it. Yellow pine is significantly harder than white, but some people make seats for Windsors out of hardwoods, so how hard would it be to carve a seat from SYP? Maybe is there another reason people stay away from it? I look foreward to responses, and any warnings and tips anyone may have for my somewhat blind ambitions into the world of Windsors.
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: My question is in regard to the seat. From my not-so-extensive : research, poplar and white pine seem to be the most common woods to : make the seat.
Real Windsor chairs are made with English Elm which has the property of being very difficult to split. This is very desirable because of the reliance of the entire structure on the integrity of the seat, and the proximity of the many holes.
Because of its un-splittability, I once made a 'Windsor' chair with a plywood seat. It worked OK, and some people liked the pattern formed by the shaping of the seat.
However the shaping was so tedious and dust-making, that I would not reccomend it.
Jeff G
--
Jeff Gorman, West Yorkshire, UK
Email: username is amgron
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I made 8 Windsors and I used basswood for the seats. It is easy to work and it sits nicely, too.
For the spindles and the bows you can also use hickory or pecan....anything with a straight and tight grain. Be sure to try to rive the spindles when the wood is still green and also work them while green....it's a lot easier.
I didn't have access to green maple for the undercarriage parts so I had to buy 8/4 maple. Be very careful selecting the maple and try to get some where the grain runs straight along the length as possible. (that's where riving really helps you since the blanks will follow the grain longitudinally.
Good Luck!
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Hi,
I taught myself to make windsors, much like you are about to. It's worth it. They are a blast. Gathering the needed antique handtools was a challenge, but now many people make reproductions of the original antiques. They're pricey, but they're out there. Thanks to Mike Dunbar, the windsor chair is pretty popular these days. I fear there are more people making them than buying them -- Mike probably makes more money from his classes than he does actually selling chairs.
As for the seat, I use 2" rough cut pine from a local saw mill. I buy it wet, and sticker it until it's dry and stable. Most any soft wood will work great for a seat. Traditionally, the seats were pine, the spindles and back were red oak, and the legs were maple or birch. I can't see any reason the yellow pine wouldn't work. Basically, if it's soft enough to scoop with your adze, scorp and travisher, you're all set. I've never done anything with a hardwood seat. I've heard that butternut is a nice working seat wood too. If you have any questions, I can try to answer them for you. So far, I've done maybe a dozen chairs, so I'm not an expert or anything, but I have built the loopback, continuous arm, sackback and my next one is going to be a writing arm.
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There are special chair-making tools (scorp, spoon bits, travister, shaving horse, wood steamer, etc) and specific skills to go with them. I made a settee using yellow pine for the seat, hard maple for the legs, and cherry spindles for the back. A pine seat is fine, but it will dent and scratch more easily (than a hardwood) with use.
On 19 Dec 2004 19:40:58 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

<snip>
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Some other reasons to use a soft wood for the seat -- when you drive the hardwood wedge into the tops of the legs (assuming you use traditional through tenons) you make the wedge a little larger than the hole -- when you drive it in, it will bite into the soft seat material and "lock" itself in place. This, combined with the stretchers pushing the legs apart, will prevent the leg from turning in the socket over time.
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I made my grand-daughter a small windsor chair and use a 2x10 to provide material for the seat. The only hard part about using yellow pine is trying to sand it. The grain is pretty pronounced and the hardness of the wood varies from early to late wood. The chair turned out all right and I haven't seen any excessive wearing or denting. If that is the wood you have available, go ahead and use it.
Roy Girolami Apex , NC
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To be _really_ traditional, the legs are dry, the seat is till green and the tenon is unwedged - it's just shrinkage that holds it.
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wrote:

Bloody brits! :)
AMERICAN Windsors -- according to Wallace Nutting -- the legs were green, the stretchers dry. Each stretcher had a shallow groove, and the green leg shrank around the bulb, securing it. If the windsor seat was green, it shrunk with the green leg, The legs, when the did not completely penetrate the seat, was sometimes secured in this manner: A hole was bored, increasing in size with the depth. A fox-tail wedge was merely started, and as the leg was driven home the wedge penetrated and spread the end to conform with the hole.
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I believe I've seen photographs showing the ends of those green legs in hot dry sand or near a heat lamp drying the ends just prior to being inserted in the green seat. So I suppose one could theoretically get the benefit of using green in both places.
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Yes, I still do that. hot metal bucket of sand works pretty good. Dunno if it does any good or not. In Mike Dunbar's book, he does it, but then in later articles I've read by him, he says it's not necessary. I don't know. I just like the looks of all the legs sticking out of the sand I guess! :)
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Wallace nutting was most likely mistaken, and he probably just guessed as how the chairs were made. Green wood was green for turning, but for joinery it stunk. People that have followed his ideas find they come up with a less succesful chair.
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Gee, I've been meaning to but have never made a windsor chair, but it seems to me that using SYP for the seat would be a bit of a bear, as it's pretty hard, the grain can be an issue, and its a bit sappy, as everytime I used it I had to soak my table saw blade to get rid of the pitch residue. It might be a real bear to carve out. Personally, I'd go with the white pine or basswood tradition as folks have been making these chairs for a long time and those boys figured this out long ago - why reinvent the wheel, especially for your first try. If you were making a hunnert or so of these chairs maybe the wood cost/availability would be relevant. My 2 cents.
Mutt
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

BELIEVE ME! Materials costs are almost insignificant when compared to your labor when making a windsor chair!
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wrote:

Unless you're trying to buy an elm seat base in elm-disease blighted Western Europe.
--
Smert' spamionam

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Yep, wasn't that the preferred over there? I'd rather elm myself, but thicker sections of softer woods seem to hold up well.
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It depends on your design. If you compare the joinery details of US and UK chairs, the UK chairs have thinner cross-grain sections that would be a weakness if they weren't made of something like elm.
One of the few US "Windsorish" chairs I've seen that used elm as a seat base was Nakashima's Conoid, yet because the back edge of the base is relatively straight, it doesn't have much of a short-grain problem anyway.
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wrote:

I guess I'm missing something here, but since most windsor chairs I've seen are painted, isn't the choice of wood for the seat rather moot?
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Yeah, from the sitter's POV, probably no difference...but from the maker's POV.... I wouldn't want to make a maple seat, for instance. Lots and lots of knucklebustin work. At least IMHO. I'll stick with white pine. Much easier on me and my blades.
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Wrong answer.
Reason for elm is that it's almost unsplittable. Since the legs are tapered to wedge in as the butt hits, it's a real asset. Else, you almost have to put a shoulder on the leg to prevent it splitting even a thicker section.
Worthwhile substitutes would be other curly type woods like yellow birch, or stringy, long grained woods.

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