I've never had a seat splitting problem. A lot of period windsors I've
seen with pine seats have never had a seat splitting problem, and
they're more than a hundred years old. Maybe people weren't as fat back
then. :) It's strange that nothing I've read on the subject talks about
using elm for that reason. Sounds plausible, I guess. I've tried to
split elm -- those strings will kill ya.
American period Windsors would probably have had eastern white pine, pretty
even stuff in density. American styles have knobs or shanks and straight
tenons into parallel-sided holes into the thicker bottom.
If you like the Welsh or English pattern, you find thinner seats of elm,
where a spoon bit can make a tapered hole for a shankless leg tenon to wedge
into from below, a real asset when you're not turning, but shaving the legs
all the way, like the country artisan would do working green wood.
Oh yes, that wonderful interlocked grain also makes elm the preferred wood
for wagon hubs.
But that site (http://www.windsorchairresources.com/cp9.html ) and a lot of
the pics and descriptions in my Nutting 'American Windsors' book, and also
'The Windsor Style in America, vol. I and II') show hardwood legs all the
way thru the pine or poplar seat, with a tapered socket and tapered leg. No
parallel-sided holes, and no knobs or shanks. I guess my quesiton is, I see
plenty of instances of both construction techniques. Was one more popular
than the other? Was one from traditionally trained british chairmakers who
ended up in America, or was it just simply a result of whatever woods were
Nothing like trial and accidental success, I suppose. That's the way most
things got started. It's then you try to figure out what makes it work to
vary it. I guess I should reiterate that the thinner the seat, the more
necessary the intrinsic anti-split capability. I see thicker bottoms on the
American pattern stuff than the UK stuff, because they need it.
My personal guess would be that the relative abundance of woods determined
what might be used, then tradition and trial determined which, and how.
You have good answers here. Some not so good.
Elm and Butternut make fine seats for chairs. Both look nice when
finished clear. However as it has been explained a softer wood is what
the chairs were commonly made from so that the hardwood wedges could be
keyed into the softer wood and so that the hardwood spindles can bite
into the seat too.
I think poplar and syp are both too hard for this.
There are plenty of different reasons for using a few different type
woods on an American Windsor. English Windsors are a different story.
For an excellent resource go to www.windsorchairresources.com
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