I had planned to go to a chair class with George Sawyer back in 2019. Actually three different times my employer at the time ‘asked’ that I postpone my vacation which I would have used to take my whole family with me up to Vermont. After being forced to flake on George twice, it ended up not happening. Hopefully one day I’ll make it there to learn from him.
I’ve been working on a continuous arm design for a little over a year now and I am finally starting to make it. Beginning with a contemporary undercarriage I’ve landed on as my favorite, the bow will bend just as the form template from Curtis Buchanan’s plans have it, with a spindle layout derived(as best I can tell) from images of George’s work. After spending quite a bit of time with Curtis’s plans, producing a model with them last year, I noticed George puts his arm posts quite a ways more towards the rear of the seat. I don’t know all the thinking behind this layout, but it clearly gives the arm posts and forward spindles a more dramatic rake and splay, which my eyes favor at this point anyway.
I’m also starting an updated version of the first Windsor I made, only this time I’m making it an arm chair. From the beginning I preferred the through joinery of the stretchers to the legs. It was lightness in design that first drew me to Windsor chairs, and far narrower joint mass required to have the same strength in practice as the traditional blind tenon was a happy lesson for me. Especially when I also found that it could be carved even lighter once assembled—I imagine this might be an unnecessary step, but I haven’t tried it out.
I am looking forward to taking that a little further with this one. Continuing with the same post-assembly shaping of the stretchers receiving the others to lighten them up. I want to do the same thing to rear posts which receive the armrest rail, hopefully resulting in a much less bulky joint than what is typically seen with a blind tenon.
Both of these will be further proving ground for the leaf slats I’ve been playing with in a couple of chairs. I haven’t yet found a home run with them though. They require many steps & much time to make, and I’m starting to doubt whether I’ll ever be happy with the result when sitting. I thought they came out beautiful to look at on the recent red lowbow diner I made, but while they’re not uncomfortable on that chair, they’re also not as comfortable as the other straight spindle chairs I’ve made. Maybe the back is just too low on a chair like that for their intention to apply there, or maybe I just need to keep working at them. I’ll see.
There is also four of the B-2 diners in the mix on this batch. The only thing I’m changing on these is to bring the front legs out and forward a bit (actually, I’m changing this on the master template). I found I liked the way the rear legs’ taper sort of terminates at a natural intersection on the bottom of the seat about where the flat starts to return upward to round over the back edge right about the middle of the seats back curve. This made me start to see the front of the chair look a little weird where the front legs meet the seat. They look too crowded when viewing straight from the front, though this is my least favorite view of a chair anyway. I can’t bring them out far enough to match what’s going on at the rear legs and seat edge without drastically changing their rake and splay. I am using hardwood seats, so while making all the legs’ rake and splay more like what’s found on the English Windsors would produce this well, I’m not ready to go down that road yet. Mostly because these are to complete a set of six for my house, and I’d like them to match more closely than such a change would produce.
I also tried out how I like drilling with just the sightlines and a bevel gauge. It was quite nice not to fuss with mirrors or lasers as I’ve tried in the past. The holes certainly came out with a little more variance in their angle fidelity, but not so much that careful correction with the reamer won’t make perfect again, not to mention growing skill that will also correct later.
For drilling the spindle mortises, I opted for a simple 1/2″ thick wooden block (about 2.5″ wide) miter cut to match the resultant angles, and used these as secondary gauge blocks to set & check the drill bit. I quickly found I liked that method a lot as a welcome way to assist my skill to grow to where it’s just back to the sightline and sliding bevel gauge. Or maybe not, I don’t mind a few ‘crutches’ now and then.