Tennessee Valley Woodworkers

Vol. 15/ Issue 1                                                January 2000                                      Editor: Tom Gillard


Meeting Notice:

The next meeting of the TN Valley Woodworkers

Will be held, January 18,  at 7:00 p.m. in the

Duck River Electric Building, Dechard, TN

All interested woodworkers are invited!







President, Loyd Ackerman, called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Welcomed guest were: Beth Davis, Nathan Oliver and Brant McGill.

Henry Davis announced that forms for exhibits on wood are available.
Loyd Ackerman announced that exotic wood material is available.
Bob Reese informed the club that saw blades could be taken to Dixie Woodworks and someone would pick them up, sharpen and return them. Also,
Bob passed a form for people to sign up to participate in various programs. In addition, a form was passed for people to indicate suggestions for desired programs. Bob also ask people to bring special tools that could consist of gadgets or gizmos.
Gary Runyan announced that he had some bandsaw blades available. Also,
announced the next meeting of the Blacksmiths club will meet on Jan. 21, 2000 at 9:00AM.at the Pioneer Village.
Crocia Roberts requested volunteers to make a small stool and a rocking chair for Heaven of Hope.



Steve Graham - A carving of Tennessee slaughtering Vanderbilt in the recent football game.
Harry May- A carving of a coon dog treeing a coon up a hollow tree.
Tom Gillard - A clock made of magnolia wood, quilt pattern made of different wood, a small lined box made of cherry, and a box made of magnolia and walnut wood.
Henry Davis-A bowl from craft place in Hawaii made of ocoa wood, sample of ironwood and a small bowl made of monkey pod wood.
Doyle McConnell-A bowl made from butternut wood, a maple bowl with special color effects as a finish, pins, set of candleholders, letter opener made from oak burl, a small baby rattler.
Loyd Ackerman-A bowl made from boxelder, a bowl made from maple, a tagua nut ornament, mahogany and tulipwood used to make box.
Bob Reese-violin with curly maple and Bobís wife, Rheta played the song, "Oh holy night", on the violin

Tom Cowan introduced Tom Church who had recently attended a Windsor chair making class at the John Campbell Folk School, which is located in Brasstown N.C.  Tom displayed the chair and gave details of the week that he was in school making the excellent piece of furniture. He shared templates and techniques that are unique in the making of Windsor chairs. The chair had maple legs, pine bottom, oak back and spindles. Tom passed out literature on cost and various classes that are available at the John C. Campbell Folk School. There were 27 members and guest in attendance.
Respectfully submitted; John Mayberry for John Green, secretary.


Windsor Chairs

Comb-Back Windsor Arm Chair

Legs, H-stetcher and upright spindles are turned. Seat is semicircular. Arm is continuous horseshoe shape, but the seven or nine spindles of the back pass through the arm piece and continue upward about 18". The back is then topped with a tall, thin cresting rail either plain or decorated with scrolls at ends. Sometimes there are two thin spindles that angle out from a tailpiece to attach to the top rail.  Low Back Windsor Arm Chair Legs, H-stretcher and uprights are turned. Seat is semicircular. The arm is continuous, in a horseshoe-shape, and there is a slight cresting in middle of back. This is supported by turned uprights and 11 to 17 spindles.


Bow-Back Windsor Arm Chair

Legs, H-stetcher and uprights are turned. Seat is oval. Arm is continuous horseshoe shape, but the seven spindles of the back pass through the arm piece and continue upward 10" to 14" to meet a hoop shaped back. There is sometimes a further comb shaped piece supported by the five central pieces.


Fire-House Windsor Chair

    One of the later styles to evolve so named due to its popularity for use in firehouses. Very little splay seen on the simply turned front legs, though plain rear legs flare greatly to the rear. Box shaped stretchers brace the legs. Seat is U-shaped with little or no saddling. Arms are a continuous piece that is horseshoe shaped and heavy in appearance. It is supported by seven to nine simply turned spindles.     The back has a simple, low cresting, and ends of arms are rounded.


Fan-Back Windsor Chair

 Legs, H-stetcher and uprights are turned. Seat is shield shaped. Five to nine spindles flare out slightly to support a yoke shaped cresting rail. When made with arms, they are supported by turned stumps at front edge of chair, and attach to the uprights. Sometimes there are two thin spindles that angle out from a tailpiece to attach to the top rail.


Loop-Back Windsor Chair

There is both a side and armchair version, the side chair version being perhaps the best known. Legs and H-stretcher are turned.  Seat is shield shaped. A continuous piece of wood forms a slightly flared hoop, making the frame of the back. Seven to nine spindles are used on the back. When arms are included, they are supported halfway down the seat from the back by turned stumps, the rear ends attaching to the hoop.


Arch-Back Windsor Armchair

Legs and H-stretcher are turned. Seat is shield shaped or oval. A continuous piece of wood forms a hoop, which then flares forward on both sides to create a flat arm. Seven to nine spindles support the back, while turned arms and two canted rods support the arm. Sometimes there are two thin spindles that angle out from a tail piece to attach to the top.


Rod-Back Windsor Chair

Legs and stretchers, either H or boxed, are turned to resemble bamboo. Seat is shield or squared-off saddle shaped. The back is formed by two uprights, also turned bamboo, with five to seven spindles which are either plain or bamboo turned. These are topped with a flat, rectangular rail. When made as an armchair, either round or flat arms attach to uprights, with a bamboo turned arm stump.


Arrow-Back Windsor Chair

Legs are simply turned, with either a H- or Box stretcher setup.  Seat is shield or square shaped, with less pronounced saddling.  Back is two simply turned uprights with three to five arrow slat, with a top rail which is often scrolled. The back also noticeably curves outward from seat.


History of the Windsor Chair


Scholars have traced the origin of the Windsor chair to early-18th-century England. Those who fancy romantic myths attribute the chairs' discovery to George III, who, while foxhunting, reportedly sought refuge from a thunderstorm in a local cottage. There, next to the fire, he found comfort in a simple plank-seat chair with a number of narrow, turned spindles forming the back and legs, a feature accounting for its less glamorous name, the "stick chair."    Soon thereafter, the story goes, George ordered his carpenters to make a number of these stick chairs for his use at Windsor Castle. As their popularity spread, they became known as Windsor chairs.

           Many of the earliest Windsor chairs were made specifically for use in English gardens.   Unlike solid-back chairs, Windsors were lightweight, easy to position and, because of their open construction, unlikely to topple over during a windstorm. Many of the earliest Windsor chairs were painted to protect them from the elements, with dark green being the most common shade. More elaborately turned and carved Windsor chairs were commissioned for use within upper-class homes. Sturdy yet flexible, the form also proved popular in pubs, where a simple, low-back version was favored.

Although the American Windsor chair was clearly influenced by its English forebears, the style developed a look of its own here, with cabinetmakers from various regions of the country competing with one another to make the most popular version. According to Charles Santore, author of The Windsor Style in America (Running Press, Philadelphia; vol. 1, 1981; vol. 2, 1987; $60 per set), Windsor furniture was the most characteristically American and the most historically significant furniture style to emerge from 18th-century America. As Colonial chair makers began producing Windsor chairs, they were less inclined to follow the subtleties of English style than they were to adapt construction and design details from their region. Philadelphia cabinetmakers became so adept at making Windsor chairs with plain tapered legs rather than the more expensive ball feet that the name Philadelphia chair was often used. By 1760, Philadelphia cabinetmakers were turning out thousands of tapered-leg Windsor chairs in assembly-line fashion. Many shops branded their names on the underside of their chair seats, an indication of the competition among Windsor chair makers.

Cabinetmakers in New York and New England, on the other hand, created bold new designs in their turnings in an effort to distinguish themselves from Philadelphia manufacturers. They also developed a new category of chairs: the continuous-arm Windsor, clearly distinguished by a graceful bowed back that also forms the arms of the chair. While the look of the Philadelphia-style chair stagnated under restrictions imposed by efficient assembly-line production, chair makers farther north advertised custom-made Windsor chairs celebrated for their quality. Both versions proved popular.

One English influence American cabinetmakers retained for their Windsor chairs was a painted finish. Since many 18th-century American Windsor chairs were used outdoors, green remained a popular color. As Windsors were purchased for room settings, colors changed. In addition to protecting the wood, the paint disguised the fact that many Windsors were constructed of three types of wood: maple for the legs and spindles, pine or poplar for the seat, and ash or hickory for the crest rail or bow, depending on the style.

Since every element except the seat was thin and delicate, the grain of the wood wasn't intended to serve a decorative purpose. Only by selecting a vibrant color or a combination of colors, such as green, yellow, red, or black, to name a few, could the chairmaker accentuate his design. As early as 1800, cabinetmakers were offering to repaint old Windsor chairs in stylish new colors and combinations. This helps to explain why so many early Windsor chairs have a coat of red or yellow paint over an original layer of green.

Unfortunately, many original finishes were ruined by 20th-century refinishers unaware of the value of an original coat of paint, even if buried beneath layers of latex. As a precaution, owners of possibly old Windsor chairs are advised to have their chairs inspected by an expert before undertaking any restoration.