Westonbirt Magazine

Autumn 2018

The making of a Windsor chair

Arboretum Director Andrew Smith tells us about his week on a bus-man's holiday down at Westonbirt Woodworks, learning to craft a chair from scratch using traditional techniques.

My working life has involved trees and engaging people with them, so it was great to spend six days doing something that combined both! A 50th birthday present was the perfect opportunity.

I’ve made things from wood before but largely using MDF. So it was a delight to use timber in its raw form, starting with round sections of tree trunk. An unexpected pleasure of working without power tools was that it was peaceful and dust free with no need to wear ear-muffs or a mask and goggles. Apart from the seat, all the ash was grown at Westonbirt Arboretum, giving a unique opportunity to make a piece of furniture of authentic provenance.

Over 15 years Paul Hayden has fine-tuned his course so it runs with a friendly efficiency. Experienced tutors assist in all aspects. The seven attendees were from a range of backgrounds, including a Westonbirt volunteer and retired miner, and one from as far afield as Newcastle. There is a logical progression of making and turning the pieces below the seat: stretchers followed by legs, then spindles for the seat back, carving the seat, bending the bow back, drilling holes at the correct angles and finally assembly.

I was aiming for contemporary simplicity, the finished product is Ercol inspired, the spindles with allium like bulges adding a feature interest. A few hours of sanding and a coat of clear oil gave a fantastic end result.

Find out more about our plans to expand the range of courses on offer and support our transformation of Westonbirt Woodworks here...

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