A Windsor Chair for Spring by Terry Kelly
CT Kelly talks about the techniques used in this windsor chair, a beautiful green for spring!
The spindles in my chairs are split and wedged, which holds them a lot better than hide glue can alone, especially as the pieces move in response to humidity changes. Where the spindle goes into the seat, it is a blind hole, meaning that the hole does not go all the way through, hence blind. As a result, spindle is kiln dried down to 2-3% moisture content, and when this end is hammered into the 12-14% m.c. seat, along with glue, the end will never come apart. This green chair was my special “St. Paddy’s” edition, but makes a perrrrfect chair for spring!
On the top end of the spindle, the fit has to be a little loose, or else you’d never get the rail or bow on. It’s hard enough when it’s a little loose! So the top end, seen here, the fit is a little loose, and the joint is tightened with a wedge. I also use a little pencil sharpener to point the ends, which further aids assembly.
The legs are basically the same…. kiln dried, split and wedged, which fills in any little gaps and in effect clamps the joint together. Again, hide glue doesn’t need a lot of pressure, but honestly you probably could put this chair together without glue and it would live a long happy life.
Sometimes the wedges can be used for a decorative effect on a chair that is clear or unpainted, as on the arm on this sack back settee. Where the bow protrudes out the bottom side, that end is also split and wedged, and then left fat. This prevents the bow end from being pulled back through the arm. This is a very tricky joint to drill because the arm can be easily split. I put a small clamp on either side of the hole, and a back up block on the bottom. Some builders will taper the bottom side and then taper the end of the bow, I prefer to run the end more or less straight, which allows me to adjust the look of the bow. This is one of those times when looks are more important, and by making the ends straight, I can simply slide the bow end in and out until the height is sweet. Remember, if it looks fair, it is fair. Then I wedge the tops of the long spindles, and then finally the end of the bow. After all that, the bow is secure. It really is important to get this right, it affects the look of the whole chair…take your time and get it right, especially balance left and right.