Making Windsor chairs is a hobby for now.
SHOP OWNER: John Moscone
LOCATION: Rochester, NH
Although my hobby is woodworking, what I really like is Windsor chair making. To me, it is functional art. I got into this hobby about three years ago because I had no interest in going to Disney World with my wife and her sister-in-law, so I took a chair making class instead. In those three years I have made 21 chairs, mostly going to family members for special occasions and into my antique house. The chairs just seem right in a house thatís 225 years old.
My shop is 750-ft. square and it is the remnants of a house built around 1730 and later moved to my property sometime about 1850. I just canít get away from the antique stuff. I even build the chairs on a bench thatís 200 years old. In keeping with the old time traditions, I build my chairs using through tenons and wedges and usually without any metal fasteners. I try to use only old tools in the fabrication of them like spoke shaves, drawknives, travishers, a compass plane, and a brace with spoon bits. I do my lathe work on a Shop Smith after studying pictures of old chairs and trying to emulate the turning designs.
I don't go the whole route when it comes to "the old way is the best way" attitude. I don't rive the spindles but I cut them from straight grain stock on my table saw, and shape them with a spokeshave, finishing them on the lathe. I use a band saw as opposed to a bow saw and I think that a bare wood chair, while not traditional, looks better than one painted. I do steam bend parts but when using cherry I find it better to do laminations on some parts that have a severe bend like arms.
I taught myself carving so I can carve the ears in the traditional spirals and shape the knuckles in the arms. My wood of preference is cherry only because it looks so good over time. It can be a bugger to work with especially when you are turning legs. When doing this childís chair I went through seven billets of cherry to get four legs and four billets to get two long back spindles. I like oil finishes and I have been using Waterlox lately. It does a great job and has a nice feel to it. My favorite styles of Windsor chairs are the high back and comb backs. They are just stately looking chairs in my eye. I chose a scaled down version of a Massachusetts High Back for the childís chair because the High Backs seem to be the most rugged of the styles.
As of right now this is just a hobby. While I have sold three chairs so far, it isn't something that I feel compelled to do. I want to be able to make them when I feel like it right now, not to make a deadline. Maybe when I retire Iíll change my mind.. . . John Moscone
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