A Pair of Forest Chairs – Part One

I want four or five Windsor chairs that can remain permanently outdoors on the front veranda of the new house. As I have blathered on about forest chairs on numerous occasions, I thought I would make a pair of them to begin with.

This particular variety of Windsor elbow-chair with its vasiform back splat follows a more general type of comb-back chair popular during the second half of the eighteenth-century.

The seats are of solid elm, the legs and back sticks are of ash, the arms are single-piece steam-bent ash bows and the arm posts, splats and crest rails can either be of ash, elm or a drupaceous fruitwood of one sort or another.

The seats can be bell-shaped with gently curved front edges or D-shaped and flat-fronted (fig. 1). The arm posts are flat blades and simply shaped rather than the more usual turned or steam-bent items. A notable deviation, of these chairs from the archetypal Windsor, is the absence of any stretchers.

Fig. 1. Green-painted stretcherless forest chair, circa 1800. (James Graham-Stewart)

I opted for bell-shaped seats and began by cutting the 24″ x 17-1/2″ x 1-3/4″ seat boards roughly to shape, then planed them flat and shaved and chamfered their edges (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Elm seat boards.

The turned ash legs adhere to a traditional pattern popular during the second half of the eighteenth-century (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Subtly turned ash legs.

Jack Plane

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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8 Responses to A Pair of Forest Chairs – Part One

  1. stevenrey56 says:

    Very nice start. I have to say, I like the legs on the English Windsor much more than these pointy things we have in America. They’re definitely more practical for a variety of surfaces they may be set upon.

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  2. Alex A. says:

    Very nice. I wish elm was easier to come by in the states (dutch elm disease). Unfortunately ash is very easy to come by at the moment thanks to emerald ash borers wiping them out…

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  3. Warwick says:

    Hi, have you chosen to make the seats with the grain running side to side? This would be unconventional would it not?
    Cheers

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    • Jack Plane says:

      The grain direction of the majority of Windsor side chair seats runs front-to-back as the seats are around 16-1/2″-18″” deep (and can be up to 22″ deep to accommodate bob-tails), but are only around 16″-19″ wide.
      Conversely, elbow chair seats are normally 16-1/2″-19″ deep, but can be up to 24″ wide, so their grain is usually oriented side-to-side.

      Of course exceptionally wide boards of elm are not uncommon, so one occasionally sees wide Windsor elbow chairs with front-to-back seat boards.

      JP

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      • Ged says:

        Thank you, I was naïve in not considering that it could be grown in Australia. Does that go for most of our British species, and I take it you don’t have Dutch Elm disease?

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        • Jack Plane says:

          There are many British/European/North American tree species growing in Australia with a number being naturalised.

          DED did make it here, but was quickly brought under control.

          JP

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  4. Ged says:

    That looks like the east European elm I had recently, is it? It certainly is very fast grown, and thus somewhat characterless.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      This particular elm is from an English elm that grew in Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. Like most species, the timber varies from tree to tree, depending on soil and climatic conditions etc. I also have boards from a sister tree that grew 50m from this one and it displays quite different characteristics.

      JP

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