I have always enjoyed using hand tools and occasionally I’ll decide to try my hand at making my own tools. Here is my first Windsor chair maker’s bowsaw. My design reflects the work of J. Crate Larkin who was published in Fine Woodworking Magazine issue #151. However, I incorporated a number of modifications concerning saw size, handle and blade assembly aspects. This bowsaw project gave me an excuse to work with tiger maple, 3/8″ brass rod, copper end caps, and to salvage some maple scraps from turning Windsor chair legs. In contrast with Larkin’s saw, I scaled this design up for use in Windsor chair making work. My saw sports a 27 1/2 inch long blade which is narrow (3/8 inch wide). This is designed for cutting curves. Occasionally, Barb and I do demonstrations at the General Herkimer Home Historical site in Little Falls, NY, and this will be used to cut chair seats. Since this is my prototype, I’ll incorporate some refinements in any subsequent saws. Hopefully, I’ll offer some for sale in the near future for those who appreciate quality and beauty in a hand made woodworking tool. This saw works great in my hand and is a beautiful tool to hang on the wall until it is needed the next time.
When I am not being pastor for my congregation in Dolgeville, I work on building Windsor chairs. It is a labor of love and now a part-time business for my wife, Barb, and me. Windsor chairmaking is a perfect fit for my woodworking and a woodcarving skills. I am proud to be called a chairmaker, especially one that makes Windsor chairs! Windsor chairmaking is a perfect fit for this person because I’ve always loved to work with hand tools. For me, making a handmade American Windsor chair is the closest thing to making a handcrafted duck decoy. I love duck decoys, especially the hand carved ones, but I love to make Windsor chairs more. My dad got me started using hand tools as a kid, and like many woodworkers , I quickly learned that a sharp hand plane or spokeshave can offer far more control in the shaping of the wood. Being good at using hand tools also offers something else–tool marks as the telltale signs of quality–evidence of good ol’e fashion American craftsmanship. To those who appreciate antiques from the 17th and 18th century, tool marks left behind by master chairmakers never go out of style when it comes to making reproductions. Tool marks are evidence of an authentic Windsor chair reproduction.
So today, I want to show you a fine chair I just completed. It is a Nantucket Fan Back chair and the most comfortable Windsor chair out there in my opinion. It is a bigger chair and designed for a person to sit in it longer. It has some awesome carving details that you can truly enjoy. Being a woodcarving for over 27 years, I always look forward to carving the arms and crests on the Windsors. This one I finished with a distressed black over red milk paint finish that I rubbed out carefully to mimic an aged surface. I say distressed because I used the antique crackle product sold by the ™Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company and it leaves a distinctive antique appearing surface. I hope you’ll enjoy looking at it. I spent many hours rubbing it out, before sealing it with a gel polyurethane sealer.
I’ll be offering chairs like this Nantucket Fan Back on my website at www.chairsbypaulson.com.
Rev. Jim aka “jim the chairmaker”