Windsor Chairs: Frequently asked Questions

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Who is Colin Foxhall?

For thirteen years I carried on a Windsor chair making business near Tavistock, Devon. Now we have moved to Somerset, I make only things I really like to make, at my own pace. If you like them too, that's great. More about the chairmaker . Here are some testimonials from a few of my past clients. Testimonials

 

Are all the chairs made by you personally?

Yes. The components are all hand crafted by me, mainly from UK green (unseasoned) timber and then carefully dried before assembly. Great care is taken to ensure that the chairs will last a very long time, even in modern centrally heated homes. Bent parts are solid timber, steam bent to shape.

 

Do you make other things as well?

I try to stick to what I like doing best, which is mainly Windsor chairs. As I don't posess a decent straight edge, try square or machinery, I find it almost impossible to make anything straight or with a right angle in it.

 

Do you offer a guarantee?

Yes. All my chairs are guaranteed for as long as you, a reasonable person, would reasonably expect them to last. That is in addition to your legal rights. Obviously I cannot guarantee against wear and tear, damage beyond fair wear and tear, or misuse.

 

Do you teach Windsor chair making?

If you are keen to learn, I'm keen to teach. There's no point keeping it to myself.

 

What is a Windsor chair?

A Windsor chair is one with a shaped wooden seat into which are fixed all the other major components. The backrest and legs are always separate. Due to this method of construction all the angles and shapes can be designed for comfort, strength and stability. Many people remember them as the kind of chair that Granny had by the fireside.

 

 Do you use all traditional techniques?

Where traditional techniques are best, I use them. I also employ modern methods where these are appropriate, especially for removing waste. Tungsten carbide power tools and diamond sharpening have their place in my workshop, but shaping with an old fashioned spokeshave is the only way to get the right 'feel' to many of the components.

 

Some of your chairs look a bit delicate. Are they strong enough?

Certainly some of my chairs do look delicate, and that is quite deliberate. By careful selection of materials and attention to detail of design all my chairs are plenty strong enough. But I do make more visually "chunky" designs, usually of Old English descent.

 

Why hand made Chairs?

Because they last longer, and are better looking. In years to come, if you look after them, your handmade chairs will become heirlooms.

Hand made chairs can be made of thinner selected materials thus improving appearance, and GAINING strength and flexibility due to the distribution of stresses. Timber can be carefully selected for moisture content and grain pattern. Seats can be deeply sculpted to improve comfort. Hand made chairs of a type may look identical at first sight but slight differences will gradually become apparent to delight the eye. Your hand made chairs will always be unique.

There are many perfectly satisfactory machine made mass produced chairs available, and due to the way they are made they are also likely to be cheaper. To stand up to the additional stresses of machine manufacture, components tend to be made of thicker section timber, and machine lathe turned components are generally less crisp and detailed. Seat sculpting tends to be less pronounced. Generally all this can lead to a "lumpy" appearance. All machine made chairs of a type will be more or less identical. And of course everyone has them!

 

How can I justify the additional cost of handmade chairs?

Apart from the sheer pleasure of owning furniture made by a craftsman, the longer life of a handmade chair should justify the additional cost by itself.

 

Will my hand made chairs increase in value?

I can't guarantee that they will. At least not for the first fifty years. After that, who knows?

 

Will cheap mass produced chairs increase in value?

No.

 

Why not just buy antiques?

Have you ever tried buying a genuine set of matching antique Windsor chairs? If they really do match they will be relatively expensive. If they don't quite match they may be what is euphemistically known as a "Harlequin set".

Antique chairs were made in a time before central heating was generally available, so were not designed for the very dry atmospheres of modern homes, and will often be loose in the joints. But good quality antique Windsor chairs are nice. Buy them if you can find them. I'm happy to repair them. They are not getting any cheaper.

 

Where can I find out more?

Use the contact details below. You can find out more about Windsor chairs generally by visiting the Windsor Chair resource centre www.windsorchairresources.com . If you decide that windsor chairs are not for you, or perhaps you need a crafter outside the UK.

 

Can you send chairs overseas?

If you organise and pay for collection, packing, carriage, insurance, I'll send them anywhere. I will not hunt around for shippers, packers, insurers etc. on your behalf. Be aware that shipping abroad is expensive. All transactions must take place in the UK in pounds sterling, because I am not registered for VAT in the UK, and to sell chairs in the EU I would need to register for exemption in every country of the EU. Presumably it's their way of encouraging small businesses.

More or less the same applies to the US. You would have to be responsible for all import duties, (official or unofficial) as well.

 

Can you carve motifs etc. on the chairs?

To be honest, my carving isn't that great, but I do have a method for carving neat initials onto children's chairs. I will not carve any political, religious, campaigning, or contentious symbols or script onto any of my work.

 

Why don't you get a professional to design a better website?

Because this one is kind of fun, and it works quite well enough for my purposes.