Windsor Chairmaking
With Curtis Buchanan
 
by Doug Hall
Highland Woodworking Education Director

There are many distinctive characteristics of a Curtis Buchanan Windsor Chair. Most can be considered signature features, all graceful and flowing, from the crispness of his turnings to the delicate power of his finish work. These chairs are always visually stunning, yet also subtle at the same time, and their design and construction seem to manifest a certainty of enduring strength.

Curtis will tell you that an important element in any well-designed chair is balance. Truth be known, balance is the key to everything that he does. This is true not only with his chairmaking but also with how he teaches his classes. He is able to draw from a wealth of knowledge that has been ingrained into his being over his 30-plus-year career as a chairmaker, and articulate in no-nonsense fashion a clarity of instruction for his students. While this may seem like a simple process, it requires that the instructor know what information is needed at a specific time for a specific student. Add to that knowing how best to communicate that information so the budding chairmaker is able to clearly grasp it and successfully follow his detailed instructions.

To observe a class in progress can be very entertaining. Not only does one see a master craftsman seemingly effortlessly executing woodworking at a high level, but also the excitement in the eyes of his students. It is almost magical to watch Curtis become "one with the wood," to see him remove a piece of wood from a steam box and bend it to his will, listening to his observations about that one particular workpiece and what is about to happen as it bends.

View a Slideshow of Curtis' April 2008
Continuous Arm Rocking Chair Class
at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta

The people who come to study chairmaking with Curtis all leave with a beautiful heirloom Windsor chair made with their own hands, as well as an appreciation for all chairs and a newfound ability to go forth and make others if they choose. Beyond that, the relationships that form among the students during a week of honest hard work, exploration and joy are often rewarding and long lasting.

We always feel a sense of excitement upon learning that Curtis will be back here again to guide another group of students into the world of chairmaking. This year he will return to Highland Woodworking in September to teach again. For those who may be starting to get the "chair bug," he will be doing an evening lecture on Friday, September 19, 2008 on the subtle aspects of creating the perfect milk paint finish.

On Saturday, September 20, 2008 he will cover the process of making a Windsor chair from beginning to end during a one-day demonstration class, which is a great way to learn whether chairmaking is for you.

On the following day, Sunday, September 21, he will begin leading a new group of woodworkers through the meticulous week-long process in which each participant handcrafts his or her own comb-back Windsor chair.

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