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CLICK HERE for information on the Windsor Chair class that Peter is
teaching at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2011.

Windsor Chairs: Why it all Adds Up

by Peter Galbert
Princeton, MA

When I was an art student, just about everyone spent their time trying to make unique or original work. A worthy goal, but dangerous in the hands of a bunch of twenty year olds. As I learned the craft of woodworking, this attitude seeped in. I was sure that if I learned the tools and materials that something new would emerge. And as my interest turned to making chairs, the absolute last thing on my mind was making some sort of "reproduction".

I blame restaurants. Think of how many restaurants you've been in with awful, dumbed down and clumsy Windsor or Ladderback chairs. Uncomfortable, heavy and "old timey". Not something that I wished to emulate.

Then I discovered the work of E. W. Godwin.

I was astounded by the light, elegant designs.

And even more humbled that his work was made mid-19th century. Much of it has a timeless feel, like it was made yesterday...recognizing that much of the work was turned and bent. This didn't fit in with the jointer, planer, tablesaw, router skills that I'd learned. I went looking for technology and this is where Windsors came into the picture.

I noticed that Windor chairs (the best ones, found in books and museums, not restaurants) shared a similar DNA. So I set about investigating all that goes along with making a Windsor, the shapes, the green wood, the hand tools, the joinery and the finish. It was a revelation.

In recent years I've come to understand why it suits me so well personally. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are two kinds of people (woodworkers) in this world. Additive and subtractive.

Wood has wonderful qualities for carving into shapes. Some people apply this mainly to the joints so that many small pieces can add up to one big one, and others are content to just shape the wood, finding joy in the emerging shapes.

I am decidedly a shaper. From my first soap carvings as a kid, I loved taking material away. But, not being interested in Wendell Castle type carved chairs, I needed to find a way to make chairs that suited my nature. Here's where the Windsor comes in.

There is a balance between shaping the wood, and adding it up so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Each piece of the chair a sculpture in and of itself.

My own interests have turned to exploring these shapes and better relating them to each other in an effort to make the chair more unified, harmonious and comfortable.

A challenge that keeps me excited for my next chair, and continually looking back to the early Windsors for ideas and inspiration.

Take a look at Peter's website here or send him an email at peter@petergalbertchairmaker.com .

For more information on the Windsor Chair class Peter is teaching at Highland this fall, CLICK HERE .

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