Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Life of a Windsor Chair Spindle

When you look at a Windsor Chair in it's completed form, there are so many parts that come together to make the beauty you see. Part of that beauty are the plain and simple back spindles providing the anchor of the upper half of the chair. What you don't see is how those plain and simple little back spindles came to be. To do them the right way they need to be split or riven out of a green log. First you have to find a good straight log (in this case White Oak). You have to saw it to length, split it in half, then again into quarters, and even if you can read the bark well, the log may have some hidden defects that make it unusable. Once it's split into quarters, and any defects discovered and discarded, a grid is layed out across the section, some people split it into eight sections instead. The 1" grid gives you more even squared up spindles stock making it easier to shave with the Draw Knife in my book.
Each grid line is strategically rived using a riving brake, giving gorgeous straight grained oak providing the utmost strength and quality. Then each wide plank is rived again and again till 1" square billets are produced.

With each billet split out, it's time to shape them square with a draw knife. First you have to follow the grain on one side, flatten it out, turn it end for end, up and down, back and forth, then move onto the next side and do it all again. Once thats done four times, you have to make it octaganal and oversize the tenons, the swell, and taper. After you have all that done...  
They need to set around the shop a week or so before they go in the kiln for 2-3 days. Then they are ready to final shape with a spokeshave.
  So, those plain and simple little spindles have been through so much just to be a plain and simple spindle. Even if they seem like plain and simple parts of a Windsor, they provide the backbone of the chair allowing you to sit and rest your back. Now I'm ready to lean my tired back against those plain and simple spindles and relax.    


  1. Sorry to get off topic a bit, but what is the name of the style desk you have at the top of the blog? It's awesome, is that maple?

  2. Thanks Rick for reading.

    Trevor, thats my version of a Slant-Lid Secretary, I made it out of Tiger Maple. Thanks for the comment.