next step on the Welsh chair (not Windsor)

While I have been taking some shop time this winter for the extra-curricular chair that I started, I have relied heavily on Drew Langsner’s The Chairmaker’s Workshop for details on making one of these chairs. But the inspiration for Drew and for me is really rooted in Wales. John Brown’s book Welsh Stick Chairs is a beautiful little book. If you like chairmaking and don’t know this book, I highly recommend it. A couple short essays about the history of the Welsh stick chair (I’ve been calling mine a Windsor, and Brown must be rolling in his grave) and about John’s background and how he came to be a chairmaker. I never got to meet him (he taught at Country Workshops twice I think… I had hoped to make his first class there, but had a niece’s wedding I couldn’t skip. I don’t know what happened the 2nd time.)

The bulk of the book is a photo essay of John making a high-back chair in his small shop. Very simple tools, and pretty deft techniques. I often think a book like this is preferable to a how-to book; it’s like lo0king over his shoulder while he makes his chair. Both Drew’s book and John’s are available from

planing tapered oak legs

Here are my legs being tapered at the bench. These were stock for joined stools that got rejected for one reason or another, and will make perfect tapered oak legs for this chair. Once I have planed them into squares, I sit the foot of the leg in a “joiners’ saddle”  – a small block of wood with a large V-notch cut in it. This automatically puts one arris up in the air, then I shove the top of the leg against the bench hook, and start planing the facets on it. Keep rotating the leg, and shaving each corner til you get an octogon, (not a hexagon as Brown says in his book – that’s an error.)

joiners' saddle

Later, I was working the seat again. Here I am spokeshaving the edges after having trimmed them earlier to define the outline. Mine’s an old Stanley 151 spokeshave. By the time the real souped-up spokeshaves were available, I was no longer really a chairmaker, and as a joiner I rarely use a spokeshave. This one works OK; if I did a lot of work with a spokeshave, I’d look at the new versions.

shaving seat's edge
spokeshave detail

This project is something I am trying to fit in around my regular work, but so far I have managed to get the bulk of it to move along. Now I gotta go searching around for some stock for the arms. I have plenty of ash & hickory leftovers from turned chairs for the spindles.


5 thoughts on “next step on the Welsh chair (not Windsor)

  1. Thank you for demonstrating this chair. It is really interesting to see another take on it. I have always thought I was compromising on John Brown’s technique by planing legs into octagons instead of hexagons. I look forward to the next installment.


  2. For my clarification, are you tapering while shaping the octagon by keeping plane parallel to bench while the leg has one end elevated by the Joiners Saddle, or are you simply getting the square stock closer to round?

    Thank you so much for your wonderful Blog! The insight into your craft and artistry is wonderful.

  3. Ted: Country Workshops’ forum has lots of stuff about chairmaking. It was there that Drew clarified that Brown’s legs were octogons and the book in error.

    but don’t thank me yet, I haven’t got the chair done.

    Kelly – I don’t want the legs to come out round. My octogons will be approximate – to begin the taper, I shaved the squares into tapered shape, then started taking off the corners. Lots of back & forth. All by eye for me. Haven’t decided on the tenons yet, whether turned or shaved, and what size. I think Brown’s in the book are large, maybe 1″ plus. I suspect Drew’s are smaller than that. I’ll look it up – that’s for another post. But it’s all part of the shaping of the legs too.

  4. Nice project Peter and nice to see John Brown’s work brought to new audiences. I love that book, true passionate writing and gorgeous photos. I have only handled one of his chairs but it was a real beauty. As he says in the book “add lightness and simplify”

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