After completing all of our legs, stretchers and arm supports in Part 1 and your seat in Part 2 it’s time to focus on the arm and back bow and the sticks.

There are very few things in life that are more satisfying than making your own chair. From the design to the making, the fruits of your labour are truly rewarded.

About this project

This four part project will give step-by-step instructions on how to make a traditional Windsor chair. It will list all tools and materials you will need at the beginning of each part. Good luck and happy making!

Before we get started

Undertaking the construction of a Windsor chair is no mean feat and having some experience of woodturning and working with hand tools is essential. We not only offer a complete 5 day Windsor chair course, where you take home a chair at the end of the week, we also offer two-day courses on Woodturning so you can hone your skills in advance.

Tool menu - Bows and Sticks

You will need the following tools to complete part 3

Materials list

  • 2 x 1.1/4" x 50" green ash for arm bow and back bow
  • 8 x 1m lengths of 14mm square ash for dowelling back and side sticks

Tip - When selecting your bow and stick wood, it is important to have the grain all running the same way through the chair.

Step 1 - Shaping and cutting the dowels

  • Cut a ½" tenon at one end of the Ash strip - this will allow it to fit into your ½" square socket
  • Fix ½" doweling cutter to a surface or into a vice (a simple guide jig can be made for this to aid control)
  • Put ½" socket into mains drill and put the 1'2" tenoned end into the socket
  • Carefully, drive the ash strip through the dowel cutter
  • Repeat this until all strips are dowelled

Top Tip - When driving strips through the cutter - go fast with the rotational speed of the drill and slowly with the feed through the cutter

  • When cutting dowels it is very important to wear full face protection as strips can snap during this operation
Windsor Chair_17

Step 2 - Making the back and arm bow moulds

The arm and back bows are similar in length, but the back bow has a more narrow bow than the arm. This is, entirely, a personal preference and you should construct the moulds accordingly to that preference.

Tool menu

Materials list

  • 1 x 8ft by 4ft sheet of ply

How to make your mould

  • Cut 2 pieces of ply and stick together (roughly…)
  • Glue and screw both pieces together
  • Using a bandsaw, cut out the shape of your bows
  • Cut another piece of ply (base board) larger than your mould
  • Fix mould to base board
  • Our mould measures 445 x 395mm for the back bow and 445 x 430mm for the arm bow (these measurements are to their widest and longest points)
  • Drill 8 x 50mm holes evenly on the edge of the mould to fix the clamps

Step 3 - Steam bending the back bow

We have made a steam bender using a wallpaper stripper (making one of these will be covered in a later project)

  • Place one of the pieces of green ash into the steam bender for the back bow
  • Depending on the moisture content of the wood, this can be for anytime between half an hour and two hours
  • Other timbers can be used, like beech, but ash seems to be more receptive to bending
  • Once ready, immediately transfer bow to the forming mould
  • Pull bow around the mould and clamp into position
  • After leaving overnight, take out of the mould and attach a wire clamp
Windsor Chair_13 Windsor Chair_14 Windsor Chair_15
  • Hang and leave for up to six weeks
Windsor Chair_16

Step 4 - Steam bending the arm bow

  • Repeat the same processes as with the back bow
  • When transferring from the steam bender, place in arm bow mould
  • Then repeat the same processes as the back bow

All done here? Continue to Part 4