Windsor Chair Tools

I’ve been studying Windsor chairmaking for a number of years, and information on the topic is spread out all over the internet. My purpose for this page is to integrate some of the more useful resources in a single spot, so you (and I) don’t have to go on a long search for the information we need. I hope some of you find it helpful! I know I will, at least…

Adzes

Tapered Reamers

Rounding planes (AKA tenon cutters)

Travishers

Inshaves

Everybody seems to like a slightly different configuration, and none of the modern manufacturers make a tool that chairmakers can agree on as a leading design. Most seem to prefer vintage tools, but good ones aren’t easy to come by. So, it’s with a bit of reluctance that I include these links, but here they are anyway…

  • Ray Iles – Looks more like the tight-radiused inshave used by Curtis Buchanan and Elia Bizzarri. Peter Galbert prefers a flatter profile.
  • Barr – I’m wary of this one – the handles seem to be canted at the wrong angle…Another tight-radiused inshave.
  • Two Cherries – Comes in terrible condition, but can be made acceptable with a couple hours’ of work. See my tutorials: Grinding and Sharpening

Sightline Rule

Peter Galbert designed this tool and graciously released the designs for free. Click on the link to see why you need this tool – he has an excellent video of the rule in use.

Shavehorse

This section could go on for ages. There are scores of shavehorse designs out there (just do a Google search). Many of them are pretty bad. Some of them are very, very good. All of them have benefits and drawbacks. I’ll limit this to a few designs that I’ve tried out myself.

  • Jennie Alexander’s English horse – A very basic design. This was the first shavehorse I built, and I used it occasionally nearly a decade. It’s a decent design, but not one I’d want to be using every day.
  • Peter Galbert’s Dumbhead – A more useful design for Windsor chairmaking, because your material doesn’t have to be slid between two posts like in Alexander’s English design.
  • Peter Galbert’s quick-adjust (“Smarthead”) – You really need to watch his whole video series to understand what this design is all about. And here’s a link to a better drawing from Jameel Abraham. These plans are just for the treadle, which can be paired with nearly any dumbhead shaving horse design. I built one of these for myself, and I’ve found that the design has some shortcomings. Primarily, with thinner stock (which is mostly what you’ll be shaving if you build Windsor chairs), the clamping action results in a weak “pinching” grip versus a more powerful “wedging” grip. So you gain some speed in adjustment, but you lose holding power. I’m not sure that the tradeoff is worth it.
  • Tim Manney’s Dumbhead – I’ve never built one of these, but if and when I build another shavehorse, it will be this one. Looks like a great design, and I’ve heard good things from those who have tried it.

Inspiration

If you just want to sit back and have a look at some beautiful chairs (and possibly dream about making them some day), then look no further:

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