In 2009 when I travelled to Tennessee to learn how to make windsor chairs with Curtis Buchanan, I recall being excited just at the prospect of learning how to make a chair. I had travelled a long way to do so, sold my beloved motorbike to finance the trip and left my wife and then 2 year old boy behind at home to find what I hoped to be a new future for us.
In a way I didn't have any expectations of how the course should be, look or pan out. I was just as excited about the experience, as having a chair at the end.
You could probably imagine how the excitement grew when I first laid eyes on Curtis' workshop tucked away next to the organic raspberry patch at the bottom of his garden. The next week was the greatest learning experience of my time to that date. Thankfully I've had another since with Pete in Massachusetts in his original 1790's chair makers house.
So what made both classes special? Quality. When I say that, I mean not only the level of expertise of both my teachers. But the materials provided, tools used and definitely the depth of the experience had whilst learning. The experience itself is as important as the final product, being the chair. The purpose built workshop in Tennessee overlooking the valley of Jonesborough or Pete's workshop looking out to the ruins of the Rocky Brook Chair makers workshop across the way, both were inspirational places to experience making windsor chairs
Today when I began to teach my first Windsor Chair making class here in Kyneton with Mark and Tony from Melbourne, I knew that I wanted them to be just as inspired as I was ...... and still am! I also know that they should expect to have as close to my U.S. experiences as I can provide and so that is just what I have set out to achieve.
Crisp Maple baluster turnings. U.S. Yellow Pine seat blanks and best yet, green spindle and crest rail stock which has been split straight from the log. In fact the 5 foot long crests that I split out of the log a few days back for the class were as close to the white oak ones from Tennessee as I could hope for.
Here's a snap of one of the splits about half way through. I finished with six good crests out of the quarter of the log that I split.
These are the two crests from the split above. Beautiful, split straight grain. I'm almost tempted to do away with the strap to bend them!
And here are the guys on the horses, shaving spindles in the fresh country air and warm Autumn sun under the skillion of the workshop. No, it's not an 18th century chair makers workshop, but it's as close as you can get here without jumping a plane half way round the globe. Before the next class at the end of the month, the rest of the fruit trees and the veggie gardens will be planted and the cottage in the background should be a good deal further along too. A quality view to finish the package.