Monday, 26 March 2012

Windsors around the world

There's been a lot of movement around the station the last few weeks and this past one has been no exception. Work on the cottage, demonstrating chair making at The Wood Steel and Steam Festival at Mont De Lancey, preparing for an up coming double chair course and working on some new chair designs in between!

Then late last week, at the same time as collecting Mr Goostrays tool chest and tools, I collected the box containing the Crested Rocker I made with Pete in Massachusetts last year.

Here it is being taken out of the box it's lived in for over 4 months. Millie watched on with interest. This is hopefully the only time I will ever flat pack one of my chairs!

And here it is dry fitted, it was great to see it again after it's long journey from Sterling MA, half way around the world.

And just across the pond from Massachusetts, a friend Leigh, who has made a couple of very fine chairs with me in the past, sent me this photo of some balloon backs and another fan back style chair, he spotted while on tour, in a little cafe in Warwick, England.

While the balloon backs are a little on the heavy side for my liking, I was interested to see the resemblance of the end chair to our 'Kangaroo Chairs' here in Australia. Being the most well known 'windsor style' chair in Australia, these were made in droves with decorated crests. The very first of these were carved, with everything from native flora to kangaroos and emus. In later years these decorations were pressed into the crests as the chairs became mass produced.

By far the most famous Windsor chair maker in Australia's history has to be George Peddle of Tasmania. A Peddle chair is now quite the collectors item and worth quite a good deal of money too.
Peddle's chairs were made usually of blackwood, with square-ish seat shapes, turned legs with multiple beads and a shaped crest rail. Very much like the chair sitting at the end of this table in Warwick. Which is not surprising given that Mr. Peddle was from the heart of Windsor chair making in the UK, High Wycombe...... just an hour away from where Leigh took the photo. Great stuff. Thanks Leigh.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Cottage Update....

Here's a few photos of the cottage as I've been promising for the last few weeks. There's a way to go yet but it's sure changed from the bland and sagging little place it used to be ( see blog post - 'Behind the Scenes' 19/11/11 )

Here you can see the new roof that Jim Carew ( the Master Plumber I did my apprenticeship with ) his son Brendan and I put on a few weeks back. Traditional galvanised iron, with returned spouting and return stop ends, which will turn a dull gunmetal grey with age. Also the new verandah and divided windows.

And a view of the new back of the house with the french doors and deck. We look forward to spending a few relaxing afternoons here in the sun in the coming months. Then in the future, this will be a B & B for those attending my Windsor chair making classes in historic Kyneton. I think it will be a reflection of the ethos of our business, the products we intend to make and sell and the classes we will teach. It's taking time, but all good things do.

Joseph Goostray's Pattern Makers Chest - Part 2

Late last year I posted that I had been fortunate enough to visit Patrick Leaches 'Inner Sanctum' whilst taking a class with Peter Galbert in Massachusetts. Whilst there I bought an original pattern makers tool chest, which I was later to find out was owned and made around 1910, by a man by the name of Joseph Goostray. From the moment I clapped eyes on this chest I was mesmerised. But my time with it was fleeting.

It was delivered on a Saturday to Pete's place, where I had a quick look, took some photos then got back to finishing my chair. I then had to remove all the tools from the chest and pack them individually ready for shipping the next day. That was back in late October and I haven't seen it since.

Well yesterday I got the call I've been waiting for, for some months. Customs had inspected the boxes and they were cleared for collection. I couldn't get down to Dandenong quick enough, collected them and bought them straight home.

So this is nearly all the tools layed out on Kath's outdoor table. I ran out of room, with still a drawer full to go. I then had to go back to the original photos I took so I could replace all of the tools into the chest, just the way I found them.

I like to think I know what most hand tools are or have been used for, but I've got to admit that there are a number of tools in Joseph's chest that have me stumped. Great cooincidence is that my new neighbour just happens to have a father who was a pattern maker. So I reckon I'll be asking him a few questions soon.

It's great to have this little treasure back home with me and very soon it will take pride of place in our new shop in Kyneton. Please drop in to see it when we open in the near future....

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wood and Steam Festival - Mont De Lancey

Just a quick post this morning to let you know that I will be demonstrating Windsor Chair making at the Mont De Lancey Historic Homestead, 71 Wellington Road, Wandin, this coming weekend, the 24th & 25th. This festival celebrating all things wood, steel and steam has been going for a number of years now and I'm happy to be invited this year to demonstrate chair making. There are all manner of great displays so if you have time, make a day of it, come up and breath in some country air and take in some traditional hand craft. There are antique tool sales too for those of you, like me, who can't get enough of these great old quality tools.

I'll be doing a number of demo's throughout the weekend from spindle and crest rail shaving, shaping seats, drilling and reaming, steam bending and assembly of a few different chairs. If I get time in amongst it all, I'll try to make a perch too which will be available for sale. Should be a great weekend. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kyneton Windsor Chairs

A great day at the office? Yep, I guess that sums it up in a nutshell.

Over the past few weeks, as any one on the East Coast of Australia would know, we have experienced immense rains and 'hundred year floods.' The effect has been devastating and not escaping the carnage have been our trees. Over the worst of the rains here in Kyneton we apparently had nearly 200mm, which is an immense amount of rain in anyones language.

So how has the rain damaged the trees here? Well, after more than ten years of drought the root structure of trees have been pretty severely compromised, especially the deciduous species . Then we have immense rains which these trees take every advantage of, drawing up vast amounts of water ( and weight ) through what's left of their roots, into trunks and finally into the canopies of these large and very old trees. The top heavy trees are then dangerously precarious, with little holding them. Add to the mix the howling winds that we experienced here at the same time and we have what occurred on the banks of the Campaspe River, below our magnificent Botanical Gardens.

Three Elm trees fallen amongst the other spectacular exotic species that surround them. Giant Sequoia, European Oaks, Douglas Fir and Blue Spruce to name but a few. Those familiar with our parks and gardens, both Melbourne and rural would have heard of Sir Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich Von Mueller, or Baron Von Mueller as he was commonly known, (read about him here if you haven't - )
the brilliant Government Botanist. As well as being responsible for supplying Melbourne's Botanical Gardens with exotic species from around the globe, he did the same for these gardens in Kyneton, supplying plants and seeds from around the 1870's.

Now I haven't had a chance to count the growth rings on the largest of the Elm's properly yet, but I did count to 80 before I gave up and there was a way to go yet before I reached the bark! While I can't say when it was planted yet and by whom, I'll get the ball rolling by trying to get as much info as I can from the Kyneton Friends of the Botanical Gardens group. It would be great to have some further provenance of the planting of these trees. Here is the largest of them, being lifted onto the back of the the crane truck. It was the cleanest Elm log I have collected in years, ( If not ever ) perfectly centred heart and not a trace of any rot or other defect.

Here's my 660 Magnum next to it. Yep, that's a 3 foot bar on the saw. Standing next to it the log came up about 50mm ( 2" ) above my hip. From the 3 fallen Elms I salvaged 20 logs. They were remarkably tall and straight trees. This morning ( Kyneton Market day ) when I placed the logs onto my block in the main street, passers by stopped in droves to see these amazing logs find a temporary home before being milled. Our friend Mara at the cafe across the road ( Inner Biscuit - Best coffee in town! ) spent her morning explaining that they were to be used to make Windsor Chairs, which resonated very well with her customers.

Amongst the onlookers I spoke with a well known fella who's been in the town for a long time and has probably forgotten more about all things tree related than I'll ever know! A short conversation later and I'd met his mate of 40 years and was driving down the road to view the farm where I've been offered a virtually permanent place to mill as many logs as I need.

A good day at the office? Absolutely. In fact pretty much any day here now is great. Kyneton Elm for Kyneton Windsor chairs. Beautiful. I'll be trying to post some more updates on the cottage over the next few days, it's been taking up every hour I have at the moment, but the transformation over the past week has been immense and worth all the effort. I hope you'll agree.