I’m an 18th century American history buff so one might say that falling into windsor chairs is a natural. Both of my grandfathers were carpenters and I have been woodworking since high school and my shop days. Yes, I had a car, which I bought with money I earned from after school jobs, but I also bought woodworking tools: saws, lathe, planes, etc. In 1998, I made my first windsor chair and I have been hooked ever since.
My chairs are historically accurate duplicates of the original styles from New York, New England and the Philadelphia area. They are made exclusively using traditional tools and methods of the 18th century master chairmakers. The process begins in small sawmills in Pennsylvania where I select the wood to make my windsor chairs. The chair parts: spindles, arm, crest and bow, are most commonly made from straight-grained red oak logs and then hand tooled using the customary tools of an 18th century chairmaker: scorp, travisher, spokeshave and drawknife. The arm rails, bows and crests are steamed to soften the wood fibers and then bent around a bending form to give them the desired shape, from the delicate curve of the continuous arm to the sturdy crest of the Philadelphia high back. Each chair is then assembled, one at a time, characteristic of the original chairmakers. Tapered joints are wedged, locking the legs into the seat planks. This 250-year-old method of construction is responsible for giving windsor chairs their superior strength while maintaining their deceptively delicate look, producing a chair that is actually meant to be sat in. Sitting in the chair strengthens the joints, making the handcrafted windsor a chair that can truly become a treasured family heirloom, surviving for generations.
The construction of a historical reproduction requires extensive research in books and periodicals and involves measuring, drawing and photographing the original piece whenever possible. I have travelled to Winterthur, the American Furniture Center at Yale University, Colonial Williamsburg, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in an effort to make my pieces as historically accurate as possible. In keeping with accuracy, I try to use the same type of wood as the original craftsman (for example, acquiring mahogany from Costa Rica and Belize and walnut and cherry from northern Pennsylvania) as well as using custom tooling to make accurate moulding profiles. I acquire much of my hardware from a company in London, England that has many of the original molds and patterns. The effort to reproduce one of these pieces goes far beyond the craftsmanship alone.
Passion, pride and a sense of accomplishment go into each and every piece. At Liberty Chair Works, the process of research, selection of materials and attention to detail to create a piece of fine furniture is an evolution that requires patience and allows for an expression of creativity. After all, few things have been created; most are made. We look forward to providing a tangible piece of our historical past for you to enjoy