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Master Still Crafts Windsor Chairs by Hand

George Mathews and has a long-standing passion for Windsor chairs. George is a woodworker who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and he was first introduced to hand-made Windsor chairs many years ago. This happened on a high school field trip to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The chair’s beauty struck a chord in him and the seed was planted. It was however not until he was well into his adulthood that he actually attempted to build the first one. It was only after he had studied with master Windsor craftsman Mike Dunbar that Mathews overcame his fears and was no longer intimidated by the construction of the Windsor. George wanted to continue with woodworking after retiring as a carpenter but was not sure which woodwork project to choose.It was then that he decided to make Windsor chairs to provide supplemental income. He now builds historically correct Windsors, using vintage tools and milk paint. He also specifically does not use sandpaper. George’s Windsor chairs are sought-after across the world.

Windsor chairs have their origins in England and are about two hundred years old. Their exact origin and reason for the name is however uncertain. One legend is that they got the name after King George III stopped at a house near Windsor Castle and encountered the chairs there after a hunting trip. Another is that they are named after the royal town of Windsor in England. But, according to Mike Dunbar, a historian, Windsor chairs first made an appearance during Queen Anne’s reign in the early eighteenth century. This was before the time of King George III. Mike cites the first record of a Windsor chair as being in a British probate inventory of a man’s estate in 1709.

After being imported from Britain, the chairs became very popular in the United States. They were redesigned to be more lightweight by colonial furniture-makers in the mid-eighteenth century. The chairs were originally intended for the elite of society and were very heavy and ornate. True to the democratic spirit of the United States at the time, they soon became the chair of the common man. They could be found in dining rooms, kitchens, gardens and entryways.

The chairs have always had a solid, heavy construction. This comes from the fact that the legs are fitted directly into the bottom of the chair and splayed. Because of that, the joints tighten with use and therefore get stronger. Contrary to this, chairs such as ladder-back chairs, are likely to weaken as they are used over time. The difference is that with these chairs, the legs attach directly to the back and not to the bottom as is the case with the Windsor.

Because of their quality, Windsor chairs are not likely to go out of fashion soon. As long as there is a market, George Mathews will continue making the storied and sturdy Windsor chair by hand.

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