|Project by Stephen Mines||posted 03-08-2011 07:58 PM||1382 views||2 times favorited||9 comments|
This is my version of the perennial favorite Windsor chair. I made these in what I came to call ‘hand line production’ whereat each of several of my guys got to do what they liked best, be it turning spindles, legs and stretcher, making the bow backs, carving seats, fitting and assembling. We made them in batches of 50, 75 and 100, depending on which way the wind was blowing sales-wise. My main thrust there was to always have some on the shelf, ready for the desired distressing (if any) and finish of choice (light, medium or dark) kind of like offering three kinds of house dressing… if they wanted them without finish (they wanted their ‘people’ to do it) I deducted 10% off the wholesale. That was always an ouch but it made my lashup get really, REALLY good at finishing!
In addition to the side chair I offered three different arm chair versions, both the Philadelphia and Boston types, and one arm chair of my own tinkering WAC-101 (which, incidentally out sold the two traditional versions…go figur!) shown in the 2nd photo. I also got a few calls for the arm chairs with rockers.
It was the 2nd most successful piece of furniture I offered in my line. There were several reasons for that, principal of which was that I added 9 inches to the height. I stalked furniture registries to find the most pleasing (to me) Windsor, added my 9 inches worth, and went full steam ahead on it. You might have registered that when you first saw it as…hmmm, there is something different here. My goal, and it was achieved, was to get this kitchen drudge OUT of the kitchen, to give it a touch of style, a lurking hint of elegance and get it INTO the dining room. That, plus the very best craftsmanship that I dared to employ, was a subliminal sell (if money was not an issue, which it usually wasn’t to my high end clientele). The other principal reason (I believe) it was so successful was that nobody jumped in to knock it off, to copy it. Even to (or maybe especially to) seasoned furniture builders, a first cursory inspection just reeks of too much time necessary to produce it and try to market it and make money in the process. The overweening reason though that it made money was I never got an order for just one. Maybe two for a chess/game table setting…four for a kitchen, up to sixteen side and two armchairs for dining. One restaurant job in Provo, Utah was for 50 side chairs. Damn, I counted myself as clever and slick…but not out loud, you understand.
Interchangability of parts was another reason I could make it with this complex appearing piece. Count them: there are 18 parts to this chair, but only 6 different parts. And you only have to make them one at a time.
And yet another factor to the equation: chairs need tables. Often my chair sales were directly tied to dining table sales, and I had several different tables, all available in custom sizes, for the customer to choose from. If they liked my chairs…they looked at my tables. If they liked my tables…they looked at my chairs. Win/win!
I’m trying to pass on some tips here. Take these ideas and run with it, you young folks that want to make a living at working wood. It doesn’t have to be ‘Windsor’ to apply these principals. I still make these, have parts in stock for assembly (sorry you gotta make your own parts unless you get stuck) but I can offer something much better: information, construction tricks and detaills. There will be more details/pictures added here in the near future.
The last three pictures show arm (and arm bracket) attachment detail for WAC-101. These photos were taken today, 03-11-2011, of one of my original hand line production chairs. The year was 1973-4…which means the chair has been a daily user for about 38 years and shows some of the strains of use I’ve put on it. I’m really not easy on the furniture I live with! Thanks for taking a look.
-- Stephen Mines (Saltmines@aol.com)