Really comfortable Windsor dining chairs?

lauraheadMarch 14, 2008


I need to get a set of six nice Windsor chairs for my farm-style dining table. I'd like to shop on-line so I can be price competitive, but need to make sure the chairs are really comfy -- my husband has a bad back. Any brand or site recommendations?



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Absolutely. Heres a couple of links. These are correctly made chairs, with correct bore and wedge construction.

My personal favorite is the Wakefield series by Warren Chair Works, and is what I have around my farm house table at home. Very roomy, soft back, comfortable.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 10:57AM
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Thanks Duane - they look great, tho a bit out of my price range. I'll start trolling eBay.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 3:13PM
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Just saw a special on for 4 Warren Chair windsor chairs for $999. Might want to check them out.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 6:18PM
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Thats a killer closeout deal on the Warren Chairs at (4) for $ 999.00, or $ 250 each. That's close to wholesale dealer cost + shipping - someone here should get those.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 9:13AM
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Try this site:

they have chairs on sale now- mostly unfinished but if the other sites are out of your price range, these are great. I've bought from them before and they are great.

Here is a link that might be useful: discountwoodworks

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 10:11PM
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If they have all 8, I might jump on this. I wanted black for our next set. Now I just have to choose a table!
Would these be nearly indestructible? We have a family of 9 and we use our kitchen table for homeschooling and dining! ;-)

Are these one of the more comfortable styles?


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Yes, an American windsor is the strongest wooden chair ever made due nature of its design - IF - it is made correctly with bore and wedge construction. They can absorb an incredible amount of punishment without failure.

I have sold over 10,000 American windsor chairs since 1979, including 280 of the Warren Chair Works Bowback Side to The Inn At Mt Vernon (George Washington's historic home). They were tired of replacing all their inexpensive commercial dining chairs every 18 months, and bit the bullet - spent the money for properly made ones. That was in 1996. In eleven years since, we have had one broken spindle in that group of chairs, and I fixed that for them at no charge. If you go there on a tour and have lunch or dinner in the dining room, you will sit on one of these chairs.

Of those 10,000 + chairs, I have had to repair less than 30 over the years for customers. Most have been from puppies chewing the stretchers, or from moving companies crushing the chairs during loading. In one instance, a roof fell on one during the 1989 San Fransisco earthquake and broke the back bow. As long as the seat is not cracked through, everything on the chair is repairable should the need arise.

Another anecdote! I was awarded the contract to source the windsors for THE PATRIOT, the Mel Gibson movie released in 2000. Among other things, we built thirteen of the unfinished rockers for Sony studios to be used in the opening scene where Mels' character is in the barn building a chair. He breaks a part, gets angry - and throws the chair against the wall of the barn where it shatters. I told the Props Department that they best be careful heaving these chairs against the wall as they tend to bounce back and hit you square in the noggin, they won't break. Sure enough, they called a few days later and told me they had to score the chairs by mostly sawing through them in several places to obtain the desired effect you see in the movie.

The American windsor is much like our country itself and reflects the period for when it was designed. Strong, tenacious, simple, purposeful and most of all enduring.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 9:09PM
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Well put...And might I add "constructed in a way which stress only makes it stronger".
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 10:23PM
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Ooh! I love what you said, Duane. Too bad we don't hear our presidential candidates talk like that! ;-)

I really need 9 of the chairs, but now that our two oldest children are in college, and one soon heading there, maybe I can get by w/ 8. They are never all home at once anyway! I'm wondering if it would be okay to get two chairs separate from this order of 8. Would there be much color difference?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 2:53PM
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I phoned and they don't ship. They actually have 10 chairs total! The savings would be subtantial, but I don't have time to drive 8 hours each way to get them. Oh well.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:25PM
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There's not much color variance in the black, however they offer a black standard and a black milk paint, so there is a variance between those two types. That one looks like standard black over Umber (a non-standard base coat).

If you're 8 hours from that store and in Maryland, then you're close to my store as I'm 9 from them. Ping me off-list if you like as nine chairs are easily do-able to get in your home.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 5:35PM
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Duckloe Brothers in Portland, PA has very nice Windsor chairs. They have been making them for a very long time. We have purchased a number of their chairs and a bench.

You can google Duckloe to find their website. They deliver within a certain radius, but do not send (check on this). Maybe this will help.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 7:02PM
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can you purchase the Windsor chairs from Warren Chair Works in Canada?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 10:53AM
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There are alternatives to the wonderful chairs you have listed in your comments. I am sure they are worth every penny you are being quoted. We have been in the chair from 1945 to present. We have manufactured our own chairs right here in Los Angeles and have subcontracted literally thousands of styles. We keep over 100,000 chairs in stock. We now make chairs in the United States and around the world using the best available methods to insure quality comfort and durability. There is no chair on the planet with more than 20 board foot of lumber. The Windsor chair you are looking at has about 12 board foot of lumber in it. Very high-grade northern hardwoods cost from between $1.50 to $2.50 per foot. The real cost of a chair is the labor factor.
The very best and most comfortable chairs utilize steam bent back spindles. If it doesnt conform to the Lumbar curvature of your back, it just canÂt be all that comfortable. From the link below, check out the jumbo bow backs for ultimate comfort. In addition, the Royal Craftsman High backs made in Indiana with deep lumbar curvature.
The best leg joint is a compressed Mortis and tenon. The Male spindle is compresses with vertical groves to let the glue move up the sides of the spindle and then expands to its natural diameter without weakening the spindle by splitting it. The very best glue is 2-part epoxy glue and that is what we use.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 2:58PM
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Sorry, I don't know if there are dealers in Canada for Warren Chair Works, kmoth. However, I ship into Canada and with parity on the dollar these days and NAFTA, its not difficult to do as it was in the past.

When shipping into Canada, you do need a customs broker (some truck lines are their own brokers) and typically need to simply clear customs by paying Canadian and Provincial taxes via your credit card before Customs will release the shipment. Its fairly streamlined in the process these days.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 3:51PM
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I completely disagree with what you posted, and it is misleading to folks looking to learn about what makes a great windsor chair. While you offer a less expensive alternative to a correctly made bore and wedge Windsor, you do a disservice to the forum members by stating they are superior in construction which anyone in the trade or who knows furniture history clearly sees as incorrect.

Your chairs are modern plank-seated, glue socket chairs. Let me tell you about what you make:

1) Because the chairs are not deeply scooped in the seats, you have to shorten the rear legs to keep people from sliding off the front of the chair. While it works for short period of times, that tends to cut off the circulation in the legs after a while and become uncomfortable. A properly made Windsor has a deeply scooped seat on a horizontal base plane. We won't even go into the strip-board construction of your seats.

2) Glue socket chairs rely on the glue bond to hold the leg in place. When the glue bond weakens with use and over time as they all do the chair becomes wobbly and must be disassembled and re-glued to prevent total chair failure. A bore and wedge design does not weaken the spindle, and in fact reinforces the joint so that on compression from sitting on the chair, it is not relying solely on a glue socket joint for structural rigidity. That is pure nonsense to suggest your chairs will outlast a correct bore and wedge design.

3) A comfortable chair does not become so by having steam-bent spindles that conform to the lumbar of the spine. What make a chair back comfortable is designing the chairs with give or spring in the back to allow them to flex slightly under use. That is accomplished by keeping the chair light, thin, and using woods that will flex without breaking in the bow section of the chair.

4) As to weight of the chairs...the lighter a chair is, the less likely it is to tear itself apart if knocked over or down steps. Weight is not an indicator of quality, and they become harder to move around as well.

Every quality bore and wedge maker of American chairs offers a lifetime guarantee against them loosening up. Warren Chair Works, Lawrence Crouse, J.L. Treharn, D.R. Dimes, etc. Do you offer that on yours?

The Windsor Chair design began in England in the late 1600's / early 1700s, where it was a heavy, somewhat ornate chair. Colonial Americans adapted the design and in the process lightened the chair considerably in form and they were the very first chair that was affordable by the common man, typically costing $ 5.00 apiece in their heyday of the mid to late 1700s. Most were made in New York City (which has three large chair making operations in 1780, each capable of outputting over 200 per week), but there were also large scale Windsor operation in Philadelphia and Boston as well. You can identify the origin of an period chair by looking at the styling clues which varied by region. Virtually every 18th Century chair was painted green, and to find a surviving antique in the original green paint today makes them very valuable. In the early 1800s, the trend was to pain them white, red, blue or yellow over the existing old green paint, and that chair is still very valuable as a antique today if it shows the old green as the base coat. There were no stained American Windsors, and any period chair that is shown in all-wood has been stripped and refinished at some point.

The American Windsor is one of the finest chairs every made when done correctly and made authentically. In it is the history of the United States itself, and I take great pains to study the style and form. There is so much history OF America, about AMERICANS tied to the Windsor chair design that you should try to learn about it rather then just trying to sell it to listmembers.

Among my customer list whom have purchased from my store over the years are:

* The Smithsonian, Museum of American History
* Mount Vernon, George Washingtons homestead.
* Gunston Hall, George Masons homestead
* Carlyle House, Old Town Alexandria
* Gatsbys Tavern, Old Town Alexandria
* The Pequot Indian Museum, Connecticut
* Walkerton Tavern, Richmond, Virginia

And many small Bed and Breakfasts, along with private individuals restoring old homes.

To learn more about the correct form of the American Windsor, source these books (long out of print, but still the best work):

SANTORE, CHARLES The Windsor Style In America Volumes I And II - The Definitive Pictoral Study Of The History And Regional Characteristics Of The Most Popular Furniture Form Of Eighteenth Century America 1730 1840

Read the books, then come back to me and lets talk about form and construction.

- Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 4:44PM
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Dear Duane:
There are many ways to skin a cat and even our founding father did things in more than one way. A leg post through the seat and then wedged is indeed a very strong joint construction and we have made chairs in that way before. Your suggestion that a chair done in any other way is inferior is simply ridicules. Not everyone can afford to spend that much on seating.
Indeed, we to have had share our landmark installations like the California State Capitol restoration project, Stanford University installations of more than 1500 chairs over the years.
If youre a simple soul like myself, perhaps a 1776 REPRODUCTION at an arm and a leg isnt in the cards. What is this great disservice in offering a Solid Oak Steam Bent Windsor chair assembled with the same glue used to glue tiles on the space shuttle? 35 years ago, when all the east coast companies gave me the cold shoulder I learned to make chairs myself that are comfortable durable and affordable. You are not the only person on the planet that knows how to make a chair. When a client is unsure that our chairs will meet their needs, I always suggest getting one to sample to see if it works for them. The original poster of the simple question "I want a comfortable Windsor" should get one of our Jumbo Windsors and one of your Museum Windsors and do a side by side test.
By the way, relying on the bending of the back spindles to conform to the lumbar curve in your back is simply a joke. The upper spine hits your thin back spindles and the spindles merely deflect perhaps ¼ to ½ inch maximum. If you can put your hand between your lower back and the back spindles, you not getting any back support.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 8:59PM
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Chair comfort is wholly dependent on your own back idiosyncrasies; however, most people have a deep lumbar "S" curve that once you sit in an "S" curved back spindle chair none other will do. The comfort of a chair is in the angle and shape of the back not the depth of the scooped seat.
My bet is most of the through spindle chairs mentioned on this thread are done on a Mattson automatic back knife lathe. An amazing machine invented in the early 20th century that turns out turnings about 6 per minute. These machines have enabled the common consumer a chance to get a quality product at an affordable price.
Although boring leg holes and spindle holes through and through the back hoop is a magnificent esthetic detail (sales pitch) it does not however equal the ultimate in comfort and strength.
There are always some inexperienced assemblers putting chairs together improperly. In my experience, it takes 6 months to train an assembler. The most common problem is insufficient glue put on the bottom of the hole and not on the sides of the borehole. That happens when the assembler of the chair parts are untrained and different than the parts maker. Many chair companies no longer make their own parts and no longer understand the proper assembly procedures to achieve maximum strength A chair that is comfortable has less strain put on it and will last much longer.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 3:58PM
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(quote) Although boring leg holes and spindle holes through and through the back hoop is a magnificent esthetic detail (sales pitch) it does not however equal the ultimate in comfort and strength. (quote)

So you're offering a lifetime guarantee should your 'ultimate' chairs ever loosen up and will repair / replace them at no charge to the customer?

-Duane Collie

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 5:02PM
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When you are selling a chair for 25-30 times raw material cost its easy to give a lifetime warrantee especially when you do make a really great quality chair as I am sure you do. Does your warranty include free shipping to and from your customer? That includes California, Canada, Paris, Rome, and Mars. Ginzoo knives also include your lifetime warrantee. My customers understand we carry chairs in an unusually broad range. Our jumbo bow backs will last decades and have. Our less costly bow backs without lumbar curvature that are under $100.00 are good for 10 to 20 years. Our $30 to $50 chairs are good for 1 to 10 years depending on usage. I am impressed with your passion and I feel we have more in common than you think. We both really enjoy the art of furniture making; youre just on a higher level with an obsession with "bore and wedge" Even when it is out of most peoples reach. It is my obsession to make comfortable chairs most everyone can afford. Our Mahogany Greene and Greene chairs are amazing. I dont enjoy making people feel bad or cheated when they must make compromises.
By the way, we custom built the chairs for the movie "As good as it gets" staring Jack Nickelson many years ago. They were in the last quarter of the movie in the formal restaurant scene. They were Bore and wedge legs and back spindles. I was very proud of that order of 350 pieces. When we made an extra 150 chairs, they simply would not sell next to our Jumbo Bow backs because of the comfort factor. The history and elegance of the chairs you offer is remarkable. When you see the founding fathers signing the Declaration of Independence in paintings showing chairs made the same way (mostly) you offer them today is stunning.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 12:46AM
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If interested in "Tradionally" made Windsor chairs vs the "Production" made you might try the Windsor Chair Resources. It is a website that list windsor chairmakers from all over the US that individually made the chairs in the tradition and methods of the 18th century not the massed produced chairs.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:38AM
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