Eric Cannizzaro’s “Wild Windsor” on the again cowl of FWW #283, which pairs two conventional fanback Windsor chairs with a reside-edge slab seat, was the primary of 4 current items he’s made in a sequence he calls Conversation Chairs. The 4 items share the slab-and-Windsor thought, however the designs developed and the difficulties mounted with every new chair as Eric went on to create a tete-a-tete, a triple chair, and a rocker. We’ve requested him to explain how he arrived on the thought within the first place and to narrate among the challenges he met and methods he used alongside the best way. -Jon Binzen

When I began exploring chairmaking a number of years in the past, I used to be impressed by Shaker and Windsor chairs. I used to be notably drawn to bench types: Shaker assembly home benches and Windsor settees.

New York type Windsor sofa

The first six chairs I constructed myself have been benches. Using Mike Dunbar’s and Peter Galbert’s books on chairmaking to information me, I constructed them throughout a residency on the Arbutus Folk School in Olympia, Wash. Here are two of them.

As I bought deeper into furnishings making, I checked out all kinds of chairs on-line. I used to be actually impressed by George Nakashima’s Conoid benches, with their reside-edge slab seats and asymmetrical placement of spindles.

George Nakashima, Conoid bench

In the autumn of 2018, I spent a number of weeks with Curtis Buchanan, a Windsor chairmaker in Jonesborough, Tenn. I had admired his chairs on-line, however visiting him was an actual sport changer. It was the primary time I’d seen chairmaking instruments within the fingers of somebody who knew methods to use them, and the primary time I’d labored cut up inexperienced wooden.

A Curtis Buchanan fanback chair, and Eric Cannizzaro splitting inexperienced oak with a froe.


I left Curtis’s place with slightly pickup truck filled with crimson oak and chair plans. I drove again to Olympia and began making the primary Conversation chair. I started every of the Conversation chairs by splitting and riving components from a log.

A pal of mine in Olympia had a stack of redwood slabs from a tree that had been via a fireplace, and he provided me one as a present. Here I’m beginning to lay out the seat shapes with the slab resting on a few quick stools.

I bought the primary Conversation chair partway accomplished (together with a extra standard Windsor) in Olympia.

As I used to be shaping the seat I assumed loads about how a lot of the contours of a standard Windsor I wished to include. After gluing up the undercarriage I leveled the legs, which was a little bit of a problem. A stack of spacers in several thicknesses got here in helpful.

With the half-completed chair in my truck, I made one other cross-nation drive from Washington to Tennessee, the place I’d be working with Curtis once more.

When I arrived, I assembled the backs and completed up the piece in his store.


While I used to be ending the primary of those chairs I used to be accepted for a yearlong residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and I constructed the following three Conversation chairs whereas I used to be working there.

By the time I’d completed the primary Conversation chair I used to be fairly excited to get on to the following, and I made a decision to do an asymmetrical model of a tete-a-tete chair.

I picked out a plank of walnut for the seat at Jeffries Wood Works, an incredible lumberyard exterior Knoxville, and started working.

After I put the paint on the legs—plum with mustard within the grooves—I used to be fairly fearful of the Lakers uniform vibe it was giving. But after burnishing and shellac it seemed significantly better.

I had encountered some kinks within the order-of-meeting with the primary Conversation Chair, however in constructing this second one I labored them out. This was my sequence: carve the seat and apply some end, assemble the undercarriage to the seat, fully end and wax the highest of the seat, assemble the again and tape off for portray.

I went for a extra fluid, sculptural seat on this chair, abandoning the gutters, massive flat surfaces, and reside edges of the primary piece. This was nearer to what I wished to attain: a stark juxtaposition between the seat and the normal Windsor spindles and legs of the chair.


Feeling set on my methods and course of after making the tete a tete, I made a decision to place three chairs within the third piece, pondering of it extra as a protracted bench and persevering with to play with steadiness and asymmetry.

Once the seat was carved I utilized a number of layers of shellac after which glued up the undercarriage. I used conceal glue in all of the joinery and wedged the leg tenons from above.

With the seat and undercarriage full, I began assembling the backs.

The solely flat floor within the Arrowmont store massive sufficient to degree the legs of this three-seater wound up being the tablesaw. The measurement of the piece—together with a twist that developed within the seat after I’d carved it—made this one a lot trickier to degree than the earlier two.

When I used to be completed leveling, the leg cutoffs instructed the story…


Where do you go after constructing a triple chair? By the time I used to be prepared to start out the fourth piece I’d been pondering of constructing a double rocker for a while.

After laying out the perimeter form on an 8/four black cherry slab, I reduce it out on the bandsaw, then flattened the slab in a planer. A thickness sander would additionally do the trick. After constructing the primary three chairs, I used to be acquainted with the compromises concerned in leveling a chunk with chairs whose centerlines usually are not parallel. With these limitations in thoughts I laid out the 2 rockers so that they have been barely turned in towards one another, however neither was ahead of the opposite.

Next I laid out the seat exactly, drawing in all of the mortise places and the sightlines for drilling.

When I had the legs dry-fitted and the stretchers made, I put them apart and formed the kiln-dried cherry seat. I used a mix of instruments for the job. An angle grinder with an Arbortech attachment took the place of the adze and scorp used for hollowing seats of softer supplies. I additionally used a travisher, spokeshave, and handplane.

With the seat completed and the legs and stretchers in place, I set the 2 exterior rocker blades first, as if I have been assembling a daily rocking chair. Then I strung them as much as get a number of reference factors for the arcs of the middle two rocker blades.

For this primary Conversation Chair with arms, I made a decision to make the arms match the shaping and clear end of the seat.

Once I had the entire piece assembled, I taped off the seat…

…and painted the higher carriage.


This complete dialog isn’t full—I’ve a fifth chair within the works!—however at the moment I’m spending most of my time designing and constructing extra purposeful Windsor and ladderback chairs and chairmaking instruments.

Growing up in South Burlington, Vt., Eric Cannizzaro spent many days within the woods and within the workshop together with his grandfather, a biology instructor and highschool principal who liked hen watching, trout fishing, and carving wooden and stone. These predilections all handed proper alongside to Eric, who studied ecology and pure historical past at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and labored as a hen bander and area biologist within the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and Borneo. But when he bought a time period-time job within the woodshop at Evergreen he started a parallel odyssey into woodworking that led him to the Arbutus Folk School in Olympia, to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and just lately to Jonesborough, Tenn., the place he’s establishing store.

The Why of Windsor Chairs

Master chairmaker Curtis Buchanan explains the roots, the rationale, and the highly effective attraction of America’s basic chair

Curtis Buchanan: Windsor Master

Curtis Buchanan is extensively recognized for the impeccable Windsor chairs he’s been making for 30 years, but additionally for his present as a storyteller. This audio slide present captures him in nice kind as he describes his furnishings and philosophy.

The Soul of Nakashima

Mira Nakashima carries her father’s legacy ahead


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