Saturday, October 1, 2016

Windsor Chair Rush Replacement

The Finished Chair

There is a certain joy and satisfaction to a well done furniture repair...the patient can walk again. My experience has been that about half of the necessity for repair derives from design flaws rather than accidents or even overuse. The most common table repair, for instance, is a cracked tabletop caused by an incorrect attachment of the top to its supporting stringers that does not allow for the seasonal expansion and contraction of the top boards. Such was the case with this Windsor chair. The rush split right behind the front rail as shown below because the makers had left this corner completely sharp when it should have been “relieved,” that is rounded over so as not to create a cutting edge:

Weaving cane I had done, a very laborious process, but I had never woven rush. So the first matter was to find the appropriate replacement material. I had read that in antique pieces such as this natural rush was the preferred material, but when I received it I realized that the chair had, indeed, been done in fiber rush, the natural rush being too coarse, too thick and variegated. I found the correct fiber rush 4/32” thick at The Basket Maker's Catalog and ordered 3 coils (250') to be safe, though only two were utilized. Before removing the old rush, however, a serious obstacle appeared: the rush passed through a secondary rail in the back of the seat which had to be removed. It was attached with both large wood screws covered by buttons as well as dowels: 

Murphy, of course, now arrived to help out. Virtually every old chair I've repaired literally falls apart with a few strikes of a deadblow hammer. The joints on this chair seemed welded together, and it took drilling, heat, and extreme tension using strap clamps to pull the chair balusters out of the hooped back in order to remove this rail. Luckily only one of them split:

The second matter was how to do turning to YouTube, I found an excellent video How to Weave a Seat in a Rush Chair by Ed Hammond.  Also, since the Windsor chair has no corners I also watched  his How to Weave a Rush Frame that Has No Corners.

As recommended by Ed Hammond's video, I noted and photographed the pattern used by the makers such as the manner that shorter pieces of rush were individually started to compensate for the differing number of strands in the front and back of the chair:

Between the upper and lower courses of rush wadded brown paper had been added for extra support, and though the video recommended using small triangles of cardboard I decided to reuse the paper, wetting it well and then stuffing it between the rush layers.  This provided a nice filler especially because the frame was made of fairly thick stock.  The photo shows the placement of the paper by the original makers:

The one suggestion I would have liked to have had in retrospect is paying better attention to the line formed at the row of intersecting strands, perhaps even using a triangle to keep the alignment true.  Always fun to try a new skill and inevitably learn the numerous small details that constitute quality work.  I managed to weave just one short of the number of strands the original makers used, but still my next weaving would certainly benefit from the lessons learned.

Singular wooden ware + hand carved teaspoons at:

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