Jeff Trapp operates Jeff Trapp Windsors, a one man Windsor chairmaking shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Because he feels strongly about creating each chair by hand, he starts by harvesting the trees from northern Wisconsin woodlands. In addition, he doesn't use lathe duplicators or purchased parts. All the parts of the chair, with the exception of the seat, are shaped from riven wood (hand split along the grain). The leg-to-seat and armpost-to-seat joints are wedged-tapered sockets which results in a highly durable construction. Trapp assembles the chairs with the undercarriage in compression which means the stretchers are holding the legs out, not in, like other chairs. This assures structural integrity even if the glue fails.
"My inspiration to make Windsor chairs came when I was learning wooden boat building in Maine," Trapp noted. "I saw all these wonderful chairs and was amazed to learn they were 100 years old and older. When I started to learn how to make Windsors, in addition to their comfort and attractiveness, I wanted to duplicate their longevity."
Trapp believes there are many reasons for the longevity of Windsors, chief among them are the thick seat, riven wood, wedged and tapered socket joints (the top of the leg is cone shaped) and an undercarriage built in compression. Without features like these, a chair's construction is compromised. The methods used to build a chair in this manner require traditional hand techniques.
"Don't be afraid to ask chairmakers if they utilize these methods," said Trapp. "There's a 300 year history of chair making, so we know what lasts."
Trapp finishes his chairs with milk paint from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company to get the best match the paints used on original Windsors. In combination with a rubbed oil topcoat, the chairs develop a marvelous patina in a very short time. Trapp has also developed a very believable aged paint finish, which allows me to make chairs that look like they were made 100-plus years ago.
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