Knightly News

A unique event took place during the October 1 sack back class.  Sir Bill Knox became the 137th Knight of Windsor.  While there is nothing unusual about a knighting, there is when it happens during a sack back.  Knightings always occur during advanced classes.  Why? To become a knight requires completing an established curriculum.  Since sack back is our initial class, everyone inducted into The Orders had to begin with it before being able to take the required advanced classes. 

Except this time.  Exceptional events are usually accompanied by exceptional circumstances, and  Sir Bill’s case is certainly exceptional.  While lots of people take sack back more than once,  Sir Bill is the undisputed record holder.  He has taken sack back 11 times. 

Everything that happens at The Institute involves a story, and  Sir Bill’s story  is entwined with mine.  In April 1985 I did a weekend Windsor chairmaking seminar in Atlanta.  Bill was one of the woodworkers who attended.  Watching me make a chair intrigued him, so when I taught a class there the following year, Sir Bill signed up.  A springtime trip to Atlanta to teach a chairmaking class became an annual event for me.  For 10 years I taught there either the last week of April or the first week of May.  

Each year for a decade, Sir Bill also showed up and took the class.  After several years I  said to him that while I greatly enjoyed his company, by now he should know how to make this chair.  He assured me that he could make the chair very well.  He explained that he enjoyed making Windsors, but  running a very busy veterinarian practice prevented him from doing it on his own.  So,  every April he cleared his schedule and came to Atlanta to make one with me.  Since all I taught there was the sack back,  that was the class he had to take.  The exception was in 1989 when I stayed in the city for two weeks.  The first week I taught sack back, and the following the c-arm.  Sir Bill took both classes that year.


In Atlanta we were both away from home and  so, Bill and I would share each other’s company.  Everyday we had  breakfast and supper together, and visited during the evening.   We became good friends. Sir Bill’s wife Joyce met my wife Susanna, and they too became fast friends.  At Christmas we still send Sir Bill and Joyce  pictures of our son Michael and they send us recent pictures of their grand daughters Bonnie and Kasey.  We do not get down to  Virginia often, but when we do, we always visit Bill and Joyce.  Their home is always open to us.


After Susanna and I founded The Institute,  Bill took two classes with us here  in Hampton.  He did the Nantucket Fan Back in 1996 and the Writing Arm in 1997.  That left him short one class required for Knighthood — the NYC bow back side chair. 

As King of Windsor, I dispatched my legate Lord Chamberlain Sir Fred Chellis to the September meeting of the College of Dukes.  I frequently seek advice from this  semi-autonomous governing body of The Royal Orders, and usually defer to their counsel.  I asked for an opinion on how to recognize Sir Bill’s accomplishment of taking sack back for the 11th time.  I explained that more than anyone else, Bill had observed and experienced the evolution of the Windsor chairmaking class.  He was there at a time when my teaching method  was still unrefined. He had seen it mature and improve as it developed from its early form to its current state. He and I are the Windsor Revival’s living memory.The College unanimously recommended that I take an extraordinary step; that I  of suspend the rules for induction, waive the NYC class,  and make Bill a Knight of Windsor.

That is how the October 1 class became the first sack back class to ever witness a Knighting.  Not yet being fully familiar with The Institute’s culture of fun, the class was awed and enraptured by the high pomp and ceremony.  Besides being Lord Chamberlain, Sir Fred is also the royal piper.  Dressed in kilt and full piper regalia, Sir Fred descended playing our school hymn “All Hail to Thee Windsor” on the bagpipes.  (Yes, there really is a school hymn.) Sir Fred was followed by the College’s official representative and witness, His GraceDon Harper.  H. G. Don wore the coronet and bore the shield of a Duke of Windsor.  He also rode the Noble Steed.  As he tethered the hobby horse in a nearby vise he squeezed its ear a couple of times so it whinnied and made a galloping sound.  


I, in purple robe with ermine collar; wearing my glittery card board crown; and carrying my scepter and the royal curly maple spoke shave;  descended to my theme music from the Wizard of Oz, “If I were King of the Forest” sung by Burt Lahr.  Once seated on my throne (the Philly high back borrowed from the show room) knight candidate Bill, wearing the candidates plastic breastplate, descended to the knights theme music “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues.


As Bill entered he displayed the usual “deer in the head lights” expression, which caused the assembled multitude to burst into laughter.  When Bill was  seated before me on a shop stool, I read the royal proclamation, which is chock full of very formal and impressive 50 cent words. As I dubbed Bill with the Giant Spoke Shave, I intoned the official pronouncement, “Sir Bill, I dub thee a Knight of Windsor.  May your chairs stand forever, and may Shaker chairmakers always tremble at the sound of your name.”  Next, I presented Sir Bill with the accoutrements of his rank. I placed the plastic helmet on his head and passed him his sword.


The Long Kiss occurs at this point.  Being a sack back class, the assembled multitude was not familiar with the ceremony and the rules that surround the Long Kiss.  I explained that the candidate now kisses the large, red glass bauble on my left hand.  Once his lips make contact, he is at the multitude’s mercy.  He cannot break contact until everyone who wants a picture has taken it.  Of course, the multitude made the most of the moment.  Joyce, Bill’s friend and classmate John Kolbeck, and John’s wife Eileen, enjoyed the Long Kiss even more than the others. So as to have lots of photos to show the folks back home, John documented it thoroughly. 

After the Long Kiss I bade Sir Bill arise as I declared, “Behold the newest Knight of Windsor.” The multitude greeted him with a round of applause.  After his formal portrait with the court, Sir Bill cut his cake and shared it with the assembled multitude.


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Sir Paul Thomas and his chairmaking business were featured in an article in the Niagara (NY) Frontier Publications newspapers.  The company owns four newspapers with a combined circulation of 100,000.  If the old line about a good picture being worth a thousand words is true, Sir Paul’s article was a veritable epic.  It was illustrated with nine color photos of him working, or with his chairs.


Sir Paul was inducted into the Royal Orders last June along with Sir Tom Kology.  The two met each other in June 2004 in their sack back class.  They and their wives became good friends.  Since then, Sirs Paul and Tom have taken all the required classes together.  Sir Paul was here by himself in September for the 2 Kids Chairs class.