Odds ‘n Ends

            Anyone who has taken sack back with us is aware of our imaginary rivalry with Shaker chairmakers. Those of you wishing to become Windsor chairmakers attend your school The Windsor Institute.  Those wishing to become Shaker chairmakers attend our rival school, Shakermaker U. We refer to them as the “vile and treacherous Shaker Chairmakers from Shakermaker  U.”  It is part of the fun we have while making chairs. 


            Then, I describe how the Royal Orders gets together regularly for evening celebrations. “Due to copious consumption of a certain amber colored beverage,” these celebrations usually turn a bit rowdy.  When that happens, the knights often think up pranks to play on Shaker chairmakers – pranks that usually cause problems for me. After all, Yankee magazine dubbed me “the Dean of Windsor Chairmakers.”  By that reasoning, Mother Ann Lee is the Dean of Shaker Chairmakers.  When the Royal Orders gets into one of their Animal House modes, she files her complaints with me. Her notes arrive by carrier pigeon, as the Shakers don’t have telephones.


            My story continues.  At a recent get together the Royal Orders got the hare brained idea of dressing up one of their members as a Shaker chairmaker and sneaking him into Shakermaker U. They sent him in with one of those little spy cameras and he managed to take pictures of the dining hall at Shakermaker U.


            I show the class the picture our Royal Orders member took of the dining hall.  Around the long tables, the Shakers have Windsor chairs, not those uncomfortable, back breaking things they make and sell. There is also a close up of one of their Windsors. (The picture is really from the dining room at Hancock  Shaker  Village in  Pittsfield, MA, but it makes the point.) Next, I explain how our Knight was more resourceful than I would have preferred. He managed to sneak into Mother Ann Lee’s office and take a picture of her personal chair. I hold up a picture of her sack back rocker in the collection of the Fruitland Museaum in Harvard, MA.


            In class I explain that the “Greatest public relations coup in the history of humanity was the Shakers convincing the rest of the world that they made good chairs.” I go on to say  that now, we have proof positive that the Shakers do not sit in the chairs they make.  They sell those chairs to the rest of the world and laugh all the way to the bank.


            Finally, at every graduation, dressed in the robes of a Doctor of Windsology, I deliver the Dean’s Speech.  In it, I charge the graduating chairmakers to “go out into the world and accomplish The Institute’s stated purpose – for hand made Windsors to take over the world, and to bring about the downfall of Shaker chairmakers every where.”

            All along both you and I thought it was all a joke.  Well, thanks to Chuck Pezeshki, we can prove those Shakermakers are truly vile and treacherous.  We can prove that they are our sworn enemies and will stop at nothing to defeat Windsor chairmakers. In fact, as Chuck noted in his email, “Those devious chairmakers at Shakermaker U have established a beachhead.”

            He’s right. The invasion has begun. Their heel is on our shore.  Every Windsor chairmaker must step into the breech. Visit this web site:  http://www.stickley.com/OurProducts_Details.cfm?id=2388&Collection=Traditional&cat1=17&view=all
Need I say any more? To the barricades!


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            The July issue of “Country Living” magazine has a page on Windsors.    While the article includes a brief  history of Windsors, it is hardly in depth.   The purpose is to show readers what a Windsor is.     The most interesting thing on the page is the chairs shown at the bottom.   They are there so reader’s can compare prices of Windsors available today.   You can purchase a factory made Ethan Allen c-arm for $329.    Or, you can buy the budget Windsor at Target.   They sell a pair of bow back side chairs for $70.   I’m sure these are made in Asia like the chairs sold at J. C. Penny.    (See the September 12, 2007 post.)   Finally, you can buy a cast-aluminum contemporary Windsor from Oly Studio for $1,325.   From my point of view, a hand made Windsor for $700 is a pretty good bargain.


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      Many of you will remember my November 20, 2007 post about planemaker Leon Robbins.  Many of you emailed wishing you had bought a Leon plane while he was alive.  This will interest you.  Leon’s daughter contacted me recently.  She was cleaning out and came across a group of planes made by Leon. She had no way to sell them and asked me if I would help.  I told her I would be happy to display the tools here and anyone buying one could mail her a check.

      Last week, I received a box of 16 planes.  Fourteen were made by Leon.  The other two are antiques – a fillister and a large OG molding plane.  There are some molding planes made by Leon, but most are smooth planes or small scraper planes.

      Leon called his business Crown Plane and marked all his planes with a stamp of a crown and with his initials, LR.  I was interested to discover that he had an earlier stamp. It is a shield with a flying bird.  He then stamped LR in the shield.  I know it was done in two operations, because on one plane he stamped his initials upside down.      

     When I knew Leon, his work was very distinctive.  He used curly maple that he dyed a reddish brown.  These earlier planes are different, and he used a variety of other techniques. Some are banded with exotic woods.  Others are inlaid with ivory stars. My guess is that most of these planes are early work.     

     The planes are on display in The Institute’s kitchen.  His daughter put a price tag on each one. If you are in an upcoming class, or are in the area, drop by (during a class) and see the planes.  Remember, I am doing this as a favor and have my own business to run. So, I can’t get into emailing pictures, giving descriptions, shipping, etc. The planes will go to the walk in traffic. Once they are gone, I’m afraid Leon’s work will only pop up on Ebay.  You’ll find one when you find one and prices will be set by the high bidder.  

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            The 2009 schedule was included in my June 15 eNewsletter.  It will soon be on the web site.  If you want to see it sooner, drop me an email.  By the way, the members of the Royal Orders have already seen the new chair in 2009.  They always get first shot at a new class.  Royalty has privileges other than flogging peasants.

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