My father and I used to travel a lot together. We’d pick a city – St. Louis, Würzburg, Heidelberg, Charleston, Savannah – and spend several days eating our way through the city and visiting every museum and architecture wonder we could find.
One of the last big trips we took was to Hampton, N.H., to take a class at Mike Dunbar’s The Windsor Institute. When I attended the school in 2010, I had been making chairs for seven years and had already taken two chairmaking classes. But I was still trying to find my place as a chairmaker. I wanted to build Welsh stick chairs, but most of the first-class instruction was for Windsor chairs.
So I bought my dad a spot in the class and we headed there with John, my partner at Lost Art Press, to make a sackback chair.
It was the last time my dad and I got to work in the shop together, so my memories of the week are kinda wet with emotion. But I can say that the instruction from Mike and the staff at The Windsor Institute was top notch. The place, closed since 2016, ran like a well-oiled machine with no bumps or awkward moments. Lots of jokes and a relaxed pace.
The chair I built belongs to my wife, Lucy, who sits in it every night for dinner. My dad’s chair is still in his house in Charleston, S.C.
Recently, Mike began posting a series of videos on YouTube that outline how he makes a sackback chair. The videos are free – I believe he is hoping sponsors and eyeballs will help fund the project. They aren’t slick videos, and for that I am grateful. They are tightly edited (also grateful) and shot with an eye to instruct you more than dazzle.
Check out his YouTube channel here. And if you want the book that goes with the video, you … oops it is sold out at ShopWoodworking.com and Amazon.com at this moment. Maybe they’ll restock. The book’s title is “Make a Windsor Chair with Mike Dunbar,” which you can still find from some suppliers with a little searching. You can also follow Mike on Facebook here.
Anyway, if you are interested in making a Windsor chair, Mike’s instruction is first rate. And the chair, an original design by Mike, is very graceful.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. You can still read my blog entries from that week in Hampton. Here are the links:
10 thoughts on “Take Mike Dunbar’s Chair Course, Free”
From the heart
Mike’s Episode 1 seems to be missing . . .
Sent from my iPad
Mike’s Episode 1 is online, but not on his Youtube page.
Sent from my iPad
FWIW Curtis Buchanan has had dozens of free videos on YouTube that can basically guide you through building any kind of Windsor. Having a book like Galbert’s is helpful to pair up with Curtis’s videos, or you can also purchase Curtis’s plans from his website.
Curtis’s instruction uses a shavehorse for all the suspected parts, so if you have a horse and like to use it, you will probably prefer Curtis’s guidance to Dunbar’s… assuming Dunbar is still in the anti-shavehorse sect.
Thanks for the heads-up. Taking a class with Mike was always on my list, but I never was able to make it work.
Thank you. Very informative. Now how do I get the template for the seat?
Thought he announced his retirement a few years ago. That’s why I never signed up.Bless his heart!
I got a copy of Dunbar’s book when I won a random box of stuff from PopWood. I will likely never make a Windsor chair (the form has no appeal to me), so if it is in demand, I should find a better home for it.
I’m glad that I bought my copy of “Make a Windsor Chair with Mike Dunbar,” in 1995. The story of how he started is a true inspiration.
Thanks Chris. I just watched episode one and found it very informative. I will be watching all the other episodes. I have made only one chair so far — a staked chair of your design from book. I enjoyed the process. I love the chair because I made it but it does have some flaws due to some of my less than perfect execution… 🙂
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