A Very Simple Jig for Boring Leg Holes in Windsor Chair Seats

Alright.  All the really good guys use sliding bevels, mirrors, try-squares and any number of other arcane methods to help them bore holes in a Windsor seat plank.  I’m a devotee of tradition.  However, I’m not a slave to it.  I’m working on a little Stick Windsor (practice chair) and decided that what was really important here was getting the thing put together with some semblance of accuracy.  So I used the little boring jig pictured below.  While I’d like to take credit for it, I cannot tell a lie.  The idea came from Thomas Moser’s book, “Windsor Chairmaking”.


I actually put the entire assembly (with jig) in the vise, in a vertical position.  This made boring the elm much easier.  That said, I did work up more than a few beads of perspiration.  Elm is tough.  Of course that’s why it’s great for seat planks.

I decided to use cylindrical tenons turned on the lathe, for this chair.  This means that I won’t need to do any taper reaming.  If I were going to use a tapered type undercarriage on a “one off” project, I probably would not go to the bother of building the jigs (one front, one back).  However, if I was doing multiples, the jigs would offer a significant advantage.  The guide blocks are simply screwed to the supporting 2×4, so the same jig could be used for varying seat widths.

Two other thoughts in closing:  First, If I were going to use the jig in a production basis, I’d make the guide blocks from something harder than Douglas Fir, hard maple or even Elm would hold up much better.  (But the “DougFir” was here.)   If I decided to become a complete “sell-out”, this same set up could be used with a drill motor and long stem spade bits by simply putting an appropriately sized spacer underneath the jig, leaving adequate clearance for the spade.  Did I just say that?  This is supposed to be a blog about working wood by hand!  Well, I said it and I’m not going to take it back.  You’ll see what I mean when you start cranking that brace and the bit starts to bite into that elm!  Whew, is it tough!

Explore posts in the same categories: Period furniture building, workbenches and work-holding

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2 Comments on “A Very Simple Jig for Boring Leg Holes in Windsor Chair Seats”

  1. Daniel W O'Sullivan Says:

    That’s why you’ll find the majority of chairs built in the 18th century used soft wood for the seat. It has properties that makes carving easier and the softer wood absorbs the shock of the person sitting down.

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Light weight is a benefit as well. I’ve got one Stick Windsor with an elm seat. Whew! Is it heavy.

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