Turn a Windsor Chair Leg
Watch a pro turn this classic leg design, download full-size plans, and build the whole chair using expert advice and how-tos
Watch this video to learn how to turn a Windsor chair leg using a design based on early American examples.
I’ve turned so many legs over the last 25 years that I can turn the vases, coves, beads, etc. by eye using a rough story stick. But since most woodworkers like a precise guide to get started, we’ve published a dimensioned story stick to make things easier. The full-size leg profile is divided into three parts that can be cut out and glued to a backer board.
Turning by eye
I don’t rely on calipers and dimensioned drawings in turning because I want to train my eye to gauge the shapes and turn curves that appeal to my senses. Freehand turning makes Windsor chairs more individualistic. If you look at original Windsor chairs, the turnings are never identical. Slightly different turnings on a chair are fine. You won’t see the difference.
Wood to use
I hand-split the leg blanks out of a log using traditional methods. I trim them down a bit on the bandsaw and rough-turn them round to fit easier in the lathe. Then I set the blanks aside to dry until it’s time to mount the blank and start turning. Or, you can buy blanks that are already roughed out and dried. Get blanks with a 2-in. diameter.
The baluster leg design I use is not the earliest Windsor leg version. They started out with bulbous turnings and a ball at the foot. To cut costs and make the chairs more quickly, chairmakers slimmed down the style and made the lower part of the leg a straight cylinder. Then the design slowly transformed to a straight taper at the end, which made it just a bit more attractive.