Neal started making Windsor chairs twenty-one years ago to challenge his skills as a woodworker. “I felt making a wooden chair that is comfortable, durable and fine to look at would be a true test of a person’s woodworking abilities,” he says. He admires the fact that there are beautifully crafted Windsor chairs built 200 years ago that are still functional today.
The styles Neal chooses (American Colonial, English and Welsh Stick Windsors) match his interests in Early American History and the crafts people depended upon to perform their everyday activities.
Chairmaking, Neal says, “is not only a craft that supplies a household with comfortable seating, but it also provides the opportunity for artistic expression — a feeling of accomplishment and of a job well done.” Crafting longrifles along with their accouterments — shooting pouches, powder horns, knives, belt axes and tomahawks — also supplies him with an avenue to vent a yearning for expression in working with steel, brass, leather, and other natural materials and techniques. Yet to be a “Jack of all Trades and a Master of None” felt to be an Achilles heel; so Neal has worked at directing more effort to chairs over the years than the other distractions that he loves as well.
Still, no matter what project Neal finds himself working on, at the end of the day you’ll find him sitting down to dinner and a bit of reading in a comfortable Windsor chair.
As a retired woodworking and construction trades teacher of thirty-one years at Tomah Senior High School in Wisconsin, Neal is now building Windsor chairs full time.