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Mike Dunbar, the founder of The Windsor Institute and the leader in the renaissance in Windsor chairmaking announced today he is closing the school.

According to an e-mail sent to students, Dunbar and his wife, Sue, have sold the the school’s buildings and as of March 31, will not be teaching chairmaking.

The contents of the school – tools etc. – will be sold via auction by Martin Donnelly. Dunbar also is accepting offers on the school’s intellectual property, including techniques, patterns and instructions provided to the many students who have passed through the school.

Mike says he will continue to “make and sell chairs, and sell chairmaking supplies.”

Mike has been teaching chairmaking since 1980 and is credited with restoring interest in Windsor chairmaking. His techniques are a guarded secret among his students. I took a class from him several years ago to make a sack-back chair and have a notebook filled with chairmaking tips and techniques I’d never heard before.

You can get a very good dose of Mike’s knowledge by the recent reissue of his classic book: “Make a Windsor Chair With Mike Dunbar.

We’ll have more information on this story as it develops. I wish Mike and Sue well on the next stage of their lives.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 9 comments
  • exyle

    I attended Mike’s initial class at his old shop in Portsmouth in the mid 1990’s. Additionally I hosted Mike for a week long chair making class at woodworking retail store. In either of these instances I can cannot recall Mike being anything but generous. He is in fact the mentor woodworker who advised me to “cast my bread upon the waters” and (as he had experienced it) enjoy many happy returns from fellow craftspeople, clients, neighbors and the curious. Mike was a perfect model of this advice and I can only think CS may have had a typo? Upon his retirement from teaching Mike certainly deserves some compensation for the intellectual property he has developed over the years….which is a bit curious because I can’t think of anything he wouldn’t readily give if asked. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

  • Justin

    “His techniques are a guarded secret among his students.”

    I have much respect for Mike Dunbar, but does this statement bug anyone besides me? I’m much more appreciative of the generosity of chairmakers like Peter Galbert and Curtis Buchanan, and these are the men I chose to patronize when I got started building chairs. I purchased Peter’s book (with the accompanying chair plans), as well as some chair plans from Curtis. I’ll always support their work whenever I have the choice, because they’ve chosen to give so freely to folks interested in their work. Secrecy in this craft should have been stamped out with the apprentice system.

  • pearlsb4swine

    Quote from CS’s blog post of January 24, 2014; ” But did you know he also was the man who drafted Donald Trump into a run for the presidency?”

  • gbetit

    Wow, this is a surprise! I took a class with him in December and nothing was mentioned on this subject. (I was one of only two students in the class.) He’s multidimensional, I’m sure we’ll continue hearing from him on other fronts.

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