SUQUAMISH — Woodworking as been a part of Ben Dykstra’s life since almost before he can remember. As the son of a staircase maker, it’s no wonder he became fascinated by a different way to put wood together — namely furniture and Windsor chairs.
If the entertainment centers, cabinets and other wooden creations he fashions make up the ice cream of his income, the Windsor chairs are the cherry on top, the reason he loves his job. The chairs alone won’t bring in enough for his business to stay afloat, but they are certainly his favorite part of it.
“Selling Windsor chairs out here is difficult,” Dykstra said. “There are only three or four other Windsor chair makers on the West Coast as far as I know. On the East Coast they are selling like crazy. I’m starting to head more towards cabinetry and gearing my business more towards that.”
He said he became interested in building the chairs when he took a class from master Windsor chair builder Michael Dunbar in New Hampshire. The course taught him how to construct the chair as it was when it became popular in the 1800s, without glue or power tools. He was hooked on the method, and now does it along with other furniture.
“My wife and I moved back here two and a half years ago,” he said. “The business was flexible enough that we could move it, too. We were in Seattle for a while, then moved over here in November 2005.”
Dykstra found a niche in a newly opened business park near Suquamish and settled right in. His brightly colored cabinets, chairs, love seats and entertainment centers have been a hit with the vintage crowd. He distresses the paint job so it looks like it’s weathered at least a hundred years.
Dykstra said he also always paints his Windsor chairs, usually in different colors that he enjoys, because three different types of wood are used in the construction process. The paint, also following the historical concept of the chairs, covers the different colors of the wood used. He has also improved the chairs with his own designs, building on what others have done.
“All my chairs are all hand-built, basically with hand tools,” Dykstra said. “Every hole is drilled by hand. All the spindles look hand hewn, because they are.”
His creates custom furniture as well, and takes simple joy in making something to look old that will last as long as possible. Many Windsor chairs are still around from the 1800s because they were built so well, and Dykstra tries to do that with each piece he puts together.
“You want everything to look more delicate,” he said. “It’s supposed to look that way. It can withstand a lot though. All my furniture comes with a lifetime warranty.”