A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Leminster Chair is Born

Leminster Chair Prototype
After lots of carving and shaping, and re-shaping, and some more re-shaping I think I am close to a chair we can live with. The seat and the crest rail will be Cherry (like the bench) and the legs and spindles will be ash.

I have named the design as a tribute to the home of my Dad, a place that is not even a wide spot in the road.

The prototype is done in aspen and maple so a lot of the dramatic look is lost in the sea of white wood. In addition the legs will be reinforced with a curved ash bracket which will be mortised into the leg and screwed to the base of the seat. This chair has been in use for almost a week to test out the ergonomics and it is a hit with LOML and others so it is set!

Building this prototype was a real headscratcher with the geometry, in particular the back, with the angles and curve of the crest rail. Not having access to a chair that matches what I saw in my head meant several attempts to get the feel I was after. This ended up being extremely comfortable and a visually appealing look. I will likely chamfer or round the front top edge of the crest rail to bring the eye down a bit.

The cherry for the seats has been bought and is getting comfortable in the shop. It will get glued up into seat blanks this week. Meanwhile I have been milling the ash and have 80 ash spindle squares roughed out with enough leg blanks for 3 chairs so far - another trip to wood store for some more ash.

Time to build some chairs. I expect this to take a couple of months, so will post updates as major bits are completed.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Chair Making Project Begins

Now that my shop renovations and tool upgrades are completed (for now!) I have been contemplating a new long-term project to focus on, while filling in the gaps with small jobs and turnings as my attention span wanders.

I have been thinking about a new set of chairs to replace the ones we have been using forever - of course there is nothing wrong with them, so they will likely end up downloaded to one of the boys' apartments.

Shaker/Windsor bench in Cherry & Maple
I have been bouncing around design ideas for a while, but I knew I wanted to use a style I have used before in a bench I made many years ago. This Shaker/Windsor style bench of Cherry and Maple (above) combines the simplicity of the Shaker style of very little ornamentation, with the elegance of the Windsor-style chair with a clean spindle back. I like the clean look underneath, so wanted to make a chair without stretchers - this would take some work as the stretchers provide a lot of support underneath that will have to be replaced.

Design to Wood
I did a lot of research both online and in books on chair construction, and asked lots of questions. Since I had made a number of stools in the past I knew I was in for a geometry primer fit for one of my son's engineering courses. I quickly became schooled on the subtleties of leg splay, setback, offsets, compound angles and knew this would need a prototype build in order to avoid butchering some good material. Also, since I was making six of these, I would build the jigs as I went so I could ensure they would be identical (more or less) when they were finished.

Carving in Process

Carved Seat
I glued up a piece of Aspen and designed a seat, many iterations on paper resulted in this design which I transferred to the wood and cut to shape. I got out the trusty luthier planes and set about finding the shape of the seat, which I knew was hidden somewhere in that Aspen. This process involved a few discussions with my wife as we sat on it to determine if what I was coming up with was comfortable. This process is a lot like shaping an archtop guitar or mandolin so was very comfortable for me.
Hi-Tech Chair Prototyping Jig
With the seat shaped, I needed to determine the angles for legs and location of the tenons in the seat to make an overall look we were happy with. My complex clamping jig was to keep everything correct in three dimensions while I tried various locations and lengths for the legs. When we were happy with the look, I took off all the angles and measurements so I could build some drilling jigs and make some holes. This was easier than I thought, each of my test cuts on scrap was perfect the first time, so time to drill the seat. Now that this done, I will be able ensure all the seats have the same leg geometry and will be able to quickly do that part of the machining when the time comes.

Now to turn some legs!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sauer Plane Finds Loving Home

Sauer & Steiner SNo.4L in Desert Ironwood
Just back from another visit with the plane-building man-genius Konrad Sauer from Sauer & Steiner Toolworks; these visits are always fun to catch up on the latest projects, family and the general state of the woodworking world.

Front View

This time I picked up my new SNo.4L smoothing plane in Desert Ironwood. During my last visit we sorted through his collection of interesting woods and picked out a nice piece of figured Desert Ironwood; Konrad kept me updated with pics as he opened it up to reveal a stunning example of this wonderful material.

I continue to be amazed at the variations and unbelievable figure this wood reveals, Konrad's post here shows some other amazing examples here.

Rear View

Aside from a stunning looking tool, this baby works like a dream, like butter through an amboyna burl and birds-eye maple.

Again, the experience of using a tool designed for my hand and my eye is a pleasure one has to experience to understand.

Back to the shop.