Going Curve-Crazy!

Having previously curved both side stretchers, I've now subtly shaped the horizontal stretcher as well!

Do you believe that you can have too much of good thing? If you look at the current state of my college chair then, you’ll know I fall in to that other category. Because, like clamps, rolls of masking tape and woodworking blogs to read, I’m finding ways to add curves to all components on my college chair!

So far, I’m really pleased with what I’ve got. Although, I admit that this current design/amalgamation of ideas may not be to everyone else’s tastes. What is even more important here is that, despite its appearance, this chair is feeling pretty comfortable, almost relaxing, if I do say so myself!

Both arms have been given slightly more of a 'flat' at the ends.

Getting the arms set at the correct height and length is very important (hence the excessive number of screw holes in the legs; aka. ‘Giant Woodworm‘! :D). You’ve got to think about how your arms and shoulders rest naturally as you’re sat in the chair, yes. But, also, the natural human inclination is to use these arms to pull yourself up and out from your seat. Heaven only knows how I’m going to join these things to the rear legs!

I'm currently considering how these arms could be jointed.

My head is still throbbing with the thought of which timber I am going to use for the main frame (having previously settled on walnut – preferably English – for the seat blank). I’m not so keen on sweet chestnut any more though, I will certainly keep that in mind for another project with less shaped work. It’s not as strong as oak and those curves at the bottom of the rear legs would concern me. English ash is on my agenda, now. While I appreciate that I did say I would like to work with something new to me, I’ve also got to look at what best-suits the job. Ash has much stronger grain and lends itself well to shaped work and laminating (even steam-bending, dare I suggest such a thing!).

One method for mocking the shape of the back support!

This backrest is still giving me a bit of grief. Not physically, of course! It really does make one heck of a difference to the overall comfort. My mind is currently tied in nots as I try to untangle an effective method of jointing it to the chair at both ends. Laminating it as one full-width would be anything but easy. You’ve got one curve running the vertical axis and another going across the splat’s width, to match the curve of the top rail. Assuming I can find one outstanding piece of timber with sufficient width for this then, I’m now thinking along the lines of several narrow slats with a slight gap in between. You’d get an impression of the full-width board and it would be one heck of a lot easier to laminate or bend! I’ve come across some designs where this would be fixed directly to the rear edge of a thick seat. Alternatively, some designers would fit another rail somewhere below the seat. With the addition of stretchers though, structurally-speaking, that wouldn’t be necessary for the frame.

Looking now at the prototype as it currently stands, while I am genuinely happy with the amount of ‘curvature’ featured, I’m now thinking that the side stretchers look a little too thick – but hey, there’s still time to add compound curves!! I’m really pleased with the back legs, particularly at the bottom, where the severity of the curve adds to the overall stability. It may cause some problems jointing the stretchers in, though… Lots of compound angles to come!! One thing I’m not certain of is the relationship where the front legs meet the arms. It may be that I move the legs back a bit (quite like the chair Homer Simpson ‘invented’ only, more attractive!). These will probably only be dowelled together, as I would like a ‘hidden’ fixing, here. While I do like the chunkiness of the arms, I still feel I need to experiment a little with shaping and rounding over the outer edges, just to reduce a small amount of weight, visually.

Please, ignore the blocks under the arms!!

I can see why so few people take on the challenge of chair making or design – it truly is unlike anything else I have faced in the world of woodworking. But, I’m enjoying every minute! Oh, and just for the record, this mock-up has so far only collapsed once while I was sat on it! Even that was with the stretchers removed and I did escape (just!) without injury! 😀

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