Shaping Up Quite Nicely

Despite the fact that I’ve again left you in the dark for the past month where progress on my chair is concerned [sorry!], my working pace feels like it has made a sharp shift in to second gear and things as things are really starting to move along now.

To pick up from where we last left off; I’ve cut all the tenons and notches at the corners of the seat and also finished shaping the front legs after some rough work on the bandsaw. After using a jig on the spindle moulder to shape the back legs – which was both efficient and time-consuming! – I wanted to keep things simple here and finish the front legs off by hand. More specifically, using what’s known as a compass plane. In the past, I’ve had mixed results with this thing… It cuts well on 19mm pine and thin MDF but I couldn’t for the life of me get it working well on this 38mm ash. After much struggling, I resorted to using the Delta bobbin sander. Sadly, you can’t seem to buy this model brand new in the UK any more, although I have occasionally seen it pop up on eBay. This is a shame, as it really is quite good; almost comparable to the Jet JBOS-5 model I own at home. If anything, changing the bobbin is much easier on the Delta. It is strange to me though, that this is one tool Fox (Delta France) haven’t decided to clone… I’m not really a fan of round-bottomed spokeshaves and, despite my struggles, I still believe these compass planes are more capable of producing a consistent, concave curve. Perhaps a thicker blade would help?

Compass Planes - do you love or loathe them?

I heard a rumour a while back that Veritas (Lee Valley) had a modern take on this old classic somewhere in development… Anyone heard anything more on that? We know what they’re like for bringing innovation to vintage designs.

After this, I tenonned the two side stretchers before shaping them. When I cut the mortises earlier on, I made sure that they were offset and angled so that the tenons would remain ‘straight’ and follow the grain of the stretchers rails, for optimum strength of these crucial joints. While they aren’t as snug in the rear legs as they are at the front, I’m quietly confident they will be okay. There’s a mortise in the centre of each for the central cross-stretcher (yet, more angled shoulders!!). Again, I used the bobbin sander for final shaping – I would have liked to have used the router table, if only the DeWalt router hadn’t died a few months ago!! 😀 Also, note the contrasting grain between the darker stretcher in the middle and the two outer rails, cut form just outside the heartwood. This is a major feature of my design, which you may have also noticed in the walnut used for the seat [look out for more of this, in future!].

That almost brings us right up to this past week, where I began by laminating the back rail, using my pre-cut 3mm thick veneers and a simple pine and MDF former. Very many G-cramps and too much cascamite ensured I had a solid, shaped structure on Friday morning. I deliberately offset the curve by about 4mm in anticipation of the form springing back slightly once the cramps were removed… Well, it doesn’t yet appear to have been even half a millimetre, which does mean it is very slightly out of sinc. with the curve flowing around the back of my chair. Hopefully, the inevitable will happen before next Thursday though…

Although I haven’t photographed it, as of 5pm on Friday, I had just finished hand-cutting the tenons for the bridle joints between the rear legs and back rail. Next, I’ll require a series of mortises in the chair seat as well and then, I’ll be able to look at tackling the curved slats… I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to do this… There are five of them so, it may well pay to make another jig for the ring fence and shape them all as I did before with the back legs. It is important that they’re all the same though, I doubt that’ll make calculating the shoulder lengths and cutting the tenons any less of a migraine-inducing challenge!!

I still think it will be very close in the end but, I am quietly confident that I will have this chair completed come the end of June.

Thank you for reading.

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