Building for Comfort

Lately, I haven’t been able to spend much time online to update my blog (apologies for that). Though, I have been able to spend a good amount of time in the workshop (at least that’s something!) and I have continued making progress on the chair at college.

It always feels like I don’t get much done in a week college… For me, it’s a long day; I have to get up early and drive almost fifteen miles across Bristol; we then spend approximately six-and-a-half hours in the workshop (around break times) and then it’s another tiring drive home in the rush-hour traffic. It should only take thirty-minutes but, if it’s anything like last night (bank holiday weekend) then it can easily take an hour – or longer!

Well, thirteen hours a week isn’t much really, is it, when you consider all the stops and starts in between. I spend more time than in two-days that in my own workshop, even when I’m late getting out of bed! πŸ˜€

I’ll leave the rant there for today and get on with the woodwork…

Before the Easter break, I hand-cut the tenons on the back rail and, after trimming with a shoulder plane, had them fitting quite snugly in to the bridle joint at the top of the back legs.

After the two-week break [actually, it was three, including the week I missed through illness!], I cut a series of mortises in the back rail for the vertical slats. Because this curve is quite shallow – and still, no signs of spring-back, several weeks after laminating! – I was able to put this in the mortiser – after searching for the correct-sized auger, finding a sharp 3/8in chisel and then discovering that auger was bent (it made quite a din while the machine was running!).

Mortises in the seat were cut with a Β½in router. I made a simple template (following the curve of the back rail) and, fitted a 16mm guide bush/follower, which gave the perfect result. Though, the mortise depth was partly limited by the available cutter length and plunge depth of the Bosch router… Where I could chop the other mortises 25mm deep; with these, I was only able to reach 20mm (…equally, I could’ve made my template from 9mm MDF instead of 18mm!)

At last, I could use some machinery, here!!

This week, it was on with the slats; shaping those curves and scribing those angled [b*****d!] tenon shoulders…

A week earlier, after cutting the mortises above, I did make a couple of softwood mock-slats to determine the correct shape and also as an attempt to get the right angles for the shoulder cuts – the distance between the seat and bottom-edge of the back rail is about 1mm higher at one end! Before I could cut any joints though, I did some rough-shaping using the bandsaw and both disc and bobbin sanders.

Pine mock-up on the right.

After a bit of bandsawing and much fiddling with bevel-edged chisels, I still found I had a few minor gaps around the lower joints. The upper ones were fine, and would’ve been hidden by the ‘shadow’ line; created where the slats are set-back a couple of millimetres from the face of the rail. That wasn’t possibly where the slats meet the seat – otherwise, I would’ve done it already!! πŸ˜‰ Ironically, the back shoulders down here (which would barely be seen) were pretty much perfect. On the front though (as you’ll see below), gaps were equal to the thickness of a 6in steel ruler. So, I had to take it all apart (several times!), carefully dropping the shoulder line on the back of each slat before the front shoulders fell in to place. They’re still not perfect now but, contrasting against the dark walnut, they’re barely visible to most people (except those who like to closely examine the inaccessible areas of furniture design…).

Gaps equal to the thickness of a steel rule.

As decided on my mock-up a few months ago, the two outer slats would be shaped in two dimensions. This was done with a spokeshave. I did try using the compass plane again – and, to be fair, it cut this 20mm thick stuff much better than the 38mm legs I was struggling with before… But, it still seems like a lot effort removing the high spots, which can easily be done with a spokeshave.

So, this is how it’s looking right now.

I’m really pleased with how well the ‘two-tone‘ effect works and most people at college seem to agree. It’s a continuation or development of a theme, with this chair. I look forward to seeing how much the colours change once some oil goes on, later!

Also note the completed bridle joint (for now).

You may have noticed from one of the previous photos that the finish on the face of these slats isn’t perfect [disc sander scratches]. I’m very pleased to say that, as a back rest, they flow together very well and the bare minimal of ‘fettling’ is required to create a level surface. Still, I’m inclined to leave them in their current state and take and finish shaping them once they’re glued in, for the perfect fit. I don’t intend to finish these before they’ve been glued though, it may tricky to get in between and finish the edges, if I don’t at least oil those, first. I’m not looking forward to all the sanding I’ll need to do before I can glue anything up – that could take a whole week in itself!

Next, I’ll be looking to fit the arms and I should also be looking out for some tools to buy πŸ™„ that’ll allow me to carve out the seat – perhaps the greatest challenge of this entire build!

Thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

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