Carving for Comfort

Two travishers; one seat.

This week at college, I’ve managed to get the English walnut seat carved out to a comfortable formation for my own bottom. While I spent the best part of both days (thirteen hours) on this, including endless amounts of sanding and applying a coat of oil, I have to say, carving a chair seat isn’t complicated at all. There are a few basic guidelines for getting started, that you may come across in a couple of woodworking books but, the most important thing is to check it regularly (literally – sitting down on the job!) and work evenly on both sides. I also borrowed a couple a travishers for this task as it’s really all you need for something like this.

Well, actually, you only need one! But, for now, I won’t reveal which is my favourite and I’m not willing to give too much away either, as this part is certainly destined for a future issue of British Woodworking (just not this month’s). The more “traditional“-looking travisher with a pair of handles came from Ray Iles and is designed by windsor chair-maker Peter Tree. While the other, curved design is from James Mursell at The Windsor Workshop (this one’s also available in kit form). All I’ll say for now is that, if you’ve not carved a seat before, you may want to go for the Windsor Workshop travisher a try. Perhaps the tool from Ray Iles has more appeal with someone who does this sort of work regularly? They’re both designed by chair makers so, either one will work well. Also, there’s no need to invest in an inshave or adze to carve a seat, as both of these travishers are adjustable between heavy and very fine cuts.

Here’s a shot of the seat, ready for a coat of oil:

After lots of sanding...

To some extent, my 5in/125mm random orbit sander did work, if I held it at an angle… It’s also worth investing in a set of curved scrapers, like the ones you can see, above. A goose neck scraper is great for refining the tighter radii you may have missed with the travisher. All that sanding is tiring and certainly the least enjoyable part, though… You work up through the grits, nearing the end (you think!) and then, the finer you get, the more blemishes and imperfections you begin to notice that simply “weren’t there” before! šŸ˜› It’s a very tiring, repetitive process with a lot of back-tracking.

Low-profile shot.

After a coat of Osmo Polyx hard wax oil:

Notice how it catches the light.

Now, it’s ready for the long-awaited glue up, next week!! šŸ˜•

That walnut’s come out quite well although, I was a little surprised to find some areas (particularly around the large knots) didn’t darken to the same extent as the rest of the seat. That shouldn’t be a problem with the two-tone effect covering the rest of my chair! šŸ™‚ I’ll need to fill those knots at some point. While I would like to try something like epoxy [see Fixing a Knot by The Wood Whisperer], I don’t have any and it seems a bit expensive for a one-off purchase. So, I’ll probably end up melting some of the shellac sticks we have at college, using a soldering iron to drip them in to place. Just have to remember to plug the underside, so it doesn’t all drip out the bottom!!

Although I don’t have much left to do, I don’t have a lot of time left to work on this, either. We essentially have three-weeks of college left, taking in to account the one-week half-term break for Whitsun. But, most of this time will be spent working on a wood machining project – in year three, not only do we have to build a piece reading for polishing within twenty-six hours (two full weeks) but, unlike the second-years, we must also design ours to meet the design brief and specification. Although we’re lumbered (!) again with sapele :P, this year, we all have to make a wall cabinet, which makes a nice change to the small tables made in the previous two-years.

Thanks for reading.

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