A Welsh Stick Chair for the Apprentice – Part 5

_DPP5965

Trimming the leg tenons flush

The Apprentice’s Stick Chair is now looking quite chair-like, and there’s now only four sticks left to make along with the comb, before I’m ready to break open the milk paint.

_DPP5966

Paring the flush to the seat

 

Once the glue had cured on the legs, I cleaned up the surface of the seat and flushed up the tenons. Chris recently wrote a useful blog post about getting good results from a flush cut saw. I take a slightly different approach, although the gist of it is the same. First, I surround the tenon with a web of blue tape to protect the surface of the seat. I then hog off the bulk of the tenon with a flush cut saw. The tape means that there is a small amount of tenon left protruding from the seat, and I remove this with a sharp paring chisel (I use a 2″ Ashley Isles butt chisel which I keep honed to a shallow angle for paring tasks). Push the chisel with one hand, and with your off hand press down on the back of the chisel to keep it co-planar with the seat. This way the chisel won’t dive into the seat, and will also resist the temptation to ride over the tenon. If your chisel is sharp enough it is possible to remove a complete cross section of the tenon in one pass.

_DPP5992

A complete wafer thin tenon shaving!

Once the tenons were pared flush I turned my attention to the other small details on the seat. Those crisp corners and edges are helpful for laying out the legs, but won’t be comfortable for little people sitting on the chair. I rounded over each corner using a fine (13 grain) rasp, and a sharp block plane rounded over the aris on each side of the chair. I haven’t saddled the seat of this chair, but I did want to add a bit of extra comfort to the front edge of the seat. To this end, I rounded over the front edge with a block plane, but took progressively more strokes in the centre third of the front edge than I did at each end. The result is a gentle radius to the front edge, and a subtle dishing to part of that edge, which will stop the seat digging into the backs of the Apprentice’s legs.

_DPP5969

Rounding the corners with an Auriou 13 grain rasp

With the top of the seat now ship shape, I turned my attention to below the seat. On the original chair that this build is based on, the top edge of the seat is 11″ from the floor. To level the chair I set it on a sheet of 3/4″ ply which was dead level and flat. I then placed wedges under each foot of the chair until it was level side to side, and had a finger’s width of slope to the back of the seat. Then it was a case of hunting through the scrap bin until I found an offcut which was the right thickness to be 11″ from top edge of the seat. To the scrap I taped a Hock Tools marking knife – I keep this knife especially for scribing legs to length. It is sold without a handle, and has a single bevel to the blade. By keeping it un-handled I have a razor sharp knife that registers true on whatever scrap block I need to tape it to.

_DPP5961

Cutting the legs to length

After selecting the right offcut, it was a simple case of knifing in the correct position of the feet, and then cutting to lose lines with my Bad Axe 12″ carcase saw. Cutting legs to length is one of my favourite elements of a legged build – while the angles look screwy, if you follow the lines it always works out ok. I finished up by chamfering the bottom edge of each leg with the same 13 grain rasp.

_DPP5973

Dividers make for easy layout of the sticks

While I was working on the seat I decided to drill the mortises for the sticks. These are 1/2″ in diameter, and centered 3/4″ from the edge of the rear edge of the seat. I stepped the position of all five seats off wih dividers, and ater experimenting with bevel angles I settled on a back stick angle of 11.5 degrees – it looks close to my photos of the original chair, and more importantly, should provide plenty of back support and comfort.

_DPP5976

Doing my finest Chairman Brown impersonation

The thing about drilling mortises is that you need to hold the workpiece securely. Chairs don’t give you much to clamp, and so I decided to follow John Brown’s example from Welsh Stick Chairs, and put the chair on the floor, and drill the mortises while sitting on  a saw bench, holding the chair in place with my feet which gripped the legs. After gravity, your body is the best clamp you own. A 1/2″ diameter auger bit in my North Bros brace made quick work of the mortises – this is another task I real enjoy, as it doesn’t take long to dial your eye in to the angles, and drilling with a brace is a very relaxing affair. The mortises go all the way through the seat, so I clamped a scrap to the underside to avoid blowing out the exit side of the mortise.

_DPP5989

You can see the dished and roudned over edge of the seat

Once the mortises were drilled, I couldn’t resist test fitting the first stick to see what the completed chair would look like. So far, I’m quite pleased with how this one is turning out.

_DPP5977

Test fit! The chair is looking quite handsome.

A Welsh Stick Chair for the Apprentice – Part 4

_DPP5807

There is nothing quite so terrifying as drilling into a seat you have just completed. Getting the leg angles right is a one-shot deal with little opportunity to correct mistakes. And if you are not careful with the drill, it is possible to blowout chunks from the exit side of the mortise, leaving a ragged mortise on the show face of the workpiece. Still, a little mind numbing terror is good for the soul, right?

_DPP5804

Vesper small bevel and North Bros brace from 1923. The perfect combination.

 

Determining the leg angles (rake and splay) for this chair is something entirely new to me. After combing through my collection of photos for the original chair, and drawing multiple sketches, the angles on the original chair look very close to the leg angles Chris used in his three-legged backstool in the Anarchist’s Design Book. As I’ve got enough parts for a pair of chairs, I decided to make the first version using the sightlines and angles from the Anarchist’s Design Book, (adjusted slightly to fit the dimensions of this stool), assess the appearance of that chair against my photos and sketches, and make any necessary adjustments for the second chair.

_DPP5818

Rounding the leg blanks with a scrub plane

I drilled the mortises out with a 1 1/8″ Woodowl bit in my 1923-era North Bros brace, guided by a Vesper small bevel set to the resultant angle and taped firmly to the sightline on the underneath of the seat. The seat in turn was clamped to a sacrificial scrap of plywood to prevent the exit side blowing out – I won’t be saddling this seat and didn’t have too much thickness to work with if I have to do too much clean up around the mortises. The sacrificial board did its job and I was rewarded with three clean mortises which require very little dressing.

_DPP5819

Thanks to Chris Williams for this tip on how to round parts comfortably and swiftly

The legs taper from 1 1/8″ at the tenon down to 7/8″ at the foot, and I started out with oversized blanks measuring just over 1 1/2″ square. There are a number of ways to shape the tenons and legs, depending on the tools available to you and personal preference. For this chair I want the legs to have plenty of facets and texture. I started by turning both the tenon and very tip of the foot to final diameter on the lathe – this ensures a good tight fit between the tenon and mortise, and provides a helpful visual guide when rounding the leg by hand. I then hogged off the majority of the waste using the Lie-Nielsen Scrub Plane – I keep finding new uses for this plane and it is much more versatile than I was anticipating. For these legs the scrub is perfect – it is lightweight enough to balance on the short legs, and the 3″ radius on the blade means that as the leg becomes more rounded material is taken from a very localised point without flattening the face of the leg. I worked down each corner of the square leg blank in turn, starting at the aris and then across an increasing arc as the corner became more curved. Once the leg was very close to the curvature of the tenon and foot, I swapped the scrub for my No.3 smoothing plane and took finer cuts to remove any tearout and the most noticeable facets.

_DPP5824

Refining the shape of the legs with a wonderful plane made by Jim McConnell

Refining the final surface of the leg was done with a sharp block plane. Jim made me a Krenov-style block plane in Padauk last month, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to press it into use. Being light weight, and small enough to hold comfortably in one hand, it was perfect for this operation. I also tried some of the tips I picked up from Chris Williams when we were shooting the “Make a Chair” section of the John Brown book earlier this year. The end of the leg was braced against a scrap held in the vise, and the other end of the leg supported in my off-hand. This allows for the leg to be rotated after every stroke of the plane, encouraging a pleasing rhythm which isn’t interrupted by constantly clamping and unclamping the workpiece. When refining the leg I wasn’t looking to remove the facets or texture, just to take off any sharp corners and remove any unsightly flats. The end goal was a leg that looks round, but has a pleasing texture and isn’t perfectly uniform. If you wanted a smoother texture then you could sand the facets out, but I like the way these legs feel straight off the plane.

_DPP5835

Three completed legs. A tight fit on the mortises, and plenty of texture for the Apprentice to enjoy

A Welsh Stick Chair for the Apprentice – Part 3

Once the glue had cured I flattened and shaped the seat blanks. Flattening did not take much time as I’d made sure that the glue joints were square to the face of the seat, and so some gentle traversing passes with the jointer plane cleaned up the glue seam and flattened the top.

_DPP5785

Scrubbing the underside of the seats flat and to thickness

The underside of the seats needed a little more work to bring the seats into a consistent thickness, and for this I used a scrub plane from Lie-Nielsen. This is a new addition to my tool chest, and the first time I’m used it on a project. Although more compact than a jack plane, the scrub has a much more pronounced (3″) radius to the iron which means that it can take a much deeper bite; perfect for rapidly removing material when processing stock. Taking traversing cuts with the scrub rapidly levelled the underside of the seats, and left a scalloped texture. For show faces I would remove this texture, but for the underside of chairseats or drawers it is a wonderful surprise for exploratory fingers, not to mention proof of the handwork process. So I left the seats as they were. My initial impressions of the scrub is that as a rapid stock removal tool it functions perfectly, and as a very simple tool (no depth adjustment mechanism or lateral adjuster) it may also be a great tool for children or beginners. My original reason for buying it was to assist in preparing the timber for the oak Roubo bench (coming later this year!) and I expect it will do well at that task.

_DPP5789

Cleaning up the bandsawn surface of the tapered sides

The seats topped out at 1″ thick, which for a chair aimed at 3-5 year olds should be plenty thick enough. Chris Williams tells me that John Brown’s childsized chair seats were in the region of 1 1/8″ thick, while the historic chair I’m following on this build had a hefty 1 5/8″ thick seat which was beveled down to 1 1/8″ at the edges. I didn’t have material in stock thick enough for a 1 5/8″ thick seat, although I may try that approach on my next child-sized chair. But as I say, the 1″ thick oak I’m using for this pair of chairs will be fine.

_DPP5787

A sawbench under the seat helped hold them steady in the vise

The seat is trapezoidal in shape – 17 1/2″ wide at the front and 15″ wide at the back giving a 1 1/4″ taper on each side, and 12″ deep. I jointed the front edge and then gauged the back edge off that. When orientating the seat, I placed the glue seam as deep into the seat as possible so that it lands away from the three leg mortises. With the front and back edges jointed and down to dimension, I then laid out the sides. There wasn’t much meat to remove from the sides, and on a workpiece of this side sawing off thin slivers at the saw bench is awkward work, so I cut down my layout lines on the bandsaw to remove the excess, before cleaning up the edges with a low angle block plane. The face vise on my Sjoberg bench has all the holding power of cottage cheese, and planing such a large amount of end grain with any meaningful pressure encouraged the seat to rotate in the vise. Setting a saw bench underneather the workbench to support the seat held everything secure while I worked the edges.

_DPP5792

A drawing bow helps layout consistent curves

The final element to the seat shape is the rear edge, which has a gentle convex curve. From my collection of photos of this chair, I judged the centre point of the curve to be 1/2″ higher than the corners of the seat, so that’s the curve I went with. A drawing bow tensioned to give the right curvature made easy work of laying out the curve, which I traced with a marking knife before cutting on the bandsaw (although a coping saw would have done the job just as well). To fair the curve I used a combination of spokeshave, 9 grain cabinet maker’s rasp, and a 13 grain modeller’s rasp.

_DPP5793

The versatile rasp

The seats are now ready for the mortises to be drilled. After that I will be able to round the front corners of the seat (whch are currently looking rather sharp). Laying out the mortises requires having definite corners at the front of the seat, which is why I didn’t round them at this stage of the build.

_DPP5796

Cleaning up the curved back with a spokeshave