Chairmaking is one area of woodworking where the novice may encounter some difficulty. The stresses placed upon a chair in normal use will soon reveal flaws in design and sloppy joinery. This particular design is about as simple as possible without appearing stiff or ungainly. The uncluttered appearance enables it to blend in with a wide range of styles, from Early American to contemporary. All phases of construction can be performed with hand tools, though a band saw and lathe will ease the work considerably.
Construction is begun with the seat, which is shaped from a 17"-square stab of 2" pine (actual It will be necessary to edge join and glue two pieces to achieve the width required. Use three %" dowel pins to reinforce the glued joint If several chairs are to be made, a cardboard pattern of the seat should be made up. complete with leg-tenon locations and back mortise.
Shape the seat as shown in Figure 1. Dishing out the top surface will improve the appearance
and comfort of the chair. This is best done with an in-shave (a special type of drawknife which has a curved blade), followed by sanding. Mark the locations of the leg tenons and cut out the mortise for the back upright. Cut this mortise by drilling out waste with a 1" auger, using a bevel gauge to guide the auger at an 80-degree angle. Clean up the mortise with a chisel.
Cut the upright (Figure 2) from 1" stock (actual IV), forming the lower tenon and hand hold. The backrest (Figure 3) is shaped to a slight curve from a piece of 2" stock, and here a band saw will do a nice job; otherwise use a spokeshave and rasp. When the backrest is completed, and well sanded, use it to lay out the wide dado in the upright (Figure 2). Cut this dado to a depth of The backrest is fastened in its slot with four #10 flat-headed (fh) screws, driven from the back into counterbored holes and hidden with W dowel plugs.
The legs are shaped from 2" stock cut to a length of 19". Taper them as shown in Figure 4. and rasp or lathe turn the square to a round, 16" up from the foot. One inch above this rounded portion, the seat tenon is shaped to a diameter of 1S4". Leave the tenon long to be trimmed flush with the seat later on.
A drill press is ideal for boring the leg-tenon holes, but, with care, the compound angles can be bored with a brace and bit. Use a bevel gauge to line up the auger, and remember that the legs splay 80 degrees to the front and rear, as well as to the sides (Figures 5 and 6). The best approach is to drill one front hole and then insert a leg tenon into the top side of the seat. Align the brace and bit with this leg, and proceed to bore the other front hole through from the top. A similar procedure is used for the rear legs.
Before fastening the legs, sand them, and give each corner a W chamfer for a lighter appearance. Cut a saw kerf in the top of each tenon for a hardwood wedge, which is driven at a right angle to the grain of the seat. Glue the tenons into their holes and carefully drive in glue-coated wedges. The tenons can now be trimmed and sanded flush with the seat surface.
Fasten the backrest assembly to the seat by driving the tenon into the seat mortise. Screw and glue a beveled reinforcing block (Figure 6) to the underside of the seat with three 2" #12 screws, and screw the tenon stub to the block with two counterbored Vk" #10 screws, covered with dowel plugs. Also counterbore the bottom of the seat for two 2" #12 screws, to be driven up into the upright and plugged. These are shown in Figure 7.
Go over the assembled chair with a sander or rasp, and round off all sharp edges. Finish sand and apply the finish of your choice. We used a dark antique-pine stain, followed by thinned shellac sealer. After the shellac dries, give the entire piece a rubdown with 3/0 steel wool. Dust carefully and apply three coats of low-luster urethane varnish.
Now with this basic chairmaking experience, perhaps you'll be wilting to tackle that elegant Windsor or Hepplewhite chair you've always wanted.
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