Center Stretcher

FIG. 4: CHAIR SPINDLES, LEGS, STRETCHERS AND BOW

Scribe layout line for center stretcher socket.

FIG. 4: CHAIR SPINDLES, LEGS, STRETCHERS AND BOW

Scribe layout line for center stretcher socket.

OVER All LENGTH—15vi W i

Scribe layout line for side stretcher socket.

Taper starts. Cut Vn-In. groove with scratch tool back bow .u»8wn

OVERALL LENGTH- 17 h t drill at very acute angles such as where the outside pairs of spindles meet the bow. You can also use a spade bit or brad-point bit in a variable-speed electric drill. Never put a spoon bit or a reamer in an electric drill. I don't recommend drilling a Windsor chair's joints on a drill press because it requires all kinds of special jigs to set up for the necessary angles. It's much easier to eyeball the angles as you drill the holes by hand.

Like most joints in a Windsor chair, the leg holes are drilled at a compound angle (that is. two angles). Set a sliding T-bevel to each of the required angles and place them on the seat blank as a visual guide for angling the brace and bit. (See photo.) When drilling, pause frequently to make sure the drill is following the correct angles. On your first several chairs, it's handy to have help from another pair of eyes.

If you taper your leg tenons, taper the leg hole with a reamer and test the leg's fit. If the angles are slightly off. use the reamer to make a small correction.

Set the four legs into their seal sockets and stand the assembly upright. Measure the distance between the front and back legs to determine the length of the side stretchers from tenon shoulder to tenon shoulder. I add V* in. to this measured length. This extra length "preloads" the stretchers in compression so the stretcher-to-leg joints won't separate should the glue fail.

Cut the two side stretcher billets (I use birch) to their measured length plus 2V* in.('/4-in. to allow for the "preload" length and two 1 '/4-in. long tenons). If your stretchers arc different lengths, mark them to avoid confusion later. Turn the stretchers on the lathe. (See Fig. 4.) Mark a layout line around the center bulge of the side stretchers to indicate where the sockets will be drilled for the center stretcher.

Next, drill the side-stretcher socket holes in the legs. (The angle of the hole is different for the front legs and back legs as shown in Fig. 3.) First, set the angles on two different T-bevels for the two different angles. To do this, dry assemble the legs in the seat and hold a straightedge against the legs at the height of the stretcher-socket layout lines. Set the T-bevels to the angles formed by the intersection of the straightedge and each leg's ccnter-

To cut the bottom of the legs even, cut three legs to the correct length. Place these legs on the benchtop with the end of the fourth leg over the edge of the bench. Trim the fourth leg where it meets the edge of the benchtop.

To heip visualize the compound Hpn for the leg-socket holes hi the seat, set two T-bevels to the correct angles and place them on the seat as a guide to cant your brace and bit

To set a T-bevel for guiding the drilling of the

■Iila ahalrliai antpea siac-sirciciitr sockets in the legs, place • straightedge against the legs at the socket-layout fines. The angle formed by the straightedge and the centeriine of the leg Is the correct angle.

Attach the stretchers to the legs and the legs to the seat. To determine the length of the center stretcher, measure between the side stretchers at the layout lines for the sockets for the center stretcher. (See Fig. 4.) Add 23/»in. ('/4-in. preload plus two 1 '/4-in. tenons), and turn the center-stretcher on the lathe. Determine the angle of the center stretcher sockets in the side stretchers by placing the ends of the front legs against the edge of the workbench. Lay a straightedge on the benchtop against the bottom of a front leg and the corresponding rear leg. The intersection of the straightedge and the bench edge is the proper angle. Set your T-bcvel to this angle to guide you when drilling the center-stretcher sockets.

Glue and assemble the legs and stretchers, then glue the legs into the seat holes. The parts should fit tight and require a bit of "worrying" to go together because of the preload. Set the chair up on its legs.

To secure the leg joints. I drive wedges into the ends of the tenons from the top of the seat. With the leg tenons driven into their sockets, I use a chisel to split the end of the leg tenon at a right angle to the grain of the seat. I make my wedges with a drawknife. Drive the wedges into the splits and saw them off close to the tenons. Shave the leg tenons flush with the top of the seat.

To trim the bottom of the legs so the chair base doesn't rock, I cut three legs to the desired length. I then place the chair on the bench with these three legs on the benchtop. I hang the end of the forth leg over the edge of the bench. (See photo.) I cut the fourth leg where it meets the edge of the benchtop.

Back Bow and Spindle Assembly

Scrape the bow with a hand scraper to remove any discoloration caused by steaming. I use a simple scratch tool

To cut the bottom of the legs even, cut three legs to the correct length. Place these legs on the benchtop with the end of the fourth leg over the edge of the bench. Trim the fourth leg where it meets the edge of the benchtop.

(see AW, #22, page 20) to form the two grooves in the forward surface of the bow, and I round the top and bottom back corners with a scraper.

The bow mortises on the original Windsor chair I copied are rectangular and are cut with a mortise chisel. The bow tenons are made with a dovetail saw. However,

1 find it much faster (and equally strong) to join the bow with round tenons in drilled sockets. I make 9/i6-in. dia. tenons on the ends of the bow by cutting the round-tenon shoulders with a dovetail saw and whittling the tenons with a 35-mm #3 sweep gouge. Also, mark the location of the spindle sockets in the bow by walking off the distances between sockets with a pair of dividers. (See Fig. 3.)

To locate the socket holes in the seat for the back bow and spindles, trace a full-size pattern of the scat (see Figs.

2 and 3) and place it on the top of the seat. Mark the locations for the bow sockets and spindle sockets, including those for the bracing spindles in the tailpiece. Drill the 9/ia -in. dia. sockets for the bow tenons with a spoon bit in the brace. A pair of T-bevels set to the compound bow socket angles will help guide you.

If you have trouble making the bow's round-tenon shoulders fit tightly in the seat, lav a small piece of '/4-in. scrap on the seat top against the bow. (See photo.) Hold a pencil against the top edge of the scrap and push it around the bow. tracing a line parallel to the seat. Cut a new shoulder following this mark and it will fit perfectly.

Drill all the Vi-in. dia. spindle sockets in the seat with a spoon bit in a ratchet brace (or brad-point bit in an elec-

Tbe author marks a line for the bow's tenon shoulders by propping a pencil on a piece of V*-in. scrap and pushing the pencfl and scrap around the bow paralei to the seat A shoulder cut on this mark wi8 fit perfectly against the seat top.

To heip visualize the compound Hpn for the leg-socket holes hi the seat, set two T-bevels to the correct angles and place them on the seat as a guide to cant your brace and bit

Tbe author marks a line for the bow's tenon shoulders by propping a pencil on a piece of V*-in. scrap and pushing the pencfl and scrap around the bow paralei to the seat A shoulder cut on this mark wi8 fit perfectly against the seat top.

JANUAPV/FfB?UAPV A 23

To drill the spindle socket holes in the seat with the correct angle, line up the axis of the brae© sod bit on m imaginary line between a marie for the spindle socket on the seat and a corresponding mart on the bow.
front surface of the bow facing outward, and drii the botes toward the bench. Assemble the bow and one spindle in the seat to test the angle of the bow hole«

trie drill). These sockets arc "blind" holes, 1 Vi-in. deep. To help guide the drilling, put the bow in place in its scat sockets. Picture imaginary lines running between the marks for the spindle sockets in the seat and the corresponding marks for the spindle sockets on the bow. Now simply line up the axis of the brace (or drill) along one of these imaginary lines to drill each hole as shown in the photo. Also, drill the two holes in the tailpiece for the bracing spindles.

Whittle 1 Win. long tenons on the lower ends of the spindles and place them loosely in their blind sockets in the seat to be sure they fan out correctly along the bow. To make these spindles fit tighter. I whittle the spindle tenons slightly oversize, and then cut pronounced facets on the tenons. When they're driven into the seat sockets, the socket holes will conform to the facets, which helps to lock the tenons in place. Should the glue someday fail, these joints will not loosen.

I drill the spindle holes in the bow by gripping the bow in my bench's side vise (remove the bow from the seat) with the front surface of the bow facing outward. (See photo.) With the bow in this position, it's easy to get confused about which way to angle the spindle holes in the bow. The correct way is to drill the holes with the bit angled toward the vise as shown in the photo. Drill the middle hole first, put the middle spindle in the bow and place both on the chair to test the angle of the spindle hole in the bow. Make any corrections and drill the other holes. Glue and assemble the bow and spindles in the scat for the final time. Wedge the top of each spindle and the end of each bow tenon just as you did the leg tenons in the seat.

Finally, locate and drill the holes in the bow for the two bracing spindles. These holes should be angled so they point toward the holes in the tailpiece. You can accomplish this by aiming the drill (like it's a gun) at the holes in the tailpiece while drilling from the top of the bow. (Sec photo.) One at a time, slide the bracing spindles up through the bow holes far enough to clear the tailpiece, and then push the spindles into the tailpiece holes. Wedge and trim the tops of the spindles. Scrape and sand to smooth the bow's surface.

Before applying a finish, clean off any spilled glue and lightly sand the chair all over. I use Lexington Green milk paint (see Sources), which is a very close match to the color used on original Windsor chairs.

The original makers intended the graceful contours of the seat, bow and turned parts of the Windsor chair to be noticed. They painted their chairs to emphasize these shapes. A clear finish emphasizes the wood itself, diverting attention from the chair's clean lines. Think about this before you reach for the stain and clear finish. A

Mike Dunbar is a contributing editor of AW and author of books on Windsor chairs, Federal furniture and antique tools. He wrote about turning "bent" chair posts in AW, #22; wooden molding planes in AW. #/2 and HI4; Windsor Cradles in AW, #9 and shooting boards in AW, #7. He leaches seminars on Windsor chairmaking across the U.S.

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