Upprätt Refresh

The chair on the left I named Upprätt, originally entitled "Black Walnut Armchair". It was completed in early 2013 as part of my chair making journey arts grant project. I've been delighted by the feedback it has received, but still feel I can make improvements. Thus, the newer chair on the right.

Greater overall height, slenderness of the parts and flare of the legs are characteristics all intended to give this version a lighter feel. Also, I wanted to make it a better fit for yours truly. The side view shows a few additional adjustments, including major changes to the arm shaping which will give the grain graphics a curve that is much more sympathetic to the overall shape of the arm. The arms are also a bit thinner; adding to the lightness (or subtracting from the heaviness, depending how you look at it). The seat rails and stretchers are minimized, as well.

Last, but not least, I've emphasized the curves by adding bevels to the leg profiles and allowing this shape to be telegraphed onto the ends of the arms and back.

With the design in hand, I then created drawings and template shapes to ease the transition to making. It's good to have a friend with a CNC router to cut the templates from my drawings. Thanks, Tree on a Hill!

There are a total of 25 templates that I'll be using to make this chair. You'll get a better idea for how I use these as the process moves along.

For now, I'm calling this version "Upprätt 2".

So... now, what should I make it out of? These five elm planks came out of the last bit of inventory from the now defunct Timeless Timber in Ashland, Wisconsin. All are beautiful. Two have a sweet grayish cast to them from being submerged in Lake Superior since they were harvested over 150 years ago. One of those two has a better option for capturing nice grain lines in the back legs. So, the near plank in the photo below is chosen.


Below is a close up view showing what I mean by beautiful.

After much consideration and a day of getting to know the plank, I finally selected what I think will be all fifteen parts with hardly a square inch to spare.

This old growth timber is a cherished possession. It's a time capsule; a memory of the ancient forest never to be seen again, destroyed all at once by a hungry wood industry in the mid nineteenth century. With this kind of history, I need to be confident in my design and truly focused on my work as I begin the making, with the intent of preserving this wood in a form that can be shared and appreciated for a very, very long time to come.

The photo below shows the incredibly beautiful end grain pattern found throughout the plank. I counted 28 annual growth rings in just one inch of tree radius.

Just as important as this chair's structural strength, comfort and aesthetic lines, are the graphic patterns of grain lines along the surface of the wood. I will go to great lengths to ensure the graphics support the overall design of the chair. Instructed by my Facebook friend, "Don't muck it up!", I forge ahead... undaunted.

Below, the photo shows a technique that is a favorite of mine. A simple chipboard template with an opening cut in the center to match the size of the part profile; in this case, the front and rear stretchers. In the drawing at the top of the photo, you can see the end view of the part with an angle noted in the upper right corner. This is the angle of the end grain that I will need to replicate in the part.

I transferred the angle to the chipboard template and used hot glue to fasten two threads; one vertical thread to show the limit of the desired grain graphic and a second more horizontal thread to show the desired angle of the end grain. In the completed chair,  curved grain lines will be revealed that follow the sculpted curves of the stretcher. At least, that's the plan!

Okay, that was the easy part. Now I need to transfer the rectangular part profile to the actual part. This involves matching the angle of the thread with the angle of the end grain; carefully making sure that the angle chosen from the constantly curving grain lines will give the best graphic on the sculpted surface. This transfer is done twice on each part, making sure that the rotation of the template is the same at both ends.

Below, with an angled bandsaw table, I make the first cut. I'll mill the part down in stages, allowing the wood to relax and give up all its stresses before moving on to the next step.

The same process was done to all the parts; each one with a different angle. Below are the symmetrically opposite arms.

The first stage of milling the fifteen parts down to final size is complete. Time for rest.

Next time I'll be focusing my work on leg milling, shaping and mortising.

Hej då and happy shavings!