Going for the Crest Rail

Just five more chair parts remain in the making of Vidar's Chair. Focus this week was on the crest rail. I had previously glued a flatsawn plank of white oak between a couple of old reclaimed cedar fence rails. This assembly provides the ability to reorient the grain in the oak relative to the top and front templates that will be used to extract the curved crest rail shape from the oak.

After laying out a 3" square at each end of the plank, I then bandsawed and jointed one surface.

Then, it was a simple matter of bandsawing, jointing and surface planing the remaining three sides to form the "12/4" blank.

I then traced the templates onto the blank.

After committing to the template locations, I located and bored two 5/16" diameter holes for the dowel joinery at the top of the rear legs. Then, I cut the blank to rough length.

Below is a shot of the end grain so you can better see the final grain orientation.

To extract the crest rail, I first bandsawed the front template lines.

Then, after taping the parts back together, I cut the top template lines revealing the crest rail, curved in two directions.

And, a quick test fit on the chair assembly.

It's very difficult to shape this part with just one support point in a clamp or vise, so I used this jig to hold the crest rail steady.

Below, I've set the crest rail on its side to begin shaping the front face.

The bandsaw lines gradually disappear as the shaping proceeds.

To ensure a flat surface where the backsplats will meet the crest rail, I made another jig to hold the part while spokeshaving this area until it was flush with the jig.

I then laid out the mortises for the backsplat with a pencil and cut them on the slot mortiser.

Having squared-up the crest rail shape, and cut the mortises, it was now time to begin shaping the profile transitions that will go from nearly square at the ends to a very soft-edged, curved profile at the center.

I was about an hour into an enjoyable afternoon of shaping when I noticed a small check in one of the radial lines; see below. Then a second. As I've mentioned before, white oak can be very difficult to dry properly, so it is important to keep a careful eye on the wood to catch these anomalies if (or when) they appear as the stresses in the wood are relieved by the cutting-away of the waste material. I hereby declare this part to be kindling.

So, tomorrow it will be time to locate a new plank for remaking the crest rail. As they say, "Practice makes perfect." I guess, with a little patience, perhaps by next week at this time I'll have a new crest rail ready for backsplats.

It's disappointing to end the day (and the blog post) on such a sad note, but fear not, my loyal blog readers. Tomorrow the sun will rise again. We'll pick ourselves back up, and we'll get back to making a new and improved crest rail. Onward and upward, I say!!!

Hej då and happy shavings!

Craig