Round and Round It Goes...

Crest rail #2 for Vidar's Chair spent a good part of last week actively on the bench. Above, I laid out some chamfers that allow me to symmetrically transition the crest rail profile from end to end. Below, the chamfers take shape.

I then focused my energy on the ends of the rail, creating a shape that reflects the leg profile below. Holding the work can be tricky sometimes, but a couple of wooden clamps in the bench vise made the work easier.

The pencil layout below is for fine-tuning the shape near the rear leg.

A gouge makes quick work of creating a small "valley."

Then, over to the other end.

At this point I'm almost a day ahead of where I was when I had to abandon the first crest rail due to checking. All the chamfers have been rounded over. Below I compete the softening of the underside edges with a spokeshave.

As I began chamfering the bottom edge of one of the ends, I noticed a very tiny crack emerging on the surface. Click to enlarge the photo below and see what I mean; just above my left thumb on the left side chamfered edge.

Here it is again, below, with better light. Is this a repairable flaw? Perhaps. Will I sleep well after filling it with epoxy resin? Perhaps not.

During a phone conversation with my client, since the chair is well along toward completion, we decided to continue with the white oak and look for more material for the crest rail. Due to the frequency and randomness of these small checks, it was time to cut several new crest rail blanks from the best material I could find locally in an attempt to increase the odds of success with #3.

During my hunt for new material, I brought along my 2 cracked crest rails. My first stop during the day was to the supplier of most of the wood used in the chair, so far. The yard supervisor recognized the issue I had with the material, but was sympathetic only to the point of refunding my 8/4 lumber investment. I really appreciated that, but it appears that not only am I a miniscule (respected, but miniscule) customer of the lumber yard, but the lumber yard is a minor customer of the lumber wholesaler. I'm not seeing any avenues for influencing the quality of what comes out of the kiln.

If any of you readers of this blog have had GREAT LUCK with your supplier of 8/4, or thicker, white oak, please let me know about them in the comments below. Suppliers anywhere in North America are fair game. The internal stresses created by anything but ideal conditions in the kiln drying process can definitely be problematic for this challenging wood species. I look forward to hearing from you!

The supplier mentioned above was also kind enough to provide one last plank to try.

But, lo and behold, more honeycomb checks. See below.

Each of the circles below show more of the same which I reported back to the supplier. I may try working with two of these, but the other two don't look very promising.

I then made a stop at another supplier who had a few new flatsawn planks in since my last visit there. One plank in particular looked promising.

On this latest plank the end cuts look grand and, even viewed through my 4x Optivisor glasses, appear to be clean and free of both natural defects and kiln drying process defects. What evil, if any, lurks in the depths of the wood? Only time and some additional milling will tell.

From the wood now gathered in the studio, I'll go ahead with three or four of them to the next stage and see what comes out of the process. Below, you can see the two most promising blanks ready for the next milling step to orient the grain. Each piece will be carefully monitored for checking. For this go 'round, and with the patience and understanding of the client, I'll be allowing several weeks of time for the parts to settle before selecting one and moving forward with the final shaping.

I'm quite familiar with the kind of perseverence it takes to get work like this right. And, I know this can be a real rollercoaster ride for my valued clients. But, in addition to that, I'm beginning to realize what it is that I'm requiring of you, too, the reader. You've stuck with me through thick and thin on this project, and I appreciate that. I really value the support and loyalty that keeps bringing you back for more.

Next time, more crest rail, and while the new crest rails settle, perhaps an introduction to the next piece I'll have the honor of making.

Hej då and happy shavings!

Craig