Vidar's Chair Taking Shape


My instructor, Robert, has a large set of his hand tools hung in a cabinet in the student bench room. He uses them when teaching, but he also very generously encourages students to use them when needed. Many of his planes, chisels and knives are hand made for specific aspects of his work. It's a great opportunity for students to learn about tools they may have never seen or used before.

Now, back to the chair making journey. I've been learning so many new skills in the last five weeks, that it's almost a surprise to see the chair begin to take shape. The long hours into the evenings and weekends seem to be paying visible dividends. After some final fitting of the joinery, the front assembly was glued and clamped.


The next day, I immediately began preparing the joinery for the chair sides.


This is the assembly I've been waiting for. I did it in three stages. First, the side stretchers were glued to the front assembly. Second, the side seat rails were glued to the front assembly. Then, the last four joints were glued to the back assembly. The entire chair was clamped up, just as you see below, for each of the stages. This ensured that the entire chair geometry was positioned correctly at each stage.


Now it's time to begin the next big phase of the project: the crest rail. You may recall the piece of ash wood that I glued between two pieces of poplar. The whole assembly was then milled to be about 3" square at the ends. Below, I'm positioning the front and top templates on the block,


then tracing them in preparation for cutting out the crest rail on the band saw.


And here it is! The crest rail is the one in the center. All the rest are off-cuts from the block.


After letting the crest rail settle for a little while, I then bored holes in the bottom of the ends to receive the dowel joinery at the top of the back legs. After a few passes of the block plane and card scraper, the joints were dialed in for a good fit on the legs.


I almost got it. I'll wait to improve this joint until after all of the crest rail shaping has been completed and the fitting of the back splats is ready to begin.


Next is the shaping of the crest rail, beginning with the ends. This area is very critical as it has such a strong relationship with the legs below. You can see how I traced the profile of the leg on the underside of the crest rail. This serves as a guide for my shaping.


I used a variety of tools, including the block plane, chisel, gouge and file.


Below I've set the crest rail into a jig similar to what I did with the lumbar rail. This is to ensure a nice flat surface for contact with the back splats.


And it is those flat surfaces that receive the mortises for the live tenons of the back splats.


Now it's time to take another look at the drawings to determine how to transition the crest rail profiles from one end, to the center, and then to the opposite end. The end and center profiles are given, but the parts in-between are not. I decided to use a method of establishing lines for chamfering the profile transitions in stages. Here you can see the layout for the top.


The chamfering looks a bit harsh and uncomfortable at this point, but this ensures that the shape is even and symmetrical.


And, here's the result. Sweet grain graphics. I love it when a plan comes together.


Tomorrow, I'll fine tune the shaping of the ends and do the final surface preparation as I get ready for milling the back splats on Monday.

Until next time, hej då, and happy shavings!



Craig Johnson is a fiscal year 2012 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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