I recently started a major chair-building project and thought it might be fun to document the process as a series of blog entries. So, here we go…
I started woodworking in seventh-grade woodshop about 38 years ago. I began pursuing this wonderful hobby in earnest in 1986 and was fortunate to catch the wave of woodworking information put out by magazines such as Woodsmith, Fine Woodworking, and American Woodworker. I collected a significant personal library of books and videos and these enabled me to produce a house full of fine furniture as a self-taught hobbyist woodworker.
I consider myself a craftsman rather than an artist. Having built many pieces of furniture, I understand sound furniture construction methods and am able to adapt other’s designs to suit my needs. However, my first choice bends towards Thos. Moser designs. His furniture has clean, simple lines and is very functional. I unashamedly copy his furniture since it is for my own use and I never sell any of my work. Apparently his continuous arm chair is trademarked. I don’t like captain’s chairs, so that will never be a problem! I’ve built six of his chairs, two stools, two dining room tables, two benches, a buffet/hutch, and a dresser so far.
The entry to our ranch-style house leads to the living room. We currently use this room about every five weeks when we host 30-50 volunteers from my children’s worship team from church. We want seating that is inviting, comfortable, and different than our Stressless leather set in the family room.
Our first thought was to build two sets of Moser’s Ellipse lounge chair with ottoman, a coffee table, and an end table. We would then fill an empty space in the opposite side of the room with a Moser New Gloucester rocking chair. After discovering that high-end leather cushions for the lounge chairs and ottomans would cost about $1,600, we’re considering making two rocking chairs and placing an extra dining room chair in the opposite corner. I’m building a prototype New Gloucester rocking chair first to determine if it will meet our comfort expectations.
If the New Gloucester rocking chair is comfortable enough to sit down and read the Kindle for an hour at a time, I may build two of them and disregard the Ellipse option. Either way, I want at least one rocker and this seems like the logical approach.
Duplicating Another’s Design
Thos. Moser wrote a book, Measured Shop Drawings for American Furniture, in1985. This book included many of his designs, with measurements, and basic instructions on how to build them. It proved quite helpful as I built fourteen of his pieces to date! He recently wrote a new book, How to Build Shaker Furniture: The Completely Updated and Improved Classic. This update includes more details of his case construction techniques and drawings of his Dr. White’s chest. I plan to build the chest this winter.
Unfortunately, the New Gloucester rocker is not included in either of these books. Thankfully, he includes detailed drawings of all his pieces, as PDF files, on his web site. I print these out at 150% or larger and then glean the scale of the drawing from a known measurement. I use a metric ruler to measure all of the pieces and then convert those dimensions to inches using the conversion factor I previously calculated. The drawings are detailed enough to obtain angles for the legs and spindles as well.
Armed with measurements and critical angles, I still feel comfortable only proceeding with a prototype of construction-grade pine. I plan to make a seat blank, back crest and rockers of pine. I will turn the final legs, back spindles, and arm spindles of ash at the outset. I can dry fit them in the pine and the best way to determine complex angles for the back crest is to use the actual final spindles.
Next entry…turning long, thin spindles.
-- Mark, Florida