Advantages of a Laminated Chair Brace
Thos. Moser makes good use of laminated leg braces in his chair designs in lieu of chair rungs between the legs. The final product has much cleaner lines and is quite strong. The beauty of this approach is that the legs are allowed to flex on uneven floors. I have a set of six chairs that I made in 1993 that used laminated braces. Not one leg joint has loosened after almost 20 years of constant use.
Here’s a photo of a brace on an Eastward bench that I built in 1998. These benches often hold three adults as we sit down in our dining room.
Ripping Laminate Strips
The curve for the back leg is pretty tight. The laminating strips must be less than 1/10” in order to not split as they’re clampled to the form. Most planers won’t plane down to less than 1/10”, so the best option is to rip the strips on a tablesaw. Caution: Don’t set the fence 1/10” from your saw blade. It will pinch and burn. Rather adjust your rip fence for each cut and let the piece fall away to the outside of the blade. A zero clearance insert will keep that thin piece from falling into and wedging between the insert and the blade. I use 8/4 stock and laminate the brace wide enough to create two braces simultaneously. I then rip the braces on the tablesaw.
Laminating Using a Bending Form
Determine the curve and build a bending form by stacking plywood together to the proper height. Cut the stacked plywood to the correct shape. Sand the new form to smooth out the curve. Apply packing tape to the face of the bending form so that that brace doesn’t become a permanent part of the form! Apply plastic to the plywood base to prevent the same thing.
I used to use Weldwood resincorcal glue for laminating. It dried real hard and the lamination didn’t creep. That is no longer available. Unibond makes a good laminating glue, but it’s sold in one gallon quantities, costs over $50, and has a limited shelf life. For small batches of braces, I decided to try Gorilla glue. It dries hard and there was neglible springback or creep in the week since pulling the braces off the bending form.
Gorilla glue works best if one side of the glue-up is wetted. Here I’m using a fine mist from an old hair spray bottle.
Stack the laminate as you apply glue to each layer.
Apply a liberal layer of glue.
Spread the glue with a putty knife.
Begin clamping at the center. Notice the flat spot cut into the inside of the form for more secure clamping.
Apply clamps outward.
Here is the final clamping configuration. Leave the brace clamped for at least 24 hours to allow the glue to cure.
Scrape off the excess glue and rip two 1/2” braces from the 1 1/2” wide brace. I won’t show a picture of that process. My tablesaw’s cutting guard was in the way of cutting this curve, so I made the cut with a push stick and a feather board.
Next, the rear legs need a mortise to receive the laminated brace…
-- Mark, Minnesota