Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair #4: Front, Rear, and Side Rails.

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Blog entry by Grampa_Doodie posted 02-06-2013 03:25 PM 3769 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The Upper And Lower Crest Rails Part 4 of Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair series Part 5: The Front Legs »

Front, Rear, and Side Rails

Note: When I talk about the many parts of this chair, I name them as if I were sitting in the chair.

I would have to say that the front, rear, and side rails were probably the second easiest set of parts to make…second only to the front legs. And that still might be a toss up. You just might find them to be the simplest “major” part of the chair to build.

Before I get into the creation of the rails, I have to admit something right up front. For some strange and forgotten reason, I decided to change these parts up just a bit.

Kevin’s plans call for fixed tenons on both ends of the front and rear rails. I guess I was thinking that it might be easier and quicker to have floating tenons for all four rails…front, rear, and both sides.

To be honest, I believe it not only created more work for me (I’ll cover why I think this in my “Floating Tenons” chapter.), but it also introduced a possibly weaker joint. Granted, I highly doubt these chairs are going to fall apart in my lifetime. But just the same, I don’t think I’d do it my way if I were to do it all over again.

So you’ll notice that all four of my rails have mortises in each end, and then floating tenons were used at all four corners. Again…I would not recommend this at all!!

So here is what my 36 rails looked like once they were done.

As mentioned earlier, these parts aren’t very difficult to whip out. Eventually all four rails will have a curved cut made on their underside…similar to the cut on the top side of the upper crest rail.

In my particular case, the front and rear rails were easily cut to final length seeing that I did not choose to have fixed tenons.

The left and right side rails are mirror images of each other. Each end gets an 85.5 degree cut. (This is what gives you a wider chair at the front compared to the narrower width at the back of the chair.)

Once cut to rough length, I stacked both of my left and right side rails into separate piles. Then I marked each end with pencil marks showing me which angle goes onto each end.

Here’s another step I took that helped while thinking about the curved cuts on each rail. I’d inspect each piece, and then place an “X” on the worst edge. This is the edge that I would eventually cut away with the curve cut.

After all parts are cut to final dimensions, I’d stack and label them just to keep them straight.

To get my mortises dead center, I marked each end with a “corner to corner” pencil mark.

One very nice tool (Or should I say toy?) that I use a lot in my wood shop is my digital angle gauge. The two mortises made in both side rails were cut at an 85.5 (or 4.5) degree angle. By “zeroing” out my Leigh Mortise and Tenon Jig, I can then move the front plate of the jig to the desired 85.5 degree angle with ease.

This photo shows my front and rear rails nearly done.

The final step was to make a simple template for drawing out the curves on the four side rails. Once done, I traced the outlines, and moved on to the band saw.

It sure is nice to see the boxes of parts filling up. :)

See you at the next chapter…

Dale “Gramps” Peterson.

-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

4 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5321 posts in 3939 days

#1 posted 02-06-2013 04:35 PM

Nice, thanks for letting us follow along.
Color me jealous.

That FMT looks marvelous.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Grampa_Doodie's profile


156 posts in 2355 days

#2 posted 02-06-2013 05:09 PM

Thanks Steve. I don’t have a whole lot of hours on the Leigh FMT, but so far I really like it.


-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5726 posts in 2870 days

#3 posted 02-06-2013 09:40 PM

When I read Kevin’s original article, I thought that loose tenons all around might be easier. It’s kind of like building drawers… once you have the dovetail jig set up, you might as well cut all four corners. Machine setup takes time, but milling a stack of parts proceeds fairly quickly. I think you had a good idea to use floating tenons on all the rails. Why are you concerned with the strength?

Looking good now!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Grampa_Doodie's profile


156 posts in 2355 days

#4 posted 02-06-2013 09:56 PM

Thanks Willie. Some of my floating tenons didn’t match up very well with some of my mortises. They’re close, but not perfect. Like they say, “You can’t see them from the road.”

I’m really not too concerned about strength. I’m a fairly big guy (6’ 1” 225), and I think I could jump on these chairs all day long and not damage them at all. :)

I could always go back and dowel the corners, but I think that just might be overkill for our setup. We have 10 chairs now, and there’s just my wife and I using our two chairs probably 95% of the time the chairs are in use.


-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

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