The Final Assembly…almost.
Note: When I talk about the many parts of this chair, I name them as if I were sitting in the chair.
Final Assembly, the second from the last chapter in my “Kevin Rodel Side Chair” class. The final assembly is the stage I’ve been waiting a very, very long time to reach in my chair building project.
Looking back I can’t even imagine how many hours I have invested in these wonderful chairs. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter. Over a year has passed from start to finish. I’m excited. My wife is doubly excited. Plus, I’ve learned an unbelievable amount of woodworking skills as well.
I can smell an open wood-glue bottle in my ever so close future.
If you recall way back in the second chapter titled “Back Splats”, we had already assembled the two main back splat parts…the “thinnies” and “thickies”. So that subassembly is pretty much done. You might have to finish-sand that assembly a bit, and maybe even shave down the tenons to make them fit into your upper and lower crest rails.
(More on tweaking tenons later.)
I glued up my chair parts into two main subassemblies.
The Rear Subassembly: This subassembly includes every part that falls behind your butt as you’re sitting in the chair. This would be the two rear legs, connected by the upper and lower crest rails, the back splat subassembly, and the rear rail that runs along the back side of the chair seat.
The rear subassembly should look something like this once assembled.
The Front Subassembly: This subassembly includes 3 small parts (and their tenons) that sit just below your knees as you’re sitting in the chair. That would be the two front legs, along with the front rail.
The front subassembly should look something like this once assembled.
So let’s get started on the rear subassembly first.
My main goal was to make the assembly process as easy as possible. There’s nothing worse than have 67 parts full of glue and things are drying way too quickly. We’ve all been there…right?
So making one more subassembly before making the rear subassembly was first on my list. This subassembly consists of our initial back splat subassembly and the upper and lower crest rails. Having these 3 parts glued together will add at least 8 years to your life. I guaranty you that!!
This subassembly is really not all that difficult to glue up.
Time to perform a test fit. Grab both rear legs and lay them out on your work bench. Now take your back splat subassembly (that’s already glued up) and connect it to your upper and lower crest rails. It should slip in nicely seeing that we glued that subassembly together with the help of the upper and lower crest rails earlier.
Now assemble both rear legs onto this subassembly just to make sure things come out just right. Clamp all parts together and check for nice joints. At this point, all of your joints should be nice and tight.
If you’re happy with what you have, it’s time to get out the glue bottle.
After cutting away maybe half of the bristles on an acid brush (making it easier to fit the brush into the mortises), I then dabbed some glue down into each of the eight mortises on both the upper and the lower crest rails. Next I married those two parts with the back splat subassembly, and clamped them in place. See next photo.
Very important note: Make sure you assemble the upper crest rail on the top side of the back splat subassembly, and the lower down low. Now is not a good time to get your crest rails glued up in reverse order.
No glue touches the rear legs at this point!!
When you’re done glueing up this subassembly, it should look something like this.
Once your two crest rails and back splat subassembly has had time to dry overnight, it’s time to fully assemble the entire rear subassembly.
As always, it’s very important to run through an entire “dry fit” first. So grab your newly glued up subassembly of crest rails and back splats, both rear legs, and finally your rear rail (the part that goes behind and below your butt as you’re sitting in the chair).
If you should find that your tenons are a bit snug, then investing in a nice little shoulder plane is a wonderful idea. This tool is worth its weight in gold.
This part of your glue up really isn’t all that difficult as well as long as you have all of your clamps, parts, and glue bottle and brush prepared for the process.
Note: Now would be a good time to lightly sand off all pencil marks. Especially anything on the inside faces of each rear leg.
There are 6 mortises to deal with…3 on the inside face of each rear leg. You also have 4 fixed tenons on the ends of both upper and lower crest rails to be thinking about. And finally, you’ll have two haunched tenons (whether you chose to go floating or fixed) at the rear rail location.
It’s time to lay out the plan of attack.
After successfully dry fitting all parts and having my 3 clamps right where I wanted them, I laid one rear leg on top of my clamps with the mortises facing up. I then applied glued inside each mortise, and also to their corresponding tenons.
Next I inserted the upper and lower crest rail/back splat subassembly and the rear rail into place. Then I quickly applied glue to all areas on the opposite side of the chair. Once done, I laid everything down onto my 3 clamps, and tightened them down…checking to make sure that all joints are OK.
Your entire rear subassembly is now done. Pat yourself on the back!! One very major stage is now complete.
On to the front leg subassembly.
There’s really not much to say about this assembly process. If you made it through the rear leg subassembly with no issues, then the next part will be a breeze.
Again, dry fit everything to make sure things are OK. If you discover that something isn’t right, now’s the time to correct it.
Note: Pick out the nicest face of the front rail and make sure it’s facing the front of the chair. It’s always nice to show off that nice grain as opposed to burying it.
Another important thing to keep in mind during this glue up is that you’ll obviously want to make sure things dry up square. You could make up a spacer that’s the same length as your front rail, and then place that spacer near the lower ends of the front legs during clamp up time. But I found that by clamping these parts together with just one clamp…everything turned out just fine.
Here’s a photo of just some of my front leg subassemblies. Note that I marked each one with a letter reminding me which chair they’re a part of. I later transferred those letters to the bottoms of all four legs with a pencil seeing that I found little blue chunks of tape laying all over my shop floor one morning.
I think my shop foreman (the cat) snuck down at night and pulled them all off. :)
Before you know it, you’ll have stacks of front and rear subassemblies stacked up in your shop.
Now that I have all 9 rear leg and front leg subassemblies completely glued up, its time to bring those two assemblies together with all of the “in between” parts.
There are way too many glue up areas in this stage of the chair assembly, so I came up with a plan to make things go just a bit smoother. I chose to glue the two side rails (the two parts that run from front to back just under your butt while sitting in the chair) to the entire rear leg subassembly first. See next photo below.
After successfully doing this on just one chair, I proceeded to do the same on the remaining 8 chairs. This not only turned out to be a huge timesaver, but more importantly, it simplified the final glue up stage a lot!!
Here is what a few of the rear subassemblies looked like once they were done.
Now it’s just a matter of dry fitting your front leg subassembly to your rear subassembly with your lower stretchers in place. If all joints look good…again…it’s time to get your clamps and glue bottle out.
Your chair should look something like this once it’s completely glued together.
And before you know it, you’ll have a shop full of what looks like adult potty chairs.
(Pretend that the corner braces are not in this photo. Those parts are coming up in the next/final chapter.)
As mentioned, the next chapter of this class will be the final chapter. I’ll go over the creation of the corner braces and seat frame. And touch just a bit on finishing.
See you at the next chapter…
Dale “Gramps” Peterson.
-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.