Here’s what I decided to make, more or less.
I drew up some plans. I followed them pretty closely, but did change a few thicknesses of some of the stretchers. I red-lined them and will save them fro later.
Plan of the chair back.
Plan of the chair seat/legs, from the top.
I glued up some blanks for the chair seats. Some people don’t like the “mismatch” of hickory, but I absolutely love it. The more contrast, the better, I think.
I cut out two templates (the second one is for a smaller set of chairs to go around the dining room table – future project) from baltic birch plywood, 1/4”.
I used the templates to trace the back chair legs onto a piece of 8/4.
Then cut them out with my jigsaw. This was pre-band saw ownership.
Part way cut out now.
I screwed the templates onto the chair legs in places that the mortises would be, so the screw holes would not be visible. This was a good plan, but I ended up changing the location of the mortises a little, so I did have to putty 2 holes in each chair. Oops.
I took the chair leg to the router table with a big top bearing flush trim bit. This is tricky, and I ended up getting a few divots. I got good with the spoke shave and hand planes to clean up the legs after routing them. Since then I’ve bought two more hand planes! Its really fun when you get them sharpened and working right.
Ok, now on to the steam bending. Here’s my steam box assembly. Nothing fancy here. But, after a few tweaks, it works great.
I did end up wrapping the whole thing in 1/2” rigid styrofoam insulation, to get the temperature up. It now runs just over 200 degrees. I let the kettle run for about 20 mins or half hour to get it hot first. Then I leave the wood in about 1 hr. per inch of thickness, so about a 50 mins in this case.
Here’s the simple form I made to bend the chair backs over. Sitting on top of the form is a compression strap I put over the wood. This forces the wood to compress, not stretch. Wood fibers don’t stretch well. I had zero blow outs doing it this way.
Here’s the wood in the form, clamped and cooling. It does require VERY quick work before the wood cools. we’re talking seconds. And it also requires a lot of force. More than my beefy vise can deliver. Hence the pipe clamp. Kinda like a turbo charged vise now.
Once cooled, I clamp the pieces on the bench for about a week until they dry out to prevent too much spring back. I did end of with some spring back but it was just right, I guess I guesstimated the “over curve” just right!
I’m no pro at this, this was my first try. I’ll be honest.
Back the the seats now. I traced the shape of the “butt impression on using a simple template.
Then drilled several holes with a stop collar on the drill bit to gauge my grinding depth. Once the hole is gone, stop grinding. Worked perfectly.
Now I’ve got a super rough seat . you can kind of see the cheap Harbor Freight grinding wheel with carbide bits embedded in it. After I used that, I used a “flapper disk” one of this disks with the little flaps of sand paper on the angle grinder to get some of the scratch marks out. Right about now I’m wishing hickory wasn’t my favorite wood. It is HARD.
Then I spent lots of time with the Random orbital and progressive grits.
Finally cut the seats to size and applied the finish.
Then I started cutting lots of mortises and tennons. There are a lot of them.
I assembled the backs. There was a lot of dry-fitting that occurred.
Here are the legs after getting mortised. Nothing fancy. Just 3/8” mortises. Not at all concerned about strength. Hickory is tough stuff.
I cut most all the tennons on the table saw. Used a shoulder plane to trim them if they fit too tightly.
I did end up cutting some of the shoulders by hand. It was easier than trying to set up the saw.
All the parts laid out for sanding and assembly.
This was one of the tricky parts to make.
I call it a “compound tenon.” Its angled in both directions.
I used an adjustable-angle tennoning jig that I made to make these compound tenons.
I can adjust the angle in one plane by loosening the big eye bolts. The other angle I achieve by cutting a wedge of the appropriate angle. I actually used the SAS triangle math stuff I leaned in high school and it work out for me… lol Another shot of the jig with a peice in place to be cut.
Ok, I assembled the fronts and the back separately so that I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed with time constraints of glue setting up too fast.
Then I glued the fronts and backs together. Checked diagonals and adjusted when necessary to ensure squareness. I used TiteBond bottled hide glue for everything.
I installed some beefy corner blocks
They have oversize holes to allow for the chair seat to expand and contract with seasonal changes and not split.
I sanded scraped glue squeeze-out and sanded forever and day (yuck) and then applied a coat of danish oil and wiped on 3 coats of Arm R Seal.
There are some flaws than I notice, but overall, I’m happy.
I just don’t point out the flaws to others, and they think they are great!
Thanks for looking, let me know if you have any questions.