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Greene & Greene Gamble House Side Chair #25: Crest Rail Final Shaping

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Blog entry by TungOil posted 07-11-2018 12:30 AM 1672 reads 2 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 24: Plug Locations and Square Holes- Part 2 Part 25 of Greene & Greene Gamble House Side Chair series no next part

In February I was in Pasadena and took the opportunity to visit the Huntington Library Museum, which houses many Greene & Greene pieces. The museum holds one of the living room chairs from the Gamble House and that gave me a good opportunity to study an original up close. The crest rail is beautifully shaped with a lot of rounding and shaping evident. Here is a close up of the crest rail on the original.

It will not be possible to create the dramatically swept back profile seen above on the top of my crest rail, but I can approximate the look by thinning and shaping a curve that tapers towards the top and rounding over the edges.

To Shape the crest rails, I start by laying out guidelines on the top of the rail. I strike a guideline in the middle that will be used to shape the concave curve and a second guideline to divide the remaining material in half and define the peak of the crest rail.

I begin by shaping the curve of the crest rail with a spokeshave. A Kreg bench clamp attached to my old mini-Workmate puts the part at a comfortable work height while allowing me to easily reposition the workpiece.

The curve begins near the center and tapers to the top. I work the spokeshave with the gran of the part to minimize tearout.

After shaping the curve, I round over the top edge with spokeshaves, then add a line along the middle of the edge to guide shaping the cloud lift round overs on the top of the rail.

To shape the round-overs I use rasps. I begin by shaping all of the round-overs using a fairly coarse 11 grain, 10” cabinet makers rasp. The large size helps remove the bulk of the waste material quickly, but leaves a rough surface and the size of the rasp prevents me from getting into the tight inside radius of the cloud lifts and finger hole.

With the rough work completed, I switch to an 8”, 13 grain rasp to refine the shape. With the smaller rasp, I am better able to shape the inside radii, but not completely. The 13 grain rasp leaves a smoother surface as well.

To complete the shaping, I switch to a 6”, 15 grain modelers rasp. The small size allows me to finalize the shape of the inside radii and leaves a very smooth surface, about the equivalent of 80-100 grit sand paper.

I finish up the crest rail with a variety of abrasives. The large faces are sanded using 120 grit followed by 220 grit on the ROS. All of the edges are sanded by hand using a variety of soft pads.

To make sanding all of the inside radii easier, I made up a custom sanding stick. The radius of the stick is 1/16” smaller that the radius of the inside curves on the crest rail. I then used a piece of 1/16” double sided foam tape to hold a piece of 220 grit paper in place. By including a flat area on the stick I was able to use it to sand the outside round-overs as well.

Shaping these crest rails was a considerable amount of effort, more than I expected. it took between 3-1/2 to 4 hours to complete the shaping of each part (about 60 hours total) with spoke shaves, rasps and sanding. I was a little surprised to see such a large pile of shavings after I finished up working these!

Next steps: complete rounding over the remaining curved parts, then work on the ebony bars for the back splats.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"



18 comments so far

View WhattheChuck's profile

WhattheChuck

338 posts in 3730 days


#1 posted 07-11-2018 12:59 AM

Nice! Whenever I’m doing Greene and Greene stuff, I remind myself that those dudes had their own cabinet shop, and clients with bottomless wallets. The interesting thing I’ve found as I’ve proceeded through a Queen Anne Lowboy reproduction is how much simpler it is to make than the G&G stuff. There’s a reason there’s a bazillion lowboys out there, as well as the fact that they were owned by lots of middle class people. G&G? Not so much.

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1039 posts in 664 days


#2 posted 07-11-2018 01:44 AM

I agree, Chuck. G&G is decievingly difficult to make if done the way the Hall’s worked. Every time I study the details of G&G pieces in museums I come away with a huge respect for the craftsman that made this furniture. I tend to simplify the details in the interest of actually finishing them in this lifetime…..

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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WhattheChuck

338 posts in 3730 days


#3 posted 07-11-2018 02:43 AM

Lifetime is right. And I’m not bragging, but I DO know how to do all the small details. Like the little knee-thingys. But you start putting all those together on a piece, along with the sculpted breadboard inserts, and the tapered pegs, and actually finishing a piece just seems to be interminable. I attempted to streamline some of those effects while building the little TV/ stereo cabinet I made. Compared to the coffee table (which is full-on) I think I saved some time. I think.

Building a roomful of that stuff blows my mind. I’d have to be retired. And bored. I look at the big dining room sliding table and my eyes boggle. It’s like Moby Dick—look long enough into the abyss, and the abyss looks back at you. Even Darrell Peart does all that stuff on his CNC table now—because he wants to have enough money to EAT!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

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WhattheChuck

338 posts in 3730 days


#4 posted 07-11-2018 02:44 AM

BTW—hats off to you building a set of chairs. You are obviously talented. Or have OCD. Or both. ;-) Drop me a line when you finish sanding all those pegs. The first round’s on me!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View EarlS's profile

EarlS

1745 posts in 2517 days


#5 posted 07-11-2018 11:27 AM

Tung – how are the hands holding up with all of the detail rasp, filing, and sanding? The curves, and shaping are one of the details that make G&G look so appealing. I applaud your attention to detail and appreciate your willingness to show us all of the tedious details that go into making these chairs.

I’m also very jealous that you were able to see all of the G&G furniture at the Huntington Library Museum. Post more pictures when you have time. I’m hoping to get back to the Chicago Art Institute later this summer so I can get some better pictures of the few G&G pieces they have as well as the Stickley pieces.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1039 posts in 664 days


#6 posted 07-11-2018 12:19 PM

Hands are fine but my shoulders are feeling it. They are awkward parts to shape without something like a pattern makers vise.

The Huntington is worth a trip to LA. The airfare is cheap, just do it for a weekend. You will not be disappointed.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View pottz's profile

pottz

3310 posts in 1153 days


#7 posted 07-11-2018 01:56 PM

i applaud your effort on this having made a g&g wall table i know too well what goes into making there furniture.a bed and night stands are on my to do list,and may be there a while-ha.im just finishing up a maloof rocker and i hear ya on the shoulder and arm pain from using spoke shaves and rasps for hours of shaping.ive been to the gamble house but not the huntington,that is something for your next visit.tours are led by jim ipekjian,a master of g&g who recreated the furniture for the blacker house.i love the time you took to show us your process for making those beautiful chairs,thanks tung.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1039 posts in 664 days


#8 posted 07-11-2018 05:15 PM

I just realized I forgot to include an image of the finished parts. Here’s a before and after view.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View builtinbkyn's profile

builtinbkyn

2650 posts in 1110 days


#9 posted 07-12-2018 02:14 AM

You have a beautiful body of work. Can I ask why you either chose not to or felt you could not recreate the crest rail of the original? IMO, from seeing everything you’ve done, you have the ability. Was this simply an executive decision to expedite the project?

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1039 posts in 664 days


#10 posted 07-12-2018 03:18 AM



You have a beautiful body of work. Can I ask why you either chose not to or felt you could not recreate the crest rail of the original? IMO, from seeing everything you ve done, you have the ability. Was this simply an executive decision to expedite the project?

- builtinbkyn


Executive decision- By the time I went to the Huntington, I was too far along to get that shape out of the parts I already had cut, which looked like the crest rail on the left in the photo above.

Bob Lang and I discussed this, we both feel that you would need to start with 16/4 material to get the finished piece to look like the original, which is only about 1/2” thick. Can you imagine the waste?

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View builtinbkyn's profile

builtinbkyn

2650 posts in 1110 days


#11 posted 07-12-2018 03:28 AM

Thanks for responding Tung. You know I took a closer look at the pic of the original you posted and it looks like the crest is a separate piece. There look to be horizontal seams. It also looks like the grain changes direction to being vertical. You obviously saw it in the flesh and have the original pics, so you would of course know better, but that would certainly change the approach to making it. Maybe it’s just an artifact in the pic?

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

1039 posts in 664 days


#12 posted 07-12-2018 03:40 AM



Thanks for responding Tung. You know I took a closer look at the pic of the original you posted and it looks like the crest is a separate piece. There look to be horizontal seams. It also looks like the grain changes direction to being vertical. You obviously saw it in the flesh and have the original pics, so you would of course know better, but that would certainly change the approach to making it. Maybe it s just an artifact in the pic?

- builtinbkyn


The seam you see is a repair, the original must have tipped over backwards at some point and the top of the crest rail broke off. It’s easier to see in this view

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View sras's profile

sras

4913 posts in 3298 days


#13 posted 07-13-2018 02:24 AM

I really enjoy following along on this build. Thanks for sharing!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View builtinbkyn's profile

builtinbkyn

2650 posts in 1110 days


#14 posted 07-13-2018 02:34 AM

Thanks for the explanation. Guess my aging eyes weren’t deceiving me after all.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View SteveHaf's profile

SteveHaf

6 posts in 347 days


#15 posted 07-25-2018 04:35 PM

Great detail. Thanks for posting!

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