|Project by rjcshop||posted 11-24-2009 08:34 PM||1104 views||0 times favorited||8 comments|
We bought a nice dining room set 20 years ago during a “going out of business sale”. Unfortunately the set only had 4 chairs and we needed 6. We contacted the company that manufactured the set and they promised to send us 2 additional chairs but for whatever reason they never did and for years my wife has searched in vain for similar chairs to fill out the 6 piece set she was promised.
We host Thanksgiving dinner for our extended family at our house and this fall my wife told me she wasn’t going to go without new chairs, regardless of what it took. The upholstery on the originals was stained and that plus the lack of the extra chairs was the last straw. When she told me how much new chairs would cost I immediately went into sticker shock, and couldn’t avoid mentally comparing the purchase satisfaction of new chairs to the acquisition of additional woodworking tools, so I decided to attempt to build them. I figured my wife would be able to re-upholster all the chairs if I actually could build the extras, so I decided to give it a try.
I’ve never built a chair before, and being a total novice at lathe work, this was a challenge. I didn’t tell my wife I was going to do it since I was pretty sure they wouldn’t turn out to be good enough – I absolutely did not want a “home-built” look in our dining room. I started at the top – learned how to turn 4 spindles for the ladder back with enough duplication so they look the same. Then came the bent back pieces. 2 chairs needed 8 and I debated different ways of doing it. Based on the grain, it appeared the original chair backs were cut from solid wood. I could have done the same since my bandsaw is pretty heavy duty, but I didn’t think I could get the surface to be smooth and uniform enough. Bending with steam was another option, but I was concerned with spring back, and retained stress causing future problems. Plus I was concerned with time – these needed to be done by Thanksgiving! So I decided to laminate bend them. I built the bending form (picture 3) and tried using oak door skins for the backs since they bend easily. They turned out all right in terms of shape, but were not acceptable since their edge had the plywood look (which of course they were). So I decided to try solid oak – I re-sawed wide oak boards and planed them to 3/16” thick and glued 3 of these together for each piece with the bending form. This worked great and the plies aren’t visible at all. I left each piece in the form under clamp pressure for 12 hours. I used Titebond I glue, which I like and have found to be fine for most work. There are no voids or edge grain issues at all – I am very pleased with the result as this part was the most concerning to me.
The other tricky part was how to do the front legs – these have a toed out shape and it took me several tries (and I created some firewood in the process) to figure out how to do it, but luckily, they turned out all right and the remainder of the work went rapidly. Picture 2 shows the new ones on either side of one of the originals. There is more grain visible in the ones I built since I used red oak. My wife re-upholstered all the chair seats and is happy, and I saved enough money to buy something much better than chairs! (A spindle sander is on order!)