Dining Room Chairs

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Project by rjcshop posted 11-24-2009 08:34 PM 1432 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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!)

-- RobertJ

8 comments so far

View versa's profile


29 posts in 3132 days

#1 posted 11-24-2009 08:45 PM

Those look great. Thanks for the detailed info on how you bent them. Did you use 8/4 wood on the base? It looks like you bent the back feet as well? I’ve been thinking about making something like this for a while.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3672 days

#2 posted 11-24-2009 11:48 PM

Nice looking chairs!

View yarydoc's profile


417 posts in 3143 days

#3 posted 11-24-2009 11:55 PM


-- Ray , Florence Alabama

View rjcshop's profile


14 posts in 3121 days

#4 posted 11-25-2009 12:37 AM

Thanks guys – I appreciate the positives. In answer to your question versa, no the back legs are not bent, simply cut from solid wood. I built a pattern, rough cut them from 2.5” thick oak on the band saw and finished them using a bottom bearing flush trim bit. I have a big Amana (1” dia) 1/2” shank bit I use a lot. It’s a great way to make parts identical size and shape. I used the same approach on the side rails. These are 2.5” thick, so I cut them in 2 steps. The amount of wasted wood using this approach was surprisingly low – the parts nested nicely and I got by with an 8’ piece of 2.5” oak about 8” wide, 2.5” thick for nearly everything. The first thing I did after surfacing the board was to rip it to get turning squares and then laid out the rest for the rear legs, sides, backs, etc. The bent backs took about 4’ of this – I got 4 slices per thickness. The side rails, front and back rails are mortised and tenoned to the legs. Hopefully these chairs will hold up through Thanksgiving – it would be embarrassing if they fall apart during dinner!

-- RobertJ

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3238 posts in 3711 days

#5 posted 11-25-2009 08:25 AM

I’m impressed! I’ll bet your wife is excited about perfectly matching new chairs! Thanks for sharing all the details.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Rev. Jim Paulson's profile

Rev. Jim Paulson

120 posts in 3275 days

#6 posted 11-26-2009 06:58 PM


Great job. The chairs look wonderful and the chair legs and spindles are well done. I like the spindle design and queen anne style foot pads.

Happy Thanksgiving!


View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3190 days

#7 posted 11-27-2009 08:41 AM

Happy thanksgiving day with your new chairs!!!! Looks great.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#8 posted 11-27-2009 08:50 AM

super chairs good job

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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