Back Splat advice needed

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Forum topic by Mcpowell posted 06-22-2016 07:02 PM 864 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 1034 days

06-22-2016 07:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chair splat back splat walnut crotch wood question

I am working on an ambitious project (for me) of building dining room chairs. I believe I have the design of everything under control, but have reached an impasse with the back splat.

Here’s the problem. As drawn, my back splat will, at minimum, take a 1.56” thick piece of solid wood, in order for me to end with the shape shown in my drawing. I want to use my walnut crotch wood for these back splats. My intent is to make these chairs as heirlooms. Well…I don’t have any crotch wood that is 1.56” thick. My stock is 1.25” thick at most (before any planing).

As I see it, here are my options:
1) Shape the splat using a regular walnut board, and laminate the front and back with the crotch wood.
2) Resaw the crotch wood into 1/8” thicknesses and glue them into shape.
3) Bend the 1.25” thick crotch into shape (not even sure if crotch wood would take the bend).
4) Change the splat from .75” to a thinner splat (maybe 1/2”) that could be made with the 1.25” thick stock.
5) Straighten the design of the splat, and stay with .75” thick.
6) Forget about using the crotch wood, and use my 2.0” walnut stock (regular boards).

I’m looking for your advice. What do you think would give me the most “cherished” finished product? I haven’t started cutting my stock yet, so I have a little time.

Thank you in advance.

PS. It’s hard to tell from the image, but the dimensions are .75” thick x ~22” tall by 10” wide (at the widest point).

-- I want to be good

6 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3164 posts in 2401 days

#1 posted 06-22-2016 10:36 PM

Mc, IMO, a half inch thick back splat is more than adequate. I don’t like overly heavy chairs. I would cut the crotch wood to 1/8” for the front and back and use two 1/8” pieces of plain walnut for the center. Put these on a bending form and let the glue cure for 12-24 hours and you should be set. HTH

-- Art

View pintodeluxe's profile


5757 posts in 2957 days

#2 posted 06-22-2016 10:59 PM

It depends how much curve you want. If almost no curve is required, use the 5/4 stock you have. If a more dramatic curve is important, use the 8/4 stock.

Either way my vote is to cut the curve from thick stock. This simplifies the joinery so much, and saves so many headaches compared to laminated curves.

It reminds me of when I built the ladder back assembly for a Morris chair. I thought it seemed pretty natural to start with 8/4 stock and cut the tenons first. Then I cut and shaped the curves and it all worked well.
Shortly thereafter I watched Norm Abram build a Morris chair and he laminated the curved back slats. Holy crow that looked like a lot of extra work. Once the workpiece is curved it is much more difficult to cut the joinery, and requires many complicated jigs.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1064 days

#3 posted 06-24-2016 04:37 AM


My assessment of your options and an alternative idea are…

From your post, I surmise you really want to incorporate a curved splat using crotch wood. Therefore, I would eliminate options 5) Straighten the design and 6) Forget about using the crotch wood. Since I am a coward, I would also eliminate option 3) Bend the 1.25” thick crotch into shape.

While laminating the splat as described in option 1) Shape the splat using a regular walnut board, and laminate the front and back with the crotch wood or 2) Resaw the crotch wood into 1/8” thicknesses and glue them into shape could both work, getting a good glue bond with clamping cauls would be a real challenge for me. Also spring back could be a problem especially with the joinery and could mean that each chair must be custom milled to the shape of the laminated splat.

Option 4) Change the splat from .75” to a thinner splat would be the easiest and fastest approach and offer more control over the curve when building multiple copies of the chairs. But I personally hate the amount of waste that would be generated. I do think a splat ¾” or even thinner would be a nicer design detail than a thicker splat.

Another option, which may fit with your design would be to make a three part splat consisting of a front where upholstery is mounted to a secondary wood substrate, a back that is straight from a thin slice of the crotch walnut, and an upper retainer to hold the upholstered substrate in place. The back of the splat could be maybe ¼” – ½” thick of crotch walnut and made a part of the permanent structure of the chairs.

A separate and removable upholster substrate could be made from a secondary wood. The substrate could be contoured on the front to whatever curve by building up the front of the substrate by applying thinner and thicker, wider and narrower pieces of secondary wood running from one side to the other gently roughing out the contour. 1” foam and some batting would smooth the contour and the stepped contouring strips would be unnoticed when a person seated. The fabric could wrap around the four edges of the substrate and fastened to the flat back of the substrate.

A stopped dado in the lower back rail would accept the lower edge of the substrate. A separate removable retainer could be milled from walnut to capture the top edge of the substrate. The retainer could be fastened with screws into the bottom of the top back rail. The crotch walnut back would conceal the back of the substrate. If trim strips are applied to the side edges on the front of the walnut crotch back, a recess would be created for the upholstered back piece that would further conceal the side joint where the upholstery on the substrate meets the crotch back. Since the substrate is removable, it would be easily upholstered. Also, a change of upholstery would completely change and refresh the look of the chairs.

View Mcpowell's profile


44 posts in 1034 days

#4 posted 07-05-2016 07:52 PM

Thank you for your thoughts. They were all good.

Just as a follow up, I thought I would shoot an update. I check Craig’s list periodically and was able to locate a walnut tree one state away, that had been felled, but not cut into logs. I made a quick deal with the gentleman, and now the tree awaits milling at the lumber yard. I cut the tree in a fashion to maximize the crotch wood. I should have enough for several years.

Once I get it back from the mill, I’ll put it in my drying cabinet in the basement. Hopefully, by the time I complete all the components of these 8 chairs, the wood will be dry enough to use.

-- I want to be good

View Mcpowell's profile


44 posts in 1034 days

#5 posted 10-17-2018 08:28 PM

Another follow up..see final results here:

-- I want to be good

View AandCstyle's profile


3164 posts in 2401 days

#6 posted 10-17-2018 10:19 PM

Mcpowell, I am curious about how you finally decided to made the back splats. The chairs look great and you accomplished the heirlooms you wanted.

-- Art

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