Chairmaking help

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Forum topic by opalko posted 06-29-2011 05:05 PM 834 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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135 posts in 2454 days

06-29-2011 05:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chair chairmaking question

I have a couple of chairs identical to these that I would like to replicate:

and some Internet links to the same chair style:

Side chair picture 1

Side chair picture 2

As you can hopefully see in the pictures, the back legs/stiles have a bend to them. They measure 1 1/2” by 1 1/2”. The total bend is about 2 1/2”. In other words, if you drew/pulled a straight line from the top rear corner to the bottom rear corner of a back leg, and then measured at the widest point a line perpindicular to this one to the outside of leg, it would be 2 1/2” (I hope that makes sense).

My question is: are these legs/stiles steam bent or are they just cut from one big hunk of wood? I am not sure where/how to acquire and steam bend stock this wide, so I was thinking of getting 2 pieces of 1×3 oak, glue them together, and then simply cut the profile of the leg this way. Is this the wrong way to go about it, or will it be fine? These are just everyday chairs not meant for a showroom, btw.

Same question for the rails of the ladder back, though it’s difficult to see in these photos. They have a gentle bend in them. Can I just laminate a couple of pieces together and then cut the curve on the bandsaw?

Thanks for any ideas. Happy 4th of July!

3 replies so far

View Loren's profile


8158 posts in 3067 days

#1 posted 06-29-2011 05:21 PM

You’ll find it easier to glue up a blank for the legs and saw them
out. This is a common expediency on even higher-end chairs.

You can glue up one big blank and nest the leg patterns on
it too. Watch the grain patterns carefully if you do it this way
to minimize the obviousness of the glue-up.

For the back parts:

You can laminate them either in a two part bandsawn form or
in a vacuum bag. Such parts are also pretty easy to steam
bend with minimal equipment. The boards are thin and
blowout on the outside of the bend won’t be a big problem
so it can be done by clamping the steamed blank to a one-sided
form without a backing strap, maybe even freehand, luthier-style
on a hot pipe. I haven’t bent wood more than about 1/4”
thick on a hot pipe so I can’t say for sure that 5/8” backs
will bend well on one – but it’s a fun and useful technique
and worth learning.

View JSilverman's profile


89 posts in 2032 days

#2 posted 06-29-2011 06:07 PM

It is common (usual) to cut the back legs out of thicker stock. I would suggest buying thick lumber rather than glue up thinner stock but either will work. Steam bending or laminating will also work for the mild curve in those chairs but both are much more involved than necessary.

same goes for the backs- much more common to cut those from thicker stock than bend or laminate.


View opalko's profile


135 posts in 2454 days

#3 posted 06-29-2011 08:27 PM

Excellent replies, thanks!

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