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Forum topic by cathyb posted 09-14-2013 07:30 AM 1148 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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cathyb

767 posts in 2708 days


09-14-2013 07:30 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I enjoy making koa rockers. To date, I’ve made 18 chairs and have a good idea of what to expect during the process. So when a client asked me to make a chair from a less expensive wood, I was interested to see if there would be a difference. I selected sapele, a wood that I have limited experience with but the price was quite reasonable. The chair will be complete next week and I will post the photos. This is what I’ve learned about using sapele versus koa for a chair:

The pros: sapele is harder than koa, which is nice, because every minor ding isn’t such a disaster. sapele finishes without as much trouble as koa sapele is easier to sand, although you have to start with a grit as low as 100, which I would never use on koa (if I ever wanted to get rid of those tool marks) sapele was relatively easy to shape, especially the seat

The cons: the dust from sapele is too fine, I don’t like it and neither do my lungs sapele doesn’t bend as well as koa, which is a negative with all the bent laminate work that I do. my thickness for the layers had to be much thinner sapele just isn’t as pretty as koa sapele is more brittle than koa, which spells more angst for those laminations, especially the bent back rest

I doubt that I would make another rocker from sapele. I have tried tropical ash and loved working with that wood. I also made a chair from Hondurus mahogany which, like ash, is so wonderful in laminations.
What wood would you recommend and why?

I appreciate your wisdom and suggestions….......

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com


11 replies so far

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2594 posts in 2480 days


#1 posted 09-14-2013 10:24 AM

I don’t laminate..I steam bend, so my choices over the years have taken that into consideration. I have followed conventional wisdom with shaker & windsor repros. Oak,ash,hickory for bendable parts. Seat pine or poplar, for easy of working. Legs & verticals, maple for ease of turning. then of course these were painted as they were 100’s of yrs ago. But then I threw caution to the wind and made an unconventional choice of a dining table full of all cherry windsors. It was a tough bend, but do-able. they look fantastic now that they have that great aged cherry look.
As for your choices, I have no clue as to hawaii woods, but I have used sapele, and would not make a chair of it. Too soft. Rockers take a real strain & beating. I used maple. Rock or hard maple. No bling, but sturdy.
Not too much help, I guess, but if I were you I would study historical choices of chairs that have stood the test of time and are still here, 200 yrs after construction. Will give a good idea, what will make the grade.
Good luck with your new adventures in chair/rocker-making.

View mbs's profile

mbs

1606 posts in 2404 days


#2 posted 09-14-2013 05:12 PM

I think the most workable woods are maple, cherry and walnut. Ash is great for bending (that’s what bow and arrows were made of). How thick are your lams? Mine are between .090” and .125”.

I made a rocker out of walnut and leopardwood and the leopardwood is splintery and very hard to sand. I’d estimate it is 5 times harder to sand than walnut. Having said that I plan on making another because I like the way it turned out.

I would never use Wenge on a rocker because it is too splintery and hard. Its also very hard on the lungs.

I’ve done a bit of work with myrtle wood and I think it may work nicely and it polishes up nicely.

Just finished a mahogany door and that wood is a dream to work with but every time I set something on the door it got a dent. It was pretty cheap Honduras mahog rather than African. You may want to use a grain filler if open grain isn’t desired.

Good luck.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

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cathyb

767 posts in 2708 days


#3 posted 09-14-2013 06:33 PM

mbs, the lams for the back rest, which are the most challenging are 1/16” thick. My bent back rest is 1/2” thick. In order to accomplish that bending problem, I made a 6X. There are three layers of sapele and each of those was 1/16” thick. For strength and flexibility I added two lams of ash in the middle and one lam of koa to make up the 5/16” thickness that I needed. I certainly would never use sapele again for bent work, it is just too rigid.

On the plus side, I glued the back legs to the seat this morning and they look good. I think it would be reasonable to use sapele for the back legs and front legs of a koa chair to add contrast. If I did that I could have the back rest, head rest, seat and arms out of curly koa, which would be gorgeous. The rockers could be a mix of koa and sapele, but mostly koa. In that effort, I could reduce the price of my rockers and still have a pretty nice chair.

michelletwo, thanks for your suggestions. I do love maple, but unfortunately I live in Hawaii. Maple just doesn’t sell here. For the most part, if a piece isn’t made of koa, all or in part, you will own that for a very long time.
If it were up to me, I would make more chairs from ash. I never sold my ash rocker, even though it was super nice. Go figure…....

Have a great day!

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

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mbs

1606 posts in 2404 days


#4 posted 09-14-2013 07:09 PM

Cathy – 1/16” is pretty thin. It sounds like Koa is the wood for you. I can’t blame your customers for wanting it either. It is beautiful wood.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

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mbs

1606 posts in 2404 days


#5 posted 09-14-2013 08:13 PM

Just curious – what is the local price range for 8/4” Koa, Cathy?

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

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cathyb

767 posts in 2708 days


#6 posted 09-14-2013 08:41 PM

8/4 select from $26 to $32, curly can run past $60 bf. Ridiculous!!!!

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

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mbs

1606 posts in 2404 days


#7 posted 09-14-2013 08:48 PM

Ouch! I couldn’t afford the sawdust at that price.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View fredj's profile

fredj

185 posts in 1282 days


#8 posted 09-15-2013 02:53 AM

I’m in the Appalachians so it’s ”...Hickory, ash, and oak. Don’t burn no green or rotten wood, or they’ve get you by the smoke.”
That’s for Moonshine, happens to work with rockers as well. Poplar or pine for the seat.

-- Fredj

View Loren's profile

Loren

8304 posts in 3112 days


#9 posted 09-15-2013 03:02 AM

That’s interesting about the psychology of the market you’re in.

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fredj

185 posts in 1282 days


#10 posted 09-15-2013 11:35 PM

Weird mind set there about wood. I wonder if the people who only want Koa are from there, or from the mainland.

-- Fredj

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cathyb

767 posts in 2708 days


#11 posted 09-15-2013 11:45 PM

That’s true Fred. I’ve lived here 30 years. Koa is a beautiful wood, but there are so many others that I simply love. If you are born and raised in Hawaii, it had better be koa. If you are a long time resident, chances are it has to be koa. There are some people, a major minority, who will accept other woods. Those had better be commission pieces if you expect them to move. I made a beautiful lamp 10 years ago out of ebony and bird’s eye maple. It finally sold last year at a fair. It took nine years to sell. So sad! Still, I try to add multiple woods to my pieces to get people to appreciate WOOD in all it’s glory. It’s a tough row to hoe…....

-- cathyb, Hawaii, www.cathyswoodworking.com

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