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Forum topic by Gwjames posted 11-13-2014 12:23 AM 985 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


11-13-2014 12:23 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak pine miter saw router tablesaw sander joining sanding finishing traditional rustic

Well ladies and gentleman, I’m here today to ask for your help, I am somewhat new to woodworking I have worked construction for year but just recently realized that woodworking is just more fun. Anyway, I am wanting to learn to build solid oak dining chairs,
I have been playing around with some pine for idea’s, what I can do differents, and just a general idea of what I’m doing before I spend a lot money on oak and decide I want the design different. Originally I was cutting the curve in the seat back and legs with my jig saw and leaving the slats straight, well I figured out with my first prototype that that doesn’t make me happy and I could never be satisfied with that. I started looking into lamination bending and thought about that for the slats but the more I looked the more I realized that I wouldn’t be happy until I started steam bending, I have never tried this not have I ever seen it done in person, yet I have watched a few people on YouTube do it in their garage. Which is the reason I believe I can handle the task. Now with my background out of the way, what I’m looking for is advice on steam bending, and on chair building as a whole. I am having a blast doing it and I have a lot of ideas in my head but so far trial and error and wood for my fire pit is what I have gotten. So is there any place I can learn chair basics from besides just making piles of scrap wood after I mess it up? Not that messing up and learning from my own mistakes is bad but having others to discuss it with would be helpful as well. Thank you so much for your time!!! -Gary


14 replies so far

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AandCstyle

2566 posts in 1718 days


#1 posted 11-13-2014 12:47 AM

Grampa Doodie did a blog series on making Arts & Crafts style chairs. I found it to be invaluable with my first attempt at making chairs. Another great resource is Chairmaking and Design by Jeff Miller. Finally, LJ has a great wealth of knowledge available. HTH

-- Art

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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


#2 posted 11-13-2014 01:14 AM

I was just reading grandpa doodie’s blog, I will check out the others thank you very much

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Loren

8296 posts in 3109 days


#3 posted 11-13-2014 01:47 AM

I steam bend chair parts for dining chairs but I can’t
promise any short cuts. Slow and steady wins
the race. You’ll need to make forms for every
bent shape and of course get some sort of
back strap. I use the Veritas strap and stop system.

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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


#4 posted 11-13-2014 02:27 AM

I wasn’t really looking for a “short-cut” per say, everything I have done this far has been trial and error and I’ve thrown most of it in the Fire pit, which is fine. I guess I was just looking for lessons learned from people that have done it before me. Do you make a model with cheap wood before you start trying it with more expensive stock? I realize the bending will be different from one wood to another but I’m thinking more for overall design and structure.

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JAAune

1637 posts in 1778 days


#5 posted 11-13-2014 02:30 AM

Creating a steam setup is easy enough. Put together a plywood box from exterior grade plywood, make some caps for both ends and attach a steam source. Turkey cookers, tea kettles and wallpaper removers are items I’ve used with success. Build a rack for the inside of the box to keep parts up high where the temperature is higher.

A meat thermometer inside a hole in the top of the steam box will measure how hot it gets. Above 200 degrees is good and 212 is the absolute max you’ll get at sea level without using pressure. Unless you really know how to build pressure chambers safely make sure the box isn’t completely air-tight. You don’t need the pressure at lower altitudes and it isn’t safe.

The harder part is actually doing the bend. If you clamp your form to the table then try to bend the wood, the table will invariably rotate unless you get friends to hold it in place. Either get a very heavy table to mount the form or bolt the table to the floor.

Use air-dried lumber for steam-bending.

Steam-bent parts should be allowed to cool on the form after the bend is complete then moved to a drying form of the exact same shape. They get left on the drying form for a week or two so they’re completely set in the new shape.

Once of the most difficult parts of chair-making is clamping the parts together. Oftentimes there are no convenient surfaces to clamp on that will pull the joints together. Learn how to make and use cauls shaped to fit the chair so clamps can straddle the joints at 90 degree angles.

Build test pieces using the cheapest particle board or pine you can get your hands on to make sure the shape and dimensions of the design will work for comfort and function and to ensure it also looks good. Screws, hot-glue, tape and nails are good enough for these mockups. If you get the design right but still aren’t confident about doing the joinery, go ahead and build a prototype with poplar or pine that uses real joinery.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


#6 posted 11-13-2014 02:35 AM

What is the purpose of having a bending jig and a drying jig? If they are essentially the same is there a reason you couldn’t just leave the piece on the bending jig for the 7 days?

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JAAune

1637 posts in 1778 days


#7 posted 11-13-2014 02:39 AM

Not if you’re bending identical parts for six chairs. You’d have to build 6 perfectly identical bending forms to do all the bends in one day. It’s a waste of material.

Also, the bending jigs are large and bulky and usually cover one face of the wood. Drying jigs are just single pieces of plywood that have the right shape but are usually narrower than the workpiece so air can circulate around it better.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


#8 posted 11-13-2014 02:42 AM

Ok, I’m following you now, thanks for the advice

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Loren

8296 posts in 3109 days


#9 posted 11-13-2014 02:45 AM

For prototyping my bent chair parts I don’t use
drying forms, just a clamp to restrict spreading of
the ends. It works adequately for what I’ve done.
I am not however after exact replication when
making a one-off prototype.

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JAAune

1637 posts in 1778 days


#10 posted 11-13-2014 02:46 AM

Here’s a picture that might be useful. There’s a bend in progress around the bending form (4 layers of plywood). Off to the side is a drying form (one layer).

Another option for fast prototyping is to just glue up pine and saw out the curved shapes. It’s weak of course but will hold together enough to test out the idea. Since I no longer need the steam-bending practice I don’t go through the bending process unless I’m making the real furniture.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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Gwjames

87 posts in 775 days


#11 posted 11-13-2014 03:11 AM

I plan to bend the top and bottom rails for the back slats, but what are the advantages of bending the back legs vs. just cutting the curves, I realize it would save scrap wood but is it also stronger or nothing really?

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Loren

8296 posts in 3109 days


#12 posted 11-13-2014 03:39 AM

Bending back legs saves material of course and it
helps prevent short grain shearing at the back
bottom edge of the leg.

There’s little doubt that sawing out chair parts
is the easier way to make chairs conceptually
speaking, but bending opens up the geometrical
mysteries of furniture forms in a way that might
otherwise remain elusive.

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robscastle

3392 posts in 1665 days


#13 posted 11-13-2014 09:07 AM

Gw,
you may like to take a look at this method, its one I tried.

Its one of my blogs.
Box making Curved Front Box #11: Front Alternative method

Its not steam bending but an alternative bending method you can learn about, just like I did! and maybe give it a try if it suits your requirements.

enjoy

Robert

-- Regards Robert

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jdh122

879 posts in 2279 days


#14 posted 11-13-2014 11:51 AM

It depends on the type of chair you’re making, but you’ll find it much easier to bend wood that is green and split rather than sawn. I know this is not practical for certain kinds of chairs, and it assumes you have access to logs, but with green, split and drawknifed wood you can generally get away with not using a backing strap, as long as the curve is not too extreme. For the gentle curves on legs or for the back of a dining chair there’d be no problem. On the other hand, for a continuous arm Windsor you’d probably want to strap the back piece.
My first attempts were very frustrating, but that was because what I thought was maple logs turned out to be trembling aspen. Once I got some oak the pieces bent like nobody’s business…
I started out with a thrift store electric kettle and it worked OK, but I had to watch it like a hawk for boiling dry. Since then I bought a wallpaper stripper and have been very happy with it. (It’s an Earlex – you can get them tricked out for steam-bending, but mine is the regular model).

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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