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A Woodworker's Musings
Eight or nine years ago I bought a new lathe. The first thing I did was to make several sets of legs and arm stumps for a pair of Windsor Chairs. I put them into a five gallon pail for safe keeping. There they remained, till now.
The first of the pair is nearly complete. Wow! Have I learned a lot. I’ve built a number of chairs, but this is the first sack-back I’ve done. I have new found respect for my friends who specialize in this particular design.
Here are a few of the lessons learned:
– You can’t overstate the importance of a good form,
– Tangential relationships are critical,
– Use bending straps,
– Use green wood for bending,
– Have plenty of bending stock on hand,
A project like this is exactly what keeps me interested in woodworking. No matter how much you know, there’s always something new to learn. (Or in the case of many of us, it may be that we’ve forgotten more than we care to admit. So, shall we say, there’s always something new to remember.)
I met an old friend on the street the other day, a friend I hadn’t seen for a year or so. He walked up to me, smiled broadly and said, “Good Lord, I was sure you had died. You haven’t posted anything since February!”… What an “eye opener!”
Truth be told, the past few months have been full of travel, visits from family and, honestly, I just haven’t had anything to say that I thought was worth saying. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been anything going on in the workshop. Although I have to admit that my level of productivity has been seriously diminished. But, maybe now is a good time to “get back in the game.”
Lester (my partner in the crime of woodworking) and I have managed to finish a couple of projects during this “black-out period.” We completed a small tavern table (based on one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) that Les had started a number of years ago. While dry fit, it served to provide a small amount of temporary storage for a number of years. He opted for a oval top made from a single piece of curly maple that he’s had in storage since the last Dempsey fight. He decided that heavy distressing was just the ticket. So, Les, our friend Scott Midegeley and I attacked the thing with lanyards full of keys, sticks, rods, stones. It was scorched earth!
After the beating, the top was dyed with amber water based dye, then glazed with “black oil”, a combination of asphaltum, turpentine and BLO. The top was then finished with several coats of Waterlox. The cherry base was stained, coated with Waterlox then painted with a satin black alkyd enamel. Then the paint was “wet wiped” to create a heavily distressed look in the areas that would have been subjected to the most wear. Imagine the Founding Fathers sitting around one of these little beauties, drinking warm ale and trying to determine the best way to run a Republic.
The turned legs were terminated with simple Spanish feet of the “fluted” variety. Ends of the “ogeed” aprons were finished up with a decorative cockbead.
I became so enthused that I ran right home and started my own Tavern Table. There are a few differences, but the design is essentially the same. The carriage is of walnut, the top is elliptical, the finish is the same with less distressing and I opted for a little longer, more feminine Spanish Feet (probably a subliminal influence of having just watched a Penelope Cruz movie). The aprons are relieved to create a lighter look and the top has a simple torus edge and I nixed the cockbead (for no good reason other than the fact that I wanted to get the thing finished).
Here’s a look at the table through part of the construction process:
And, if you don’t believe in the possibility of resurrection, just stand near the parking lot gate at “quitting time.” “Gramps”