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It’s not very often that I get requests for projects that I build. Some of my stuff is a little out there. But, when I do get a request, I try to accommodate. My version of the ratcheting book stand design that Peter Follansbee brought back into focus has proven popular among family members.
The nephew is in from college for the summer and asked if I would make him a “medium” (3/4 scale) version to take back to college in the Fall. Of course I will! Apparently the Summer is all but over because he will be packing off for the Fall semester in a few weeks. Given that sobering time frame I figured that I had better get with it.
I dug through the offcut pile and culled out enough bits from which to mill up the parts.
I began with the posts by first bringing them to a rough round at the shaving horse and then to final shape on the spring pole lathe. I turned a small urn-shaped finial on them and a single, simple bead. The locations for the rungs/spindles I set in with a skew chisel and then used my bit of welding wire (shown in use on a garden dibber) to burn them in.
Each of the parts progressed in the same manner, shaving horse, lathe and done. I’m definitely no speed demon at the spring pole lathe, but I am getting quicker. So by the end of the day I had all of the parts turned and ready for assembly.
Today I did the boring bit and then shaped the shelf. Everything went pretty smoothly , mostly due to my working at a relaxed pace. Or it was just pure luck. Either way, the dry fit and subsequent glue up is done.
One trick-of-the-trade that I have been using is to pre-finish the individual parts while they are on the lathe. It gives me a jumpstart on the finishing process. More importantly though, it makes cleaning up the glue squeeze out much easier.
I’ll add a couple of more coats of my usual Tried & True Original over the next few days and this little ratcheting book stand is ready for college. I hope the nephew has been saving his pennies from his summer job in preparation for his upcoming economics lesson…
…uncle Greg doesn’t work cheap!
I spent a few days working on the milk paint finish of that I had started at the end of my last post. I’m going to hold off on the details of the process for now. I’ve been asked by Salko Safic to write an article for an upcoming issue of his new, online, hand tool centric, magazine, “Handwork“. After reading through the first issue, I’m pretty sure I’m in way over my head, but I’m going to give it my best effort. So if your interested in my process, keep an eye out for next issue of “Handwork”. At any rate, the finish on the stool is almost complete, but before I complete the finish, I need to weave the seat.
The seat weaving is a repeat of the fibre rush seats that I put on my last two stools. I can use the practice! Actually the weaving process is starting to grow on me as I gain a little experience with it. Someone commented recently that the process has a meditative quality and I’m inclined to agree.
There are few things that I have picked up along the way. First, it is recommended that you dip your working bundle of fibre rush (twisted paper) into water for a few seconds before beginning the weaving process. I’m sure that this varies by brand, but for the particular product that I have, less time in the water is better. I have found the bundle much more manageable if I simply dink it in water and immediately bring it back out. Shaking out any excess water.
I’ve also changed how I join in a new working bundle of rush. Most sources recommend the use of a square knot. Obviously this works and it is easy and quick to do. The drawback is that the square knot is bulky. Most of these knot will be hidden by the weave or only show on the bottom, but the bulky knot bothers me. One resource I have recommends a simple seizing to join in a new working bundle. I gave this a go using waxed sail twine and like the result much better. The seizing is much less bulky and only takes a minute or so to tie. Technically I joined these with a “common whipping“, there are no frapping turns, but it is more than strong enough for the application.
A comparison of the two methods.
Another lesson learned is to, after every few wraps, use a block of wood to compress the wraps so that they remain parallel with the rungs. The natural tendency of the weaving process is that the turns around the rungs grow wider than the crossings in the center. A little persuasion brings everything back into alignment.
Finally, internalize the mantra, “work the corners, work the corners“. Every turn of the cord that generates the internal corners must be neat. Crisp tight corners are what gives the finished product a crisp, neat appearance. A single sloppy turn will show in the finished seat. I’m getting better, but have a ways to go.
Two coats of shellac is plenty to seal the fibre rush. It really is surprising how much shellac the first coat will absorb, but the next coat goes on quickly.
The last thing to do was add one last coat of Tried & True Original to the stool frame and give it a final buff with a soft cloth.
Part 2 Greg Merritt
Turning the remainder of the three legs for this little stool went fairly quickly. Helped in part by and early start and a cool morning. A welcome change from the heat that is the norm for this time of year.
The boring of the mortise holes went quickly as well using the same method that I used on the previous stools. I did add one extra step however. These legs are small in diameter and the lead screw on the auger bit resulted in a shallow hole. Luckily my forstner bit is the same diameter as my auger bit (not always the case) and I was able to deepen the mortise holes to the required depth.
The dry-fit went well and I took a break while the hide glue was heating up.
There was a brief moment of panic before the glue up however. The joinery was so tight that I wasn’t sure I would be able to dismantle the dry-fit stool. After considerable effort and application of force, I managed to get everything apart and begin the glue-up. Thankfully that went smoothly and I soon had an assembled stool.
It’s been a while since I painted anything and this stool lends itself to having a bit of color. I like wood tones as much as anyone, but its nice to have a splash of color here and there. Management has a chosen accent color that runs throughout the entire house, coral. The most recent addition of coral was the old fan from the magic attic that I refurbished.
An older piece is this little chest of drawers that I made and painted with salmon milk paint and top coated with clear shellac.
Since I still have plenty of salmon milk paint powder left from the chest of drawer project, that is what I’m painting this little stool with. After letting the glue set for a few hours I mixed up some paint and gave the stool a total of three coats.
Next I’ll rub out the surface and give it a top coat. I’m waffling between using shellac or Tried & True.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
In a perfect world I would be using riven stock for building stools and chairs, but my world is far from perfect. So I make do with sawn stock. Which means that I have to be creative when milling stock to obtain pieces with straight grain and minimal run out. As a result, I end up with a fair amount of off cuts. Since I’m too frugal to throw them out I’m constantly trying to find ways of using them up. Otherwise I would soon be drowning in little bits of wood. Which brings me to the project at hand.
The two Shaker style stools that I just completed resulted in yet more off cut pieces for the ever growing pile. So to continue with the theme and to use up some scraps, I sat down and worked up a proportional design for the ubiquitous Shaker footstool.
There probably have been thousands of these little stools built over the years. I think this attests to its utility and ease of construction, as well as its broad appeal. Even though I have been on a bit of a stool building spree as of late, I think this one will be a good addition to the stable.
A classic little stool that can be built in the simple Shaker style or jazzed up a bit at the lathe. A bonus is that I’ll have another chance to practice weaving a fibre rush seat!
Since I anticipate building several of these (they should make great gifts) I first spent a little time making a proper story stick. I knifed in the lines, rubbed in some instant coffee and gave the stick a coat of oil.
I tackled the runs first. Step one took place at the shaving horse. Transforming them into rough octagons and then to rough cylinders. With the roughing done they went onto the lathe. I also managed to knock out one of the legs before calling it quits this evening.
I’ll finish the other three legs tomorrow and maybe even get this little stool assembled.
I’m happy to report that I gained a little speed and the weave looked much neater. So much so that I dismantled several courses on the first stool and re-worked it so that there wasn’t such a marked difference between the two. Not a dramatic difference, but it would have driven me crazy if I hadn’t fixed it.
Just about everything I have read or watched says that the fibre rush should be sealed with a couple of coats of clear shellac or something similar. This adds a bit of durability and stain resistance to the seat. So I dutifully complied with shellac.
The first coat took a good bit of shellac and I was a little worried that the uneven appearance wouldn’t subside once everything was dry.
The first coat did indeed dry to an even, albeit, darker color and the second coat went on quickly. I also took the time to add one more coat of Tried & True original to the frames of the stools.
With that, I’m calling these stools done.
Either hubris or taking the blame. Not sure which.
Installed into the kitchen.
Part 4 Greg Merritt
The material that I chose to use is fibre rush. This is a paper product that imitates the look of natural rush and has been in use since the early 1900’s. I had planned on researching and writing a thorough post on fibre rush, but Cathryn Peters (wickerwoman.com) has a “history of” article on here site that covers it. Jump over there and have a read and then come back. I’ll wait…
…to understand the weaving process I read through the articles on Ms. Peters’ site, bought a small booklet on the subject and watched a bunch on YouTube videos. The most helpful video, by far, was Ed Hammond’s (peerlessrattan.com) video.
Having prepared as much as I could, there was nothing left to do but jump in and do it. So I gathered my supplies and tools and settled in for a long afternoon.
The pattern is a simple over-under and progresses counter-clockwise around the stool.
While the pattern is simple, the nuances that are the hallmarks of skill and proficiency are not. As with most hings handwork, these must be earned with time on task. Where to push and where to pull? How hard? How large a coil of material can I work with? On and on. The thing that I struggled with the most is how to handle and turn the coil as I weaved. The loose coil of rush must be continually rotated, in the correct direction, else the strand will untwist and leave you with a string of flat paper. I fought this all afternoon! Constantly having to stop and re-twist the strand.
There is a rhythm that began to reveal itself as the afternoon wore on and I became more and more comfortable with the process. Over the rail, up through the middle…over the rail up through the middle. Even so, my progress was clumsy at best, but I managed to get the first seat completed.
This first seat is presentable and I’m confident that the next one will improve in both execution and speed. This first round of weaving took me six hours! I also woefully underestimated how hard this process would be on my fingers. My thumbs and index fingers are raw and sore. So either tape or gloves will be needed for the weaving of the next seat.
Part 3 Greg Merritt
With all of the parts complete, it was time to bore some holes. There are (24) rungs which left me facing (48) holes that needed to be drilled plumb and square. It’s not that difficult of task really, but one errant hole can mess up the whole works. Actually, a little variance can be beneficial by way of adding tension into the frame. Too much variance though will either split a post or make it impossible to assemble the frame.
So I cautiously began marking out and drilling each mortise holes. To add a little extra stress, I had to be diligent with my depth. These are blind holes and need to be as deep as possible to form a strong joint. I used a standard auger bit and had to pay careful attention to the lead screw. Half a turn too far and the lead screw would come through the opposite side. To control the depth of bore you can count turns, strap on a vintage depth stop contraption or, as I did, wrap a bit of painters tape around the bit.
The process was to mark out the centers by sighting across the post at the top and bottom locations and connect those with a straight edge to establish the intermediate location.
The best way I have found to hold an individual leg is to place it in joiner’s saddles and clamp it to the bench with a holdfast.
The drilling is straight forward, but I checked my progress with a square.
No matter how careful you are, sometimes the point of the auger makes it through to the other side.
Sometimes though, it validates your skill with the brace and bit.
And so I progressed, first with individual frames and then the entire frame.
The glue up was a bit stressful. It was a lot of parts to assemble and hot hide glue doesn’t wait. I was given a few extra seconds though, due to the high temp (88F) in my shop. So no pics of the glue up. All of my concentration was on the task at hand.
The glued frames with a second coat of Tried & True Original. The first coat was applied while the pieces were on the lathe. That first coat of the individual pieces saved me a good bit of work when cleaning up the glue squeeze out.
A note about the grain orientation of the pieces. I set the rungs so that their grain was perpendicular to that of the posts. I also set the posts so that none of the rungs inserted directly through the long grain of the post.
Now all I need to do is figure out how to weave the seats.
Part 2 Greg Merritt
Progress continues on the stools. Mostly one hour at a time after work each day. This has become my basic workflow as of late. Come home, check in and then out to the shop until dinner time. Then grab as much time over the weekend as I can. Anyway…
I managed to finish turning all eight of the legs (posts). These are close to final shape, but I’ll most likely chuck them back into the lathe and change the shape of the taper to the foot. I also completed the initial turning of all of the required rungs.
When I design a project I tend to focus on the overall proportions and keep the details to a minimum. I do this so as not to overly influence the final product. I know this seems counter to the whole idea of design, but it’s what works for me. My goal is not to crank out identical, production style pieces. If I make a piece again, I want the proportions to be right, but I also want each piece, or series of pieces, to be unique. So part of my process is to work each element in stages. Essentially designing on the fly through a process of gradual reduction.
Working this way would drive some folks absolutely crazy. A lot of people like to have everything mapped out ahead of time. For me though, I like having the details sort of evolve along with the project itself. Sometimes I have an idea about the details from the start, but often I don’t have clue what will develop. I find this to be particularly true with my wood turning. A contributing factor is that I’m not all that confident in my developing wood turning skills, but I’m beginning to find my way.
The point of all that rambling is that my pieces tend to change as a project progresses. The first change to the project at hand was to add a bead to the legs.
The rungs were next to fall victim to change. I first turned all of the rungs to a simple cylinder and added the tenons. I then set eight of them aside to become the top rungs around which I’ll weave the fibre rush seat. The remaining rungs went back on the lather and received a taper on each end.
The final bit of modification was to the foot end of the legs (post). During the initial turning I established the transition point of the taper to the foot, but left this area “fat”. I felt they needed a little more grace and took cues from some Shaker examples to added a bit of life to the taper.
So now I have all of my wood bits ready to go. Next up will be the drilling of holes and assembly of the frames.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
My exploration of seating continues with a couple of Shaker inspired stools. Many, many moons ago, long before GPS, we made a trip to Nashville for a friend’s wedding. We had very little money at the time and knew this would be the only trip for that year. Unfortunately our time in Nashville was less than pleasant, other than the wedding. Anyway, on the trip home we began looking for any stop that would salvage the trip. My wife scanned over the road atlas and stumbled on the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill just outside of Lexington, KY. So, on a whim, we routed ourselves to the village.
We arrived late afternoon on a Saturday and were pleasantly surprised that they had overnight rooms. As luck would have it there was a room available. Not only that, they had a dining hall that served family style meals. So we moved into our room and walked to the dining hall and had a very pleasant dinner by candlelight.
The next day we toured the village and I poured over the furniture and buildings as far as they would let me. This was long before I had any tools or even a shop space, but the desire, the desire to build was there. The last stop before leaving the village was the gift shop and there I bought three little books of scaled drawings of Shaker furniture.
That’s a bit of back story, but I thumb thru these books every now and again for inspiration. This time around the stools caught my eye. Actually the rocker has my interest, but I figure the stools will be a good way to get my head around the process. These are simple stools and should nestle nicely with the kitchen island that I converted my old workbench into.
I like most things Shaker, there is an elegant simplicity in all that they built. The one thing I have never been a fan of though is the woven tape seats. Seats woven with muted earth tones are OK, but the brighter colors just look out of place to me. So my stools will have seats woven with fiber rush. It looks simple to accomplish and I personally like the look.
After playing around with the proportions and a little time at the drafting board, here is what I came up with.
Not too different from the original Shaker design, just tweaked slightly. I’m building these stools with what I have on hand. The legs will be red oak and the stretchers will be white oak. The seats will be woven from fiber (paper) rush. I’ve gotten off to start turning the eight required legs. The goal is to crank out one leg after work every evening. So far, so good. I’m three for three. I’m actually getting pretty quick at it. Quick being a relative term. The story stick is a handy thing for this repetitive work too.
I deviated from the Shaker simplicity and added a single bead to the leg as well as a little wood burning. You know I can’t not add some wood burning. Just one more reason I would have made a lousy Shaker.
The second chair went together pretty much as the first.
The next bit of fabrication was the back panels that will eventually be upholstered. These are simple squares of ply that will be secured with bolts and “T”-nuts. A little shaping should make for better comfort.
With that done it was time to make a final decision as to the finish. You know I’m an oil and wax kind of guy, but plywood needs a little something more. I thought about some sort of paint. Maybe a bold color to make my wacky design even more over the top? Maybe a traditional color of milk paint? In the end I went a somewhat conservative route and decided to dye them.
Before committing to the dye, however, I broke out the wood burner (don’t act surprised, you knew I would). I did show great restraint and limited myself to burning the front and rear corners. For the dye, I chose to use Transtint’s Dark Vintage Maple. I’ve used this product before in a different color (dark walnut) on a few tables.
Transtint comes as a concentrate and needs to be mixed with a carrier. Water or denatured alcohol are the choices and I chose to use alcohol. The alcohol dries fast and doesn’t raise the grain, although water may offer deeper penetration. So mix the dye per the instructions and apply. I rag the mixture on and work as fast as I can so as not to lose the wet edge. The open grain of the red oak and birch ply absorbed more dye than I wanted resulting in a slightly darker shade, but I can live with it.
Since the dye/alcohol mix dries quickly, I was able to follow up with a first coat of Tried & True Original just a few minutes after applying the dye. Today I applied the second coat of Tried & True.
While waiting on the finish to do its thing, I tackled the last bit of construction. The wedge pins that secure the backs. These are simply dowel pins shaved to a wedge shape. To create the dowel pins I prepared two red oak billets. One billet would generate two pins.
The last task was to upholster the two small back panels. I completely missed taking any photos of the upholstery operation though. They are really simple. One inch foam covered with sage green vinyl (the same vinyl that I used on the footstools) and stapled in place.
That is pretty much it. A final buff with a soft cloth and the backs wedged in place.
So that concludes my crazy chair experiment and my entry in Brian’s “June Chair Build“. This design works, but is best suited to power tools because of the use of plywood. Shaping the outside edges of plywood with hand tools is doable (requires frequent sharpening). Shaping the inside edges (mortises/handle) is possible, but best suited to the use of an electric router. One note about the stretchers. Structurally they are not required, although they do add quite a bit of strength. The legs and their tenons are more than strong enough on their own. I simply prefer the visual of having the stretchers.
All in all I think I accomplished my original goal. A simple chair that required no special tools or steam bending. A chair that could be built from readily available materials. Maybe even a chair that took an age-old construction method and updated it to a modern aesthetic. The degree of my success is in the eye of the beholder and will most likely run the gamut of the scale.
Part 3 Greg Merritt
Since my last post I have managed to turn and fit the stretchers for the second chair. I truly do enjoy the spring pole lathe. Nothing like and hour at the lathe after work to rid the mind of the stresses of my day.
With the parts for both undercarriages fabricated it was time to turn my attention to shaping the seats. Given my whining about having to resort to using an electric router to round the edges of the back mortises and handle cutout, I really wasn’t looking forward to tackling the seats. Once I got started however I found that I could do all of the shaping with hand tools. So no electric router torture was needed.
To shape the seat I first sketched a few shapes directly onto the seat board. Once happy I used a combination of hand saws to hog off the waste. Then used a hand plane, spokeshave, rasp and files to refine the outline of the seat.
Here it is cut to the basic shape and very light shaping.
I had to hold back on the sculpting of the first seat so that I could use it as a pattern for the second. Once the outline was established on both seat boards I could begin the sculpting of the edges. That’s right sculpting. Just because I’m using plywood doesn’t mean I can’t go beyond the basic edge rounding.
If you look closely at chairs, especially Windsor chairs, you will note that the front corners of the seat are eased over. This easing prevents having a pressure point on the back of the sitter’s thigh. It also helps to visually lighten the chair. As a nod to this time proven design feature, I too eased the front corners of my seats. This was a simple exercise with the spokeshave, rasp and file. Sanding blended everything together.
I also gave the rear corners of the seat the same, albeit less pronounced, treatment.
The majority of the remaining edges were simply given a rounding over. The other area that was given a little more dramatic treatment was the outer ends of the front batten. At an inch and a half thick these looked pretty clunky and felt even worse. So I added a heavy chamfer to lighten the look and rounded all of the edges to create a pleasing surface to touch.
Tonight I came home from work and gave all of the parts for the first chair a thorough sanding and inspection. Satisfied with the parts, I cut some wedges and starting adding the glue. I’m happy to say that the glue up went smoothly.
Tomorrow after work I’ll go over the parts for the second chair and assemble its base.
The next task will be the upholstered panels for the backboards. Those still need holes drilled, hardware installed and upholstered.
Brian is also making good progress on his “June Chair Build“. He is wrapping up the eight legs that he needs for his two chairs. Be sure and check out his blog.
Part 2 Greg Merritt
I’ve been in the shop every chance I get working on these chairs (technically back stools). Mostly things have progressed reasonably well. The first thing I tackled was turning the six legs. This is a first for me. Up until now all of my legged projects have received tapered octagonal legs. For these chairs though, I wanted a leg that leaned a little more toward mid-century modern/Danish. So a simple tuned leg with a very slight taper along its length towards the floor. The legs went pretty quickly. I managed to get almost two per evening after getting home from work.
Next up was drilling the glued up seat blanks for installing my freshly minted legs. Same old, same old. Set a bevel gauge, chuck a 1″ bit in my brace and bore away. I’m really liking the cylindrical tenon option over the tapered tenon approach. I’ve also discovered that I have a pretty good knack for drilling at the correct angle. At least I managed to drill these six holes without making a mess of things.
Creating the mortises for installing the back panel was pretty much the same as installing the legs. The back panel is installed with a 5deg slope. So I once again set a bevel gauge, bored holes and then chopped out the adjoining waste. The mating tenons were straight forward cuts and chopping of waste.
Here is where things took a bit of a turn.
I knew going in that all of the edges of the plywood would need to be rounded over. Decent plywood responds well to sharp hand tools. At least outer the outer edges do. Shaping internal cuts however, is an entirely different story. Internal cuts such as those of the mortises and the handhold that I added to the back board. I tried just about everything I could think of without finding a satisfactory method. So I had to resort to…rotary power.
Many moons ago it seemed that I was helping just about everyone I know install laminate flooring. To tackle the job of cutting holes for HVAC vents I purchased a knockoff Rotozip tool. Basically a mini router. With a spiral up-cutting bit it did a fantastic job of cutting vent holes in laminate flooring. Anyway, I remembered that it had come with a cheapo 3/8″ round over router bit. So this is the setup that I resorted to for rounding over the edges of the plywood. It was loud, dusty and less than enjoyable work, but it did the job. As a consolation prize, the cheap HSS router bit added a little wood burning. So there is that I guess.
You can also see in the above photo that I taped one of the back pad into place. This helped me to verify the height and get an idea as to whether or not it would even work. I think it will. I may have to fuss with the thickness of the foam. We will see.
Today I managed to turn and fit the stretchers for one of the chairs. I designed these to be beefy. I even went a bit thicker than my design when making them. The intent is to give a feeling of solidity and stability. No one has come out and questioned the three leg design, but I can see the uncertainty on their face when they see it. The strange thing is these same folks didn’t hesitate with the three legged stools that I just finished. Something about adding a back and calling it a chair triggers a reaction in some folks.
Even in this raw state the chair is actually pretty comfortable. There is a bit of flex to the back board and its width fits well along my back. So, even though the plywood is a PIA to work with, I think I’m on the right track.
I think I’m making pretty good progress. Four days into the “June Chair Build” and I have something I can sit on. Still a long way from putting the finish on, but not too bad.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
I assembled the remaining three stools and added the texture and wood burning as with the first. There were a couple of folks with questions regarding the order of assembly, so I thought I would go over that a little here.
First I lay out the parts of the undercarriage. (legs and stretchers)
Add glue and assemble said undercarriage. Apply glue to the seat mortises and leg tenons and install the undercarriage into the seat. There is enough “give” in the undercarriage to make starting the leg tenons into the underside of the seat possible.
Once everything was seated, I wedged all of the joints.
When the glue had cured, I trimmed and flushed the tenons.
Each seat received a light uzukuri treatment. I wanted a tactile feel, but didn’t want to make the texture so deep as to create potential comfort issues. The seats now have a lightly worn feel to them.
To trim the stools for final height I first created a level platform on which to work. The seats have a slight slope front to rear and I simply use a scrap of wood lined up with the rear of the seat for ease of consistency. Each stool was shimmed for level in each direction and the legs marked for trimming. A pencil taped to the blade of my bevel gauge (Peter Galbert-“Chairmaker’s Notebook“) is easily adjustable and perfect for this.
All that remained was finishing. The finish consists of two coats of tinted linseed oil followed by two coats of Tied & True Original (linseed oil and beeswax).
The first coat of tinted linseed oil really brings the stool to life.
After a few days of oil and buffing, I have four completed stools. They are light, comfortable and sturdy. An impromptu poll finds that the height is “perfect” for the tables that they are intended for…management tested, management approved!
Next up…I continue with the crazy chair experiment and possibly a bench.
Part 2 Greg Merritt
Well, its time to tackle a chair. For my first chair you would think that I would opt for a proven and well documented design. Nah, where is the fun in that?
I’ve been kicking around an idea for a while now. Sort of a mix of Mid-Century/Danish and traditional vernacular (staked) chairs. A chair with no seat carving or steam bending, but still comfortable, strong and, hopefully, attractive. A chair made with easily sourced material.
After a lot of head scratching and sketches, here is what I have come up with.
A Moravian style (although several cultures have built chairs this way) chair, but built with modern plywood for the seat, battens and back. With the plywood bits being derived from a quarter sheet of 18mm(3/4″) thick plywood (24″x48″ in the U.S.).
With design work complete, all that is left is to build a couple and see what they are like in flesh. To that end, I picked up a sheet of Finnish birch ply from the local Woodcraft and spent an afternoon milling parts. The legs and optional stretchers will be from red oak.
The next operation was to glue the battens in place after first shaping their edges. I tackled one batten at a time. Leaving each in the clamps for an hour before moving on to the next one. It took all evening, but the all four of the battens are installed.
Using a clamping caul for even distribution of pressure.
The vise proved the best option for clamping the smaller batten.
Then a little layout work with the aid of a scrap piece of ply.
Well I’m committed now. Stay tuned.
Brian, over at Toolerable, has an annual “June Chair Build“. Fortuitous timing means that I will be able to play along this year. If things go as planned, I may even knock together a bench to match the stools.
Check out Brian’s blog and join in on the chair building.
With the legs at the ready, I moved on to tackle the seats. The seats are from a construction grade SYP 2×12. When working with construction lumber, you have to really plan ahead and possibly get a little creative in order to end up with something decent. I’m not opposed to having knots in my projects, but the trick is to keep those knots out of the joinery areas. After a little trial and error I hade four usable slabs and a decent piece that may end up as a bench.
Layout is pretty simple and went quickly for all four seats.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve opted for cylindrical 1″ tenons on these stools in lieu of the tapered tenons that I have been using. Why? First, I simply want to try this method to evaluate the difference. Second, when building the table trestles I found that the addition of the stretcher can cause the tapered tenons to be difficult to seat if any outward pressure is introduced by the stretcher.
The process for drilling the holes is the same regardless if they are cylindrical or tapered. So I set a bevel gauge to my resultant angles and drilled the required holes for installing the legs.
With the legs installed, I set a pair of large dividers and marked the locations for the stretchers from the underside of the seat.
I then drilled each of the stretcher mortises with a spade bit and a backer board to keep the spelching at a minimum. I’m making these as through mortises and will wedge all of the joints.
Next up was the front stretchers which meant a little lathe work.
Then the center stretchers and more lathe work.
Soon enough I had all of the joinery for the four stools completed. Note that I added Turks head knots to the front stretchers.
Now I could turn my attention back to the seats and begin their shaping. The shape is pretty basic. A rectangle with the corners clipped. All of the edges will receive a heavy chamfer just as I did with the recent table tops. The idea is that these stools should look like they belong with the tables. They don’t necessarily need to match exactly, but have the same general flavor.
Seats are shaped.
All that is left is assembly and to add my “decorative” embellishments. So I assembled the first stool (glue and wedges), stamped in some texture on the clipped corners and went at it with the wood burner. Finally, the seat received the uzukuri treatment.
Here is the unfinished stool next to one of the tables. Note the color difference that the oils finish imparts.
Well, three more to go and then I’ll trim them all for height and start slathering them with oil.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
I have been having a lot of fun with then lathe, but it is time to get back on track. I have two new tables that are in desperate need of some sort of accompanying seating. To that end my first run at keeping butts off the floor will be four Welsh inspired stools.
I’m lucky in that Chris Schwarz just completed a run of High Staked Stools built in this manner. So he effectively did all of my prototyping for me (thanks Chris!). He worked through several seat, leg and stretcher shapes in his process. His posts about them allowed me to see the forms, eliminate options and firm up my own plans.
My version will draw visual elements from my tables and will be a couple of inches higher than a standard dinning chair. It has been my experience that stools matching dinning chair height always feel too short in use. There is a delicate balance between seating height, the sitter’s center of gravity and the back of chair. Remove the back and everything feels off. So my stools will be a little higher to try to bring things back into balance (I hope).
To finalize my design I worked up a proportional drawing.
These four stools will have SYP seats, red oak legs and white oak stretchers. I began by milling the red oak leg stock.
Then laid them out to be tapered octagons.
To shape the legs, I first removed the bulk of the waste with a drawknife at the shaving horse. Then refined the octagon with a plane.
On all of my previous staked projects I have used the Veritas tapered tenon cutter and reamer. They work well, but I will be trying out a 1″ diameter round tenon method on these stools. From what I can find this method was used by John Brown and was recently demonstrated in Don Weber’s video “Build a Welsh Stick Chair”. Thanks to the new lathe, creating the 1″ tenons is quite easy.
After an afternoon of work, I have all of the legs ready to go.
Next I’ll work on the seats.
One of the projects high on my list, in the event that I ever had a lathe, is a 17th Century turned book stand that Peter Follansbee reintroduced. It’s a nifty design with a ratcheting mechanism to adjust the angle of display and a wide shelf on which to seat the book. Now that I have a lathe and trying to learn to turn, the book stand seemed like a perfect project to aid me along. Plus, I simply really want to make one!
In a previous post I discussed that these beginning lathe projects needed to have a high probability of success. This book stand meets that requirement while also challenging me to improve my skills. One challenge is the need to replicate identical parts. The posts should be turned to look identical and need to be the same length. The spindles need to all be the same length, but don’t necessarily need to be turned identically. So not as much pressure there. There is also the added challenge of laying out and drilling for the spindles. Another skill builder in this project is creating and sizing tenons. Plus there is a lot of practice in turning a uniform cylinder.
Peter Follansbee is not known for using plans and, true to form, I couldn’t find any existing plans for this book stand. There are several photos on his website and there is an episode of The Woodwright’s Shop where he and Roy build the book stand, sans any mention of sizes or measurements. He did post photographs of a book stand with a known book resting on it and another set of photos with overall dimensions. So, using my best reverse engineering skills, I looked up the dimensions of the book and extrapolated from there. I took all of that information and made my best guess as to the size of the parts and the for layout. I used that information to build a prototype. I knew I could refine that guess and develop a proportional design drawing once I had prototype in hand.
Using my rough sketch I began fabricating parts. Replication of identical parts was more challenging than I had anticipated, but I made a decent showing. The spindles were fairly easy, but getting the finials of the post to look the same involved a lot of fiddling and remounting before I was satisfied with the results. Soon enough I had a dry fit of the basic parts.
One element that I guessed wrong on was the ratchet “leg”. My first attempt was far too long. This caused the book stand to have too large of a footprint and it looked clunky. I simply made another shorter version.
I soon had my prototype complete with the first coat of Tried & True applied. Maple posts, white oak spindles and red oak shelf.
Now I could work out the proportions, make corrections and generate a proportional design drawing. My initial guess work proved to be pretty close. One thing that needed to be corrected was the locations of the spindles. I had noted, but chose to ignore, the asymmetric layout of the spindles on Follansbee’s examples. The spindle that houses the “kickstand” is offset towards the top spindle on his examples. I work with CAD every day, so I ran the layout on CAD to check as to if this offset is needed or is just an aesthetic choice. Turns out it can be beneficial. It allows the ratchet leg and kickstand to be the same length. Both spindle layouts work, but the asymmetrical layout does offer a functional edge and a bit of visual interest. I made a few other proportional corrections and then generated a final drawing to work from.
As with the lathe, I’ll not be posting my design drawing for the book stand. This is Peter Follonsbee’s work, not mine. He makes his living making, teaching and writing. I’m just some guy banging together stuff in my garage and my family eats the same regardless. Besides, rumor has it that he has a book in the works that may contain a certain book stand, so keep an eye out for that. I will post these drawings of ideas for finials, feet and spindles that I worked up.
The full-size book stand is large and perfectly sized for larger books such as those produced by Lost Art Press. However, most people don’t have need of a book stand this large. Tablets have replaced books for most people these days. So I decided to build a 2/3 scale example that would function as a tablet stand and be more useful to most people. This scaled down version would also serve verify if I had the proportions correct.
To scale the book stand down from the drawing I simply substituted a smaller dimension for the module (controlling dimension). The full-size version is based on a Module of 300mm. I altered this by using a dimension of 200mm (2/3 of 300 is 200) and worked out all of the rest with a pair of dividers.
Just about all of the material for this version came from the offcut bin. The posts are white oak, the spindles are black walnut and the shelf is white oak from a particularly unruly piece (I had to break out the card scraper) salvaged from a pallet.
This 2/3 scale version is perfect as a tablet stand, but is bit too small to be functional as a book stand. Since I was on a roll, I decided to build a 3/4 scale version. Again, all parts were culled from the scrap pile, save one. I had to buy a piece of oak for the shelf. This one has white oak posts and red oak for the spindles and shelf. I also ran with the oak theme and tried my hand at creating finials and feet that had an acorn motif.
I think the 3/4 scale is a good compromise and will be the perfect size for most people. It will easily hold most books as well as the popular tablets of the day.
I still needed to build another full-scale version that is based upon my design drawing to round out the set. So I rummaged around in my magic attic (previous owner left a lot of scrap wood up there) and culled out enough walnut and mahogany to build a full-scale version. The walnut is a little gnarly and has a big knot running through it and contains a little sap wood, but is fine for this. The shelf is from some unknown stuff that I have had for quite a while.
Quick tip: To locate the holes in the shelf for installing the feet install a finish nail in the post and clip it short. Then assemble the frame and press it down onto the shelf in the desired location. The finish nail will mark the location on the shelf for the hole.
The following shows exactly why I like designing with proportions. A piece can be scaled up or down and retain the same visual look. I can plug any distance into the Module (within practical reason) and produce a version to suit the need without altering the overall appearance.
These book stands are a lot of fun to build and are a great skill builder for learning to turn. They are also a great way to shrink the offcut pile.
In my ongoing quest to learn to turn and, to a lesser extent, shrink my mountain of offcuts I present the next beginner project that I have tackled. The Honey Dipper.
There is not much to say about the honey dipper, the name pretty well sums it up. It is another simple lathe project that lends itself to beginner success. There is ample opportunity for practice with basic shaping and working with the parting tool. The honey dipper can be any shape or size that your imagination can contrive or available material will support. However, I thought I should at least set forth a goal. Part of the skill building for me is to develope the ability to execute whatevere desired shape and size that I want. To that end, I worked up a design drawing for a simple honey dipper.
I’m not going to show photos of the progression. What I will show are the first two honey dippers that I have turned on the lathe. The first one is the prototype prior to the design drawing.
Here is my first attempt at matching the design drawing.
As you can see, its not an exacting execution. It is, however, a perfectly acceptable and functional honey dipper. I’ll keep trying.
This is one of those quick 15-20 minute projects that can be done whenever I just want a few minutes in the shop. I need to find a basket or build a box to start collecting these type of projects in. I think they will come in handy as gifts.
Anyway, there you go. Another simple beginner project for those of us just starting out and possibly a fun quick project for you experienced turners.
Well the leather sewing machine belt drive cord gave up the ghost. A little disappointing that it only lasted about three weeks of moderate use. Rather than waste my remaining leather cord, I made a trip to the Big Box and bought a fifty foot hank of 7mm solid braid polyester cord. I let you know how this stuff holds up.
This next bit is about an accessory. Once I started using this lathe it became immediately apparent that it would be impossible to turn short lengths of wood or oddly shaped pieces. There would be no area on which the drive cord would run in those instances. What I needed was a drive mandrel that would serve to accommodate the cord and transfer that energy to the workpiece.
After doing a bunch of searching online, I came up empty. There is plenty of information to be found on creating a drive mandrel for bowl turning on a pole lathe, but practically nothing about a mandrel that was independently supported from the actual workpiece. So I did a little head scratching and sketching and came up with an idea that seemed promising.
My idea is essentially the same as the drive pulley on a typical treadle (flywheel) lathe except I only need to have a bearing to support the end of the mandrel. There is no need for thrust bearings. The existing dead centers continue to serve in that capacity. In use, the drive mandrel and the workpiece are “pinched” between the existing dead centers. The bearing mounted on a removable puppet serves to support the juncture of the mandrel and workpiece.
So I ordered a 1-1/2″ bore flange mount bearing and a 1MT drive center off of fleabay.
The mandrel I turned from hard maple. I sleeved each end of the mandrel with copper to prevent splitting and add durability. A 1-1/4″ copper slip coupling has a 1.9ish outside diameter and was a friction fit to the bearing once I added a shim fashioned from aluminum tape. The 1MT drive center was installed in a stepped hole same as the dead centers.
The tricky bit was getting everything to line up along the same centerline. Time and patience paid off and everything lines up reasonably well.
The thing works great! The bearing is new and arrived somewhat stiff, so it takes a little more spring and little more effort to push the foot board. The bearing is beginning to loosen with use though. I also needed to put together a smaller tool rest. The new one is about 5″ wide and utilizes the same locking base as the the large one.
Now I can turn just about any length of wood I want.
A short clip taken before the drive cord swap.
Notes 2 Greg Merritt
Like most things in hand work, no amount of reading or watching of videos can teach you to turn wood on a lathe. At some point you have to start putting tool to wood. Only then can your hand and mind begin to build the connections that are need to actually use a lathe efficiently. I don’t know about you, but there is only so much random turning I can as practice before it becomes boring and thus less conducive to learning. I need to have something at stake. I need to have the risk of failure or the lure of success in order to fully engage in the process.
Knowing that I would be teaching myself to use the lathe I started looking for lathe projects that would help me along the way. Magazine articles and videos are great, but without actual interaction you are still on your own. So I searched for projects that would progressively challenge my burgeoning skills. Abject failure sucks and can be discouraging, especially when your on your own. Therefore, the beginning projects needed low risk of failure and a high probability of success. One other wrinkle is that I wanted projects that would be useful. This brings me to my first project, the Garden Dibber.
The Garden Dibber is essentially a fancy sharpened stick of a known length with additional indicating marks of distance. It can be used to establish the spacing of plantings and also create a hole for planting at the desired depth. According to some sources the history of the dibber traces back to Roman times.
The Garden Dibber is a great beginner project. It requires roughing out, tapering, incising lines at exact locations. The surface needs to be smoothed and the handle portion can made simple or as complex as you want. None of the steps are critical to its function (a graduated pointy stick), so risk of failure is low.
I started by roughly shaping a billet octagonal at the shavehorse with my drawknife. I could also have done the same at the workbench with a plane. You can turn square stock directly on the pole lathe, but the sharp corners are hard on the drive cord.
One of the quirks of this lathe is that the drive cord wants to run at the end of the workpiece only. I can move it slightly over by angling the treadle, but it is much more efficient to simple flip the workpiece end for end to work the entire length. I could also use a longer blank and designate one end to be the pulley. I have done this, but it generates a waste piece. Since I’m frugal, I’ll use a smaller blank and flip it. Anyway, here is the blank roughed round.
Next, a little layout to delineate the overall length, the handle and where to start the taper.
After the taper is turned, I laid out the 1″ graduations.
The lines were cut in with a skew chisel.
Then I flipped the workpiece and shaped the handle.
I used a piece of MIG welding wire with toggle handles installed on it to burn (it’s not a Hillbilly Daiku project without wood burning) in the lines that I had incised with the skew. Pressure and friction does the trick.
The lathe work is done. All that is remains is to saw off the waste and shape the ends with chisel, file and sandpaper.
I wiped on a coat of BLO and called it done. This was my third (middle) attempt at this project. My first try is on the left and the second run is on the right. I can see some improvement and I’m becoming more comfortable with the tools.
I think the Garden Dibber was a good first project on the lathe. Heck, I can see cranking these out every now and again for practice and gift giving. It’s a relaxing way to spend an hour in the shop and there is almost no way to fail.