I’ve been working on my dining room chairs today. I started feeling that tinge of urgency, wanting to go faster and faster, and as I’ve written before, that’s a sure sign to stop and take a break before I do something silly.
They say chairs are some of the most exacting pieces of furniture one can make. Early on I could see the obvious reasons: the joints have to be precise enough to take a beating (not only bear a load, but deal with constant wiggling and movement). Some of the joints meet at non-right angles, so that entails some skill and thought in cutting the joints. OK so far.
Here’s what I’m learning now: chairs often come in a set. So if the back rail of one chair is a quarter inch higher than the same rail on another chair, when those two chairs are sitting side by side at a dinner table you’ll easily see the difference. So not only do I need to make each chair precisely, they ought to match across the set.
But that’s not all! Today I discovered another asymmetry (due to the curvature of the back rails) – on a test fit, I saw that the end of one rail was 3/32″ closer to the front surface of the back leg one one side of the chair than the other. Given that rail was supposed to set in (hang on – math time…) 11/32″ from the front surface, that was about a 30% diffrerence in the gap (small as the actual distance was). Trust me, it was noticeable. So I had to re-shape the curve at that end of the rail to make it mate symetrically.
Last but not least… I dry-fit the back leg/rail assembly, and everything looked hunky-dory. Joints were reasonably tight, etc. When I stood the assembly up on its feet, holding it as I would standing at the back of a chair, I looked down and uh oh! I could see that the back surfaces of the legs were not flat. The easiest way to tell if a board is straight is to sight down it as if looking down the sighting of a rifle. The slightest curature, warp, bow, twist, etc., will show itself this way. Problem is, this is what a dinner guest would do just by standing next to a chair – look down, and you’ll see the wobble on the surface of the back of the legs. Back to the bench and my dad’s trusty jack plane – took the hills and valleys right out of the legs. I’m glad I caught it!
After all that, I decided it was time for a break before I move any further.
I haven’t spent much time in the shop lately. Work has been pretty heavy (albeit interesting), and I’m really trying to stick with a sustainable fitness/exercise routine (which my sweetie and I call “huffy-puffy,” after a humorous comment by her NP. A half hour walk isn’t good enough unless it’s “huffy-puffy” fast for cardio) 🙂 My personal goal is 5 days a week, which I more or less achieved this week for the first time (not all exercise was purely huffy puffy, but hey, it’s a learning curve!). I’ve got my bike rack back on the car and have been taking my mtn. bike to work for riding after. Today we’re going up to redwoods in the Oakland Hills for some huffy-puffy before dinner.
I’d like to get these chair done – they’re pretty much taken over the shop and I don’t feel like doing other, smaller projects until they’re out of the way again. I’m also in the least-fun phase of any project – sanding, finishing, fine detail fitting, etc. But I’m really close to having usable chairs, too.
I hope all is well with y’all in blog-land. Enjoy your summer!