2009-03-13

Whole Lotta Wood

Last night I turned the large, excellent maple (I think?) log section I had into leg blanks. I wanted to get the leg blanks turned early so they can dry a bit and stabilize before I turn final legs out of them. I have 6 leg blanks and maybe 2-3 back posts, 24" long with no knots or runout at all. It's definitely the best log I've found so far for turning legs and stretchers.

So tonight, I went back and got some more: two and a half 5' long sections of log (some split), about 10-12" diameter. You can see those pieces in the rear left of this image. I should be able to get two more chairs worth of legs out of those, while avoiding the knots.

On the right in the rear there's a standing cherry log which is unfortunately rotten, and a pile of split cherry in front of it. In front of that is a stack of ash and possibly elm, about 3' long. The ash is very straight, but the elm is a bit wavy and has some knots.

I have enough wood. Maybe. Wood for shaving spindles and bows is scarce, but I'd expect that. If only I could find an oak log as straight and clear as that maple, but accessible enough to retrieve...

Now I need to assess the pile I have sitting in the basement, and determine which pieces would be better off burned than turned. I'm going to guess "most of them" is the best answer.

The bags in front are all full of shavings, and the boxes are larger scraps. Unfortunately I must've cut a log with some mold growing in it, because the wet green shavings in my barrel started to mold severely and quickly. I hope the shavings are at least useful to burn, if they aren't useful for chicken bedding.

Now I have wood, so I'll need a plan. This one won't be as easy as the stools, but at least I have some good practice "legging up". Unless I find or buy some good bow stock, I can't build one of the chairs I've already built. I don't want another sack back arm chair anyway, and the bow back side chair needs an even longer bow. It would require a piece of perfectly clear, perfectly straight oak (or similar) about 5' long.

On the other hand, if I can't get any spindles out of the logs I have, I'll have to buy wood anyway, so I may as well buy a bow, too.

Leaving bows out of the equation, there are several chairs which would not require such demanding wood: a comb back, a fan back, or a rod back.

But why do I need yet another different side chair? Oh, I know! The kitchen! We could have two separate sets of matching chairs, right? Half finished sets that I might never complete!

Brilliant! Now I just need some plans for the chair itself.

The rod back is a later Windsor form, from around 1800 or so. It's less formal, and the design is heavily influenced by asian furniture. It uses the "bamboo" style turnings that I prefer, and it's a smaller chair than the bow back, so it would make a nice kitchen chair. Overall, I really like the look of these chairs.

The main downside is, seats in these later "degenerate" windsor forms typically aren't saddled as deeply, which sacrifices most of the Windsor form's famous comfort. I may decide to just saddle it more deeply anyway.

There is a measured drawing of a fairly nice looking rod back chair in John Kassay's windsor chair book, which has enough detail that I think I can make a plan for it. I'm not very happy with the splay of the legs, but I'm not sure whether I really want to start experimenting with the plans for a chair I've never built.

Whether or not I build a chair with a long bow, I'll need to start a few new processes and set up some more equipment. Mainly, I'll need to build a steam box, get a propane cylinder, and build bending forms for whatever bent parts I need on the chair I'm building.

So my next step ought to be to determine what size spindle I'll need for a rod back, and try shaving one out of the wood I have. If that's a no-go, I'll have to buy wood, so I may just get a bow as well and make another bow back.

In the end, we may never have any matching set of chairs. But if we do have enough chairs to sit in, and they're all hand made by me, then I'll still like them a lot better than the ones we use now, even if they don't happen to match.

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