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Adirondack style chair in sweet chestnut

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Eight years ago, I made an Adirondack style chair, using some nice oak I bought at Westonbirt Arboretum. I copied the design of a commercially made cedar chair and wrote up the project here.

The oak chair is still looking fine but the cedar one is decidedly scruffy and uninviting. It's time to make another one. As far as I know, the Friends of Westonbirt can't offer wood for sale at present, while they pursue a big building project. So a trip to a sawmill was in order.

I'd read about Wentwood Timber Centre on here before and thought it sounded interesting. (See post1181307.html#p1181307 in Neil's useful list of timber suppliers.) It's a smallish operation selling native hardwoods. I went and had a look.

It's not hard to find if you follow their clear directions - from Bristol you go over the bridge to Chepstow then turn right off the A48.

It's a friendly place and well set up for the hobby woodworker. They have an old office building with a number of rooms, each of which has a selection of seasoned boards in it. They are arranged by species and thickness, planed on one side and individually priced. You are completely free to take as long as you want, examining all the stock and picking out what you need. On a Tuesday morning, I was the only customer, though some more people arrived as I was leaving.

I liked this, as I find it quite challenging working out how much wood I need. I went armed with a cutting list, but as it's impossible to say in advance how many pieces each board will yield, I needed some time to satisfy myself that I was buying enough, without buying lots more than I wanted.

The selection of species and widths is quite wide, but this does mean that the number of boards of each type is quite low. I was undecided whether to buy oak or chestnut but there weren't enough inch thick oak boards. If you visited just after me you might not have found enough chestnut!

This is one side of the room with sweet chestnut in.

sweet_chestnut_at_wentwood.jpg


Inch boards are on the left, 32mm boards on the right. Prices include VAT.

Back home, it was time to go over the cutting list again and decide which pieces to cut from which board. I decide this by looking for the biggest pieces first, chalking out each one and ticking it off the cutting list. Then I go over it again, checking dimensions more carefully.

Here's some of the boards being sorted out like this.





For the curved bits, I used a paper template. I could still find two of these from last time, but had to make a new one for the arms. I then drew round the template with a crayon - my rough cutting line is the outside of the crayon and my exact line is where the inside of the wax disappears.





That's all for now; next time will feature some actual cutting. I think this will be a relatively quick project but expect some interruptions and digressions along the way.
 

Comments

I had to go to Newport last december to renew my passport. I wanted to go to wentworth timber while we were there. My wide was driving, and as we went deeper and deeper into the forest the snow got thicker and heavier and she decide she was going to turn around before we got there.
Got to wait ten years now before we can try again.
 
AndyT":2mo0odmy said:
I went armed with a cutting list, but as it's impossible to say in advance how many pieces each board will yield, I needed some time to satisfy myself that I was buying enough, without buying lots more than I wanted....

Back home, it was time to go over the cutting list again and decide which pieces to cut from which board. I decide this by looking for the biggest pieces first, chalking out each one and ticking it off the cutting list. Then I go over it again, checking dimensions more carefully.
It's a pleasure reading your project posts.

Often I read a WIP with a sinking feeling, as it's clear the poster's enthusiasm is running way ahead of sensible woodworking practise and you just know there's a cock-up around the corner. But your WIP's are so measured, with all the necessary preparation completed in advance, each step taken in a logical order, and you never move on until all the foundation work has been finished and checked.

I've no doubt this project will be another great success and I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

Fine choice going for Sweet Chestnut by the way, it has all the attributes of Oak but at a lower cost. Sweet Chestnut is often planted as a secondary species alongside Oak. It has a much thinner sapwood layer so delivers a usable crop ten years earlier, delivering a bit of income sooner. It's not really a mainstream commercial timber, so you generally only find it in smaller yards that draw their stocks from local woodlands. In the very best Arts & Crafts furniture you often see Sweet Chestnut used as the secondary timber to Oak, and the two woods compliment each other beautifully.
 
Bob, if you can pop back a bit earlier I'm sure you could find something nice!

Custard, thanks for saying such nice things, :oops: I'll try not to disappoint you!
 
sunnybob":2qvg48uu said:
I had to go to Newport last december to renew my passport. I wanted to go to wentworth timber while we were there. My wide was driving, and as we went deeper and deeper into the forest the snow got thicker and heavier and she decide she was going to turn around before we got there.
Got to wait ten years now before we can try again.
Just for info in case it's important to anyone - Wentwood are now supplying Axminster with wood. I was at the Cardiff store recently when the manager showed me the stock that had just been delivered there, and he was dividing it into loads for shipping on to the other Axminster stores. Some great wood in the stacks I looked at.

Looking forward to this thread Andy, my woodworking needs some of your focus.
 
That's interesting, Chris. Was it just turning blanks? There was a roomful there but I didn't look at them very closely.
 
AndyT":1xo7cslp said:
That's interesting, Chris. Was it just turning blanks? There was a roomful there but I didn't look at them very closely.
No, it was all boards, and some very large slabs, live edge both sides.

edit - I should add that the total amount of wood in our local Axminster's probably no more than pictured in that one room in wentwood, but it's handy if you need a smaller quantity.
 
With the decisions made about which pieces come out of which board, it was time to start cutting some wood.

I like to take a blended approach to this. On a small project, or where it's my only practical option, I like to saw by hand. On a bigger project like this, I use power tools.

Initial cross-cuts were by hand, to help make things easy to handle in my small, somewhat cramped workshop.



For most of the curves, I used my trusty old Burgess bandsaw. It seems to just keep on going, so I see no need to replace it.



And for the straight stuff, I have an Axminster table saw. I bought it in the 90s when I thought good woodworking needed power tools. It's a very basic model with a plastic base and an aluminium table. It's noisy, with poor dust control, but it does cut quickly. I never expect to use a sawn edge without planing it, so I don't mind if the cuts are a bit rough. Here's a carefully posed photo.



One thing that may be worth a digression is a modification I made to the switch. I think I read about it on here somewhere, but it's worth repeating. The off switch as supplied is a bit easier to get to than the on switch, but is still fiddly. I added a hinge and a long offcut of wood. There's a hole drilled in it so you can get a finger to the on switch. The wood is positioned so it swings onto the off switch when pressed, so turning the saw off is very easily done, normally with a knee, leaving both hands free.





As bought, the edges of the boards were far from straight.



I don't use a sled on the table saw, I just mark a straight line on the edge and plane it. Here I am using a spirit level as a good enough straight edge.



Where there is quite a bit of wood to remove to get back to a straight line, I like a plane which works quickly. I often reach for this somewhat beaten up old jack plane.



It comes complete with the characteristic split on one side of the mouth:



(Can it be glued? Maybe. Will it ever get glued? Probably not!)

I also use it to plane away old paint on reclaimed wood so the sole is probably not flat to NASA tolerances:



But it takes good thick shavings and is fun to use:



The last few strokes are done with a Stanley 5½, one of my most useful planes, set somewhat finer.





Having planed one edge straight, I gauge the width (using an ordinary beechwood + pin marking gauge) then saw just a little bit wider, so I can plane back to width afterwards.
 
For the last few sessions on this project, I have mainly been planing.
Last time I made one of these chairs, I used an electric hand plane. But this time the boards have already been sort of planed on one face and once cut to length are pretty straight, so there isn't much to remove. So I have been doing it all by hand.

First, I planed the edges that I had sawn.



I didn't need to remove much; this lot took about 45 minutes.



Just to see if the edges were square, I stacked them up:



I've arranged the photo so you can't see if there was any light showing between them, so you'll have to take my word for it that the pile was nice and stable and probably could have been glued together. :wink:

As supplied, the wood is an inch thick.



After planing both sides, it's just under 15/16".


In metric measurements, I have taken off about 1.5mm.

Over the years, I have read a lot of discussion on here about small, cheap planer thicknessers, of the size I could squeeze into my workshop. I used to think I wanted one, but the disadvantages are too many. As well as needing to sort out proper extraction, I think I would struggle to take off as little wood as this.

On the planed side, it was just a few passes with a smoother to take out the ripple.



On the sawn side I mostly started with a jack, then a smoother.



Just for fun, I tried different planes a bit - it justifies having a somewhat wide selection. :wink:

This old wooden smoother worked quite nicely, as did a Stanley no 3, 4 and 4½:







And so did this big heavy lump:





Was it easier with a light plane or a heavy one? I'd say it was just different. With a light plane it's easy to take short, localised strokes and then tilt the plane so that they feather away to nothing. With the heavy infill or the 4½, the natural motion is more like wax polishing. Both ways worked and both were fun.

One of the nice aspects of a project like this is that the construction is so simple that the components don't have to be super-accurate, just smooth. So although I gauged for width, I didn't for thickness. I just removed the minimum amount of wood and looked at each piece. I also ran my fingers over each piece - it's sometimes easier to feel irregularities than to see them.

Time to sweep up and re-sharpen some irons!
 
This design of chair has some nice curved elements, on the main legs which also support the seat, and on the arms.
I cut out the curves on the bandsaw, but left 2 or 3 mm so I could clean up to a smooth line. I suppose if I was making a commercial batch of chairs I would have made a set of templates and used a bearing guided router bit, but I'm not so I didn't. I used a spokeshave.

And the one which gave me the best results and was the most pleasure to use was an old boxwood one. These have a low angle blade, like a drawknife with a sole.



I've got a few spokeshaves and have never paid very much for one, but I reckon these are going to become the fashionable tool for new hand tool woodworkers quite soon. There are subtleties in the design which make them comfortable so they are not quite as simple as they appear. The late Ken Hawley appreciated them and wrote an excellent little booklet about them, describing how they were made, in their thousands, by hand. (Only £6 from http://www.hawleytoolcollection.com/ind ... blications. Get yours while stocks last!)

For any areas where the shaving was less than perfect, I used a scraper.
(I recently treated myself to one of the Arno carbide burnishers Matthew sells at Workshop Heaven. If, like me, you've been getting on ok using a bit of old steel from somewhere, a drill bit or screwdriver, and think you are ok for setting up a scraper, I recommend that you give one a go. Immediate, consistent results!)



To mark a nice curve on the front brace part, I used the simple device of a bendy stick with a piece of string tied at one end and wedged in a saw cut at the other. Line it up where needed and draw round it.







Here's the result so far - a pile of bits, not quite ready to be put together.

 
Although the construction of this chair is very simple - it's mostly just flat square pieces screwed together - there are some simple jobs which actually take up quite a lot of the time. For example, all the edges of the pieces need to be rounded over. This makes the chair more comfortable and less likely to produce splinters. Also, sharp arrises are not good for varnishing.

With the original, commercially made chair I am sure this would have been done by the planing machine, like it is for studding, not as a separate step. I wanted to make it a little bit neater. Now, I do have an electric router and a roundover bit, but I don't want to spend hours with ear defenders on. So I used this nice little French moulding plane.





It's one of a batch I bought a few years ago. The radius is just right for the job.



So with three or four swipes on each edge I get pieces which are nice to handle and I can still hear the radio. I reckon it's probably quicker than a router - almost all of the time is in picking up each piece and putting it the right way round to work on it, mostly in the vice but also just resting on the bench or held in my lap; the rounding work is only a few seconds.



The ends were just left square on the commercially made chair but I just use a block plane



and some sandpaper. Where a piece butts up against another and doesn't need to be rounded, I can leave it square. The curves had a couple of swipes with a spokeshave.

The chestnut is certainly pleasant wood to work with. Quite light weight - a bit like cedar - and easier to cut than oak. I hope it will darken down a bit in the sunshine. I'm planning to put some spar varnish on it rather than just let it go grey. I realise that will need renewing but I'm committed to doing that on the other chair - as described here: found-a-good-finish-for-outdoor-oak-t107328.html.
 
I was on Axminster at Warr8ngton this afternoon and I noticed that they had a small stack of timber boards as somebody mentioned. Each individual board was priced, and it didn’t seem overpriced to me. Nothing to get excited about, and I wouldn’t make the the journey just for timber, but it’s good that they had it. Curiously they had quite a few boards of Alder, so if there are any budding clog makers out there.......
 
Here's an example of the sort of distraction I often hit in a project.
I have bought some new stainless steel screws and coachbolts for joining the bits together. I didn't get any washers as I knew I already had most of a boxful.

However, when I got them out, they were M5 not M6. :(

I've had to mess about enlarging holes in washers before and I know it can be awkward. They are too small and wobbly to hold in a vice. You can hold a washer down onto a block of wood by putting three woodscrews round the rim, but that's slow and fiddly and no guarantee that the washer won't just spin round if the drill bit catches.

Fortunately, five years ago I equipped my workshop with a quick, safe and effective answer. It's my treadle powered lathe, made by Barnes in Rockford, Illinois, about a century ago.



A contemporary three jaw chuck holds a washer well enough with just hand pressure to tighten it up. A #1 Morse taper drill in the tailstock lines up nicely to whizz away the surplus metal. (I used 17/64" which is just right for an M6 clearance hole.)



I reckon each washer took about thirty seconds, most of which was putting it in and out of the chuck. 8)

Every home needs at least one lathe!
 
I've had a few more sessions on the chair and made a bit more progress.

A lot of it is pretty much a repeat of the first time round, so I shall mostly let the photos tell the story.

Although I used the tablesaw for the crosscuts, I'm not set up for repeat work with stops. I start by stacking up pieces which need to be the same length, either vertically or horizontally, and square across them all together. I then extend the knife lines round each piece, to avoid any splintering.





My crosscut sled is very simple. I just line the knife line up with the sawcut by eye.



To make the back, I first clamped the old one between some strips of wood and then marked out where the cross battens go.



I screwed the battens in place, spacing out the uprights evenly.



For the curved shape of the back, I used the old one as a template, clamped a bendy strip of wood round, and drew round it.



Bandsawn ends were cleaned up with the spokeshave.



Clearance holes were drilled with a brad point bit in a cordless drill, then counterbored with a small solid nose auger.



I had forgotten to buy any new dowelscrews, so thought I'd use some spare stainless coach screws instead. The M6 thread holds perfectly well in a 5.5mm hole. The square head of a coachscrew is a bit hard to hold with a spanner, but a small locking pliers is ideal for the job.



I then hacksawed off the heads.

I then started a dry run assembly, screwing all the pieces together, having marked them on the insides. This will let me dismantle everything for varnishing, then put it together again using the same screw holes.



The sweet chestnut is soft enough that the screw holes don't need any countersinking. The heads will snug down nice and flush without it, though I was trying not to overtighten at this preliminary stage.
 
AndyT":1oucygnw said:
One thing that may be worth a digression is a modification I made to the switch. I think I read about it on here somewhere, but it's worth repeating. The off switch as supplied is a bit easier to get to than the on switch, but is still fiddly. I added a hinge and a long offcut of wood. There's a hole drilled in it so you can get a finger to the on switch. The wood is positioned so it swings onto the off switch when pressed, so turning the saw off is very easily done, normally with a knee, leaving both hands free.



I have an equivalent setup on my TS. For anyone else thinking of doing this, my advice would be to use something flimsy. Mine is 6mm MDF. I can kick it as hard as like (I call it The Ex-Wife) and it operates the switch without smashing it to pieces. I think a solid chunk of wood like that could cause some damage, the way I use it...
 
Good point Steve.
I've only ever given it a gentle nudge so far, but there's always the possibility of a panicked emergency stop. I guess it would be easy to add a stop block onto the bit of ply between the saw base and the Workmate, so any extra pressure wouldn't go onto the switch body. But only if you mount your saw on a bit of old ply... :)
 
This is mine.

kickstop.jpg


Don't mean to hijack your thread.

BTW, how did you get your dimensions? I nade a pair of them about 20 years ago (made the front cover of GWW, IIRC - Pete Martin came to photograph them in June, the sky was black and it was raining and we still managed to make it look as if I was enjoying a cocktail in the perfect English summer). They were nicely made but a bit big, TBH. I don't have them any more, but I wouldn't mind making another pair, a bit snugger this time.
 

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Steve, for the dimensions, I'm just copying a commercially bought chair which is really so manky now that nobody would want to sit in it. I sanded it all down a few years ago but it's still gone black with lichen and stuff. Some of the parts are rotten so I have turned them round, but it's definitely replacement time.

I think this is a safe strategy - I don't want to put in the time and effort only to find that it's not comfortable enough to fall asleep in!



If anyone wants the bits before they go in the bin, shout now.
 
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