walnut high chair & workbenches

next is arms & seat

The walnut high chair is finally settling down. The pieces I carved yesterday were quartered stock, so behaved better than the rest.

The faces of the stiles got shaped first, a sort of double-ogee, then gouge-cut decoration in this face. To cut the shape, I first cut a centerline with the V-tool (and mallet, its only appearance pretty much).

then I put the mallet down

Then using a nearly flat gouge upside down, shaped the convex portions down to the V-tool cut.


Next I took a deeply curved gouge and started nibbling away at shaping the outer limits of this pattern. This stuff cut very nicely at this point. Then it was just a matter of cutting straight into the faces with a shallow gouge, and relieving back to that incision.

shavings of the day

As I found out the other day, hand pressure is perfectly adequate to carve this wood, and mallet work is probably overkill.

here’s a detail of the chair’s back:

chair back

I fnally cut the rear stretcher, and this photo is for Alexander. It’s a sawn tenon, a rare thing in my shop. Fit right in the mortise as is.

sawn tenon


During this project I have discovered something about the workbenches in my shop. For a variety of reasons, (mostly fear) I have resorted to using my old Ulmia workbench for a lot of this project. I bought this bench back in the early 1980s, and for more than 15 years it was my everyday workbench. It got a lot of use, and about twice a year I would scrape its surface and treat it with linseed oil.

10 years ago I built my “joiners” bench, using a piece of white pine 4” thick by 17” wide x 8′ long as the main section of the bench top. The pine was chosen principally because it would dry in just a few years versus an oak top that size; and the stock was nice & clear. I built the frame from oak, and added a board along the top to increase the working depth of the top to about 24”.

joiner's bench

Using the joiner’s bench took some getting used to, but within a short time it became quite simple to work at. One un-planned benefit of this bench was the softwood top doesn’t get slick like a hardwood one. A few years ago I used a maple bench here in the shop for something or other and found it to be like a bowling alley – the boards kept sliding around on me. Never used to happen until I got used to the pine top.

But this walnut chair has shown me another feature – the Ulmia now is quite dark with its years of grungy finish, and after using the (bare) pine bench for so long, I found it was sometimes hard to see the tools on the bench – a matter of what you get used to I guess. I never had a hard time before. I think later this winter, I’ll scrape the Ulmia and not oil it. Just in case I use it again for something.

Further readings about the workbench here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/workbench-fittings-17th-c-style/


There’s lots more, you can search from the main page of this blog for “workbench” and you’ll get inundated.

6 thoughts on “walnut high chair & workbenches

  1. I need to ask a silly question: what type of hammer do you use? why did you pick it? and where did you purchase it? Thanks

    • Hmm. Hammer or mallet? I haven’t used a hammer on this chair yet, but the one I routinely use in my work is actually a shoemaker’s hammer, made by my blacksmith friend Mark Atchison. There’s a picture of it near the end of this post: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/joined-stool-seat/

      My carving mallets are hickory, turned myself from green wood. I weigh them & write the date & weight on the end grain. Keep weighing them until they stabilize. then use them. While they are drying, I keep them buried in shavings.

  2. Hammers have their good points. The best hammer I have found for pounding wood or driving chisels and pins is the Japanese chisel hammer. It is flat on one end and slightly bowed outward on the other. In use, the edge of the convex end does not deform wood that is struck. They are available in a number of weights. For example see http://www.japanwoodworker.com. The hammers definitely do not have a period appearance. However they do a beautiful job.

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