Plymouth CRAFT’s class making the JA chair

Sorted some photos from Plymouth CRAFT’s recent class in making the Jennie Alexander chair. We held this class at the wonderful Wildlands Trust property in Plymouth, Massachusetts; great venue for us. https://wildlandstrust.org/

Pret & I brought the red oak to the site in eighths of a log, 5′ long. Then the students took it from there. Here is some froe/riving brake work.

I think we based this brake on one in Pete Galbert’s book Chairmaker’s Notebook https://lostartpress.com/products/chairmakers-notebook 

Might be an adaptation from the whole bunch of those Windsor chairmakers; Sawyer, Curtis Buchanan & Pete…maybe Elia too?

6 students, 6 days, 6 shaving horses. Here’s three of them anyway. We made a lot of shavings. They started with the front posts, then moved onto shaving the rear posts.

After shaving the rear posts, they go in a steambox to soften them for bending on the forms. Here’s Nathan limbering a post prior to bending it for real.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes and indoor

The posts bent on forms, they’ll stay in the form for a couple of weeks. The students were then issued a set made by the previous class.

And rungs. Dozens of them.

Nathan & Elijah hunkered over slat-mortising.


Despite my near-constant ridicule, this “mortise-cleanout tool” from Jennie Alexander proved popular. Rubbish, I say.

Jon, Job & Nathan boring their posts in preparation for the first sub-assembly.

and here is the final bit of that assembly – stubborn joints get driven the last bit by a clamp. Job & Nathan.

One day Daniel came with me, I got him involved prepping rungs with the spokeshave. I think he did 3, then focused on eating biscuits.

Then onto boring for the front & rear rungs.

What we don’t see here is forming the tenons, we used a spokeshave to get them to size. Then more assembly.

Part of  any class like this is being ready to tackle problems. Let’s say for example, someone’s front rung breaks under pressure from the clamp (next time make the tenons tight, but not TOO tight…) There ain’t no getting it out, that’s for sure. So cut it off. Pare the posts smooth again. Transfer the center of that mortise around to the outside of the post – bore an 11/16″ mortise from outside – right through the tenon that’s stuck in there. Then in the other post do the same, only 5/8″ like the original joint. Then shave a long, tapered rung from dry hardwood and tap it in from outside the wider mortise. Glue the 5/8″ mortise if you like (I did, we glued all the joints. Belt & suspenders.) Trim the rung a 1/2″ or so beyond both ends outside the chair. Split the tenons, drive a dry wedge in there, & trim. Done, chair saved. I had done this once before, and was pretty sure it would work. Takes some careful alignment to get it right.

Marie Pelletier always says we have to have a class photo – she took it just after lunch, so a few slats short still, but here it is. The chair I have is an oldie I made for Daniel when he was little.

Image may contain: 7 people, including Peter Follansbee, people smiling, tree, grass, child, outdoor and nature

I was trying to make a chair for my demos, but along about day 4 I abandoned it. Daniel & I finished assembling it the other day, after unpacking. I got the slats & seat in it today, but no photos. Next time.

I’m sure we’ll do this class again next year – this was the 2nd one we did this year and it seems to be a hit. I’ll be sure to post about it here, but for the belt & suspenders approach to hearing about it, sign up for Plymouth CRAFT’s newsletter. We only send out stuff when we mean it, so it’s not like we’ll assault your inbox. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact 

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