A few things here & there

First of all, it’s May. That means migratory birds should be returning here to (& through) New England. I’ve been out for some practice trips w Marie but the real show should begin next week. An eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) – I like these birds a lot, I liked them better when they were called “rufous-sided towhee.”

eastern towhee

and a wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) for starters.

wood thrush

The good news lately is the resumption of in-person classes is in the works. The bad news is right now I’m only scheduling three of them, and 2 of those are full of hold-overs from 2020. The one that will be open to registration is a carved box class at Lost Art Press in Covington, KY in November. I’m hoping 2022 will have a full schedule of classes, with a focus on the JA ladderback chair and the carved box.

carved oak box

Read this post from Megan Fitzpatrick where she includes lots of frequently asked questions that might save some people some trouble. https://blog.lostartpress.com/2021/05/03/2021-classes-at-the-storefront/ Tickets go on sale May 17th at 10am eastern time.

And as I write this post, one comes in from Chris Schwarz who hosts the classes there – in his home – about vaccinations. https://blog.lostartpress.com/2021/05/07/classes-vaccinations/ – if you’ve been to a class there, you can easily see that all Chris really gets out of it is disruption as we overwhelm the shop for a week. So let’s be good guests, now – OK?

crease moldings on side rails

I’ve started cutting joinery for my cupboard project and I’m two videos ahead of Daniel now. So we’ll have more & more of that coming up as blog posts & videos – in between birding.

next brettstuhl

I also went out and paid actual money for some boards – 16″-18″ wide clear air-dried walnut. I started cutting out the next brettstuhl – decided to carve it first, then cut out the scrolled shape.

There must be more, but that’s enough for now. An orchard oriole (Icterus spurius) showed up outside the shop yesterday afternoon. This is the male, the female was there too, but she wouldn’t come out for a picture.

orchard oriole

brettstuhl #2 done

Before I dive into splitting & planing a new oak log, I figured I’d take today to finish up the brettstuhl that was 3/4 done.

brettstuhl #2

Some of what I tackled today. First, make sure the legs are dry. The scribbling on them is their weight in ounces over the past couple of weeks. They’ve been in a kiln made of insulation board, heated by a single light bulb. Kept at about 140 degrees.

dry bones

Then figure out the placement of the mortises and the angles of the legs. I built the first one based on Drew Langsner’s 1981 article “Two-Board Chairs” about a chair he built with his teacher/mentor Reudi Kohler. But here & there, I changed a few things. And on this one, I changed them some more. Drew sent me some notes on his chair, measured the angles for rake & splay, etc. But I’ve been looking at images online from various sources too. Often these chairs seem to have an exaggerated degree of rake & splay. So that’s what I aimed for this time.

sightlines for mortising

After some mock-ups I laid out the sightlines on paper, then taped that in place because the battens and underside of the seat do not form a plane to easily lay things out on. I had to nip off the corners of the paper so I could bore the mortises. I have no mind for math, I used the “chairpanzee” contraption made available by Lost Art Press – https://lostartpress.com/products/the-chairpanzee-analog-computer to figure these angles.

boring with adjustable bevel as guide

It’s all well & good to figure all those cool angles, but you still have to bore them on the money. I got close, but could have been better in a couple instances. These mortises are 15/16″ in diameter, 1 3/8″ deep.

rear legs

And there’s the problem – the far leg here bumps into the back’s through tenon below the seat. Not fatal, I just trimmed that tenon some. Only my pride was hurt, and I’m used to that.

#1 on our left, #2 on the right

I like the looks of the new one much better. More lively. But as I viewed it beside the previous example, I thought I’d over-done the angles. Figured those feet would trip people up walking by the chair.

#2 beside my version of the democratic chair

Then I began to measure it against a version I made of Curtis’ democratic chair (another post later…) and they both are about 17″ across the front of the seat, with footprints of 21 3/8″ (the brettstuhl) and 20 3/4″ (the democratic chair). So both of these chairs’ front feet jut out beyond the seat a bit. I guess the thing to do is use the new one some & see what happens. And go measure some of the other chairs around here…

Brettstuhl assembled

Spent the day fitting the brettstuhl together.

Brettstuhl assembled

I had put the ash legs in a kiln powered by one light bulb. Over time I weighed them, and they stopped losing weight a couple of days ago. Hence, dry. I didn’t get photos of the first half of today’s work, boring the mortises in the battens for the legs. I had the battens in place in the seat, and bored from below. Used 2 adjustable bevels to set the rake & splay. Here’s photos of the rest of the day. First a front & rear leg fitted into a batten. Through-wedged tenons, 15/16″ in diameter. Ash legs, white oak batten.

legs & batten

Before fitting the battens into the seat, I chamfered the edges of the front & sides of the seat. This could be a molded edge (it is in Drew Langsner’s article I used to build from) – but a chamfer works too.

chamfer w drawknife

Once I had the two battens fitted with their legs, time to knock them back into the seat. They are not interchangable. I marked them inside the housing.

Then slide/heave/push, but don’t pound the back into the mortises cut in the seat & battens.

one good use of too much bulk

From there, I scribed the baseline for the mortises in the back’s tenons. Then back out it comes.

scribing for mortises

I bored these mortises, then pared with a chisel. I felt the butternut was a somewhat fragile wood, and it’s tight quarters in there for chopping a mortise. So brace & bit and paring chisel work. Make sure the top end of that mortise is ABOVE the baseline scribed. The wedge needs to bear on the batten’s surface, not the end grain of this mortise.

The other end is angled some, maybe 6-8 degrees or so. Too steep is less likely to grab.

more boring

then I pared the end grain and the walls inside that mortise. It’s 5/16″ wide. Centered on the tenon’s thickness, which is about an inch. Then I planed some wedge stock, I used hickory in this case. I just wanted something harder than the butternut. Not sure it’s necessary. I always chamfer the ends of wedges like this – both ends. That way if you ever have to adjust them, you can knock them this way & that without beating them to bits.

Then put the thing back together & drive the wedges in. These next two photos are a bit out of order – the wedges are still extra-long, and not yet chamfered. And the batten too is extra long. I took the wedges out to trim their length, then chamfered them. Took the back out so I could easily trim the battens flush with the back edge of the seat.

Then put it all back together. This is an earlier test-assembly. One nice thing is there’s no hurry and you can take the back in & out to make whatever adjustments you need.

Here’s the other view of the finished chair.

brettstuhl side view

I want to do another one soon, otherwise everything I learned doing this one will go out the window & I’ll have to learn it again. Next time, more taper to the legs. More rake & splay.

brettstuhl batten-fitting, etc.

two boards, no legs

I worked all day, but you wouldn’t know it. I felt like I was moving in slow-motion. But I was being extra careful – I want this chair to come off without a hitch. The photo above is where I quit. I’ll show you what I did to get to that point.

The day started off laying out the housings for the two oak battens under the seat. Drew’s plans in the old FWW said the battens were 2 1/2″ in from the edges of the seat. I marked that line, then used an adjustable bevel to layout the angle from the beveled batten.

adjustable bevel & awl

But the battens are tapered in width, in addition to being beveled on their edges. So another adjustable bevel to find the inside edge of the batten-housing.

Lots of layout

After double-checking this layout, I began by sawing the edges of the housings, as far as I could. They stop about 1 3/4″ from the front. After a while, I was tilting the saw up a bit, and using the teeth just under the handle – the teeth you hardly ever use.

saw as much as I can

I chopped out what I could get at near the back of the seat. Just breaking out the waste between the two saw kerfs.

chisel work begins

Then more chisel work.

Then even more chisel work.

paring with a long wide chisel

There’s no need to see the whole blow-by-blow. That’s probably too much already. Check the depth…

I aimed for 3/8″ deep

Then tested the battens, made adjustments, and tested them again. I had to give these some pretty good whacks to get them in there. Satisfied.

Mortising was long & slow – after the layout, I bored two 7/8″ holes in each mortise. The bevel helps aim the brace & bit.

The butternut’s easy, then comes the oak battens

More chisel work, more test-fitting.

paring the mortises

That seemed to take a long time. But it was then past mid-afternoon & I was getting tired. That’s a good time to slow down, not speed up.

testing some more

It’s in place, I need to trim the shoulders of the tenons – I had cut them square, forgetting they compliment the angle of the back. Next time, some wedges for these through tenons, then the legs.

the brettstuhl continued

began carving the back

I worked some in the past week or so on the brettstuhl, or board chair. I didn’t want to copy my first carving exactly, so I just drew up part of it and dove in. The butternut carves like…well, butter. This board is quartersawn which makes it even more cooperative.

halfway there

In the photo above, I’ve made it halfway up the back. The designs and elements are taken from my 17th-century studies of oak furniture, just super-imposed on a different form. I didn’t shoot any photos beyond this one til I got one of the finished carving.

the carved back

Then I switched over to turning the leg tenons. I left them oversized and will turn their final dimension when they are dry.

roughing out

I followed that gouge with a skew chisel.

skew forming the tenon surface

I made eight of these legs, so if all goes well I’ll make another chair after this one. If all goes poorly, I have some extra legs just in case. Here’s set # 1. They’re in the kiln now.

oversized and ready to dry

So while those tenons dry, I got out some very long-stashed 6/4 white oak to make the battens that slot into the seat board. There’s two options (at least) for these – one is a shouldered sliding dovetail, and one is just a long bevel to form the sliding dovetail. I’ve opted for the bevel. Below I set the batten between bench dogs and tilted it over so the planing was pretty much just as it normally is.

beveling the batten edges

Here’s one edge done. Next time I work on this chair, it’ll be time for the bottom board – to make the tapered, beveled housings for these battens.

checking the angle

Next chair

(as I’ve been working on blog posts lately, things have been a bit weird. When I preview the post, to see the photos larger, I have to click them twice – first they go tiny, then the 2nd click enlarges them. That’s all I can tell you – otherwise, you’re on your own.)

I’ve made lots of kinds of chairs over the years, but the chair I started today is only my third attempt at a “brettstuhl”. Six or more years ago, I did one in walnut with hickory legs. As soon as I got this one done, I saw the flaw – I tapered the legs the wrong way!

walnut & hickory, 2014

It’s funny looking at that photo now – the chair is sitting right where my shop is now. So today I started in at the beginning, working some beautiful ash – and tapering those legs DOWN to the feet. The instructions I’m using on making this chair are from Drew Langsner’s Fine Woodworking article “Two Board Chairs” in the July/August 1981 issue. Below you see one leg done, the other riven oversized. You can make these at the shaving horse, but I did them today at the bench. (I sat at my desk all day yesterday & didn’t feel like sitting.)

First step is to plane two faces, then bring the whole thing to about 1 3/8″ square. This is very fresh wood, just split open a week ago. I want it to finish about 1 1/4″ at the thick end.

Then mark out the tapered foot, and plane down to that. See the end grain of this stick, I’ve drawn a 1″ square as my target to plane down to.

The fresh green wood planes so easily. Dead-straight makes it easy too. I make the octagonal cross-section after tapering. The piece is sitting up in a v-block behind me, and that brings it “corner up.” First shavings here are whisper thin (narrow, really, but who says “whisper-narrow?”)

I start near the foot and take a few strokes, then begin backing up as I plane forward. After a couple of strokes, the shavings get wider and wider.

There – I’ve got that mistake from six years ago remedied. Now on to the back board. I made a half-template out of 1/2″ thick pine and just traced around it. The board is quartersawn butternut, 7/8″ thick.

I’m no master with a bowsaw/turning saw. I get close, then fine-tune the result. I make stop cuts here & there, and apply beeswax to the tiny little teeth. And I keep telling myself, “easy does it.” This saw I made years ago with the hardware from Tools for Working Wood. https://toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-BOWS.XX?searchterm=bowsaw

Here, I followed some of the shape with a spokeshave.

Then I went over some of the detailed edges with a couple of carving gouges.

Here’s as far as I got – the holes I bored are to put the saw in to cut out the hand-hold. It was getting pretty low light in the shop, so I decided that was a good time to quit. Tomorrow’s another day.

one more look at that not-real old, but old-style chair

while at Overbrook house the other day https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/spoon-carving-at-plymouth-craft-last-weekend/   I took a few minutes to shoot some more takes on the little carved chair there. I could find out little about it, other than “Europe” – dated 1947.

chair

side view

underside

carving

carving 2

Back in early December, Frederick, one of the readers here, sent this link to some brettstuhls (Oh, no – I’m trying plurals of words in foreign languages) he’d photographed in an open-air museum:

https://frischesholz.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/brettstuhl-for-peter/