finished my Curtis Buchanan chair

The two joined stools I’m making are mostly all cut, a little more carving to add to the small end aprons. Then I need to wait a few days before pegging them. So I took some time to continue my “finishing-leftover stuff” campaign. This time I went into the loft and dragged down my version of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair. (Well, it was a little beyond this point – the stretchers were in too.)

I had the seat, legs & stretchers all assembled. So what I had left was boring the posts for the crest rail, then test-fitting that,

and boring it for the spindles. Then just shaving the spindles and assembling. I say “just” – lots can go wrong in those few sentences. But as it happened, I made it through. Here I have the crest bored for the center spindle, and I shaved that & installed it. That stiffened things for boring the other holes in the crest. I set the other spindles in just to check their alignment, then moved them back out & bored it. 

I didn’t shoot any step-by-step photos, but I did set up the camera to shoot a sequence of the assembly. I set it for once a minute and just took what I got. Here I’ve marked the depth on the spindles’ bottom tenons, and I’m knocking them in place. Unlike Curtis’ video series, I glued this chair. 

After some alignment gymnastics, I am knocking down the crest onto the five spindles, then the posts come down into their tapered mortises in the seat. A lot has to happen. Hide glue next time, slower setting than the yellow glue. I got away with it…

Using a zig-zag ruler to check from seat to under the crest at both posts & center spindle.

Then splitting & wedging the joints.

Done. My first real chair of this construction since 1993. My lack of practice shows, but it will work fine for the shop. The ash legs split a bit as I drove the stretchers in. A few angles are off down under the seat. But I keep hearing Jennie Alexander’s voice back when I was making chairs with her – “The eye is very forgiving.” And when you sit in the chair, you can’t see it. 

You can make your own – Curtis posted step by step videos showing the whole thing. I think this link will take you to the whole set.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DoQl6xBAUI&list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j 

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Woodworking has taken me to some wonderful places, and I’ve met people who in very short order become great friends. And I’ve been thinking  recently of those I met down in Australia, particularly my friends in New South Wales. I was lucky enough to go there in the fall (their spring) of 2018. What a fabulous place, and such a terror to hear about these past few weeks & months. A benefit of social media is that it makes it easy to keep people posted about folks’ safety/situation, etc. It’s good to hear that so far they’re safe, but some have left their homes. Whether the houses will be there when they get back no one knows. Wish I could send all you folks some rain.

Chair assembly pt 1

I spent some time recently working on the undercarriage of the “democratic” chair designed by Curtis Buchanan. First, a very modern convenience; an Ipad on the bench, running Curtis’ excellent video series on youtube, so I can follow along with what he’s doing. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j

 

Here, I’m set up to bore the legs for the side stretchers.

I flipped the chair seat around to get at the other legs – Curtis’ bench is in the midst of the shop, so he can get around the whole frame. I shoved some short alignment pegs in the bored mortises, to help line up the bit extension for the next set of holes. We used to use these in the JA chairs; not necessary but they don’t hurt.

I got smart & got the Ipad off the bench  – clamped it to the window frame. I got afraid I was going to smack into it. I can fix a busted chair part…but not the electronics.

Here I’m test-fitting the legs with their side stretchers in place. Gotta spring them a bit to get them in the seat mortises.

It’s been over 25 years since I made Windsor chairs with any regularity; and much of the process has been simplified since then. I spoke with Curtis last week, and we talked about how we used to bore this stuff, how to find the angles, etc. It’s all so much more direct now. The center stretcher angle he finds by setting two sticks (in my case, 2 rulers) = one across the side stretchers right above the mortise locations, the other sighted to line up with the first. Then strike a line across the seat – that’s the angle! I added a square to double-check the alignment of the two sticks.

Here’s where I got to – the rear posts are just jammed in place. I’ve caught up to Curtis’ videos. (well, except for leveling the feet) I could just bop ahead, but I might as well wait & see what he’s got up to in fitting the crest and spindles. I have plenty to do in the meantime.

This chair has a white pine seat, ash legs & stretchers. Posts are red oak, the spindles and crest I have made for it are hickory.

 

Curtis Buchanan’s new chair plans & videos

I’ve told some of these stories many times, but I’m still not tired of them. You might be. I first met Curtis Buchanan in 1987 when I was one of the students in his first class at Country Workshops. I learned Windsor chairmaking from him then, and made many chairs for about 5 years, when I veered off into oak furniture full-time and put away my scorp, travisher, reamer, sight-lines and all that jazz.

I was thrilled to bits last spring when Curtis came up to take part in our Greenwood Fest. There, he was working on a version of his “democratic” chair. The premise of this chair is two-fold – it can be made with a small tool kit; thus within reach of someone just starting out woodworking on a tight budget. And in theory anyway, it’s a building block of a chair. Learn this one & you can then go on to other more complex chairs.

He had two with him, while during the fest he made a third. I distinctly told him, “Don’t sell that green one (photo above) until you talk to me first…” On the last afternoon of the event, I was running around the site seeing to some of the tasks involved in winding that thing down. Didn’t get to Curtis til some time had gone by. Both chairs were gone. I asked what happened? “Oh, I sold both of those chairs…” just as matter-of-fact…turns out he cautioned the buyer that I might come for the green one. I did. Here it is again:

 

But now I can make my own. Curtis has just released a new set of plans; and a new video series. In the spirit of the democratic notion about this chair, he has set up the plans so that you can either buy them for full-price, or you can download them and pay what you can afford. He leaves it up to you. The full-sheets version is excellent; if I was buying them that’s where I would go. The chair is shown half-scale; the seat, legs, spindles and stretchers, bending forms are all full-sized. https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

 

 

here’s one of his latest versions:

 

here, he’ll tell you about the chair, then hunt down the youtube channel for him. He’s posted the first 4 videos for it, with more to come.

https://www.youtube.com/user/curtisbuchanan52/videos 

I made a “shaved” (not turned) Windsor chair 30 years ago; still have it kicking around, but it got bumped from the kitchen table when I inherited one of Curtis’ continuous arm chairs from Jennie Alexander. I made it based on Curtis’ sackback plans, but substituted shaved cherry legs, stretchers and arm posts. I got the idea from our friend Daniel O’Hagan who had one or more shaved Windsor chairs when I visited him in that era. This chair is cherry, tulip poplar, ash, hickory and white oak. When new, they looked very different, but 30 years of use have blended the colors pretty well. Patience.

Similar colors the other day in this view of a red-tailed hawk hunting over a marshy area nearby.