Friday, March 25, 2016

Dining Chair - Part 3

Only had a little time in the tiny shop yesterday, but had a pretty good day today.  Yesterday I finished the mortising of the legs.  I'm very happy with how square these have been coming out.  The mortising jigs have really helped out, but I can tell they are getting worn, even though the faces are made of relatively hard oak.  I might try facing them with brass when I next make them.
All mortises complete
I love cutting and fitting tenons.  I've had some challenges cutting the shoulders to the line.  But on the last few I did today I made the knife wall a bit deeper and that seemed to help.  The cheeks were either split with a 1" chisel or sawn with my $5 garage sale gents saw, and then brought to thickness using the router plane - love that thing.
This is the fit I like - snug, but not too tight
And once I pared the shoulders to get them at 90° to the faces and edges, the rails fit nicely to the legs with no gap.
No gaps
One thing, though - the rail was a little off-center relative to the layout lines ...
Not quite up to the layout line
... so I pared a little off that edge of the tenon and re-fit the joint.
That's better
The only thing here is that after I plane off my layout lines prior to gluing up, I won't know where to seat this rail.  There will be a little sideways play.  I'll probably knife a light line over that layout line during a dry-fit to make sure I hit it right.

With the rails and legs for the front frame fitted together, it was on to the back frame.  All parts had been pre-cut to length, so I ganged them together and set them in a vise, striking a knife line 7/8" (that's the tenon length) from one end.  Another line was struck 13 1/2" from this line at the other end while the parts were still ganged together, ensuring each of the four parts will be the same length.
Back rails and backrest rails ganged together and line knifed
I cut the shoulders, sawed and/or chiseled the cheeks and fitted the tenons into the mortises without getting any pictures.

Shaping the backrest rails can be a challenging thing, but this is my fourth dining chair and I'm getting better at it.  The Doug fir can be a bit brittle, so you really have to be careful when chiseling out the waste so as not to go beyond your layout lines.
Upper and partially-shaped lower backrest rails, with template
I find it much easier to work with the convex curves.  I chiseled the waste close to the layout lines, then planed to the lines using the #4 1/2, then the #4 for a finer surface, then a card scraper.  For the concave surface, I first chiseled close to the lines ...
Kerfs cut down to layout lines
... but be careful.  Look at the direction of the grain below where I split off a piece of waste.  I was chopping from right towards the left and the grain was diving.  On this Doug fir, the Spring growth and Fall growth lines are not the same as the grain direction.  It can really be deceiving.
Watch out for the grain direction when chiseling the waste
Here's as close as I came to the layout lines with the chisel.  After this picture was taken, the spokeshave and scraper finished it off.
Chiseled close to layout line


I've noticed lately that when marking a knife line on four sides of a board, I don't get them to meet perfectly at the last corner.  I believe my material is square and I'm referencing my combo square off the face side and face edge.  The knife I've used for a few years is this crummy "Flexcut" knife that really fits my hand great.  In the following two pics, you can see it's beveled on both sides, so I lean it over when striking a line to compensate for the bevel.
Flexcut knife and Crown Tools knife
Other side of each knife

I decided to try a Crown Tools knife that I've had for several years, but never really liked.  Well short story short, I used the Crown knife for the back frame rails and it seemed to give a better result. Unfortunately it's horribly uncomfortable in the hand.  Maybe after sharpening the Flexcut many times I've given it a steeper bevel angle.  Might need to experiment with this.


Up to now, I've really sucked at using the spokeshave.  I got my only spokeshave from a gentleman I met on an airplane (Thanks, Phil).  His wife noticed I was reading a WW magazine and she struck up a conversation.  Turns out he had some extra hand tools that he wasn't using and he sent me some (on his dime, too).  I love the generosity of the WW community.
My Marples spokeshave
Anyway, I'm getting better at sharpening and I think I'm finally sharpening the blade well.  But I was getting some really bad chatter and getting frustrated.  Paul Sellers posted (I don't remember if this was recent or older) about tuning up a spokeshave, including flattening the bed.
Spokeshave parts
Turns out I never did that when I got the shave.  So I worked it over a little with a small paddle-type diamond hone.  Here's a close-up of the bed, showing areas where I removed uneven surfaces:
Bed cleaned up
Well, I'm not sure if that small amount of bed flattening is responsible, but today that thing was singing like never before.  I've learned that you can't be timid with the spokeshave - you have to take confident strong strokes.  I feel like I have a much more useful tool now.  Yowzah!!


  1. I have a love hate relationship with my spokeshaves. Sometimes I get great results and other times I have to check to make sure I have two opposable thumbs. And I seem to favor one of them over the others. Like everything else it takes a lot of practice.

  2. Nice tight joinery.
    You may want to try those inexpensive marking knife from LV, that is my favourite form. Handle like a pencil thin blade gets in everywhere.
    Flattening the spokeshave bed does make a difference as does proper holding techniques. Longer to write than demonstrated, look how Paul does it.