Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Notching Out

Lately, progress on this chair at college seems to have been going at nothing more than a snail’s pace! I lost almost two weeks-worth of college recently after injuring my thumb and a few hours were spent yesterday morning looking around the Paintworks Event Space for our July exhibition. It’s taken its time but my thumb has almost fully healed. If you’re patient, I may have some gory photos that’ll hopefully keep you all on your toes in your own workshops… For now, let’s just focus on this chair!!

It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it! 😳

Before I was careless enough to let my naked thumb come in to contact with a sharp (stationary!) knife, I was able to complete all the necessary shaping of the back legs on the spindle moulder. Setting the ring fence so it was flush with the cutter is actually the hardest part… A well-made jig will keep you safe and do most of the hard work for you. I’m pleased to add that the finished legs came out looking about as close to identical as I could have hoped.

Both legs require mortises (lower down) to receive the stretcher rails. On the front legs, this is easy as they run in square and the legs remain vertical. However, the back legs splay outward slightly (at the top) and are also angled inwards; toward the centre of the seat. To maximise the strength of these tenons and reduce weakening the walls of each mortise, it is necessary to angle both mortises as well – it may sound complicated but, in practice, you only need to insert a couple of wedges on the mortiser. 😉

Upon my return to college, I was looking to start working on one of the features inspired by the late Sam Maloof; where by the seat is joined directly in to each of the legs with no rail supporting the the lump of walnut directly from below. Now, at the front, the seat will simply be housed directly in to the front legs and held later with either a plugged screw or a Miller Dowel. This should be fine as I am also tenonning the front legs up in to the arms. At the back though, where I’m still not 100% certain on how to fix the arm in place [probably another notch or housing], further reinforcement is required because of all the stress this part of the chair will be required to withstand, later. So, I’ve decided to go with tenons after all (as much as I don’t really like the looking of them being visible like that…). This meant a lot of sawing and chiselling to cut the notches out of the legs… I could’ve used a router to remove most of the waste but, it was one of those situations where the time spent finding the right cutter and setting everything up could’ve equally been spent working with hand tools! I also would’ve needed to knock together a simple MDF jig to support the router on these otherwise narrow work pieces.

Although it is brief by my own standards, I still hope that you have enjoyed this update. Next week, I’ll be cutting the corresponding joints in the walnut seat and will probably start looking at shaping the front legs and fitting the stretchers (which should be fun, with all the angled tenons!!)

Thanks for reading.

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