Pressing the Clutch on this Chair Design

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One of the advantages (or curses) of studying a lot of old furniture is you can feel certain designs tug at you as you work on a piece. This weekend I got a little time to work on this Hall’s Croft chair and I could feel several other similar chair designs tug at my brain.

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I love quartersawn sycamore. It’s a junk tree but, when used properly, is beautiful and stable (enough).

First, I abandoned the pine seat and switched to quartersawn sycamore for the seat, arms and crest. The spindles are hickory and the legs are beech. I selected the stock so I could use an oil and wax finish instead of paint or a dark pigmented finish.

I changed the seat profile slightly to make the front corners sharper. I altered the leg shape a bit. But the biggest change is going to be the crest rail. Instead of the “three holey mountains” of the original I’m going to use a different shape I’ve been experimenting with. It uses rived stock that is somewhat triangular in cross-section.

When I offer it for sale, I’ll give the customer both crest rails and let them decide which they prefer. Or they can swap them out when they are feeling sassy.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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5 Responses to Pressing the Clutch on this Chair Design

  1. charlie says:

    I like the “rays” in the rived sycamore. Will it be pronounce on the crest rail?

  2. jayedcoins says:

    I have a 5′ sycamore log that tapers from ~18″ to ~12″ diameter… it was the upper part of the trunk so it won’t be super clean but do you guys think there’s anything worthy in this log, or is it firewood?

    • If you have a way to mill it, I’d say go for it. Sycamore is pretty damn tough to rive though. The grain interlocks like elm. It can be done with a big hammer and a lot of wedges but you’ll work for it and have a lot of waste (ask me how I know this). And I’ve used some sycamore from a big branch like you describe and didn’t find it to be all that much more difficult to work. YMMV, of course.

      • Agree. That’s exactly why I’m using it for the seat and the arm bow. The grain is interlocked and doesn’t rive. You can make some pretty tool handles with it.

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