Editor’s note: This Chair Chat™ has been edited extensively and was stripped down of all foul language. Accordingly, you don’t see a disclaimer here that salty language will follow – because it won’t. Enter with confidence.
Rudy: look at this chair I found on the internet:
Chris: That is a nice-looking chair.
Rudy: I agree, it has a nice shape.
Klaus: Look at those legs, they have probably been shaved on a shaving horse?
Rudy: Likely. I like to use a shaving horse, too.
Chris: I prefer a jack plane, but a shaving horse can work well, too.
Klaus: The seat has a nice shape.
Rudy: Yes, it does.
Chris: OK, I’m pretty much out of things to say. Chat again soon?
Not everybody who has to make wedges owns a band saw. In the third instalment we take a look at how to make them without power tools.
See the first and second instalments of the series here and here.
Making wedges without a band saw is not any more difficult than with a band saw. In fact it might even be easier. Especially if you don’t own a band saw.
You will need a chisel and a block of wood that you clamp in your vise.
Making wedges with a chisel
Select a suitable piece of wedge-wood. I usually use oak, as this is abundant where I live, but you can also use hickory or ash if that is available to you. Make sure you use dry wood; you don’t want your wedges to shrink after installing them.
The final size of the wedge is approximately 1-1/2’’long, 5/8’’ wide, and 3/16’’ at the thick end. I start with a board of around 5/8’’ thick, sawed to the length of the wedge (1-1/2’’ to 2’’).
Stand the board upright on top of your workbench (use a piece of scrap wood if you are afraid of damaging your workbench) and split the piece into 1/4’’ billets. These are your (slightly oversized) wedge blanks.
For shaping the wedges, you will need to make a simple block with a notch sawn out of it. You rest the wedge against this block when you shape it with a chisel.
Secure your wood block in your vise and lay the wedge blank flat on it.
Use tapering cuts to make the wedge shape. I don’t use a mallet for this step. First, start a cut near the tip of the wedge (closest to the block). Then move slightly away from the tip and make another cut. The third stroke starts around the middle of the wedge and last stroke near the end of the wedge.
Turn the wedge over and make the same tapering cuts on the other side. It takes about two times on each side to make a wedge, depending on how much material you take off. Better to take it slowly if you’re a beginner.
I usually make a bunch of wedges rather than making just enough for one project. Even if you don’t make that many pieces of furniture, it is nice to have some extra wedges on hand.
Re-using old wedges
After I trim the tenons on my chairs, I don’t throw the excess away. It is very easy to make another wedge out of them, providing they aren’t too short. This is another reason to make your wedges slightly longer to begin with — you might get two or three uses out of it.
Place the amputated-tenon-wedge on your block of wood and use a chisel and mallet to chop away the bits of tenon glued to the sides. They should come off easily. Mind your fingers as you do this step. I find it easiest to rest the back of my chisel against the wedge and tap it from above.
Re-shape the wedge as described above, using the wood block in your vise. This only takes a stroke or two, so you have a new set of wedges in no time.
Using scraps as wedge material
I often have pieces of oak leftover from chairmaking or other projects. This is perfect material for making wedges. Part of an old oak leg or stretcher can be an excellent source of wedges. I have also used old oak tool handles and offcuts from levelling chairs. Make sure the wood is in good condition, especially with older tool handles.
Saw the wood across the grain into the length of your wedge (1-1/2″ – 2″) and shape it as described above.
Making wedges with an axe
I made my first wedge when I had to handle an axe and needed a wedge. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing at the time so I grabbed an oak stick and shaped it into a point on one end with my single bevel hatchet.
Once you glue the wedge in place, you can saw off the excess and make it into a point again. Et voilà: Another wedge.
This method is very useful if you need to make wedges that are significantly wider than the wedges you normally use for chairmaking. And they can be used for splitting logs if you make them big enough.
Some uses are:
Wedges for axes / adzes
Wedges for thick table legs
Wedges for yo momma’s a$$
–The wedge tip has become too thin at the tipor the tip is bent over: Place the wedge flat on your block and use your chisel to remove the tip (across the grain). Shave the wedge again if too blunt.
-The wedge has curved grain: Curved grain is not a big problem in riven wedges. I have used wedges that had a crook in them without any issues.
-I am having a hard time shaving the wedges to their desired thickness: They come out too flat. It is a common mistake to take material away evenly over the whole wedge. Use tapered cuts starting from the tip of the wedge and only remove a little material at the butt end.
Have anything to add about making wedges? Let us know in the comments section!
Editor’s note: Due to extensive work on “The Stick Chair Book,” it’s been a little while since we published a chair chat, today we are back with a Swedish chair assembled with Fish Glue and primitive IKEA joints. Salty language about pizza, electrocuted meatballs and potatoes will follow so be warned. For those who are easily offended, here is a video with a dog on a plane instead.
Editor’s note: Here at Chair Chat Headquarters, we love wonky chairs. In fact, the weirder the better. So even though we might say the chair’s finish looks like it came out of someone’s butt, we honestly wish we could go to the store and buy a can of McSharty’s Brown Chair Wax.
As always, Chair Chats are not for the sensitive. Do not read this aloud at your local day care center or at your prayer breakfast. That never goes well (sorry, Rev. Mauze).
Rudy: Do we still have time for another chair?
Rudy: The torched hedge chair.
Klaus: That looks VERY torched.
Rudy: From Far West Kentucky.
Chris: So far east that it’s west. This one screams “messed with.”
Klaus: So west it’s east and then west again.
Rudy: And I love the way it looks. So it is probably a fake.
Chris: I know. I am so jaded. Same thing. If it sucks, it’s real. If it’s nice, it’s fake.
Klaus: The hands are very nice on this one. Uncommon.
Chris: I’ve not seen hands like that.
Klaus: Through tenons on the crest. Nice.
Rudy: And look at that tenon that bulges out of the arm. It says “Look, I am really old!”
Klaus: Yeah, that’s a fat tenon for that arm. It’s putting on a fake limp. Making its voice sound so old and weary.
Chris: The arm has fallen. I think it might be legit.
Klaus: We’re so cynical.
Chris: I had this problem on my prototype. If the arm falls at the back, it will eventually come down at the front.
Rudy: True, the long sticks don’t swell enough under the arm to really support it.
Chris: That is what I fought with. It’s a tricky detail with these chairs.
Klaus: That’s interesting.
Rudy: The crest looks steam bent. I thought the Irish vernacular chairs only rarely used steam bending?
Chris: The crest could be cut from solid. That’s very common in Irish chairs.
Klaus: It has the same kind of legs as the one from our last chair chat. Chunky, almost square, and a crude tenon that almost looks like it’s whittled.
Chris: For me the most unusual part of this chair is the arm shape. I’ve not seen one like it.
Rudy: The arms sure are a funny shape. Not entirely unlike Irish arms. But then odd.
Rudy: With all that wear, I find it funny to still see a chamfer under all those years of paint. I would imagine it would have been rounded off by now?
Chris: It could be a stripping gone awry. The chamfer on the top of the seat is a bit unusual. And the angle at the back of the arms too.
Klaus: But a nice detail.
Chris: I like it. You see it more on modern chairs.
Rudy: the chamfer is just so visible and constant. Weird.
Klaus: There’s something timeless about this chair. I love it.
Rudy: Almost no splay, just some rake.
Chris: Also unusual: The seat shape. Square at the front. Rounded corners at the back.
Rudy: You’re right, I didn’t see that. Most of these have square corners all around?
Chris: Or rounded all around. Just a lot of little oddities on this one.
Klaus: Is that front left mortise hollow?
Rudy: It sure looks like it. Perhaps the leg came loose
Chris: I suspect the leg was repaired.
Klaus: They inserted a new one, you think?
Chris: Leg came out. They stuffed cloth in there and couldn’t get it seated all the way. Very common repair and very common problem.
Chris: I think a Chair Chat with Claudia Kinmonth would…get us thrown in chair jail.
Rudy: Haha. She would be interesting to talk to!
Rudy: Why would they not remove the cloth to make the leg fit? And did they wedge the leg in or did they just leave it in there loose?
Klaus: You mean they stuffed cloth in when they hammered in the legs in the first place? I’m not following.
Chris: To tighten a leg they would wrap some cloth around the tenon and add some glue. Then pound it it. Once it’s in, it ain’t coming out. So you only get one shot until the leg comes loose again. The cloth is the repair.
Rudy: I see. Have you tried that kind of repair yourself too?
Chris: I haven’t tried it. But you see it a LOT on old chairs. There were five or six at St Fagans that had this sort of repair. Like the chair went to the loo and still had some toilet paper stuck to its tenon.
Rudy: That is very interesting.
Klaus: Cool. I’ll look out for it. Never seen it.
Chris: Once you see it, you’ll see it a lot. Anyway, could be wrong. Maybe the chair took a COLD shower and it’s tiny tenon shrunk up.
Rudy: In freezing cold Ireland.
Klaus: I hear it’s cold in Far West Kentucky.
Rudy: Have you seen this type of repair with sticks, too, or only with legs?
Chris: I can’t recall seeing it on sticks. Most stick repairs are snapped sticks that get repaired with a branch or a bolt. Sticks don’t come loose too often.
Klaus: That outer left stick looks like a branch. Look at the tiny knot:
Rudy: I noticed that too! In line with West Irish Kentucky chairmaking traditions.
Klaus: Could be just a wonky shave.
Chris: Nice catch. Looks “stick-y.”
Klaus: Sure does. And it’s more organic looking than the others.
Rudy: Now that you have torched a chair Chris, does this finish look familiar?
Chris: A little. This one looks like they applied stripper and scraped it until it got like this. It doesn’t look like a naturally aged finish.
Klaus: It’s still a nice finish, though? I like it.
Chris: Sure! I like grungy finishes.
Rudy: New or old, east or west, real or fake, this view is a seller:
Chris: I wouldn’t kick this chair out of bed for eating crackers. But it has too many little “that’s odd” things about it that make me prefer the box chair from our previous chat.
Klaus: That’s a great stance. It’s got personality. What would this chair’s name be if it was an Irish person?
Klaus: First name Cracker. Cracker McWonky.
Chris: McWonky with the Broken Left Arm
Rudy: Cracker McWonky with the Broken Left Arm and the sticky stick.
Chris: That’s it!
Klaus: That’s the title right there.
Chris: Ole Knot in the Back.
Rudy: There is a pub in Dublin called “Y’ole Knot in the Back.” Probably.
Klaus: HAHA, I bet there is.
Chris: It’s also a term of endearment. “I’d like to fondle your ole knot in the back, lassie.” Or it’s the Irish G-spot?
Rudy: Man, your Irish is so good!
Klaus: I like it when ya tickle my ole knot, young lad!
Chris: That’s what the priests say.
Rudy: There are a lot of priests in Ireland.
Chris: And a lot of knotty wood. (Naughty wood).
Klaus: McKnotty wood.
Chris: I’d like to put my tenon in your knot hole. In your feathered crotch.
Klaus: Hahaha. You can’t say that on television.
Rudy: You can in Ireland, I think.
Chris: How about tongue in groove? The chair was made of Naughty Pine.
Rudy: With a butt joint.
Chris: Nailed that butt joint! And this is where Claudia calls the police.
Rudy: I found the info on the chair! Check it out:
True Early 19th Century Irish Antique Primitive Armchair
This is an honest, late Georgian Irish antique country armchair, not to be confused with the large amount of fakes around. This Irish primitive antique armchair is a good, large size, it features a thick elm seat, shaped arms and a comb back rest. In very good solid condition and in the original paint finish. A lovely sculptural looking country armchair that has four stick legs, again all honest and original. Dates from around 1800-20.
This is a post about the cover of the forthcoming book, “Guerrilla Chairmaking.” Though there is no release date for the book yet, the cover is done. Rudy Everts has written a blog entry on how he made a relief carving for the cover of the book. And no, it’s not a gorilla hammering in a chair leg “à la John Brown” with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
When Chris asked me if I could make a relief carving for the cover of his upcoming book, “Guerrilla Chairmaking,” I was extremely excited and a bit nervous. Having one of my carvings photographed and printed on a book cover is something I never dreamed of, and I am very honored.
After I got the measurements of the book from Chris, I ordered some linden roughly that size. I wanted to carve the relief as close as possible to its final printed size. If you enlarge a small picture of a relief carving it becomes a blurry mess. Better to carve it a little oversized and shrink it for the print to makes the details crisp.
Planning the Carving
We started by deciding what chair to use. We considered the painted version of Chris’ Darvel chairs as well as the ones with a natural oil finish.
The orientation of the chair was an important point to consider. The beautiful head-on chair print by Molly Brown that adorns the cover of Good Work was still fresh in my memory, and I figured a relief carving would be the most striking in three-quarter orientation. We eventually agreed to use the three-quarter Darvel in natural finish.
Carving the Chair
Relief carving a chair with an undercarriage was something I had previously avoided. The middle stretchers are carved in end grain and I was afraid they would be too fragile. Not wanting to start off with an impossible task, I decided to carve a quick sketch of the undercarriage on a piece of scrap linden scrap.
This little sketch came in handy during the carving process. I could see exactly how deep I had to remove the wood and what leg should go in front of which stretcher. I discovered that the end grain of the stretchers is not that fragile, as it is fully supported by the background.
In retrospect I wish I had made a sketch for the seat, sticks and arm too because that was actually where the most difficult part of the carving ended up being. It’s funny how you can be intimidated by the wrong thing sometimes.
Saddling the Seat
The saddling of the seat, making the spindle deck and the edges of the seat were the hardest part of the carving to get right.
The deepest part of the carving is only about 5mm (3/16” deep) so there is not a lot of playroom for errors.
I carved the sticks with a V-tool initially, but I was unhappy with them. I then used a wide chisel for the short sticks and a 60mm (2-3/8″) wide plane blade to make them perfectly straight.
I used horizontal raking light in a pitch-black room to catch any errors. Note how shallow the carving is.
Once the seat was saddled and the sticks were nice and straight, the crest was a breeze to carve.
The Back of the Carving
I usually like it when something is present on the back of a carving. Too many times I have turned over a carving only to find nothing there. Or worse, a generic stamp, indicating it was mass-produced. I had gotten a lot of practice relief carving the chair, so why not relief carve something small on the back as well?
The Lost Art Press dividers were a beautiful thing to relief-carve. And in my opinion they really finish the carving.
For the tool nerds among us (that includes me) I will list the knives and gouges I used for this carving: The #5/12mm was used for all the background removal. Two Cherries straight carving knife 3363 for all the stop cuts. A #9/11mm for hollowing out the seat. Bench chisels, 22mm and 32mm, and a 60mm plane blade for making the sticks straight. A #3/06mm and #3/10mm for smoothing the background (used upside down to make the sticks round). A #2/2mm, #2/10mm and #2/4mm were essential in clearing the tiny cavities between the sticks, together with the #1/3mm and #1/5mm. Besides these main tools, I also used specialty tools in hard-to-reach areas, like a long bent straight-edge 1.5mm chisel. I used a small glass scraper to smooth the sticks.