Popular Woodworking 2009-04 № 175, страница 19

Popular Woodworking 2009-04 № 175, страница 19

Nails. Period craftsmen tended not to trust glue. At least it was rarely the primary means of holding something together. On the chair I'm copying (and many others like it) the shoe moulding that holds the bottom end ofthe back splat is nailed in place. This could have been an extra security precaution, or it could have allowed the crest rail and splat to be assembled and possibly clamped without this piece moving.

Challenging work. What a difficult and unforgiving joh this is! The gaps here between the crest rail and back splat were the result of poor gluing technique. I'm telling myself this may not look so bad when! carve this surface. I hope you build one of these chairs and I hope your experience is better than mine. If not, know that you aren't alone. I think this is the hardest thing I've ever built.

grain and end grain. It was stupid to put the glue there, and I knew it. 1 didn't take it apart. Once the glue was set up, I attached the crest rail to the back legs.

Eighteenth-century chairmakersin Philadelphia typically added glue blocks behind the back splat to reinforce the joint at the crest rail. These often fall off in time and some restorers seem to have chosen not to replace them. Different chairmakers shaped these differently. Sometimes they are simply beveled. On the chair I'm copying they were rounded. They

Added strength. The grain of these oft-missed and oft-missing glue blocks runs parallel to the crest rail. When present they add additional strength to the upper splat tenons.

may have been rounded with a gouge after they were glued ir place. But they seemed so uniform in size that I wondered if they were shaped with a plane. Thiscould be evidence of the scroll sawinghappeningafter the splat was glued in place. The blocks may have been one long block, shaped with a hollow plane and glued in place before the sawing happened. That would explain the uniformity ofthe glue blocks on my chair.

Leg Shaping

The upper portions of the legs flare outward a little. They aren't just straight tapers. From the crest rail to about 6" down, I shaved the inside surfaces to create a nice curved shape. I then hollowed the outside surfaces of the legs to complete the effect. It's subtle but important. Curved things have a lile to them that straight things do not.

The backs ofthe legs are rounded, transitioning from a nearly half-round shape just under the crest rail to a full rectangle at the rear seat rail. Again, the transition between these shapes is not a constant taper but a curve. This is not hard tc do. Watch the untouched flat surface as you rasp or shave in the shape. The line between the curve and the flat will itself be a curve, not a straight line (indicating a straight transition).

The back of the crest rail receives that curved shape and continues it toward the splat. Although the ribbons in the back splat are not back beve.ed, the crest rail certainly is. Gouge cuts relieve material here, allowing the fine C-scrollsof the front to have much less thickness. The crest rail on the chair I'm copying was relieved to the thickness of the splat in these areas. In these photos, the lower portion ofthe crest rail is rounded. But the

A bit of flair and flare. The walnut straightedge indicates the edge ofthe original jeg stock. The side opposite the straightedge was also shaped to accentuate the flare ofthe top ofthe legs.

upper surface will get rounded as well. I'm just waiting to get a handle on the carving before I do that work. Oh, and 1 was a bit light on the rounding. The back ofthe crest rail above the rear legs has an almost half-round cross section.

Mahogany responds well toraspsand files. While evidence of these tools is not present on ball-and-claw carvings, rasp marks are clearly evident on chair backsand the upper portions ol the legs.


There's no question that these chair backs are artwork. Chippendale certainly thought so. And I think furniture scholars have correctly categorized these chairs according to the designs of their backs and not their legs or any other feature. That tells me the back (and not the legs or seat) is the most important part of this job. The carving will come later, and I'm nervous about that, but this shaping really has to be done just so. The legs must flow nicely into the crest rail. The splat must be sawn to give the illusion of ribbons beautifully flowing, winding their way from crest rail to shoe moulding. If you are wondering what makes these chairs difficult to build, add these issues to your list. PW

Visit Adam's hlog at artsandmysteries.com for more discussion of traditional woodworking 'echniques.

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