Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 1, 2nd prototype.

I'd planned to go into the shop tomorrow, but won't be able to, so I went in today. I started with the beam at left. It's 12/4 Ash, 8 inches wide, 8 feet long. Before too long, it was broken down into smaller pieces, and I went from there. A big chunk off of the end became front legs and arm blanks. Back legs have been cut out and roughed out.

There will be a few things changed from the last iteration. Most importantly, I think, the back will be lowered. That should make it a much more comfortable chair to sit in. But most obviously will be the fact that I only had so much wood, so instead of a wooden seat, it's going to be upholstered. The wood I have will make a frame that will hold a a slip-seat. (basically, a cushion built on top of a wooden frame.)

Because the seat is being built differently, I had to do some head scratching to make sure the leg joinery would still work out ok. It took some thinking, but I think it'll work out ok. I may change my mind on that later. I need to go look at my books some more to make sure I'm not way out in left field, but I think I'm getting this right. I did end up wasting a lot of time with the head scratching though, because it came right in the middle of breaking down the lumber. 8 days ago (last time I was in the shop) I'd had a much different idea of how I was going to put everything together, and I got away from that today. I have 2 other smaller chunks of ash that I can use to fill in if I need them, but I'd like to get this right the first time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crazy week

So, a lot has been going on, haven't been able to get to the shop this week at all.

Friday will be different.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time to build a chair

So, in the background behind the most recent chair is a beam. It's 8" wide, 8 feet long, 12/4 Ash.

It took me something close to an hour to figure out how best to break it down, so that I can minimize the amount of waste that's involved in the next chair.

And, as I get the kinks worked out, I've also been making a hell of a mess on some old C/DX plywood with magic markers, trying to figure out how to alter my patterns and such.

Lame post this time, but I spent most of the day in the shop without anything worth taking a picture of.

Anyway, stay tuned... new chair work coming soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The chair is done. Time to build a chair.

So the prototype is done. It sits ok, but it has issues. It's a little prone to tipping over now that the back legs are trimmed to a good length. The seat angle is comfortable, and encourages the sitter to slump comfortably in the chair... only it's not so comfortable to slump in. Originally, the back of the chair was supposed to offer back support, but I mounted it too high, and couldn't find a reasonable way to add spindles or re-mount the back. I'll figure something out at some point, but for now, I've already learned a lot about chair design that's going to go into the next chair, so the mindset right now is that I'm not going to put too much more effort into something that has already consumed so much. There's little to be gained (Aside form a more comfortable chair) from trying to get much more out of this iteration. The next version will be better.

I've pulled out an 8' beam of Ash that was in the racks, and the debate now is, do I buy more lumber for a full wooden seat, or do I buy webbing, and go for an upholstered version?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Learning, always learning...

This chair prototype thing has been very educational. That is, I'm finding new mistakes every day.

Yesterday, I did a lot more shaping, and I trimmed the back legs. I trimmed at a pretty steep angle, taking something like 4" off of the legs, and a few things became immediately apparent.

-The seat angle was VERY comfortable. That said, I do still need to resolve the back support issue. The seat board does a great job of scooping a person off of their feet, but there is a very pronounced (and well enunciated) need to have something to finish the scooping job at the back end of the chair... and preferably in a way that is as comfortable as the rest of the chair.

-The seat is too short, as the back legs contact the floor at a point that is forward enough to render a very tippy feeling chair. Great if it's a rocking chair. But not entirely comfortable, since it's not.

-The back legs aren't curved enough, or aren't curved in the right direction. They curve downward, and meet the floor at something close to a 90 degree angle, instead of curving/canting back, and adding more stability.

-The front legs are now at a very rakish angle. This may be normal, I'm not sure, but it does look a little weird.

I will say that the whole exercise has been great, and it's got me thinking about other designs, and how else I would make the chair. But it also has me thinking that, long-term, I'm going to have to incorporate wood-bending into my designs, so once again, the onus is upon me to go looking for logs. Sighhhhh...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vein slapping junkie

So, I've been using the bench I built last year for a while now. It's great, I love it.

But, my recent foray into chairs, and chair shaping has gotten me thinking again. You see, I've been sitting on yet another vise for a while, that I've been wanting to use, but hadn't gotten around to using yet. I've got an Emmert pattern-maker's vise. In essence, these are some of the most versatile vises known to man, and they can swivel in several different directions. In short, they're perfect for weirdly shaped parts, such as those that I'm making now. And I've found myself thinking about it while shaping these parts.

Installing one of these monsters is a trial in and of itself. That's one reason I'd put it off. And they're incredibly heavy, and have been known to warp 2" thick bench tops over time. That's why I haven't wanted to mount it to the bench I have now. I've been thinking about mounting it to the Sjoberg that I've been keeping in the machine room, maybe, and swapping benches after that. But I haven't gone through with that yet.

Then I was bouncing my merry way around the web, and was reminded of yet another vise I'd had my eye on for a while... ( and had to pull myself out of my reverie. I think it's quite possible that I have a woodworking tool problem.

"Hi, I'm James, and I'm a tool junkie..."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shaping, scraping, rasping, filing...

Shaping this chair so far has been fun, frustrating, illuminating, educational, and so on.  It's a part time gig, while I look for a new day job, so it's slower going than it normally would be.

I've spent a lot of time working things over with a rasp, which is pretty slow going. I've conceded to myself that this chair is going to take a long damn time. And I'm diligently taking notes as things occur to me, so that next time, I can have a lot more of this work done before any of it gets glued together. There are faster ways to get that work accomplished, but most of the methods I'm familiar with apply to individual parts, not assembled chairs. The moral of the story is that you have to do things the wrong way sometimes to learn how to do them the right way.

On a less fortunate note, as the chair is built right now, it's just not going to be comfortable. The back is set too high to be supportive, and what I noticed when I tried it out is that I end up slumping into the open space underneath the back... which just doesn't make for a good time. So, I'm torn right now. Any fix that I put in place will involve cutting and re-working a partially shaped piece. So, some work is going to have to get edited out... that much is clear. But how much editing, and for what gain, is the real question.

I could saw the back out of the chair, move it down to a more comfortable location, and hope that it'll be a structurally sound modification. After that, I'd have to trim the tops of the legs down some. But I also think the top part of the legs isn't curved back far enough. So even moving the back part downward may not actually solve anything.

Style-wise, I think the legs come up too sharply. If the top section curved back a bit more, I think it would make for a more comfortable chair. But I also think it would help make the arm joint (where the arm meets the back leg) look a little more graceful, if they came together in a way that didn't remind me of someone hunching their shoulders.

I could also work on scabbing in some spindles, to try to add back support underneath the back as it is now, without chopping anything out. I'm not 100% sold on this idea either, though.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Slow, steady progress

The Maloof inspired chair is basically assembled, but there's going to be a lot of shaping to do.

The process so far has inspired a lot of note-taking, and most of it reads the same. "Did this today. Need to do it differently next time." The recipe has been pretty simple: Add one poorly thought out solution to a dumb mistake, and top off with an awkward fix. Repeat as necessary. None of it is really brain surgery, but all of it is pretty necessary, really. I have to work through all of the obvious mistakes, so I can streamline the process for next time. Then I get to tackle the really insidious, not-so obvious mistakes.

BUT, the note-taking has been pretty productive, I have a much clearer idea of what the process will look like next time, which is very helpful. And I think it's going to lead to a lot of design evolutions as I play with new ideas. Once the chair is done, I'll be able to write up a procedure for the next one, including all of the proposed changes, which will hopefully make the next build a lot smoother.

The other problem I've had so far is that I really under-shaped things before gluing up. It's the first version, and that's one good reason, but the truth is, I got ahead of myself with the glue-up. I could have done a simple dry-fit, marked things to be pared away on the band saw, and glued everything up when it was a lot closer to the desired final shape. But, I didn't. I wanted to see how the joinery worked, and have an assembled chair that I could sit in. All things considered, it's not the end of the world. But it is going to slow me down a bit, because I'm going to have to fight tooth and nail through the rest of the work I have to do; chiseling, rasping, filing, and scraping, followed by a crapload of sanding. It's proving to be a good exercise in sculpting, but it's also one I'd like to avoid when I start working with maple, which will be a lot harder to shape than poplar. So, next time, I'll spend a lot more time getting the shape right before I put it together.

Then, after all the sanding, I get to try to put a decent finish on the finished product... which means it'll probably be paint of some kind. For the un-initiated, poplar's not so good at presenting smooth surfaces, so a varnish will probably look horrible. Paint is just thick enough that I might be able to make it work. That, or a skim coat of bondo, and a some auto body touch up paint. Maybe a little bit of metal flake thrown in for good measure... or maybe a flame job...