Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Square pegs

2 slat greenwood style chair

On the 5th day it was time to weave the seat of the chair and attend to the finishing touches, such as glueing leather pads on the bottoms of the legs and fitting the wooden pegs through the slats into the back posts. As my chair was not glued up Jeff gave me one of the 'greenwood' style chairs he had made some time ago to weave in its place.

Drill, square drive, round depth stop and jig for marking drilling positions

First Jeff showed us the process of marking drilling and fitting the square pegs into the slats of the back posts/legs.

 After marking out and drilling, the square end of an old brace style drill bit is driven into the hole, forming a nice square looking mortise. Square pegs a little less than an inch long are then roughly sharpened into semi- round shapes, but left square at the end where they will be visible above the face of the post. 

They are driven in dry and left proud about an 1/8" above the face of the post.  A simple carving knife fashioned out of a marking knife is then used to taper the tops of the pegs into a nice little pyramid shape. It's a great finishing touch.

Nice carving Tony.

Hickory bark is an interesting medium. In fact I don't really think I've used anything similar, perhaps with the exception of leather. Hard when dry, the bark becomes completely pliable and leather like after soaking in water for a number of hours. 

A few future seats worth of dry bark

Being a natural product, the variation in bark thickness and width was immediately apparent and made it interesting to try and get an even looking pattern as the weaving progressed. 

Here you can see the variation in colour between the far right and the rest of the chair.

Curtis had told me a long time ago that Brian Boggs had developed a bark processing machine that produced an exceptionally well finished product. Slicing the bark first into the correct width, it then removed the rough outer layer before splitting the remaining inner bark into two grades of weaving bark. It also wound it conveniently into a roll for drying. 

Said contraption.

Unfortunately Brian does not use the machine much anymore and the product it produced was no longer available. It's a pity as a rocking chair of Jeff's was woven with that product, and the difference was immediately apparent when you compared the two.

Jeff's rocker with Brian's machine cut bark

Jeff first ran us through the terminology of weaving, warps and and wefts and then gave us a brief demonstration before we began weaving ourselves. Jeff was also keen to point out that he had only ever had one previous student who had managed to weave a seat without making a mistake. That sounded like a fair challenge.

On the home straight.

I don't know that it took us too long to weave our respective seats, but it certainly didn't take Jeff long to notice that I had made a mistake in the pattern. Damn. Well, there goes that record attempt. Tony on the other hand managed to get through the entire seat without making the same error. Fortunately though, Jeff showed us how to rectify the mistake and after some clever adjustments it was back to being a perfect pattern.  

That evening we said goodbye to Tony and his chair as he started out on the long drive back to Massachusetts. It was a great week spent with a talented woodworker. He even introduced me to the famous (infamous?) Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich….. which I'm still not sure about?? I'm looking forward to seeing where his two weeks with Pete Galbert and Jeff lead him in the future.

Day six was a packing day. Thankfully Jeff was used to packing chairs for shipping and with some combined effort we managed to pack my chair and a good deal of parts and components for jigs into two boxes ready for the flight back to Australia. The next morning we intended to set off on a journey further South that neither Jeff nor I had previously done. A chair makers pilgrimage of sorts.........


  1. Glen, love the posts on ladder backs. I can't wait to sink my teeth into building one. Logan is fired up to make one as well.

  2. Thanks Greg, haven't got mine together yet, but I'm working on it. Have to make the jigs too, before I forget what they look like! Look forward to seeing some Pennington & Son ladder backs soon mate!

  3. Ditto to that Glenn.That's a very smart looking chair - and one that looks like it might be a bit more forgiving with our timbers. Hope to make one with you sometime soon. Pete

  4. Hey Pete, I hope so too. Good timing with the comment. I have a very shiny new Galbert Travisher here for you Sir!

  5. Glen, the bark seat can be improved greatly by careful sanding with 220 sandpaper to smooth out the surface and remove any stray fibers. Then a very light coat of oil. I do need to pay more attention to only using bark with a consistent color in each seat.

  6. Hey Jeff, Thanks for the tip. Judging by the look of Tony's chair, it's a tip that works well. I'm planning on posting the pic soon.