Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Bird in the hand with a Perch.

Well it's been a few days since Xmas now and the dust has finally settled after a very busy past few months. Lisa and I have finally had a few days to get into the cottage and do some work and it's tracking along nicely, the bad 80's carport came off yesterday and more of the heavy, wavy fibrous plaster found it's way into a skip.
Today though is a day of rest, phew. Time to mow some lawns, get some things done around the rental house and organise myself.  And also go over a few things that I picked up from making the Bird Cage Arm Chair with Peter Galbert just before Christmas.

We started with some fine one piece slabs of Elm from a large log that we milled a couple of years ago now and have been air drying ever since. Slabs of Elm of this quality and size are getting to be a real rarity now, with Dutch Elm Disease and Elm beetles wiping out Elm trees all over the world. Victoria would have to be one of the last strongholds of large old growth Elm trees around now and I certainly prize any logs that come my way for milling. Anyway enough about milling, ( save for another post ) getting back to that chair....

Here is the chair with the stiles/back posts drilled, reamed and seated in the carved seat. The arm posts have also been reamed and seated and those big lumps of oak hanging off them are the blanks for the carved arm holds. When you look at the chair like this it's easy to gloss over just what is involved in getting the chair to this stage. The stile holes for instance are drilled at a particular angle and sight line
( see some of them marked on the seat blank in the first photo ) but are reamed at a different angle. This gives the bent stiles some life and accentuates their fluid lines. No walk in the park there I can tell you!

Then the arm holds have to be drilled and carefully reamed with a cello reamer at exactly the right angle to seat firmly on to the arm post but also end up in perfect alignment with where they will be mortised into the stiles. Those big lumps then have to be turned on the lathe to create the tenon end. A little unnerving when you first see those things 'wurrring' around on the lathe in front of you!

The stiles then have to be drilled to create the stepped mortise hole, which protrudes through the rear of the stile at 3/8" but is a little over an inch at the front. Sorry, Imperial measurement is still like Cantonese arithmetic to me! Of course this mortise hole is also offset one inch to the outside of the arm post, again to accentuate the flowing lines of the chair parts and not make the arm holds look rigid and stiff. Here's another view from the top to get an idea of what I mean...

Here is another perspective of the stile and mortised arm hold, as you can see there are no straight lines here to reference from. In fact it's all done with smoke and mirrors! Ok there's no smoke, but you do use mirrors to drill the mortise hole.

From here the undercarriage is assembled in the usual fashion and glued and wedged into the seat. The steam bent spindles are then roughed into shape and the lower, turned and steam bent crest rail is then mortise and tenoned into the stiles.

After this comes the upper or top crest rail. The set up for drilling the 3/8" mortise into this part is quite complex with wooden clamps, bevel gauges and two sets of mirrors all into the mix. Suffice to say, it's a handful, but executed well the results are terrific with a perfectly mated joint which will later be carved from the big bulbous turning into a false birds mouth mitre joint.

Here you can see the rough turning of the top crest rail on right and on the left the rough shape of what will be carved has been shaped on the bandsaw. The spindles are roughed in here too.

And here is where I got to at the end of five days. All assembled and fitted, spindles mortised through the crest rails and just the false mitres left to carve and some more shaping of the spindle blades. I'm very happy with how it came up. Here's the side view where you can appreciate the steam bending a little more.

Oh and in the moments of down time and just to add a little pressure to the whole situation I made one of Peter's 'Perch' type 3 legged stools at the same time.

 These little fellas are great fun and made to be used in places where you literally just want to 'prop' yourself, like a workshop setting or behind a counter in a shop. I've had a piece of Huon Pine sitting around for years waiting for the right job. So into the perch it went. American Black Walnut for the legs, as a nice chocolate coloured contrast to the golden yellow of the Huon.

It's not oiled yet, there's a little more carving of the seat needed and the legs need to be trimmed to length,  but you get the picture. I tossed a piece of the same Huon to Pete and some New Guinea Rosewood too for legs.

And here's what he whipped up! Finished with Danish Oil it really shines. The contrast of the Huon and the NG Rosewood is magic too. Pete made this one for Lisa as a thank you for all her hard work in marketing his trip, writing press releases to magazines and newspapers and organising the Seminar night on the 12th of Jan. Thanks Pete. It's a work of art from a master chair maker.

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