Friday, July 26, 2013

Legs and stretchers

Well, the legs and stretchers are more or less done, for now. As with the spindles, the legs and stretchers are left slightly oversize, then finished after they've dried. I don't have a kiln, so I'll probably let these dry until next summer. Thus, the chair project will be on hold for many months…but I'll be working on some other fun projects in the meantime. Below are the rough turnings for one chair.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A toolrest for chair legs

To turn the legs and stretchers, I had to haul my old Craftsman lathe out of mothballs. I think I paid $75 for this lathe, about 15 years ago, and I haven't used it in nearly that long. After mounting it on a shopmade stand, and hooking up the ancient motor, I was thrilled to find that it still works! Ah, they don't make 'em like they used to. The next task was to make a proper toolrest. The stock toolrest on this, or really any lathe, is about 12 inches long--not nearly big enough for chair work. I got some good ideas from blog posts by Caleb James and Tim Manney, then designed my own version.
As the pictures below show, I made two riser blocks that straddle the tube. I installed 1/4-20 threaded inserts in each, then screwed on a straight, flat 2 x 4 that is slotted (so it can be adjusted closer/farther from the turning axis). Last, I bolted a piece of 1 1/2 steel angle on top. The tool rest on the edge of the angle. This is a very simple rest, and is not height-adjustable, but it works great for the task at hand. I found that it helped a lot to file the edge of the steel angle flat and smooth, so that the tool does not catch as it moves back and forth.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shaving spindles

Over the last couple weeks, I've been shaping the spindles for my chairs. It's been slow going, partly because of work etc., but also because the process itself is time consuming.
I began by drawknifing the spindle blanks so they are square in cross section.

You can probably see that the spindle is a bit crooked. This is intentional: The idea is to rigorously follow the grain, even when it curves, so that the strength of the piece is not compromised. If necessary, the spindle can be bent later.

The drawknife is very aggressive, and makes a lot of shavings. My wife suggests that I display this as a piece of installation art:

Next, the spindles are tapered, and the edges chamfered to form octagons.

Now the spindles go up into the attic to dry for a couple months. It's good and hot up there, and I've  installed a duct fan for ventilation, effectively turning the attic into a low temperature kiln. Time to turn (no pun intended) my attention to fixing up my old Craftsman lathe, so I can rough-turn the legs and stretchers.