Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bar Stools- Back Legs

My latest project is a set of eight walnut bar stools. I'll be making a poplar model as well, as a guinea pig for machine setups. I feel the most critical part is the back legs. They are the starting point for the geometry for the rest of the chair.

They can be cut out of a wide board, side by side or staggered to minimize waste, but I prefer to save wide lumber for tabletops. I cut my legs from narrow 8/4 stock, saving the cutoff for smaller parts like rungs or rails.

I mill it down to 1 5/8" thick, a dimension that works well for the important seat joinery. One edge is jointed straight as a reference against the mitre saw fence. There the ends are cut square and parallel, and all parts are the same length due to the use of a stop block.

A sample leg is made and the profile is traced onto the blanks. The layout is chosen first trying to maintain a long grain line through the part, then by colour.

Part of the strategy of maximizing your lumbers potential is to imagine the part inside the board. The leg shown will have only a small amount of sapwood showing after it gets an inside taper.

Next comes the lower front of the leg. This will be where the side joinery meets the back leg, so it must be true. It will also be the reference for the rest of the legs profile.

I bandsaw slowly and carefully to the line

Then joint straight and square to the side.

After a check against my sample leg to confirm the accuracy of my drawing the back of the leg is bandsawn.

A pile of legs or a pile of arms?

Using my sample leg and a flush trim bit, a pattern is made for the leg profile. The fence registers against the front of the leg, my jointed reference surface. This ensures the legs are consistently sized and orientated.

Climb cutting when appropriate, the backs of the legs are cleaned up.

After another check against the sample the top fronts of the legs are sawn and routed.

Again, the legs are registered off the jointed face. The cut is made from the middle of the leg to the top, to avoid going against the general grain direction.


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I'm a woodworker on the Canadian prairie.