A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Shaker bench gets my own twist

Activity Returns at Rich's Woodcraft

Now that I am back in the shop in earnest, there are several projects that were in progress that I am working on except this is one that was an add-on. This project was completed in early in July but had to wait to be posted as this was a gift for a wedding, and the gift was just delivered. My wife's niece was getting married and we discussed making something for her, we thought about many things, but settled on a featured piece of furniture that would stand on its own without having to coordinate with other pieces such as a bedroom or living room.

Inspired by Contemporary masters

We absolutely love the shaker style bench I made almost 20 years ago from a Woodsmith (Issue #88) magazine plan and used this for inspiration for the design. However, I had 20 years more shop experience under my belt and this one would be my own design. I drew inspiration from masters in this area such as Thomas Moser and Timothy Clark; both contemporary builders for whom I have a great deal of respect. Both of these guys are very successful making nice stuff for a discerning clientèle.

This shaker bench, built in 1995, stands sentry at the entrance to our home.
Providing a drop spot for nearly 20 years of groceries, schoolbooks and tired bodies.

Many of the features I designed into my dining room chairs could be used here and this made the design and subsequent build very straight-forward. I wanted the legs to be wedged through tenons and reinforced with the mortised bracket I used for the dining chairs. This allowed me to use my bending forms for the brackets as well as the mortising jig I made to inset the brackets into the legs.

I've Got Wood!

I recently purchased a complete flitch of 8/4 Walnut which included some boards almost 20" wide and this compelled me to make this bench from Walnut, rather than the traditional Cherry; the leg brackets would be Walnut as well and the legs and spindles would be the creamiest coloured Maple for maximum contrast.

Test fitting of tenons after drilling, note that seat carving
is not complete yet.
The through holes in the seat were drilled from the bottom side before the seat was carved just to make it easier to position on the drill press using my positioning forms and if there is any tear-out, it would be carved away later. This picture show the test fitting being done.

The legs here have been rough turned to 1.5" diameter and the tenon has been shaped using my Lee Valley 1" Tenoning bit on the lathe.

The holes have also been drilled at 10 degrees for the 17 back spindles.

Legs from dining chairs showing leg bracket mortised into leg.
This structure provides plenty of support for many years of sitting.
The plugs have yet to be trimmed flush.

The legs were final shaped with only a bit of taper down to 1.25" at the bottom, keeping it more or less flat where the mortise goes into the leg for the bracket. This is beefier than the dining chairs, since there is only four legs for 50" of bench.

The brackets for the bench legs made from Walnut and were screwed and plugged into the leg mortise - similar to the chair legs at left.

The bracket is then screwed, glued and plugged to the underside of the seat, providing that smooth down under look - like a Ken doll...

Underside view showing brackets and one coat of Deft to minimize
dirt marks on the legs. This is all done before the top is carved to final shape.
About that hole - stay tuned...
The major challenge with this piece was carving the seat and having it not suck... I had done lots of carving for chairs and rocking chairs, but the challenge here was having the carving be flat over roughly four feet of distance. I carved the main depression for the bum-area the normal way with the Kutzall on the angle grinder and smoothed the few humps I had with a scraper. The front half was rough carved with the sanding wheel on the grinder and then I used the 4-foot level to gauge the flatness of the horizontal aspect and levelled it out. Then I moved to the 80 grit disc on the Festool RO 125 to do the final smoothing - all outside to deal with the copious amounts of dust generated.

The finished seat with legs attached and single coat of Deft to seal the seat to help with any
glue squeeze-out from spindle gluing.

Underside of bench showing detail of bracket attached to bottom and mortised into leg.
For me production line work is always a chore, I don't like doing something more than a few times; turning the 17 spindles was a challenge. I use a multi-step process to ensure homogeneity and to get the tenon sized exact. I start with 3/4" square blank and knock the corners off on the tablesaw. Then using the LV Tenon cutter I cut a 5/8" diameter tenon on each end, using the Oneway chuck to hold the opposing end. Since there is quite a bit of setup involved I made 20 spindles to deal with any blow-ups, and at this point they are 1" over-length. While I am tenoning, I choose which end will be the crest rail end and put a 3/8" tenon with my LV tenoning bit on this end. This is where tenoning both ends earlier helps, the 5/8" round end is much easier to centre on the tenoning bit, it is also less material to remove for this smallish bit, reducing the likelihood of a drama.

The small end is then chucked into the Oneway and the final shape turned with a gradual taper from 3/8" up to the 5/8" section, being careful to preserve the dimensions of the tenons, to ensure a snug fit. In fact the the tenon cutter is set a little bigger than the Forstner hole size so I can sand each one to a super snug fit when assembling. The extra inch is cut off (1/2" from each end) to remove the chew marks from the Oneway and the spindles are complete - BTW, I had one left over, so I needed 2 of my spares - good move!

And the final product....

Side View of finished bench

And from the front.

And about that hole...

Birdseye Maple insert engraved with important information!!
Hopefully this bench will outlast all of us and leave an impression for generations to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment