Sunday, October 30, 2011

Building A Queen Anne Foot Stool, part 6

(Go back to part 5)

It's a good thing I finished this project up the other day and got the second coat of tung oil on it yesterday. We have no power now, along with 2-3 million other people in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Last night we got about 8" of snow.

Since the trees still have leaves on them, they got heavily laden, resulting in outages all over the place. Ours went out just before midnight, and may be out for a couple days. I'm writing this at the awesome Life Alive vegetarian cafe in Lowell. Thanks for the free Wi-Fi!

Branches are down and pulling on wires like this all over.

Making the morning cup of coffee with my old backpacking stove.

The last task for the project was to upholster the slip seat. It requires some specialized tools that I ordered along with my upholstering supplies.

Clockwise from left: seat webbing, tacks, tack hammer with one magnetic tip, fabric shears, and upholstery stretcher (no, not some medieval torture device). 

Tacking one end of a piece of webbing to the frame. The magnetic tip of the hammer holds the tack as you take one swing to stick it in place. The tacks have a very sharp whisker tip.

Using the stretcher to tension the webbing so I can tack the other end.

The completed webbing in a weave pattern.

Marking out the burlap with fabric chalk.

Tacking the burlap down over the webbing. This keeps the padding material from coming out the bottom.

Cutting a pad out of rubberized horse hair, a more economical alternative to real horse hair, and probably easier to handle. I'm not sure what this is made out of, but it looks to me like the same stuff they sell for duct filters. I realized later I should have beveled the edges of the pad so they would be nice and rounded under the fabric.

Tacking down the corner of the muslin that holds down the horse hair.

Subdividing each space until I have a tack every 3/4".

The stretched muslin. Note the top edge of the padding underneath visible.

Tacking down the decorative outer fabric, with a layer of cotton quilting batting over the muslin. Tacking always start at the center, then stretch lightly to the corner to avoid wrinkles.

Pulling the corner up tight to tack it down.

The finished slip seat top. It's a little lumpy along the edges, but not bad for my first attempt. That's where I should have beveled the edges of the rubberized horse hair pad.

The last layer is a simple dust cover on the underside. This doesn't have to be as careful a job.

The cover fully tacked in place.

The completed stool before finish.

And finally, the glamor shot that I'll use for the official submission photo. Without power, I had to improvise a photo setup by spreading the white backdrop on the bed headboard and using the camera flash.

The completed stool with two coats of 100% tung oil.

This was a challenging and time-consuming project, but I picked up a number of new skills. The knee blocks added another hour or so per leg. Total time probably came in around 40 hours. The next one will be faster now that I've shaken out the process a bit.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Building A Queen Anne Foot Stool, part 5

(Go back to part 4)

The next day, I worked on the second set of knee blocks, on the adjacent face of each leg. One method that simplified sawing out was to cut straight across all the small concave curves, then hollow them out from the side with paring gouges.

Using a light mallet touch to pare out a concave curve before cutting the knee block square off the end. This is an in-cannel paring gouge.

This knee block needed some adjustment to fit square into the corner between leg and rail. To plane fine shavings off such a small and awkward part, secure the plane upside down in the vise and move the part across the cutting edge, being careful to keep fingertips and knuckles clear.

The glue-up for the four knee blocks, clamps pointing off in random directions.

I let this sit overnight, then started shaping the rough knee blocks to match the outside curves on the legs. Since these are convex curves, they're done with spokeshave and chisels, which need to be sharp.

Putting a freshly honed edge on the tools with fine India stone, hard translucent Arkansas stone, and green chromium oxide rouge on a leather strop block, less than 2 minutes per tool. I had to repeat this several times during the process. The crayon-like wax rouge stick was partially melted working outside on a hot, sunny day.

Using a spokeshave to round a knee block. The pad feet are secured in the front-vise of the bench-on-bench.

Once I've gotten as close as I can with the spokeshave, I switch over to paring across the grain, again using shearing cuts with the corner of the chisel guided by my thumb. Always keep the hand clear of the path of the chisel in case it slips.

At the top of the curve, cutting straight in. As before, this is all done with tiny cuts, using minimal force. Being too aggressive risks tearout or a slip that might cause injury or damage. You also have to be careful around the unsupported end grain at the edge to avoid chipping it off.

This scraper acts as a shield to keep the spokeshave body from marking the rail when it comes over the curve.

Using the chisel back as a reference gauge to check for consistent flat across the leg and knee block.

More fine paring cuts, with the chisel skewed. Each block requires a slightly different approach due to grain orientation and direction of cut. Each one is a new problem to solve.

For the short side knee blocks, a different clamping setup. I clamped a scrap of 2x6 overhanging the end of the bench, then clamped the stool over that.

Paring from the side...

and slewing the corner through the wood.

Applying Phil Lowe's tenon trimming technique: with the width of the chisel lying on a tangent to the curve, pushing the corner straight across.

With the outside curves complete, I worked on the inside curves on the underside of the knee blocks. These had to continue the concave curves of the legs seamlessly.

Using a chisel to bring the end of the block down flush with the end of the curve behind the leg.

Using a shallow sweep carving gouge to take heavier cuts inside a curve.

This proved to be the most effective idea of the day, using the carving gouge with hand pressure to scoop out the concavity a spoonful at a time. The scooping method allowed fast but controlled removal with minimal risk of chipping out the back side.

The scooping action of the gouge left a scalloped surface, but the rasp cleaned that up quickly.

I wish I had thought to use the shallow carving gouge sooner. Paired with the rasp, the two made an excellent team for shaping concave areas quickly, the curved equivalent of jack plane and jointer for flat surfaces. That would have saved some time earlier working on the legs.

Final scraping of all surfaces.

The last bit of shaping was molding the end grain on the top of the post blocks to match the rails. Delicate work, because it could chip out easily, and this is a highly visible spot.

Scribing the rabbet with a marking gauge.

Shaping the top quarter round, using minimum force to take tiny shavings.

Ever so carefully nibbling along with the corner of the chisel to form the rabbet, straight down the end grain. Phil's chisel technique is a versatile one!

After this, I did a little more fine tuning of edges and shapes, and I was done. There are probably a few spots that could use a little more work, but I was worried about overdoing it and ruining something. Don't let the quest for perfection push you a step too far. Better to leave well enough alone.

The absolute last construction step was to level out the feet. Setting the stool on a piece of MDF on the benchtop as a reference flat, one leg was too short by about the thickness of a playing card. Not bad, but I can do better.

This is a trick I picked up from chairmaker Peter Galbert. Since the ends of any three legs define a plane, the fourth leg is the odd one out. Pick the three to keep and identify the fourth leg that is too long; shaving off the length of this one will cause the rest to sit flat with it. Plane it in a reverse-shooting setup: clamp the plane upside down in the vise, and drag the foot across it.

Pulling the long leg across the plane to shave it to length. I did this in three overlapping passes, since this is tough end-grain. Then check to see how it sits on the reference flat, and repeat as necessary until it sits rock steady.

Woodworking completed!

The final task will be upholstering the slip seat.

(Continue to part 6)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Building A Queen Anne Foot Stool, part 4

(Go back to part 3)

Construction of the stool is complete. I just need to apply finish and upholster the seat frame. However, to avoid overwhelming you with photos, I'll split the remainder of the project over a couple of posts.

There are a number of photos of carving steps, to show how creative you have to be attacking the various bits that need to be carved out, while avoiding splits, cracks, and stray tool marks. There are a number of points where I was carving on unsupported short grain, so I had to take tiny amounts at a time.

The next part to work on was moulding the top edge of the rails. The inside is a rabbet to take the slip seat, and the outside has a quarter round and lip.

Marking out the rabbet width.

Marking the rabbet depth.

Forming the rabbet with my wooden skew rabbet plane. It produces lovely ribbons. The first couple of passes need to be done carefully to stay on the scribe line. The rest is fast once the initial shoulder is established.

After taking it down to the proper depth, I laid the piece on its face to square up the side of the rabbet.

I laid my paring chisel down flat in the rabbet to pare in the other direction where the grain didn't allow using the plane.

Forming the lip on the outside face.

Shaping the quarter round.

The bottom edge of the rails have some simple scroll work. Period pieces are shaped to smooth curves on the visible face, then the curves are beveled back and left rough on the inner faces. This can be done with paring gouges or rasps.

Sawing out the curves.

Rasping the curves down to the line and beveling back.

Using the circular spokeshave for fast stock removal.

At this point the rails were complete. The last step before glue-up was roughing out the recess for the slip seat in the top of the legs. I just wanted to remove the bulk of the waste; I would take it down to exact dimension after glue-up.

Chiseling out the waste. This is like chopping a mortise.


The first task the next day was to flush up the post blocks with the rails. This is one of the places where I had to pay close attention to the grain. Being too aggressive will cause tearout in what needs to be a pristine face.

Shaving the block down flush with a small shoulder plane.

Another method, swinging the chisel in a shearing cut while it rests flat against the rail.

Once the outer faces of the post blocks were flush, it was time to finish shaping the inner walls of the recesses. This flushes them up with the inside edge of the rabbets.

Here, I had to be even more careful, because I was dealing entirely with end grain, in a place where any mistake would be very obvious. Any aggressive cuts would likely dig in and run with the grain. At some points I seemed to be working just two grain fibers at a time. This stuff will drive you bonkers!

Coming in straight down the end grain with very light cuts.

Using a skew chisel to come to a crisp inside corner.

Coming in from the side.

Finishing off with the wide paring chisel registered flat against the inside of the rail.

Next was the knee blocks. These are small compound curved pieces that are both decorative and act as supporting glue blocks for the legs. There are eight of them, one for each leg-rail joint. They're quite awkward to work with.

Roughly sawing out a knee block.

After sawing the adjacent face of the block off at an angle, roughly paring its convex curve.

Gluing the block in place. This takes some fiddling with the clamp to make good contact on the side and top of the block. This is one place where the fast setup time of hide glue would be a real advantage.

With one block on each leg and clamps sticking out at odd angles, I built the seat frame while the glue dried. This is pretty basic work, except that it uses bridle joints, and the top outer edge of the frame is chamfered so that it will be flush with the top edge of the rails when set in place.

Chamfering a frame piece.

After sawing down the ends, chopping out the waste of the bridle joint, basically an open-ended mortise.

The frame glued up, with a clamp on the diagonal to pull it into square.

Once the glue on the knee blocks and seat frame was dry, I trimmed up the post blocks and frame so that it fit properly in the rabbet. It needs to sit flat without rocking, with 1/16" space all around for the upholstery material that will be wrapped around it.

Paring out a high corner in one of the post blocks, using the corner of the chisel the same way I used it to trim the tenon shoulders.

Evening out the chamfer at a joint. I also had to plane two diagonal corners on the bottom side to deal with a little twist in the frame and make it sit flat, since my bridle joints were a bit sloppy.

The seat frame resting in its rabbet. You can see the first set of rough knee blocks on the corners.

Next will be adding the second knee block to each leg. Then they all need to be carved down flush with the curves in the legs.

(Continue to part 5)