Chippendale Chair Set – Collaboration to completion

Seven years ago, my friend Les received devastating news that he had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer.  The medical team told him to “get his affairs in order”, indicating that they were not very hopeful about the outcome.  Well, after surgical procedures, chemotherapy and massive radiation, Les has been cancer-free for several years.  Fortunately, he proved the medical team wrong.

At the time of his diagnosis Les had been working on a set of Chippendale chairs, two arm chairs, two side chairs.  When I asked what it would take to complete them, Les pointed out that “all of the tough stuff was done”, meaning that all of the compound mortise and tenon work was complete.  So Les, Scott and I pulled them out of the pile, identified all of the components and agreed that this should be one of our next projects to complete, during our weekly get-togethers.

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Above are the four chairs, dry fit.  The little Spanish footed table has been sitting around the shop for quite some time and will doubtless be the subject of future posts.  Structurally, the chairs need center stretchers and the arm chairs will require the manufacture and installation of  stumps and arms.  But Les was right, most of the tough stuff is done.  The splats are pierced and carved and the crest rails will be terminated with a simple, graceful knuckle.  The material is birds-eye maple (get out the kerosene for carving).

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Future posts on this project will feature carving, fitting, assembly, finishing (staining, glazing, lacquering) and upholstery.

Knowing that the three of us working together are “as slow as molasses in January” (due to being side tracked by discussions on materials, methods and funny stories), I suggested that we should establish a goal for completion.  Certainly Christmas would come much too soon to get all of this work done, so I proposed that we use St. Patrick’s Day as our date.  Les looked at me and simply said, “what year?”

It’s good to remember that this is an endurance race, not a sprint.   Much more to come.

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5 Comments on “Chippendale Chair Set – Collaboration to completion”

  1. ctregan Says:

    Great story. I think the carvings would be the “hard part”.


  2. About three weeks ago, one of our best friends was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and given “a couple of days in hospice”. For once the doctors got it right. I had about ten minutes with him before he left ICU, and he asked me to take care of his Japanese tools (unbelievable collection) and finish up some projects. None of us are ready to begin…
    I think what you are doing is remarkable, all of us are going to leave some unfinished work, what better way to remember a friend.

  3. Robb Smith Says:

    Get out the kerosene? I don’t know what that means. Does maple carve easier with a tool that is wetted in kerosene?

  4. Les Elsie Says:

    Sorry. Didn’t read the query close enough. The wood is wetted with the kerosene giving it some lubricity. Now, if you wanted to dip your tool in the stuff is probably wouldn’t hurt. Just don’t create any sparks!


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