Bannister back chair – front assembly – makin’ parts

Before starting on the actual front posts, I turned a model of the post and carved a model of the Spanish foot.  This insured that things were going to go together as planned and it allowed me to “warm up”.  At seventy, contending with some nerve damage, I need all the “warming up”, I can get.

While the Spanish foot looks difficult to carve, it’s really pretty straightforward.  The basic shape is cut on a band saw, using the same layout method employed when making cabriole legs.  It requires very few tools to carve.  BTW, there is NO standard Spanish foot!  Flutes, ridges or any combination of the two have all been mixed and matched to create a wide variety of individualized designs.  That said, remember that structural integrity is critical.


Here’s the rough carving.  I’ll leave the tool marks in the fluted areas, but the convex surfaces will be cleaned up a bit with a fine riffler and a little light sanding.


The main stretcher on any bannister back chair is always an attention getter.  These eye catching features take the notion of decoration way over the top!  You could club someone into submission with this monster!  Another point of interest worthy of note is the wide variation in color of the three pieces below.  They are all local black walnut.  The stretcher is older growth that was stored in a barn for years.  It is much finer grained and has an obvious reddish hue.  The posts are turned from younger, faster growing stock and are “bluish”, or “purply”, as some of us like to call it.  These color differences in walnut are usually determined by the mineral content of the soil in which the tree has grown.  But the atmosphere of the building in which lumber has been stored (especially long term) can also have an effect.  A piece of American White Oak may be “passed off” as English Brown after 15-20 years of storage in the loft above a working stock shed.

In any event, I’ll have to make a decision as to whether or not I try to balance of the color differences with staining or simply let the varying hues “age together”.


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4 Comments on “Bannister back chair – front assembly – makin’ parts”

  1. Jack Plane Says:

    Nicely done.

    If you have the patience to leave the assembled chair in the open air for a week, the differing colours of the walnut components will even out.
    The same goes for mahogany and most other tannin-rich woods.

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Hello Jack,

      Good to hear from you. I’ve used the sun tanning method on cherry. There’s nothing better for developing beautiful color in that species. Surprisingly, I’ve never tried it with walnut. But, you’ve never led me wrong. So I’ll be putting the “white chair” out on the drive (surrounded by barricades). Have you started building a Marathon Cart yet? Long email to follow.


  2. Brian Eve Says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I agree that over time the color could even itself out. All wood turns brown, eventually.

    Nice work! I haven’t heard of a Spanish foot before. Could you point me to some examples?

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Hello Brian,

      One of the best resources of photos of furniture with Spanish feet is the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Book on Seventeenth century and William and Mary furniture. It is available online. While you can’t copy anything, you can peruse it in its entirety. Don’t miss the appendices. Full of good stuff.


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