Posted tagged ‘balustre back chair’

Bannister back chair – dry fit back assembly

September 29, 2016

Today was fit up day.  The good news is that everything seemed to fit pretty well.  Assembly required only a little gentle tapping.  The rear seat rail is of white oak.  Reason being?  It was laying under the lathe.


The rear of the crest rail is straightforward.  Piercings are “heavily” beveled.  The “flower” at the top is developed on the back.  A closer look at the balusters will show a lamb’s tongue on the lower pommel.    I’d like to say that this was a critical design consideration.  But the truth is that I inadvertently bumped the pommel with the tip of a skew as I was moving the tool rest.  Lesson:  don’t move the tool rest while the stock is turning.  Lesson:  Turn an accident into a design detail….


Tomorrow starts the front assembly.  Whew, this fast paced production is wearing me out!

Bannister back chair – Progress – When is it enough?

September 27, 2016

A question that craftsmen have asked themselves, for time eternal, is when have I done enough.   Obviously, when you’re working for a client the answer is, simple, when he or she is satisfied.  But when you’re doing something for yourself, not being driven by a profit motive, but guided by your passion for the craft, the question can be much more difficult to answer.  However, I concluded long ago that I will never reach perfection.  I try to hold myself to a fairly demanding standard.  But, I’m comfortable having that little talk with myself in which I say, “good enough.”  I’ve also learned another important lesson.  I simply mention to folks that everything looks better if you step back about ten feet.  I have no doubt that I’ll do a little more cleanup, but I’m calling the crest rail carving “good enough.”  I’ll be finishing the chair with five or six coats of “watery (1/2# cut)” shellac.  It will make the carving “pop”, really POP!


Right now, there’s nothing but a wash of turpentine on the carving, just to bring out the color.  It also makes those little areas that need touching up very apparent.  Umhhh…maybe I’m not quite done with it.


Bannister back chair – roughing the crest rail

September 23, 2016

I love to carve.  But, I certainly wouldn’t call myself a carver.  Most of my carving has been limited to architectural details and small work on furniture.  At first look, the baroque acanthus crest rail on this project was more than a little daunting.  But the more I studied the photos, I became aware that it was actually pretty straightforward.  The are three (maybe four) basic elevations, each designed to “pull details forward”.

The first task was to cut out the “piercings”.  I was going to do this with a coping saw, but Les offered his scroll saw.  Not too reluctantly, I accepted his offer.

Then the actual “roughing in” began.  This process allows me to come to an understanding of where the elevations are, where I need to make transitions, etc.  The good news is, that if I make a little mistake, I can always go a bit deeper when doing the finish work (thank goodness).


I didn’t have a photo of the back of the crest rail.  Fortunately, the construction details are to be found in the excellent tome offered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

BTW, This book is available for viewing, in its entirety, on the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website.  It’s an incredible resource.  It ain’t cheap, but it’s an excellent reference book for anyone building (or simply interested in) period furniture.

The top “bell flower” will be mirrored on the back side.  As in the original, the piercings will be given a broad bevel, just to give the back a little interest.  After all, not everyone can set next to the wall.

The project is going reasonably well.  For once, I might actually complete something on time.  But, you never know what might come up.


%d bloggers like this: