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Gluing chairs together


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I find making chairs one of the most rewarding things to make but also the most difficult with all the small pieces and almost no 90 degree joints. Over the last two years or so I made fourteen Chippendale chairs, two out of mopani and twelve out of South African blackwood, these woods are not easy to glue and I find it best to glue a join and put it aside for a few hours. With all the angles and curves on the chair I made some simple jigs to keep things in place while the glue dried.


Here are six that I made for a dining room.


I always start with the back leg assembly, I made a jig by cutting a piece of scrap wood to the inside shape between the back legs to help keep the angle of the legs correct while gluing. I then cut two pieces of wood and glued them in place horizontally to help keep the back seat rail and the stretcher 90 degrees with the legs.


A side view, I also glued a piece to the inside shape to keep the back legs at the right backwards angle.


Once the glue was dry, I moved the back leg assembly over to another jig, here I am gluing the crest rail to the back splat. There are pieces of scrap wood under the bottom part of the back splat to lift it up to the same level as the seat rail. Next to the jig you can see one finished. Now was the time to do all the carving on the back splat and crest rail.


I then put the back leg assembly back into the first jig and glued the shoe to the back top rail.


After all the carving were finished I glued the back splat into the shoe and the crest rail to the top of the legs, a few rubber bands are keeping it together while the glue dries.


Next I moved on to the front leg assembly and here are the only two straight forward 90 degree joints in the whole chair. I cut a scrap piece of wood to keep the front legs at 90 degrees while the glue dried.


Here I am gluing the side seat rails into the front legs at an angle, the legs are butting up to the front of the jig to keep it square in relation to the seat rails.


I then put the front legs without glue in place on the back legs and glued in the support piece for the upholstery. Because the sides of the chair is very thin and there is no place for the clamps to really hold, I cut another piece of scrap wood to fill in the space where the cushion will eventually go in to give the clamps a firm hold.


The next step was to glue in all the stretchers, in order to ensure that the stretchers were glued in exactly the same distance from both the floor and the seat rails I once again (yes, you guessed right) cut another piece of scrap wood to keep the spacing correct.


View from the bottom, I glued this in two steps, first just one of the sides stretchers and once that was dry the middle stretcher and the second side stretcher. At this stage I am only gluing the stretchers into the front legs as I still wanted to be able to have the back legs free for cutting the slots for the arm rests.


A set of arm stumps and arm rests pinned into place on the pattern while the glue dries.


And finally the front leg assembly and back legs are glued together. The same spacer woods are used again, here you can see there is a thinner piece just under the seat rails, this is to keep the back and side seat rails at the same level all around.


Lastly the arm rests were glued onto the two carver chairs, here a few Lego blocks with a piece of scrap wood keeps the arm rests leaning out at the correct angle. And how do I keep the bottom of the arm stumps in place against the seat rail, holding it with my fingers for a few minutes, there is just no place for any clamps.

If anyone would like to know how I made all the parts for the chair, you can read more about the chair on my blog.


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This is great, it is one thing to make chairs sit right, it is a whole different thing to make sets of them sit right and the same!

I could be biased about this, that style of chair is my favorite! I like it so much I have a real period example from Philadelphia circa 1770 in original finish.... And I sit in a repro at my computer.

I would think mopane wold be the perfect wood for this, why did you make a set out of ebony?

On my list of things to to is to copy my chair, this will go with the architects table I just finished.

Great method for jigging and gluing these......

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I will make my own set of two chairs out of mopani, the chair in the photo of the original I send to my clients was very dark, one of them asked if I could make it in such a dark wood, I said I had black wood, she thought it would be cool, the rest of my clients liked the idea too, carving the black wood was no fun, you know how hard it is...would love to see your real chair, I could never find a decent close-up of the crest rail and haven't seen a real chair in our antique shops.

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