Adirondack Chair #11: More Arm Work

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Blog entry by Scott R. Turner posted 02-09-2014 10:48 PM 2173 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Bending the Arms Part 11 of Adirondack Chair series Part 12: Lessons Learned »

It’s been hard to get any long stretches in the workshop lately, but when I look back I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit.

After bending the arms for the chair, the next step was to inlay the compass roses. (In retrospect, I might have been better off fitting the arms to the chair and then inlaying the roses rather than the other order.) I marked a reference point on each arm and then taped down the stars to keep them from moving and carefully marked them onto the arm.

Then I sharpened my chisels and defined the edge of the inlay. I place the chisel just inside the marked edge, strike down, and then relieve the cut from the inside.

I go around twice to take this down to the approximate final depth. This is pretty finicky work and takes a while. I took a long break between the two arms to let my eyes recover!

For my practice rose I took out the interior waste with a router plane, but my router plane is far too big for this inlay, and I found it pretty hard not to damage the points. So for these inlays I got a router base for my Dremel tool from Stewart-Macdonald. I suppose I could have gotten a small router plane and maybe I will eventually, but this worked very well.

The inlay was about 3/16 of an inch deep. I still managed to ding some of the points.

For the first rose I repaired these dings after the rose was inlaid. On the second one I was smart enough to make repairs before the inlay.

It’s pretty trivial to trim back any dinged point, glue in a little block, and then cut it to recreate the point. With a little care to match the grain the repair is invisible.

Before gluing in the rose, I took a sharp chisel and tapered back the edges so that it would wedge in. Then I slathered everything in glue and clamped it up.

After the glue had set I sanded the roses flat to the surface of the arm. I wasn’t too certain of my ability to hand plane them down without breaking off points or tearing the grain (which goes literally every direction in the rose!) so I stuck with the orbital sander.

The next step was to attach the arms to the chair. There’s no photographic evidence, but this was a tense and aggravating process. I spent a lot of time with the sander trying to get the tops of the arm supports flat, without complete success. On one of the sides I had to glue in some shims after I had inadvertantly rounded off the side support. The T shape of the top of the arm supports just didn’t lend itself to getting a consistent result. Eventually I got it close enough and quit, figuring that any additional work was only going to make things work. This isn’t a joint that is visible, but I’m worried about getting a good solid join.

After that the challenge was to sink two dowels through the arms and into the supports. I had to do avoid the area of the inlay, and (since the dowels will show on the top of the arm) keep the dowels symmetric and in a please arrangement with the rose. Oh, and keep the arms consistent on both sides of the chair with how far forward they extend, how far inward, etc. I made a simple jig to help with that part and then did the dowel holes by blind (careful) measurement. I was really afraid I was going to end up having to make a new arm. Or two. But in the end it turned out fine.

You can see that it’s close enough to be visually symmetric. Pfew! In these photos you can see that the roses got a center inlaid. I did this on the practice rose to cover some problems where all the wedges came together. These roses didn’t have that problem, but my wife liked the center inlay so much that she wanted it on the real roses. This is fairly trivial—just drilling out a proper sized hole and inserting a dowel. Fortunately I have some walnut dowels on hand from a previous project. Since this is end grain, it looks darker when it is finished which is a nice touch.

Next up is putting the last support on the back—this is the one the arms will attach to, so it can’t go in until the arms were done—and trimming the top of the back to a gentle arc. But it’s starting to look like a chair!

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