Desk Chairs #5: Curved Back Splat

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Blog entry by EarlS posted 01-06-2018 03:43 PM 1097 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Curvy Chair Backs Part 5 of Desk Chairs series Part 6: Tapered Legs and Pyramid Schemes »

I actually looked up “splat” to make sure I was using the word properly. Splat is defined as “a piece of thin wood in the center of a chair back”. I guess that can be the word of the day.

After the mortises were cut in the crest rail and back rail in the last entry, I moved on to the details for the curved back splat.

There are 3/8”x 1-1/4” beveled spacers that fit into 1/8” deep slots in the 5/8” x 1” pieces. The slot ends 1” from the top to provide the 1” open square. I was skeptical about how they would look at first but the final piece makes the extra effort worth it.

Here is a video of Kevin Rodel explaining how he makes the curved back splat.

I followed his approach to making the 5/8” pieces, milling them to thickness and cutting the 3/8” x 1/2” tenons with a dado stack on the table saw.

The 3/8” wide, 1/8” deep slot was made by setting a up 1/4” router bit on the router, set back 1/8” from the fence. The router will be cutting along the inside edge of the piece. I marked a stopping line 1” from the end of the top of the piece. I also marked the fence so I had a visual marker to reference as I ran the piece through the router. Don’t forget to account for the diameter of the bit.

The first pass was made from the right side of the router, with the top stop mark on the piece at the furthest end to the right. Make sure the piece is on its side. The narrow profile of the side made holding the piece difficult. I used my Microjig Grr Rrippers so I could keep even pressure on the top as well as keeping the piece tightly held against the fence while keeping my hands away from the bit. Push the piece through the bit carefully as the bit rotation can pull the piece through the bit. Stop when the mark on the piece lines up with the mark on the fence.

For the second pass, you could rotate the piece 180 degree and the run it through from the right side but lowering the piece down onto the bit squarely and securely is a real challenge. For better or worse, I pivoted the piece 180 degrees and ran it through from the left side. The stop line should be on the left side of the piece. Make sure you have a stop line on the fence for this cut as well. Keep the piece tightly against the fence and well secured.

The two inside 5/8” splats have slots cut into both sides and the end pieces only have a slot in one side, though you need to make sure you cut the slots correctly for the left and right splats. After the work on the router is finished, square up the slots with a chisel.

Now that the 5/8” splats are complete, the 3/8” splats can be completed. There is a 2 degree bevel on them that provides the curve to match the curve of the crest and back rails. The video and instructions suggest using the joiner to make the bevel. I’m not one to try and push a 3/8” x 1-/1/4” piece of wood across a joiner blade so I pulled out the Wixey digital angle gauge and tipped the saw blade 2 degrees. I started with an oversized, 1-1/2” wide, piece, cut the bevel on one side, set the fence to 1-1/4” and cut the bevel for the other side. I’d suggest marking the front side of each piece so you don’t cut parallel bevels (I may or may not have done that).

Dry fit the splats into the crest and back rails. After sanding everything to 220 grit, the 3/8” splats were glued into the slots, and the tenons were glued into the mortises on the rails. Once again, check orientation on everything. When I dry fit the pieces, I incorrectly had the crest rail on the bottom of the slats. The 1” openings are on top.

Important note: The rails ARE NOT glued into the legs yet. The legs are there to make sure everything fits and stays square.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can get the write-up for the leg tapers finished and posted. Maybe someone can tell me how to rotate pictures too…..

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

6 comments so far

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4573 days

#1 posted 01-06-2018 04:10 PM

This is really looking great! Thanks for making my Saturday morning coffee break!

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View pintodeluxe's profile


6320 posts in 3828 days

#2 posted 01-06-2018 08:09 PM

Great idea making the beveled cuts on the tablesaw. I winced a little when I read the Rodel article and plans suggesting the jointer for making these angled cuts. I respect Kevin Rodel, and really like most of his creations, but he is braver than I am around a jointer.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View WhattheChuck's profile


451 posts in 4575 days

#3 posted 01-07-2018 12:53 AM

Nice write-up. Now I gotta think about all this!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View TungOil's profile


1383 posts in 1510 days

#4 posted 01-07-2018 01:15 AM

You’re making good progress Earl, looks awesome!

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View pottz's profile


15006 posts in 1999 days

#5 posted 01-07-2018 02:07 AM

earl I’m very glad too share my nervousness with you on this part of the chair building getting ready to make the back slats on my maloof chair,and yeah I’m a little nervous myself buddy.but hey ill get it done and youll get it done very well as your showing us,so thank you for giving me the chest butt I need to go forward with confidence.thanks bud!

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View EarlS's profile


4313 posts in 3363 days

#6 posted 01-07-2018 12:40 PM

I’m not really sure why Kevin Rodel chose to use the jointer instead of the table saw for the bevels. The table saw option is a lot safer and you can use the fence to get the exact width on every piece.

I actually tried one piece and it chattered and fluttered so bad it scared me. It was also difficult to hold the piece against the fence while maintaining enough downward pressure on the jointer knives. It took 2-3 passes to get a complete beveled edge as well. I’ll stick with the table saw for bevels like this. At least I can say I tried it and went a different route.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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