Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair #1: Introduction

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Blog entry by Grampa_Doodie posted 12-26-2012 05:34 PM 19716 reads 38 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Class On Kevin Rodel's Side Chair series Part 2: The Back Splats »

This class will show you the steps that I took to build this really beautiful side chair designed by Mr. Kevin Rodel.

Here’s a photo of just some of my chairs sitting around our kitchen table.

I’ll be sharing several good things (and a few bad things) that evolved down in my shop while building ten of these gorgeous chairs. Hopefully you will walk away with a handful of tips that will make your chair building session a much more pleasant experience.

I learned an unbelievable amount of woodworking skills while building these chairs, and would love to share them with you over the next several class chapters.

Future eBook:

Above and beyond this class, I also hope to some day put together an eBook for this project. (For those of you who don’t know what an eBook is, it’s a very cool interactive digital book that you can copy to your computer for viewing. It will have photos and live links that make this class even easier to follow.)

If and when I get permission to post my eBook, I’ll certainly let everyone know where they can go to retrieve your free copy.

My woodworking background:

Woodworking came somewhat naturally for me. My dad and his dad were woodworkers/carpenters. For many, many years those two guys, along with my grandpa’s brother, built several houses in our little town of Stillwater, MN. (My wife and I currently live in the very first house my dad built when he was a very young man in 1948.) I learned a lot by not only watching them, but also by attending wood shop classes throughout high school.

If I were to give myself a skill rating on a 1 to 10 scale, I’d have to give myself a 6 on an average day in the shop. Like most woodworkers, I have my good days and of course those days where I end up with lots of scraps that end up in my smoker. I’ve spent days in my shop where I’ve “felt” as if I were a 7, along with many, many days where I was actually a 4 or 5.

Now that I’ve successfully completed these 10 chairs, I think I can safely move myself up to a solid 7. This project is a great “confidence building” project, and I’m extremely pleased with the outcome.

Thorns amongst the roses:

This “dining room/kitchen chair” project took flight long before I built our dining room and kitchen table. Our dining room table had no plans. It was pretty much developed out of lots of sketches and a wee bit of brainstorming. The kitchen table however, was built from plans that nicely compliment this chair design.

The horrible mishmash of chairs that currently go around those two tables were in deep need of being replaced by something not only more pleasing to look at, but much more importantly, comfy enough to sit our butts upon.

Enter Kevin Rodel’s beautiful mission-style side chair. Once my wife and I decided to go with a mission style kitchen table, then choosing to build Mr. Rodel’s chairs became a very simple decision. Plus prior to building our kitchen table, I had decided to implement the details found on the backs of Mr Rodel’s chairs into each end of our kitchen table. A perfect marriage indeed!

Note: Mr. Rodel’s side chair was featured in Fine Woodworking’s magazine issue #190. You can also purchase full-sized plans at the link below. (Highly recommended.)

Choice of wood species:

Seeing that nearly every piece of woodworking in our house is made from cherry, it was yet another simple decision to stay with that species of wood for our ten chairs.

This leads me to problem #1. I’ve always had great difficulty finding nice, clean (read…knot free) thick cherry in my part of Minnesota and Wisconsin. There’s a very nice lumber mill near Spring Valley, WI that I’ve dealt with for decades, but they deal with 4/4 stock only. I found another wonderful lumber mill in Courtland, MN that also has beautiful cherry, however their 8/4 cherry has lots of sap wood in it. Plus it was hard finding wide enough boards that would yield more than one rear leg per board. (The rear leg layout tends to produce lots of waste due to their bent shape.)

Decisions, decisions:

After probably way too much thought, I decided to glue up both the front and rear legs with very nice, clean and planed 5/4 cherry. The disadvantages? Much longer build times, and the “change in grain” between the two laminated boards is, at times, very visible. Not a deal breaker for me. The contrasting grains on the front and rear faces of both sets of legs have now turned out to be quite interesting, and pleasant to look at.

Here’s my theory. If anyone complains about their appearance…they can sit on the floor. :)

My strategy:

Now that I have the plans taped to the wall of my shop and a truck load of cherry stacked high on my workbench, it’s time to dive in and fire up the planer.

I decided to build one chair from start to finish…for two main reasons. The most important reason? I had to prove to myself that my skill level was up to par to take on this fairly large (and difficult for me) project. Second reason? It’s always nice to have something to glance over at (and take measurements from) during the several stages of creating nine more chairs.

Without a doubt the most important thing I learned from this project boils down to three very simple words. Consistency, consistency, consistency!!

You’ll hear me preach a whole lot more about these three words in later chapters.

This class:

Creating and sharing a woodworking class is new to me, so please bear with me. My intent is to bring you several sessions (or chapters) that will deal with the creation of every single part that make up this great chair. (And there are many, many parts!!) In my particular version of this chair, I believe there are 38 parts made from wood.

I took many, many photos throughout this project that will hopefully help you understand how I built my set of 10 chairs.

I’ll try my very best not to be too long-winded. (Something that comes very naturally to me while sitting at the keyboard.) Hopefully each session will be short and sweet. Much shorter than this one. :)

Sessions: (or Chapters)

And finally, the following will most likely be the titles of my upcoming chair-building sessions. (Not necessarily in this order.)

Rear Legs
Front Legs
Front, Rear, & Side Seat Rails
Back Slats
Upper & Lower Crest Rails
Lower Stretchers
Floating Tenons
Seat Base & Corner Braces
Final Assembly & Finishing Steps

I hope you enjoy the ride…

Dale “Grampa Doodie” Peterson

-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

6 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6378 posts in 3898 days

#1 posted 12-26-2012 07:07 PM

Really looking forward to this one. I have some experience building chairs, and know how challenging they can be. I also have the Rodel chair plans, but havn’t made any yet. The compound angles on the rear stretchers make that one a real challenge.
Keep us posted!

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

View Jero's profile


79 posts in 4072 days

#2 posted 12-26-2012 07:31 PM

2 years ago I attempted to make the Rodel chairs. Had some nice thick white oak lumber, and didnt make it past the rear legs. Learned quickly about making templates, and utilizing a router table. I screwed up most of the legs in learning phase. Realized that they were above my level at that point. Havent tried to make them again, although they’re on my “to-do” list yet. Cant wait to hear your words of advice and knowledge!

-- Jeremy - Marshfield, WI

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4644 days

#3 posted 12-27-2012 01:54 AM

This is awesome! I’ve got the plans and the wood. I guess I’ll work on something else until this blog is finished. I really appreciate the effort it takes to follow through on projects of this magnitude (making the chair and the blog).

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

View Grampa_Doodie's profile


163 posts in 3383 days

#4 posted 12-27-2012 02:42 AM

I’ll try to hurry to the end Captain. :)

You’ll absolutely love these chairs once you’re done.


-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

View inchanga's profile


117 posts in 3198 days

#5 posted 12-27-2012 03:20 PM

The chairs look great. Really looking forward to reading the rest of your blog

-- chris, north wales

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4967 days

#6 posted 12-28-2012 12:34 AM

This will be great to watch. I built on a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun. I could see making more, and once you have the templates, a lot of the work is done. But I will not minimize the work involved.

Good idea of the thickness glue up, that helps the wood purchase a lot. Even though I live in cherry country, thick stuff is hard to find.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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