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Esherick Three Legged Stool #5: Shaping the Seat and Assembly

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Blog entry by Tom posted 10-02-2020 01:52 PM 478 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Stretchers Design and Joinery Part 5 of Esherick Three Legged Stool series no next part

If you look at pictures of Esherick stools, you will notice that the seats have a graceful, organic shape. They also have the appearance of thinness. I am starting with a fairly thick seat blank, so I will try to thin it down a little bit and work the top and bottom to give a more thin appearance. Also, in general, Esherick’s stools appear to have some light hollowing of the seat area, but it is subtle.

I start off by hollowing the seat area while I can clamp the seat in the bench dogs. This project gave me an excuse to add a scorp to my tool collection. I found a good one at Ed Lebetkin’s tools store at the Woodwright’s School when I visited in June. It has a nice shallow curve that is well suited to the shallow hollowing that I need to do. If you don’t have a tool for this, I think you could skip the hollowing or use a palm sander with heavy grit sandpaper to add this feature.

I draw a circle with the compass to help guide the hollowing. Then I worked across the grain with the scorp until I had about 1/8” to 3/16” hollow at the center. Then I used a card scraper to clean up and smooth out the surface.

Next I prepare for the shaping by laying out to block in the main area and cut off some of the waste with a hand saw.

Then I started the shaping with a variety of tools: drawknife, jack plane, chisel, etc. The tool I used the most was a garden variety Stanley 51 spokeshave. I give it a heavy set to take a lot of material in the beginning and then less set to refine the surface. I also removed about 1/4” of thickness with the jack plane on the underside to help thin the seat. I worked both the top and bottom of the seat and try to give it a shapely appearance and some flow. it is not nearly up to Esherick’s standard, but I ended up with a pleasing shape for my first try. I will give the seat a good sanding with a palm sander to smooth everything out before adding the finish.

Now I can prep for assembly. With the legs and stretchers in final position, I mark all the joint positions and trim off the bulk of the excess. I also mark for the wedge kerfs so they are across the grain for the matching piece. Then I disassemble and cut the kerfs about 2/3 of the tenon length. I cut the wedges from some oak scraps and match them up.

Finally, I glue the joints and wedges in place and trim the excess with a flush cutting saw after it dries. I clean up each joint with spoke shave and card scraper. And then sand everything and finish with danish oil and rub on polyurethane.

This was a really fun project and I plan to make another to match in different woods. I encourage others to give it a try. It doesn’t take much wood and you don’t need a lot of tools, but a spindle lathe is really helpful. Thanks for reading!

-- Tom



4 comments so far

View shop_dogs's profile

shop_dogs

3 posts in 2415 days


#1 posted 10-02-2020 10:40 PM

This is awesome, nice work! thank you for posting so much about the process used in addition to the finished result.

View Tom's profile

Tom

164 posts in 814 days


#2 posted 10-02-2020 11:38 PM

Glad you liked it. I hope people give it a try. :)

-- Tom

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile

kaerlighedsbamsen

1349 posts in 2636 days


#3 posted 10-03-2020 01:45 PM

That turned out to be a good looking stool. Do you know if Esherick had any particular meaning with the shape of the seat of his chairs?

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Tom's profile

Tom

164 posts in 814 days


#4 posted 10-03-2020 02:23 PM

Interesting question. I have not seen anything that the seat was shaped for any particular meaning. I think that Esherick was often trying to bring together a natural, organic sentiment to everyday objects. This stool is a good example of that.

-- Tom

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