Recreating Rohlfs - Tall Back Chair - Part 2

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Blog entry by Woodbridge posted 07-23-2012 01:30 AM 3130 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I came back from my course last Sunday and got back down into the workshop to begin work on my Charles Rohlfs Tall Back Chair reproduction. At the same time I am also building another reproduction of Rohlfs 1898 Desk Chair.

In the preceding weeks I spent a lot of time developing the plans for the Tall Back chair; using the photographs of the chair and some key dimensions to scale the other dimensions and make the plans.

One day I’ll give sketch-up a try, but for now I’m content to use paper, a pencil, set squares, French curves, etc. to make up the drawings. The most recent edition of Popular Woodworking had a timely article on drawing ellipses, something I had forgotten from my high school drafting class days in the late seventies.

From these drawings I used my printer to make enlarged full size copies. For example the drawing of the side is at ¾ scale. When I copy it and enlarge it by 125% and the result is a full size copy. Since my printer/copier can only handle letter sized paper I have to piece the copies together to make the full sized drawing.

I modified the design of the bottom back stretcher slightly from Rohlfs original chair, adding a point to the middle section, instead of the straight profile on Rohlfs chair.

To get the shape for the carving on the side of the chair simply traced them from the photographs and in this case reduced them to actual size when I made the copies.

The pattern for the back was made by tracing shape directly from a photograph of the back and then successively enlarging the tracing on the copier until I got it to actual full size.

Finally the last pattern I made was for the cross stretcher that joins the two sides together.

Using the various paper patterns I made plywood templates for each sides, front, and back pieces.

I spent a considerable amount of time piecing together the other small walnut pieces I had left over from the rocker to make up the boards needed for the other parts of the chair. Each side is made from four pieces, which in turn were each glued up from smaller walnut boards.

I had a 2 X 8×60 inch piece of walnut left over from my Malolof rocker build and various other small pieces of walnut. I resawed the 2 inch thick piece into two boards which I book matched to form the back. The grain pattern of the book matched walnut matches the shape of the back quite nicely.

Using a flush trimming bit and the pattern I routed the two sides.
I left the decorative portions at the 12 o’clock, 4 o’clock and eight o’clock positions roughly cut and will go back later and trim them to their final shape

Similarly I rough cut the front rail and back stretcher at the bandsaw them routed them out using the pattern. For the bottom stretcher I glued a copy of the pattern to the wood blank and cut the basic shape out with a jig saw and band saw.

I made a mistake when cutting the front rail to size and made it too small. I had to sort through my walnut scraps to find more wood. I found a nice piece of ½ inch figured walnut which I resawed and book matched for the front of the rail. I then found some other pieces of walnut enough to make a few ¼ inch strips. I ran out of walnut and had to laminate a ¼ piece of ash into the middle to make up the ¾ inch thickness of front rail.

So, I have all the parts and pieces of the chair cut out to their rough shapes. I’ll need to spend some time at the spindle sander to clean up some of the curved cuts. The next step will be to finish cutting out the more detailed portions of the various pieces, make a more detailed pattern for the back, cut out the details of the back and do the rough assembly. I’m saving the detailed carving work for the last step in this build process.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

2 comments so far

View ruddy's profile


550 posts in 3475 days

#1 posted 07-23-2012 03:08 AM

I have pulled up a chair and have a front row seat to watch this. Looking forward to the next episode.

-- And my head I'd be a scratchin'

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4941 days

#2 posted 07-23-2012 11:46 AM

very good, I’m with Ruddy, can’t wait for the next installment in this series.
Well done,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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