The Non-Electric Chair

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Blog series by lethentymill updated 07-30-2009 01:09 PM 16 parts 24253 reads 36 comments total

Part 1: A daydream, a tool chest and a blue shed

08-04-2008 11:14 AM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

I set myself the project of making a chair from a tree without the use of electricity or machine tools around a year and a half ago – and recorded some of my thoughts as I did so. Since joining LJs, I felt that others might like to read my ‘story’ of the non-electric chair. The story is still ongoing; additional video clips and images can also be found here A DAYDREAM, A TOOL CHEST AND A BLUE SHED I don’t remember which came first – the fantasy or the tool chest...

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Part 2: My hoped-for end result

08-04-2008 01:43 PM by lethentymill | 4 comments »

I thought it would be interesting for other Lumberjocks to see what it is that I am attempting to achieve. The image below is a chammer carver chair; it is the fifteenth project in the Lethenty Mill furniture making course. (Apologies for the small image – I don’t currently have a better one.) In this blog, I am attempting to make a chammer carver chair by hand, i.e. without the use of electricity or machine tools.

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Part 3: The Island

08-13-2008 10:57 AM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

The “Island” is the land that accompanies Lethenty Mill. It stretches from its widest part at the Mill to its narrowest about half a mile up the Lochter Burn. It used to be very important to the Mill; water was collected in a long narrow channel leading to a dam near the Mill, and it could be released into a variety of channels under and around the Mill which were arranged to feed the water to the two water wheels or back into the water course (the Lochter) if the system was full and li...

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Part 4: In Which We Get Down To Work

08-19-2008 09:00 PM by lethentymill | 2 comments »

You may be wondering when I am going to stop daydreaming and get on with making a chair. The short movie that I produced to accompany this entry provides a ‘short-cut’ to the main action! It’s just that I know that some people are going to ask “What’s the point in making furniture by hand?” and I think that it’s difficult to explain, I certainly can’t put it in a sentence. I have read entire books by people who have tried to answer this question ( e.g. David Pye – “Th...

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Part 5: Cleaving Wood (part 1)

08-25-2008 11:32 AM by lethentymill | 0 comments »

So far the tree has been felled and the trunk has been cut into suitable sections. The chair I am going to make is Project 15 in the Lethenty Mill series of furniture making projects; the back legs are actually 900mm high, so the sections of tree need only be 1m long (to allow for shakes and discolouration on the ends when dry), however I am going to play safe and go for 1100mm. This blog installment is quite detailed, if you just want a quick overview of what I’m doing, have a look ...

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Part 6: Cleaving Wood (Part 2)

09-10-2008 10:36 AM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

In the tool chest I have a collection of antique tools which is comprehensive enough for me to be able to take squared off, straight pieces of wood, make them into chair components and then make them into a chair. I will discuss the contents of the chest in a couple of chapters, but the problem at the moment is how to produce the straight pieces of wood! We take this for granted – just visit the timber yard or run a piece over the planer and it’s done. In this project, where I have left m...

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Part 7: The Blue Shed

09-15-2008 09:39 PM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

In some ways I would be proud to have “Bodger” on my CV. The gentlemen who made chair spindles in the beech woods in and around Buckinghamshire when Charles Dickens was writing were called Bodgers. It’s hard to see where the connection with “botching a job” comes from but there probably isn’t one, apart from the fact that they come from the same, older, root. Bodgers were not “botchers” or “butchers” or “cowboys” even, they were skilled woodsmen who cleaved beech wood and then turned the...

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Part 8: The Toolchest (Part 1)

09-30-2008 03:23 PM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

“Maybe he was a pattern maker”. Alexander, my oldest son, is an engineer and was looking at the collection of gouge chisels as I put their tray back in the chest. I was wondering why Mr Wake had so many gouge chisels and whether that was a clue to his job. All the tools in this chest are marked “C Wake” but I know nothing else about him, except for what I can guess from the chest and its contents. “You just want to show off your collection of tools, that’s why you’re doing these arti...

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Part 9: The Tool Chest (part 2)

10-20-2008 05:05 PM by lethentymill | 2 comments »

You can’t do a project like this without being impressed by the beauty and brevity of the names of the tools. No fancy Roman or Greek words, they’re all earthy old Anglo Saxon or old French: Adze, axe, awl, wedge, mallet, froe, to say nothing of scorp or felloe – I could go on and on, but as we are coming to “saws” and “planes” and “braces”, I thought this was a good time to bring this matter up. The age of these words indicates the venerable history of these tools. I looked a few of th...

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Part 10: Waiting for Beech To Dry

11-16-2008 05:23 PM by lethentymill | 2 comments »

Leaving the tool chest for a moment; we go back a few years to the Domesday Book and 1086 and an interesting fact – 13 saws were recorded in the kingdom, bowsaws were common at the time so what kind of saws were these? Probably not sawmills; mills are mentioned aplenty and millponds too but they were agricultural mills. These are probably pitsaws, a gruelling job for two men; one of them in the pit and the other steering the two-handed saw and balancing on the level tree-trunk as they r...

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Part 11: Breaking out the Beech (part 1)

01-14-2009 12:48 PM by lethentymill | 2 comments »

The timber is still moist to the touch and heavy, probably about 28% moisture, but it will be easier to cut in this condition and will dry quickly with a smaller cross-section. It is time to rough-cut the components. You may remember that I have already selected and prepared pieces for the main members – the back legs. All this hand-work makes you think of efficiency in a way that you may never have thought of it before. If you have ever cycled around the countryside and taken a wrong t...

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Part 12: Breaking out the Beech - Part 2

02-09-2009 12:08 PM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

I have to “rough cut” the curved pieces of the chair now and, to come back to the jig-saw question, you can’t use a jigsaw to cut a curve in 90mm beech. Admittedly it’s not very easy with a bowsaw but it is possible. What if you halved the piece of 90mm wood, cut it with a jigsaw, and glued it back together again? – Yes, you could do that; but there isn’t a jigsaw in Mr Wake’s box, nor is there a power point in the shed. End of discussion. The other alternative, if you remain uninspired...

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Part 13: Making the Chair (Front Frame)

03-03-2009 12:42 PM by lethentymill | 4 comments »

I wish I knew more about mushrooms and toadstools; Inkcaps appear from time to time, and rubbery, orange or brown alien things are there in the short grass some mornings and gone a few days later. Wrens are bobbing about outside the window today looking for insects in the bushes, maybe it’s the “flying school” wrens – they’ll be around all winter as they don’t migrate, and in the spring (RSPB website) the males will build several nests and the female will choose the nest she likes best. “W...

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Part 14: Making the Chair (The back frame gets glued up and the chair comes together)

04-09-2009 11:07 AM by lethentymill | 3 comments »

There are some jobs that must be done as you go along; they will be very difficult to do once the back frame is glued up.Unfortunately, I am one of those people who must see results and can’t wait indefinitely to see a frame going together. Apart from the fact that I think someone said “A decision deferred is a decision well made” I have two excuses for this less than grown up behaviour.a) Sanding every square millimetre can be pointless if it turns out that there is a final curve or detai...

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Part 15: Making the Chair (Fitting the Seat and Arms)

07-20-2009 01:07 PM by lethentymill | 10 comments »

I closed the shed in October last year and took the toolbox inside as I had no intention of working through the winter on this project – even though it was near completion. The cold damp air is not good for the wooden tools and they deserve better at this stage in their lives even if they have withstood worse in the past….. So Christmas passed, then January, February, March; finally in mid-April, I re -installed the toolbox and started work again. The frame of the chair was already glu...

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Part 16: Enthroned at Last

07-30-2009 01:09 PM by lethentymill | 1 comment »

OK, it had to be sanded and damped and sanded again before it was ready for oiling, and it had to be oiled a couple of times before it was ready. I will oil my beech chair again, and the elm chair too, in a few weeks and build the finish on both over the years to keep them looking bright. It feels pretty good to be sitting on the chair but I’m reminded of King Canute. Did he really think that he could command the sea to stop encroaching on his shore? I looked it up and it seems that ...

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