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Roorkee chair without a lathe

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Project by bonobo posted 05-01-2021 12:37 AM 1142 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Decided to make a couple Roorkee chairs from Chris Schwarz’s Campaign Furniture book. Also watched his video on Popular Woodworking, which was a big help with the leather working.

The legs are tapered European beech and the dowels are some kind of maple (store bought dowels that I tapered with a plane enough to fit the Veritas tenon cutter). I may replace them with something harder eventually because even though they’re strong, the tapered tenons have deformed a tiny bit and it might just get worse over time. Pick a very hard wood if you’re going to make one for yourself.

I tried a lot of varying tensions on the seat and thigh strap positions but didn’t find the chair to be as comfortable as I’d hoped. Even with the back seat rung being lower, my butt kept sliding forward and losing circulation. I’d say it’s “have a cup of tea” comfortable but not “watch a movie” comfortable. I made a wedged cushion and that helps a lot. I haven’t oiled this one yet but the leather will get a fair bit darker/browner after that.

The leather is Tandy’s Oak Leaf veg tan. I opted to learn some stitching to double up the arm straps but the project is designed to be all done with rivets.

If you have a lathe and a drill press, this should be a pretty low stress project.

EDIT: in case anyone is researching these with the idea of making one, I finally got it comfortable by cutting a 16” wide x 12” deep piece of plywood, upholstering it with 3” foam on top and then sliding it under the seat, resting on the adjustment belts. I have the thigh strap above it. I secured it I place with a few screws through some unused belt holes. I’m very happy with it now but would recommend using a dyed instead of natural finish veg tan leather because on such big surfaces, the leather doesn’t patinate evenly. I would at least use a darker leather on the arm straps, which absorb the most body oils.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht





8 comments so far

View swirt's profile

swirt

6779 posts in 4251 days


#1 posted 05-01-2021 02:11 AM

Nice work on that. It’s a great looking chair. Sorry its not as comfortable as you’d hoped. That is the tough thing about chairs. It doesn’t take much to make them uncomfortable. It’s really hard to hit the sweet spot.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

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pottz

21222 posts in 2264 days


#2 posted 05-01-2021 03:15 AM

nice work looks beautiful.i was looking at it and would have guessed it was comfortable,but sitting in it is the only real test that matters.still some beautiful work.

-- 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 bonobo's profile

bonobo

341 posts in 3336 days


#3 posted 05-01-2021 03:38 AM

Thanks. Everyone else who’s built it said it was comfortable, so I must be an outlier. I figured it was worth mentioning as a data point. I’ve had a tailbone issue since hurting myself as a kid, so I’ve always needed to tilt back my task chairs pretty considerably, If you’re in that demographic, I’d stay away from the Roorkee. The cushion does help a lot, so I’ll keep them around.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View pottz's profile (online now)

pottz

21222 posts in 2264 days


#4 posted 05-01-2021 03:41 AM



Thanks. Everyone who s built it said it was comfortable, so I must be an outlier. I figured it was worth mentioning as a data point for people researching Roorkees as an option. I ve had a tailbone issue since hurting myself as a kid, so I ve always needed to tilt back my task chairs pretty considerably, If you re in that demographic, I d stay away from the Roorkee. The cushion does help a lot, so I ll keep them around.

- bonobo


me too broke my tail bone when i was about 12 had issues for many years but now no problems.so ill avoid that chair i guess.

-- 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 sepeck's profile

sepeck

523 posts in 3420 days


#5 posted 05-03-2021 04:46 PM

I made one several years ago for camp chairs for myself and my wife. I ‘like it’ but honestly the angle is way to steep for me. I need to get around to making one where the seat is level or at most a 1” difference front to back. That way I am more upright.

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

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bonobo

341 posts in 3336 days


#6 posted 05-03-2021 08:36 PM

Interesting to know. It makes me feel better about posting a contrary opinion on them. I’m sure I’d checked yours out along with others posted on LJ and people seemed unanimously pleased with them. I guess it’s hard to please every butt, because I’d want mine to tilt back more in order to stop settling forward.

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View sepeck's profile

sepeck

523 posts in 3420 days


#7 posted 05-04-2021 04:04 PM

Comfort is very subjective and while there is a definite range where most people will be comfortable, most is not all. Certainly my wife really likes the angle as Chris Schwartz used, I find it’s ok, but going off the measurements of many directors style chairs I find a more upright angle is better for me long term. The nice thing about the design is there is a certain amount of latitude. Also if you look at various pictures, I think most were more flat then angled.

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

View livewire516's profile

livewire516

120 posts in 1140 days


#8 posted 11-21-2021 03:00 PM

Love it! Good for you for not letting a tool keep you from making something you want to make. I too made my first Roorkee before getting a lathe, but I was less willing to change the design and it was a PITA (and being one of my first real WW projects, admittedly turned out pretty rough).

I love the look of the legs here. I’m tempted to replicate it in a future Roorkee/Safaristol myself!

You bring up a really good point about body oils and discoloration over time. Patina tends to be desirable, but not if it’s due to back sweat! I’m still figuring out what finish works best but I’ve been most happy so far with Feibing’s Tan-Kote after treating it with pure neatsfoot oil. Beveling and burnishing the edges was also something I played with on it chair. I guess I wouldn’t consider it a must, especially on the parts of the chair you cannot see, but I think it’s a nice touch for the arm rests in particular.

I agree with you and Sepeck, the seat angle in Chris Schwarz design is as reclined as I would ever want it. I actually took mine on the road for work, and it’s lounge position was a great place for naps but I don’t enjoy sitting upright in mine for very long.

Since making my first, I’ve studied up a lot about the working characteristics of leather. I plan to be a little more aggressive in wetting the leather slings at the points they fold around the wood frame. I also am going to the expense of buying sides and cutting the seat from the rear, as close to the spine as possible and cutting straps in orientation the hide most resists stretch. This definitely isn’t the most economical use of the hide; that’s a decision we each have to make but if you plan to use the chair a lot, it’s sad to watch it stretch as much as my first one has.

I think the chair’s design/comfort has the most room for improvement in shaping the uprights that form the seat back. With my first chair serving as a mule, I plan to soon play around with a forward curve to bolster the lumbar area and then relieve, perhaps even widen, the top of the seat back around the shoulders. I’ve also considered making the seat back out of two or more panels – not only could this allow for less wasteful cuts from the hide but also greater design freedom to make these things more comfortable.

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