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Forum topic by bearkatwood posted 08-29-2015 02:41 PM 2333 views 5 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1793 posts in 1463 days

08-29-2015 02:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chairs making chairs seat grinding

HI all, newbie here.
My name is Brian Noel, I am a woodworker with a small shop on the southern Oregon Coast. I have been on here for almost a week now and I had a question about thee way I scoop my seats so I thought I would start a thread on making chairs.
Chairs are my thing, I have been designing and building chairs for over 15 years. I haven’t gotten all my goodies on to LJ yet but you can see my work here; and
If you look through those sites you can see I make all kinds of junk and all kinds of chairs so I have a pretty wide wheelhouse.

So onto how I scoop out my seats. I know I could get my scorp and adze out, but I like a little more energy flying around sometimes.. I love my hand tools and when I can I use them, but there is something about the power of a grinder ripping into a seat blank that is exciting.
I start out with a course carbide donut grinding wheel to rough in the shape which takes about 10 minutes if I get after it. I predrill two holes right at the sit bone area to get my depth and grind down to that and then work over the whole seat. I then bypass medium grit and go right to fine to define the back of the seat. I clamp a pattern to the back of the seat blank to keep me from getting too far back. Then I use a 100 grit sanding disk to smooth it out. I follow that up with a random orbital sander at 100 grit. I don’t consider a random orbital a finish tool at all, it is a shaping tool in my mind. I wrap it all up with scrapers and an air powered bowl sander for the sweep in the back. All in all it takes about 45 minutes for a seat blank from start to finish.

When I design a new chair I like to build a prototype, this one was made from cedar.

So there you have it, how I carve a seat.. I welcome your thought, discussion and questions about chairs. Feel free to pick my brain and I will do my best to help.
Brian Noel
BearKat Wood

-- Brian Noel

44 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2219 days

#1 posted 08-29-2015 05:14 PM

Hey Brian,
Welcome to LJ’s.. I do the same thing with chair seats:


View Tim's profile


3827 posts in 2413 days

#2 posted 08-29-2015 05:28 PM

I love my hand tools and when I can I use them, but there is something about the power of a grinder ripping into a seat blank that is exciting.

That’s really interesting, thanks for sharing your process. I prefer the hand tools so far, but I can see how that would be fun too. I may have to get one of those carbide grinding wheels for my angle grinder and try that out too. I just did my first carved seat for a shop stool using a wide gouge and mallet and I’d like to try out a scorp too.

Question for you, when you say you use a 100 grit sanding disk, is that a flexible disc that goes on an angle grinder? I don’t know if I’ve seen those. And what’s your source for the carbide donut wheel?

View bearkatwood's profile


1793 posts in 1463 days

#3 posted 08-29-2015 08:04 PM

The sanding disk I use is somewhat flexible, they come in a variety of sizes and grits. They have a cardboardish fiber backing. You can use them with or without a hard rubber backer. One thing I like to do is stack the disks from small to a bit larger and it gives a bit of flexibility at the tips so I can smooth the surface into the gutter curve at the back of the seat.
The carbide disks come in a few sizes and coarse medium and fine grits. Some have holes for greater visibility of the work, there is also the chain saw type of grinding wheel, but they can be harder to control. If you are looking to take of a lot of wood in a hurry they work well.

For those that prefer hand tools, hogging out with an adze and inshave or scorp will get the job done in about the same amount of time and follow that up with a travisher and scrapers. Spokeshaves with a curved soles work well, especially those with cranked or removable arms or handles.

As far as suppliers for the disks go, here are some great sites to use. (look for grinding disks) The Galahad and Merlin are the carbide types. The holey Galahad allows you to see the work through the holes as you grind. The lancelot is the chainsaw type.

-- Brian Noel

View bearkatwood's profile


1793 posts in 1463 days

#4 posted 08-29-2015 08:12 PM

When you add some coopering to the chair seat you can get a very fluid, very sculpted look. For my latest sets of cafe style chairs and my bar stools I just slap some 8/4 (2” thick) stock together and grind away.

With these chairs I did more Maloof style coopering and sculpting.

English Walnut office chair with brass casters.

Maple and padauk Rocker with laser engraved headrest.

-- Brian Noel

View a1Jim's profile


117689 posts in 4029 days

#5 posted 08-29-2015 08:30 PM

You guys do great work

Depending how deep the scoop is this might be and option.

View a1Jim's profile


117689 posts in 4029 days

#6 posted 08-29-2015 08:37 PM

Here’s an alturnitive for deeper scooped chairs

View BurlyBob's profile


6384 posts in 2717 days

#7 posted 08-29-2015 08:44 PM

Brian, those are really cool chairs. I’m pretty sure you’ve them down pat. Next time I’m on that side of the state I may have to look you up and get some instruction.

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 2126 days

#8 posted 08-29-2015 09:24 PM

Welcome and nice work Brian. If you only need two depth holes, I would say you know your way around a carved seat very well.

A better place for this kind of post is in the blogs, much easier to find in future and more of an archive of your work.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5216 posts in 4412 days

#9 posted 08-29-2015 10:37 PM

All of you bodgers really know how to bring life and form to woodworking. Wish I had the talent.

-- [email protected]

View bearkatwood's profile


1793 posts in 1463 days

#10 posted 08-30-2015 01:02 AM

BurlyBob, you are welcome to come by the shop if you get out this way. Jim I didn’t know you were down in Riddle, we almost bought a place there a while back. I might have to swing in there sometime.
I have seen the table saw method with the seat scooping. One thing I like about the grinding is the sculptural experience. I put on my tunes and got lost in it sometimes. This headboard is a good example.

The bad thing is I have to do it outside and in Oregon you only get so many days a year so I have to plan my grinding carefully. You will notice in the winters my work becomes more case furniture and simple.

Any questions or quandaries about chair making? Does anyone need any help with a design or joinery?

-- Brian Noel

View a1Jim's profile


117689 posts in 4029 days

#11 posted 08-30-2015 01:07 AM

Cool headboard Brian

View MrFid's profile


890 posts in 2356 days

#12 posted 08-30-2015 01:18 AM

This is a great thread. I am sure that when I get into chairmaking I will have lots of questions. I have lots more learning to do on that front. Favorited for sure, I’ll check back frequently.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View BurlyBob's profile


6384 posts in 2717 days

#13 posted 08-30-2015 01:35 AM

I totally agree with Jim! Too cool.

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2642 days

#14 posted 08-30-2015 01:39 AM

Great headboard and chairs!!!

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View bearkatwood's profile


1793 posts in 1463 days

#15 posted 08-30-2015 12:23 PM

Chairs are unique in the realm of furniture. I believe they are the most challenging to build and can test all your skills. They can teach you a great deal about wood movement, stresses on joinery, wood orientation and how to use hand tools. They are the most intimate pieces of furniture we own, we trust them with our bodies and comfort and use them all day. We have named their parts after ourselves. They have a headrest, arms, legs, back and seat. I find them absolutely enthralling to design and build and I have been fortunate enough to get to do what I love. I have a sort of fire triangle to shoot for when making a chair. Structure, comfort and beauty. Most of the time you will get two of the three, but if you are lucky you will get all three.
Chairs are good instructors and harsh graders, they will let you know when you goof up and not pull any punches. I look forward to any help I can give you guys and best of luck on your chair builds. Most woodworkers eventually will make a piece that requires a chair unless you are just thrilled about boxes or turning you will want to build a table or desk or make a lawn chair. Try it out. They are a blast, but don’t blame me for any sudden Tourettes you might have.

-- Brian Noel

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