Custom wooden rocking chair design & build blog
I'm on the home stretch now, all thats left is one of the most important parts, final shaping and sanding. Although I seem to talk about every step along the way as being the most important step, the sanding process I do is truly a refined process that must be done is just the right way. Out of everything I do with my furniture, I feel that the hardest part for someone to learn is the final sand on this type of furniture. There are just so many exposed surfaces.... hmmm all of them! When people sit on my chairs their hands and eyes travel around the piece, one reason everything has to be just right, the second reason? I would't have it any other way. All lines must be fair and true, joints must be tight fitting, only then can I get to the final sanding process. I travel through sanding grits from 120grit all the way to 1000grit, which is up around where a car finish is sanded. I then burnish the entire surface with a sheep wool pad, giving my chair a personality all its own. The glow that i'm able to achieve could light up a dark room, it's always a pleasant surprise as I move my way through this process. With each step the piece reveals it's true beauty all the way till the end when I apply my hand rubbed oil/resin finish.
Time to cut some 1/2'' Ebony plugs I usually have a lot of plugs on hand, but they do eventually run out. So I spend about an hour cutting out plugs using my drill press and tapered plug cutter. I usually pick up pieces of scrap ebony that have enough thickness to get plugs from both sides, go to be as efficient as possible when working with any exotic wood.
Here I am working away, I have my 4'' dust collection hose pretty close pulling away the melting wax and wood chips. Ebony has a waxy coating covering all the surface, when I cut plugs a good amount of smoke is created so having the the dust extraction directly at the source is very important.
Here is the piece of ebony i'm using to make my plugs, I try to use pieces that I can get a nice length plug out of each side. I got very lucky one day and was able to score some ebony cut offs directly from an african sawmill. Mush less expensive and perfect for what I use it for, one mans trash is another mans treasure.
Some more hours spent on the stools, all with a grinder in hand then on to my 6'' sander. I use all Kutzall products for the rough shaping, starting with an angle grinder and then with a rotary powered rasp. I should have snapped some pictures of the tools and I will next time around. I was thinking more about getting some work done. The grinding and sanding phase is not the most exciting part of the build process. Although I do enjoy seeing the rough lumber get transformed from basically a piece of a tree up to a shining piece of furniture. It's a pretty exact process that i've developed starting at 150 grit and moving through the different levels of sand paper.
(150 - 220 - 320 - 400 - 500 - 1000)
I will then burnish the piece with a sheep wool pad just before I apply the finish. The chair is a glowing work of art, then the true beauty is exposed once the hand rubbed oil/resin finish is applied.
I've been working pretty steady on these cherry bar stools, i've had a lot of other things to work on along the way but i'm pretty happy with the progress.
I've been able to get all the stretchers shaped and attached to the stools. The back rest was next, once all the glue is dry the next step is to grind all the transitions smooth and fair. People often wonder why so many clamps are needed when there hanging on the wall, but once they see a project in the clamping stage all becomes clear. When glueing up lumber you need a good amount of equal pressure to hold a joint together at the needed pressure. Typically most woodworkers only have to deal with glueing up panels, boxes and drawers not so lucky when building chairs. When clamping up a chair many clamps are needed from many angles to achieve a perfectly assembled joint with good equal pressure. One thing I never do is wipe away the excess glue with a wet rag, although most wood workers do do this. When glue dries, especially on a joint that has end grain the glue either shrinks or gets sucked into the joint. Now if we wipe away the excess glue before the joint has cured in certain situations the joint can be starved of glue. The other tactic I use to create the strongest joint possible is to "prime" any end grain that is involved in a glue up. What that means is that I apply glue to the end grain of a joint first, let sit for 5 minutes. What happens is that most of the glue will get sucked into the end grain because of the pores in the end grain. I then scrape off the excess and reapply glue then proceed to glue up the joint. By doing this we seal the end grain with glue which stops the joint from sucking away all the glue.
Here is a sequence of photos that show you the process of grinding out the seat. I've prepared the seat by drawing the outline of where I want to grind to. Also i've drilled a few holes as depth gauges which I am able to use as visual guides as I grind away material.
This is the initial grinding operation, i'm grinding a groove around the outer edge of the seat outline. Pictured is an angle grinder with a Kutzall coarse carbide carving wheel.
Now I'm grinding out the rest of the seat I rough out the desired shape and grind down to the depth gauges i've drilled into the seat.
This is the Kutzall fine carving disc, I use it next to fine tune the grinding i've already done with the coarse disc.
Of course make sure your wearing your eye protection and dust mask while grinding and part of the chair. The seat grinding especially kicks up the saw dust.
I've finally gotten around to add a little more organization to my lumber. I mostly use 4/4 , 8/4 Cherry and Walnut. Sore pretty heavy wood to say the least, so I needed some very strong racks that did't require a lot of support members taking up valuable stacking space. What I decided on doing was to use 6'' lag bolts to secure an external set of studs following the existing studs. Below you can see the 2x4 notched to go around a beam that is further out then the wall studs.
Here are a few of the added studs which I will be able to mount arms to support a stack of lumber up to 21'' from the wall.
With the arms attached i've now loaded up the rack with lumber. The arms are a 18'' long iece of 2x4 with 2 pieces of 3/4'' plywood screwed to the outside, the plywood is 21.5'' long which over laps the stud that I lagged to the wall.
Here is more racking i've built over the past few days, lot's of hard work but it's paying off now. I can now see all the lumber I have and easily sort through it to find just the right boards I need for a certain job.