stevenbunn Sun, 03/22/2015 - 19:22
Carved foliage on the upper part of the legs
The design of the table is based on measured drawings published in Spirit of New England, one of the books in the series "The Architectural Treasures of Early America." The original table is from Kings Chapel, in Boston. According to the drawings the table dates from 1686. One of the design changes requested by the church was that I incorporate the turning profile of the existing altar railing, in place of the earlier baluster turning. The photo is a little washed out, sorry. The carving on the legs extends across the table skirts on all sides of the table. The outer faces of the square sections of the legs was left unsanded until after the table base is glued up. This accounts for the difference in tone between the darker square faces on the legs and the turned portion of the legs. An applied astrgal molding wraps the table at the bottom of the skirts The dados cut in the upper square sections at the top of the leg allow the molding to pass across and around the legs.
stevenbunn Sun, 03/22/2015 - 08:57

Good Morning,

I plan on posting several photos of Mark Donovan's incredible carving on the legs and skirts of the communion table I am making for a local Maine church. I have to admit being uneasy with the scope of carving agreed to by the church committee overseeing the project. The table looked great without any carving. What if the church hates the carving when the table is presented later this summer? Mark's work has elieviated my worries on that score. Well mostly...

I am writing this morning to ask for feed-back from those folks reading my blog posts. To start with, I have been working on the draft of a book about building Windsor chairs. I have worked on the book of and on for well over ten years. During that time I have found no one interested in publishing the book. The tenor of comments I've received is that the subject is over subscribed and that there is no market for another book on building Windsors.One reviewer told me that I had three books incorporated in the manuscript. Another really wanted me to concentrate on the history of Windsor chair-making in Maine. However, I know that Ed Churchill, former conservator at the Maine State Museum is working on exactly that book. Without some hope of publication it is hard to sit down and knock out another page, or reach into my pocket for cash to pay an artist for the graphic art I would like to include in the book. Naturally, my fury with the publishing world was stoked even higher this last summer when in a chance conversation with Chris Schwarz, he told me that his publishing company, Lost Arts Press, was publishing Galbert's book, on you guessed it, Making a Windsor Chair!

I am seriously thinking of publishing my book online, and in fact, on this blog. E-books are an interesting idea, but don't appeal to me. Even if my writing shows up only one page at a time it will in fact get out of the file drawer and see the light of day. The subject I am writing about is building a Tracy pattern Sack-back Windsor chair. Viewers can see several Tracy pattern chairs in my chair gallery. The basic concept is a step by step photo essay similiar to those posted on the mini-vise and miniature Windsor chairs. There is an upper limit to how much can be loaded on to the blog in a single post, so I am not thinking of putting entire chapters on line. That's the idea as I write this post today.

My question to you is less about your enthusiasm for the subject, than your thoughts on the quality of the writing you have already read on my blog? Turgid? Interesting? Clear or not clear? What do you think? Good or ill, let me know.

Thanks, have a good day. STB

stevenbunn Thu, 03/19/2015 - 07:11
Drilling spindle holes in a miniature Sack-back's top bow
In looking at this picture again, I know my editor would have three "tweaks" he would want. (1) Show the entire miniature in the frame of the camera. (2) Get the electric cord of the drill out of the shot. (3) Lose the masking tape on the body of the electric drill. When you are concentrating on drilling something this small, those are considerations you only think of after the fact. Oh well! Have a good day.
stevenbunn Wed, 03/18/2015 - 09:21

Expanding on my earlier comments about a steamed bow blank stretching unequally as it is bent around a bending jig, I wanted to address the issue of one piece hand-rests versus two piece bow/hand-rest laminations, and the effect of each method on the assembled chair.  I've noticed a number of Windsor chair-makers who make their bows and hand-rests out of a single riven piece of stock. They know the "ideal" length of a particular bow blank for a given chair design and bend the same length of stock time after time. My problem with this method is that it ignores a number of variables that creep in and vary both the length and symmetry of the bow. Some of these variables are; small differences in the compound angles drilled for the arm posts between one side of the chair and the other, the tendency of one side of a bow blank to stretch more than the other (explained in an earlier post), the general orneriness of a given bow blank (differences in grain), the "sproing" as an unclamped bow relaxes when removed from the bending jig, and even the method used to mark out the holes drilled in the arm for the arm-post tenons, any or all may effect a bow's symmetry. And differences in shape effect the gap between the back edge of the seat and the inner side face of the arm bow. These comments are particulary relevant for Comb-back and Sack-back Windsors where the arm bow extends beyond the back edge of the seat and this distance, or gap, determines the angle of the chair's back. Shorten or lengthen this distance and back angle changes.  For the my Sack-back Windsors, as an example, I want an inch gap between these two points as measured with a framing square laid front to back on the seat. This measurement is important because it determines the angle at which the spindles in the arm bow fan out and back from the spindle deck. In a single chair, whether the gap is actually 3/4 of an inch, or 1-1/4 inch, while effecting the angle of the chair's back, isn't usually noticable because the chair is a one-off and it will still be more or less comfortable.. For a batch of chairs, I find that it is an absolute "must do" to fit each bow individually to a specific chair in order to determine the sweetest curve side to side and to create a consistant bow to seat gap, and back angle in the set of chairs. This means that my holes for the arm-post tenons vary from bow to bow, and the glued on blocks from which the hand-rests are cut vary as well. I will talk about how I do this in a future post. Thanks for stopping in.

stevenbunn Tue, 03/17/2015 - 18:25
Turning a 1/4 scale chair leg on the lathe
When turning parts for my miniature chairs I use the same lathe and turning tools I use when turning full-sized chair parts, Billets for turning are split out of grren maple. A miniature billet is around 5/8-inch to 3/4-inch square to start with. The act of turning a part is pretty much the same as doing a larger turning, with one exception. On a full-sized leg I can push the tool into the cut. Try this when turning the neck of a leg's baluster down to 3/16-inch or less, and the turning will snap in two. The tools have to be sharp, and you have to let the tool do the cutting, without applying pressure to force the cut. And, as you can see in the picture I use my finger as a steady rest to support the work and dampen any vibration imparted by the tool as it cuts.
stevenbunn Sun, 03/15/2015 - 09:58
A batch of steambent bows clamped together and left to dry
stevenbunn Sun, 03/15/2015 - 09:46
Another view of steamed arm bow and bending jig
stevenbunn Sun, 03/15/2015 - 09:39
Steam bent arm bow in bending jig
Good Morning,
A little more snow today, but it looks like it will stop. Wishful thinking on my part. I am posting three photos showing steambending arm bows for miniature sack-back Windsor chairs. The ash bow is a shade over 1/8 inch thick, a 1/4 inch minus a 1/32d wide, and 13 1/2 inches long. Whenever I bend bows, whether miniature or full sized, I leave the bow stock over length, and only trim it shorter when I am ready to to fit the bow to the chair. Dispite every effort, each bow is a different beast from its fellows. And, its best to plan on individually adjusting the final bow length one at a time. When you remove a steambent bow from the bending jig the curve of the bow distorts subtly (well you hope subtly). Frequently, one side of the resulting semi-circle can be a 1/4 inch longer than it's other half. Some of this is due to the steamed blank being hotter when you form the first bend, By the time you start to bend  the opposite end of the steamed bow blank the wood is cooler and doesn't stretch as much. To help keep the bows consistant after I take them off the primary bending jig, I clamp them  together (see one of the following photos) and let them dry on a second jig. I leave a batch clamped up for about a week. But each bow remains an individual and this is readily apparent if you lay one on top of another.
stevenbunn Fri, 03/13/2015 - 07:15

In an earlier email exchange, Brian asked if I knew anything about the router base shown in the lede photo of Latta's Minibench article, published in the December 2014 issue of FFW. In truth, all I focused on in the picture was Latta's bench. I was going to have to go to the library this afternoon and check that issue out again to look at the photo more closely. In the meantime Brian found the source for the router base he inquired about. Here it is for anyone interested.


Regarding the router base for the Dremel tool, I found it.

It is used by luthiers to cut slots for frets and other inlay work. It looks like the one that Latta was using to add inlays on the Federal leg in the minibench article. It is kinda expensive but it is far superior to the plastic one that Dremel sells. If you do a lot of inlay work it would be worth the $54.00.

Please feel free to post this too.

stevenbunn Thu, 03/12/2015 - 09:56

Good Morning. Brian thank you for your email. I thought I would post my reply on the blog as it may be of interest to others. I look forward to receiving the chunk of Osage Orange. I have never had the opportunity to work with that species of wood. I haven't really seen that wood since I was a forestry student at the University of Michigan eons ago. The osage orange trees I remember in Michigan were all saplings or small trees. OK for small turnings, similar to apple wood, but nothing large enough for sawn lumber stock.The Phippsburg church for whom I am building the baptismal font want me to incorporate a piece of wood from a 250 year old linden tree, planted in the church yard, at the time the church was founded. I went to college just as Earth Day happened. Within a year or two the School of Natural Resources student population exploded. All the freshman engineers who flunked out of the engineering school (Michigan proudly told it incoming engineering classes that less than 10 percent of them would graduate as engineers), decided to become foresters rather than english teachers. Naturally, it followed that when we graduated, there were no jobs. I have always noticed in a humorous but sad way that if you ask cabinetmakers of a certain age what they studied in college, you will find that they are unemployed foresters, wildlife biologists, botonists, and any other NR major you name. The person with a personality drawn to working alone in the woods is equally at home working by himself in a wood shop. Anyway, I definitely did not consider an advanced degree after reviewing the number of rejection letters I received. My favorite nephew is a junior at the University of Maine, studying forestry. I've tried to talk him out of it, but no luck.

As to the question of when I find time to write. Well, this morning it is clear, freezing, and the wind is howling. The wind chill is awfull. It is a lot more attractive to sit at the computer with a cup of coffee and type than wander out to the shop and get a fire going. I will. Just not now. Speaking of weather, it reached a balmy 54 degrees yesterday and things started to melt. The problem today is that with the return of cold temps, black ice is everywhere. A bit of good news, Mt Kilamanjaro, the mountain of snow at the end of the drive is gone. Snow was so piled up so high and deep I couldn't get the wife's car out of the garage in the barn. The earlier picture of the shop and snow posted here at an earlier date this winter doesn't begin to show the pile that's accumulated since that picture was posted. A neighbor down the street brought his tractor over Saturday, and between the two of us, and working several more hours Sunday, we managed to clear away the mountain of snow. I can walk directly to the shop from the house for the first time in about two months. Yesterday it was warm enough for me to crank over and run the weasel. Cold batteries just do not crank a deisel fast enough to start the engine. Knowing this from past experience I didn't try while temps were well below zero the past couple of weeks.

On you comment about router bases, I need to pull the December issue of FWW out of the library and take a look at the base you asked about. I don't subscribe to most woodworking magazines today because I find many of the articles deal with things I already know, areas of the craft that I don't work in, or design styles I find not to my taste. I am already regretting subscribing to Popular Woodworking. In the most recent issue, the only article of interest to me was Peter Follansbee's essay about the pile of started but unfinished projects that fill his shop, and according to death inventories taken in the 1700 and 1800's our predecessor"s shops as well. For my part, my shop is filled with half started work, and protype designs that are 80 to 90 percent OK, but there is something still not quite right with the overall design. Right now I have two high-chairs that have been sitting for a couple of years waiting for new "better" bows to be made.I've made new bending jigs for what I hope will be new bows that I find satisfactory. If not, we'll do it again. But my ash log is still buried in the snow, and the paying work is taking priority this month. Speaking of paying work, I had better wrap this up and go out and light the stove. Thanks again for dropping by.