stevenbunn Fri, 03/18/2016 - 07:34

Building a Shaker Work Bench (con'd)


Bench Design


The Shaker bench I built is loosely based on a large Shaker bench found at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. I have always admired the ranks of drawers and doors that front that bench's base. I scaled the bench down in length to fit a space in my shop. For simplicity I modeled the frame of the bench's cabinet base after a typical New England timber-framed barn, like the one on our farm. I used standardized stock dimensions, and production methods to streamline parts manufacture and assembly. All of the cross section components share a common layout of their joinery, so that they fit together into three identical "bents," just as you find in a timber-frame. The bents are connected by eight rails, which are tenoned into mortises cut into the sides of the legs to complete the base's frame.


The 12/4 maple was incredibly heavy, so I cut the stock down in size to make things easier
when I milled the material for the base
A key element of the design is the six legs which transfer working force from the bench top directly to the floor. The frame is strong and massive, but provides a great deal of flexibilty in how the drawers and doors are finished out. I like the look of the original bech which inspired this one, with double doors flanked by a double rank of drawers. To reduce the length of the bench I eliminated one of the drawer ranks, shortening the base by almost 30 inches. I like to work on all sides of a bench. And, the bench is going to be placed where it can be viewed from all sides by vistors to the shop, so I was concerned that the bench looked good from all angles. I filled the side and back voids in the frame with raised panels.
The basic frame can be modified to accept different combinations of drawers and doors. Want a bench with all doors, or doors? Maybe doors on one side of the bench and drawers on the opposite side? Or, even double fronted drawers that can be pulled open from either side of the bench. Any of these combinations can be fitted to the frame of the bench I built.


stevenbunn Thu, 03/17/2016 - 15:36

Building a Shaker Work-bench




Shaker work-benches appeal to me for a number of reasons. First is their sheer size, presence and beauty. The long wide top offers space for almost any project, with room left over for all the tools and what-nots we like to keep close at hand. A Shaker bench's large top brings out my inner Walter Mitty, letting me play aircraft carrier commander in my mind. I can shout, "Swing her into the wind," and launch hordes of imaginary planes into the skies in my mind. Equally important as size, the enclosed space, behind doors or sitting in ranks of drawers in the base, adds a great deal of useful storage in a space that normally is under utilized. Additional storage, which is something every shop I've owned or worked in always needed more of. I evaluate every tool cabinet or workbench plan I read about with an eye for wasted unfilled space that could be better used. As I look back over the last few years in my shop, my efforts have not revolved around purchasing new machinery, but instead trying to improve the organization, efficiency and storage within the shop. And, I expect that every available bit of space in my new bench will be filled before I know it.


My original Shaker Bench on which the new one is based. Just a tad bit crowded. So many
projects, so little time


stevenbunn Sat, 03/12/2016 - 16:34
Turning a narrow spindle with the help of a steady-rest
I have been in a week long spindle turning marathon. Luckily, I am almost done. Earlier I turned and sanded spindles for two fan-back side chairs. These are short and thick enough in diameter so that I can turn them using only a gloved hand to steady the spindle stock as I turn it. Narrow, longer, spindles like those used on a sack-back chair require the use of a steady-rest to support the turning, and prevent it from wobbling uncontrolably. I built this steady-rest for use on the new long bed lathe I built in January. This has been my first opportunity to use the rest. I am very pleased with it's performance. The sliding fingers that butt against the turning are locked in place by hand-screws turned from ash.  The screws thread into threaded holes which pass completely through the rest from side to side. This lets me move the screws from one side of the rest to the other, depending on which side of the rest I am using the tool-rest. So, on Friday, I split spindle stock from ash, squared it up for the sake of convenince, and then cut stock length-wise into an octagon. This saves material and makes turning easier. I turned the lower end of each of nine spindles. Today, I moved the tool-rest to the right of the steady rest. Then I turned the narrow upper length on each spindle, then sanded them. Tomorrow, I will use a chisel or draw-knife to pare away the thicker nub, and blend everything together with sand paper.
stevenbunn Sun, 03/06/2016 - 11:28
Lay out the hand-rest's pattern on the bow
Set the hand-rest template on the glued up bow. Adjust the template so that the locating mark for the arm-post mortise, on the template, aligns with the mark made earlier, on the bow, for the position of the arm-post. Mark out the shape of the template on the wood. STB
stevenbunn Sun, 03/06/2016 - 11:06
Adding a block of wood to the bow to increase it's width
The arm-bow is 15/16 inch wide and 5/8 inch thick, Add a 2-1/2 inch wide block to allow enough width the fit the shape of the hand-rest template. Use the template to locate the position of the filler block in relation to the mark made earlier for the position of the arm-post mortises. The filler block itself is 5/8" thick, 2-1/2" wide, and 6-1/2" to 7" long. I am using filler pieces made using scrap mahagony, because the wood carves easily, and the color shows up well in the photographs. STB
stevenbunn Sun, 03/06/2016 - 10:50
Gluing filler blocks to the bow for added width
A Tracy hand-rest is carved from a block of wood laminated from three pieces of wood; the bow itself, an added piece for width, and a final piece gluded to the underside of the rest to add thickness for carving the knuckles. This photo gives an over view of the bow and blocks glued on to increase the width of the bow.
Start first of all by locating the position of the round mortise holes in the arm bow that fit onto the arm-posts of the chair. Locating these mortises is a complete article in and of itself. I will just say that I know that for this chair pattern, the location of the mortises falls between 22 inches and 22-1/2 inches, measured from the center of the back of the bow. The variance is determined by the vagaries of the bow. All bows start to move after they are removed from the bending jig. The curve of the bow frequently oooches, or shifts, left or right. I always make my bow stock over length, which allows me to adjust the bow as it sits loosly in position, to find the best looking curve. When I am satisfied with the sweep of curve, I re-mark the center point on the bow blank, and lay out the arm-post mortises while allowing for the overhang of the bow past the back edge of the seat.


stevenbunn Sun, 03/06/2016 - 10:05
An Ebeneezer Tracy pattern carved knuckle hand-rest
Currently in the shop, I am working on three chairs. I am in the process of turning spindles, carving combs for two fan-back side chairs, and carving knuckle hand-rests for a large sack-back. The knuckle pattern I have come to use on any of my chairs requiring knuckle hand-rests, is a pattern I traced off a Ebeneezer Tracy sack-back. A photo of one of my Tracy style hand-rests is pictured above. In spite of having to much to do already, I thought that I would take the opportunity to photo-document creating a knuckle hand-rest. Over the next few weeks I will post a series of pictures showing how I make my knuckle hand-rests. One of the unfortunate features of the blog form is that everything will presented backwards in time. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. I think someone said that already. Please bear with me. Thanks. STB
stevenbunn Mon, 02/29/2016 - 07:55
Stock for a fan-back comb steamed and clamped in a bending jig

 When I posted this photo the other day, I did not have time to attach a note of explaination. I am doing so now.

When I started making Windsor chairs twenty-one years ago, Michael Dunbar's book, and another by Jim Rendi, were my source of how-to information. When steam-bending a chair comb, both books demonstrated the use of a two sided, clam shell jig, between whose two jaws the heated comb stock was placed after being pulled from the steam-box. The bending jig was tightened by placing a number of bar clamps across the jig jaw comb sandwich, on both the top and bottom faces. Then tightening each clamp in turn until the hot comb bent until it met both the front and back curves on the two jaw faces. The only problem was that I neeoded to be an eight armed octopus to tighten all five or six clamps evenly as I closed the jig. In a classroom situation with several students working together this can work. By your lonesome, tightening one clamp at a time as you work from clamp to clamp trying to close the faces of the clam shell together releases tension on the other clamps, causing the jaws to spring openlike an enraged jack-in-the-box. Everything blows apart. Clamps fall on your toes. And the comb stock ruined. There had to be a better solution.

Sometime later I watched a demonstration of comb bending by Curtis Buchanan, on Roy Underhill's TV show. Curtis used a flat panel, (plywood? No explaination was given) on which the curved front jaw was securely screwed. At the far end of the panel a windlass was secured. A newly steamed length of ash could be placed up against the curved  rear face of the jig, ropes, or a flexible back plate with ropes attached to the plate ends, quickly feed thru the windlass, and the windlass cranked until the steamed stock was bent in place against the curved jig. Quick. No exploding clamps falling on the floor. And enough bending force to pull both ends of the hot comb stock tightly against the jig. Resulting in a sweeter curve.

Sometime later, later, Roy and Curtis demonstrated bending a bow on a bending jig screwed to one of the wooden posts on the show's set. Again an inspiration. Downward force on the stock in a jig fastened to the building. Even heavy work-benches start to move when you are forcing hot bow stock around the a jig, when you pull the wood horizontally.

I have a large number of bending jigs, so I wanted to rationalize how I mounted them. I  ended up building a 2x12  into the shop, with space behind the 2x so I could drive 1/2 inch carriage bolts thru the vertical post. All of my bending jigs have either two, or four, matching holes drilled through them from front to back. A jig can be removed, and another quickly installed by simply loosening, and removing two/four nuts, putting the new jig in place on the exposed bolts, and re-tightening the nuts. In lieu of a sail-boat style ratcheting windlass, I bolted a standard come-along to the bottom of the vertical post. This gives me a system that allows me to choose between two forms of bending. Lighter, springier, bow stock can be bent by hand around one of the jigs, or the stiffer harder to bend combs can be bent using the come-along and flexible backer plate, as shown above. To keep even pressure on the backing plate, and prevent it from developing kinks, I bend all my comb-stock in 35 to 36 inch lengths, so the board supports the plate evenly across it's length, as the plate, in turn, applies even pressure against the wood being bent.

That's it for today. Thank you for stopping by. STB

stevenbunn Tue, 02/23/2016 - 19:55
A Sack-back arm-chair in the works
The third chair I am working on right now is one of my Sack-back arm-chairs. It is a large dramatic chair, and one of my favorites.
stevenbunn Tue, 02/23/2016 - 19:49
Fan-back side chairs in progress
With the new lathe up and running, I spent the early part of February turning parts for three chairs, and carving the seats. A photo showing a pile of parts isn't very exciting, so I waited to post photos until I had the chair's under-carriages glued up and wedged. The orb floating in the picture is either a dust mote, the shop has plenty of these, or one of the family ghosts. I have heard both explainations as the cause of the floating orb in photos. I tend to prefer the ghost theory.