Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Prairie Chair -- The Plan Comes Together

After messing about with the leg joinery, It was time to bring Woody in to help with the glue up. ( I find it particularly helpful to have a rambunctious Labrador underfoot as you start the most stressful part of a project!)  Once the leg assemblies were dry it was time to put the grooves in place to hold the panels and the corbels.  In this case, the corbels are more than decorative items as they provide a significant amount of support for the large arms that give this piece its prairie look.

I glued up two sides, let it dry overnight, double-checking that they were the same length and that there was a 90 degree angle between the panels and the legs.  The front and back followed, with the corbels coming last.  It is important to make sure that the corbels are dead flush with the top of the legs to provide maximum support for the arms.

I decided to affix the arms to the top with a series of dowels.  The width of each arm is just enough to cause concern about wood movement, so the dowels run on one line down the middle -- the sides of each arm are free to move side to side.  After dry-fitting several times, I drilled holes down the back panel first and placed dowel centers in the holes.  Once I was sure that the back arm was in the correct place, I pushed it down and made the marks on the bottom of the back arm.  I then drilled these holes inserted the dowels and put it together -- DRY.   This allows you to drill the holes on the side panels, insert the dowel centers, and position the arm precisely against the back arm before you push it together to make your marks.

Once both arms are ready you take the arms apart, insert dowels with glue in all the panels, and beginning with the arm on the left, assemble each arm in succession.  I added a #20 biscuit on the mitered edge with a drop of glue to help ensure that the edges stayed aligned.

The Lee Valley 1/4" dowels are designed to start to swell almost immediately after the glue is applied, so it glued up nice and tight.  I decided not to clamp; it didn't really need it and I didn't want to introduce any unnecessary stress.

So far, so good.


  1. Yes, really good! You're inspiring me to start a woodworking project - not furniture, but probably a downhill racer (care to recommend a good resource?)