View Full Version : Carving on Chair slats

Doug Mason
03-25-2009, 10:56 AM
Although I will figure this out via trial & error, and I'm almost certain of the answer, I wanted to get your input.

I'm making a rocker on which I want to try some basic relief carving on the slats; however, I will be steaming the slats (can't do laminations because of the carving) over a 20 degree Form (accounting for springback--I'm anticipating a 26 degree chair slat)--so my question is that I'd have to do the carving after the bending? There is no way around this as the bending would distort everything.

Charlie Schultz
03-25-2009, 11:52 AM
I'd guess it depends on what you're carving, but I'd bend first too. If you carved first, it might not bend as evenly.

Mike Henderson
03-25-2009, 11:54 AM
I'd bend first also. It'd be a shame to spend all that time carving and then have the board break during the bending.


Doug Mason
03-25-2009, 2:07 PM
thx for your thought--I will bend first.

Below is a carving from a rocker that I'm going to use as a templete (my carving will be much simpler).


And here is a proto-type of the rocker onto whose slats I'll be carving. The slats in this particular pic were laminated--but for my next rocker I'll bend then carve.

Mike Henderson
03-25-2009, 4:13 PM
On modern chairs of that type, the design is not carved, but pressed into the wood. A manufacturer will specialize in "carved" crest rails for chairs. They bend the crest rail and at the same time press it into a die that has the design. So if you look closely you'll see that the lines are not sharp but are kind of "U" shaped from the die.

I learned this when visiting an Amish woodworker. I saw a bunch of "carved" crest rails stacked in the corner and asked him if the carved those in his "off time".

"No", he said. "I buy those from a supplier who presses the design into the wood."

So that "handmade" Amish furniture is not so handmade.


Robert Rozaieski
03-25-2009, 6:21 PM
You can do it either way. Curtis Buchanan carves the crest rails of his Windsor chairs prior to steaming and bending. However, those are simple volute carvings. For a complex carving I think I'd bend first to avoid potential distortion to the carving from the bending. Also, the carving will make the wood thinner where the carving is which could result in uneven bending due to the variations in thickness from spot to spot.