View Full Version : Dining Room Chairs

Tom Ruflin
04-13-2008, 5:22 PM
I finally completed 2 dining room chairs. They were the most challenging woodworking project I have done to date. I used the majority of the tools I have from the table saw to chisels and everything in between. The design is taken from an article in the August 2004 issue of Woodwork magazine written by Peter Presnell. I wanted to build chairs for a long time but could not find a design close enough to what I wanted until I saw the Woodwork article. The style was close enough and I wanted the chair to be comfortable to sit in for a long time with my sometimes aching back. The bent lamination of the back slats was just what the doctor ordered. I started the project last fall by building a prototype in poplar. I changed the shape of the back legs a little, not as wide at the bottom, and gave it a Green and Green influence. I was not trying to replicate anything in particular and wanted them to go with the dining table I built over a year ago. The chairs are made out of cherry with the back slat laminations out of tiger maple from the same tree as the table. Picture 1 is the bent lamination mold I made out of plywood using the pattern in the article. Picture 2 is the mold in action. I used plastic resin glue for the laminations. Picture 3 is my Leigh FMT jig in action, I bought a few years ago and only used it 2 times for some small tables. I used it for all the mortise and tenons. Picture 4 is the angled tenons for the side rails. The side rails are angled 6 degrees out from the back to front of the chair and also 2 degrees down from the front to the back. I cut the compound angles on the compound miter saw first then put them in the FMT and used a router to make the tenons. It worked really well once I figured it all out on the prototype chair. (continued)

Tom Ruflin
04-13-2008, 5:25 PM
Picture 5 is the dry fit of all the mortise and tenons. The FMT makes repeating difficult angles easy. At this point I still need to do some shaping on the bottom of the rails. Picture 6 is the bottom of the chair showing the angle braces in the corners, which add a lot of strength to the chair. It also shows the installation of the brackets. They are attached to the legs with a dowel and a screw to the bottom of the rails. I use a dowel center in the end of the bracket to locate where the hole in the leg should be drilled. Picture 7 is a finished chair. The seat is leather and the finish is Tried and True Original (oil and beeswax). Picture 8 is the 2 chairs and the table (the purple rug is LOMLís, canít wait to replace it!). The chairs are very comfortable to sit on and feel great on my back. Iíll be making 2 more in the fall as summer is for sailing/boating for me here in the north.

John Thompson
04-13-2008, 7:12 PM
Very nice looking, Tom. So... it was a challenge.... huh? :) I built a set of 4 chairs for a breakfast nook table about a year ago. The first chairs I had ever buiit in 36 years of wood butchering. I used recovered pallet runners I had been saving. Once the first was done.. the others wern't too bad, but.....

Challenge is the correct word to use on a first attempt. And even worse was the tedious job of finish as they were going in a breakfast nook just off my kitchen. About the only time I will use po;y because of the steam and moisture.

All I can say is the "chair building guys" have my respect. With the challenge and finish details using 8 coats of wipe on wearing a mask.. it may very well be my last chairs. I will just go buy them and won't moan and groan about cost... as "we" now know the amount of work that goes into building them on a non assembly line.

Again.. nice job and they look great


John Timberlake
04-13-2008, 8:22 PM
Very nice job. I ran tinto some of the same problems when I did dining table and chairs for daughter last year.

Tom Ruflin
04-14-2008, 5:42 PM
Thanks for the nice comments. A prototype was key and popular is alot cheaper than cherry. Sarge, you are correct that after the first chair the rest are easier. I did alot of layout marking on the pieces and double checking the compound angles needed before cutting. I used up a bunch of poplar on the prototype but, did not waste any cherry due to incorrect cuts (a little bit of luck helps also).

Scot Ferraro
04-14-2008, 8:46 PM
These look great -- very nice work. Did you do the seating with leather yourself? I am very interested in learning how to make some chairs and I would like to know how you constructed the seat.

Thanks for sharing.


Tom Ruflin
04-16-2008, 12:23 PM
Hi Scott. I did the seats with leather myself. I used 1/2 inch plywood for the base with 1 1/2 inch foam and 1 inch of poly batting that I bought at a local upholstery shop. The foam should be cut at least 1/4 inch larger than the base so the edges of the base do not show. Getting the corners to fold properly and look good was a challenge. I used an upholstery stapler with 3/8 inch staples to fasten the leather to the base. Another "challenging" part is getting the sides of the seat to look smooth. If you pull a little harder on one place it will leave an impression that will be seen from different angles. I spent some time removing staples to adjust the leather to get smooth sides and curve from the top of the seat to the bottom. A good staple remover is a must. My LOML got the leather thru a supplier where she works at a good price. You have to buy a whole hide, which was 61 square feet for the leather I bought. There is alot of waste as cows are not rectangular/square and after some research I found that the outer edges (about 1 foot or so) should not be used for a seat where there is alot of flexing. Good luck with your chairs.

Scot Ferraro
04-16-2008, 7:57 PM
Thanks, Tom...they look great -- you did a very nice job with the upholstery. I appreciate your tutorial...