Cheating without steam

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Cheating without steam

Postby Rusty Froe » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:03 am

I want to use a four foot length of beech to make some chairs.

These will be similar to some old, rustic chairs I saw in Portugal but I'm going to use rush seating instead of leather.

The rear legs will have to be bent for stability and to mimic the originals.

I have a large, thick plastic pipe and a carpet steamer so I could probably knock up a reasonable low pressure steamer in a wooden frame fairly easily, but I was wondering if I could cheat?

Is it possible to use the natural curve at the bottom of the tree trunk rather than steam bending the back legs?

This would make the chair look a bit odd as I wouldn't be able to turn bent wood very easily but the originals were mostly square section

back legs with turned front legs anyway so the chairs could look very similar to the ones I am copying.

The originals look like a combination of machine made and hand made parts.

The front legs look like identical turnings but the spindles in the back are all slightly different.

Thanks.
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby redsquirrel » Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:15 am

Turning bent wood would indeed be difficult, but you could turn the pieces into very near round with shavehorse, drawknife and spokeshave. If however, this is from the large tree in your garden, you may have a hard job to look forward to.

It may work, and it may not, if you find the beech tree is a problem, what about getting a mobile bandsaw operator to come and turn it into timbers to construct a workshop?
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Rusty Froe » Mon Dec 07, 2015 8:09 pm

I hadn't thought about a bandsaw. Might be a bit tricky even with one of them. Only the first five feet or so of trunk look straight as that's the bit of the tree growing in a hedge. Above the hedge the trunk goes kind of haywire, certainly no good for spindles but I'll probably use it for something else.

If the worst comes to the worst I'll turn it all into shingles for my woodstores and the new workshop you have just suggested.
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Kevin Downing » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:49 pm

I have used ash with a natural curve to make back legs for a side chair. I didn't have to steam bend them. I checked them once I prepared them with a drawknife on the shaving horse that they matched each other and matched the former I use for steaming back legs. It worked fine. The chair looks fine. In the assembly process, you want to keep the tops of the back legs above seat level to look as parallel as possible. Otherwise, if this doesn't work, you just have a freeform chair.
I would not be keen to mix turned parts and shaved parts on the same chair though.
As the tree is so close - you don't have to pay for it or go get it - then I would work it and try out as many different things as I could, given the time available to play with it. So you might decide to mix turned and shaved parts. Beech is not good good at cleaving in nice straight lines like ash. I have not attempted a chair in beech as I could never cleave a nice long length for a back leg. I have some stools though. I have lots of beech bowls, some are spalted and with some decay in the tree you might get nice colours if the wood is still usable.
Rush seating is hard work. But it is worth it. I presume you have done this before?
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Rusty Froe » Fri Dec 11, 2015 4:32 pm

Hi Kevin,

Nope, I've never made a chair before (or even a stool). I have split six foot lengths of trunk which were made into raised beds, but they were kinda "agricultural".

My wife restores cane chairs occasionally and used to replace rush seating as a semi-paying hobby. She prefers caning because you can pick it up and put it down at short notice.

Once you have soaked rush twice you really have to throw it away so you need to set aside plenty of time to do rush seating.

Assuming my first attempts are not too shabby, I'm hoping she will rush them for me, as it's not something I would attempt.

Probably, I'll end up with really shabby chairs with immaculate rush seats.

Or blisters and a load of unusable lumps of wood.

I'm not worried about the mix of square section and turned as that is what the originals have. The front legs are square section where the mortices are for the stretchers and seat and turned in between.

The back legs are square section but curved.

Thanks,

Gordon
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Davie Crockett » Sat Dec 12, 2015 10:02 pm

You could use a heat gun (Paint stripping gun) as a local heat source for a precise bend. Just be careful you don't burn the wood in the process.
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Rusty Froe » Thu Dec 17, 2015 7:03 pm

Good idea. Can you burn green wood easily?
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Re: Cheating without steam

Postby Davie Crockett » Wed Dec 23, 2015 11:36 pm

You can scorch it quite badly with a heat gun, try wrapping it in wet towelling when you do it. Or use tinfoil (Not used this personally but I've heard it works).
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