Hand carved chair rungs

One of the tricky parts about making the Kitchen chairs is the hand carved rungs for the chair back. Although the main secret to that is that its actually a lot easier to shave the rung with a spokeshave than it looks.

Start with some pieces of wood 4.5 cm thick, 10 cm wide, and 39.5 cm long. Make a template for the cross section, as seen from above for making the piece of wood. Shown at left is the template, and rung. Note that the template does not include the tenon part - I just sketched that on by hand.

Cutting the tenons

Its best to cut the tenon before cutting any curves out of the block of wood. Much easier to line things up that way. First i cut the tenon from the sides

Next step is to use the tenon jig to cut the tenons from the end. By cutting them away from the sides, its possible to try the tenon in a mortised slot right away, so its easier to make small adjustments to the jig to get the desired fit.

Cutting the curves

The next step is to cut out the curves. of the back. Its wasteful to cut it out like that, but a lot simpler than trying to bend the wood.

Use the widest blade you have on your bandsaw. 10 cm deep cuts in hardwood is a lot.

The back side of the curve actually has a bit of a flat spot on it. This is the flat part of the original piece, so the blade comes out of the wood part way through.

Next make another template for the front view of the back rung, and mark it on the rungs. There's really no point in marking the rungs when they are still flat, because that part will be cut away. Its best to use something flexible for the template, like box-board, so the template can bend to conform to the shape of the rung. I used a piece of door skin, which was a bit stiff for the job, hence the clamp to hold it against the rung.

Next cut along the marks. Note how I angled the piece so that it rests against the table. Safer than having it hang in the air while cutting.

And the resulting rough cut rung, before carving.

Carving the rung with a spoke shave

I carved the rungs with only a spokeshave. I figured this would be fun to do with a drawknife, but I found it hard to keep the drawknife from cutting too far into the material. The spokeshave was really fast for the job.

Its best to always cut out of the grain, but with the compound curves of the rung against the straight grain of the wood, finding the best direction for each part requires a bit of care.

Also notice the curved pieces of wood in the vise, used to clamp the run while carving it.

Two minutes after the previous shot, one part of the curve is carved. Now do that four times, and the rung is shaped.

Final shaping

I used the round part of my belt sander to smooth out the curves a bit more. A drum sander would perhaps be better, but I don't have one.

The final trimming and shaping is done with a cabinet scraper. This gives a nice smooth texture.

Then finally carve the ends of the tenons round with a carving knife, and the rung is done.

Making Kitchen Chairs

To my  Woodworking website, or the Woodwork projects page.

See also:

Repairing a chair leg
(sometimes good as
new isn't good enough)