Making a chair – Design

Designing the piece is usually the most interesting part for me. I ran through a few sketches and then went to the computer.

What I wanted is probably a bit pedestrian. I do tend toward the simple I suppose. Also, this is an exercise in joinery more than art.

For some education I got out a book on beds by Jeff Miller. One of his projects tied in closely with my intent, so that book served as a reference of sorts.

First up I drew in the legs. I gave them a 10 degree lean on the back. Where the back meets the seat I put in a flat section. The bottom of the legs kick out backwards also.

Along the back of the leg I put a pronounced arc. On the front then I rounded off where the lean on the legs transitions into the flat section that butts up to the stretcher. Sketchup makes a series of lines where arcs are formed to the model isn’t that pretty to look at.

The rear stretcher is flush with the front of the back legs. The side stretchers splay out. I just put in rectangular legs to begin with.


I then replaced the front legs with a mirror image of the back legs. These were then cropped to be flush with the stretchers.


I tried to put in a lower stretcher with a 1/8″ reveal from the edge of the leg but I found that a stretcher in this position can never have a truly parallel reveal on account of the leg angles splaying out. I’m sure a straight stretcher in this position would look just fine in real life, but I would know that it didn’t line up perfectly. Not to mention the compound tenons this would include would be a bear to mark out. I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it by marking off each leg in place.


I toyed with a stretcher that had a crank or dog-leg shape to it. Each end could come out straight and then snake around until it met the other leg in a straight line.


Here it is in the model


Also I tried to see what the chair would look like with dowels. Not too shabby. The back rails look too big.


How about with no lower stretchers? Simpler again. Or easier to make.


With the major parts figured out, I saved a version of the model for measuring. Within Sketchup I moved the parts around to see how they might get arranged on some lumber.

Here you can see how they parts relate to a 2×8, a couple of 2x4s and a sheet of plywood. With this, I was ready to make a shopping list and go buy some wood.


Next up: Cutting up some wood


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