Posted on 10th November 2021 at 22:20
Here’s a sketch of the settle that I’m making.
I went to Whitney Saw Mill http://www.whitneysawmills.com/ to collect the oak. It’s in a fantastic location beside the river Wye on the Herefordshire/Powys border.
Converting the timber.
An impressive air drying hangar. All the boards are neatly stacked with sticks separating each board. This allows the air to circulate evenly over each board.
My boards need to be trimmed down to fit in my van. When I placed my order I sent a cutting list through and the boards are selected and marked up for me. Sasha and Charlie are my workmates today.
Back in the workshop and ready to use. The chunky piece marked “A” will be the front legs.
It’s been a frustrating few days in the workshop. I needed to sharpen the blades on my Wadkin planer/thicknesser. If anyone has attempted this before they’ll understand how fiddly it can be to re-fit them. Add to this the fact that the in-feed table (the surface on the right of the yellow bridge guard) became wobbly. It has to be perfectly parallel with the out-feed table (the surface on the left) to function correctly. Anyway, all is ok now, and I’ve learnt a lot about how the machine works.
Here’s a snap of a fielded panel for the oak settle. I cut the bevel on the spindle moulder. The cutter head was set to a bevel of about 10 degrees. My next job is to make the frames that these panels will sit in. Stay tuned…
I’m making the rails and stiles (the pieces that hold the panels in place) for the oak settle.
Once I’ve cut the pieces to a rough length and width the next thing is to make all the faces square with each other. I start by planing a face side (above). I push the piece of oak over the cutting block, which is a rotating steel drum with three sharp blades in it. The in-feed table (at the back) is about half a mm lower than the out-feed table. This means that half a mm of wood is removed on each pass, until it is smooth and flat.
The face side is then used as a reference for planing the face edge (above). The fence is set square to the table surfaces. I check that the face side and edge are square with an engineers square.
I then mark these faces. This is the datum, from which the rest of the component can be shaped.
Next is to plane the component to width. The opposite edge to the face edge must be parallel to it. I feed it through the thicknesser, raising the bed a few mm each pass, until it’s the width I need. The bed must be parallel to the spinning blades above it to keep everything square.
Finally, I plane the component to the thickness I need. It’s then ready to use. Note the effective extractor behind to remove all the chips.
I’ve started with the seat. It’s 2 metres long, and half a metre wide. This width is difficult to manage as one piece of wood, so I make it up out of 5 pieces (staves) that are 100mm wide. This is called jointing.
I make all the staves the same thickness, and then plane the edge of each one so that it is perfectly flat and square. This is so that there are no gaps and the board is flat when I glue them together.
I machine the edges first on a surface planer, but has to be finished with a hand plane to smooth out the tiny ridges that the machine leaves. The thickness of the oak in this photo is 2cm, so the ridges are about half a mm apart
The staves are glued to each other one-by-one. I like to leave the glue to fully cure over night. I’ve spent the last few days cutting 28 mortice and tenon joints for the oak settle.
I marked up the leg and frame components and then the mortices are cut using the morticer.
It’s vital that time is taken to get the mortices in exactly the same position on each rail. I also routed a groove in the rails to receive the edges of the panels.
I cut the tenon cheeks on the bandsaw. In this instance the thickness of the tenon is the same as the width of the groove.
In the above photo you can just see where I’ve scored a line to mark the tenon shoulder. There’s one on the other end, and again it’s important that they are marked exactly the same distance apart on each component.
I placed a chisel in the shoulder mark and use the square the make sure it will cut at right angle to the face of the component.
The fit should be nice and snug.
Here’s the back panel. You can see all the stiles (the shorter vertical pieces) fitting cleanly, and at right angles to the rails (the longer horizontal pieces).
Here is a dry fit (no glue) with the legs in place.
It’s been a fiddly few days tweaking all the components to fit together. There’s still a long way to go, but here is a pic of the first dry fit. I think it looks very handsome.
Here is a side view of the settle. The back rest is angled back by about 5 degrees. To achieve this I cut a long wedge out of the square piece…
… and this is what Sasha and Sophie have done with the wedge offcuts.
The oak settle is finished, at last! Have a look. I’ve stained the oak slightly darker to match an existing table.
The batons under the seat flaps add strength and keep the wood from cupping. They are screwed on through a slot instead of a screw hole. This allows the wood to expand and contract across the grain without splitting.
The hinges are nicely burnished and recessed into the seat.
The back legs are attached to the arms with a through dovetail joint. This is not only an elegant detail, but also it holds the whole of the back panel in place.
The other end of the arm rests are doweled onto the front legs. They resist any pulling from the dovetails at the other end. the whole structure of the settle allows the wood to sympathetically ‘breathe’ over time, whilst keeping sound mechanical strength as it gets used.
The settle is delivered… just!
I finally managed to deliver the oak settle, and it looks fantastic in its new home. The narrow alleyway we intended to carry it along was unfortunately locked, with no key holder to be found. It was quite an effort to carry it along an alternative route – a narrow crumbling path on a steep slope, over 3 fences and through a hedge. Only crocodiles snapping at our ankles would have made it more treacherous! Thanks to Sam, Noel and Jeff for helping.
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