The next bit of fabrication was the back panels that will eventually be upholstered. These are simple squares of ply that will be secured with bolts and “T”-nuts. A little shaping should make for better comfort.
With that done it was time to make a final decision as to the finish. You know I’m an oil and wax kind of guy, but plywood needs a little something more. I thought about some sort of paint. Maybe a bold color to make my wacky design even more over the top? Maybe a traditional color of milk paint? In the end I went a somewhat conservative route and decided to dye them.
Before committing to the dye, however, I broke out the wood burner (don’t act surprised, you knew I would). I did show great restraint and limited myself to burning the front and rear corners. For the dye, I chose to use Transtint’s Dark Vintage Maple. I’ve used this product before in a different color (dark walnut) on a few tables.
Transtint comes as a concentrate and needs to be mixed with a carrier. Water or denatured alcohol are the choices and I chose to use alcohol. The alcohol dries fast and doesn’t raise the grain, although water may offer deeper penetration. So mix the dye per the instructions and apply. I rag the mixture on and work as fast as I can so as not to lose the wet edge. The open grain of the red oak and birch ply absorbed more dye than I wanted resulting in a slightly darker shade, but I can live with it.
Since the dye/alcohol mix dries quickly, I was able to follow up with a first coat of Tried & True Original just a few minutes after applying the dye. Today I applied the second coat of Tried & True.
While waiting on the finish to do its thing, I tackled the last bit of construction. The wedge pins that secure the backs. These are simply dowel pins shaved to a wedge shape. To create the dowel pins I prepared two red oak billets. One billet would generate two pins.
The last task was to upholster the two small back panels. I completely missed taking any photos of the upholstery operation though. They are really simple. One inch foam covered with sage green vinyl (the same vinyl that I used on the footstools) and stapled in place.
That is pretty much it. A final buff with a soft cloth and the backs wedged in place.
So that concludes my crazy chair experiment and my entry in Brian’s “June Chair Build“. This design works, but is best suited to power tools because of the use of plywood. Shaping the outside edges of plywood with hand tools is doable (requires frequent sharpening). Shaping the inside edges (mortises/handle) is possible, but best suited to the use of an electric router. One note about the stretchers. Structurally they are not required, although they do add quite a bit of strength. The legs and their tenons are more than strong enough on their own. I simply prefer the visual of having the stretchers.
All in all I think I accomplished my original goal. A simple chair that required no special tools or steam bending. A chair that could be built from readily available materials. Maybe even a chair that took an age-old construction method and updated it to a modern aesthetic. The degree of my success is in the eye of the beholder and will most likely run the gamut of the scale.
Part 3 Greg Merritt