At 81 years of age, carving’s challenges still drives this man.
SHOP OWNER: Ken Culley
LOCATION: Southampton, Ontario, Canada
Recently I completed work on this reproduction Chippendale hairy paw foot chair designed by Ron Clarkson. The cabriole legs, hairy paw feet, which are designed to resemble an animal's paw complete with claws, and gadrooned effect with its ability to produce a circular border that appears to be in motion, caught my interest and gave me the drive to make it.
As usual, I worked on the chair as and when the mood moved me. This works well for me when carving, as it helps me avoid doing an exacting job when I am tired. If you make a mistake a casual observer may not notice it but you always will. The finish is red mahogany stain with Varathane. A sealer was used before staining to obtain color uniformity.
I have always enjoyed working with hand tools and this chair provided plenty of opportunity. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the full-scale drawings and this added time to the work and a couple of slight modifications. I would hesitate to make another chair of this complexity without them.
If you are working without the full-scale drawings, Mr. Clarkson’s book Making Classic Chairs provides patterns for the detailed carving but you will need to enlarge these to the specified sizes. Enlarging can be done on the computer but check the finished pattern carefully for size. I traced the enlarged pattern onto the work piece using carbon paper.
I used South American mahogany for the chair with a maple frame. For the seat, although 1 ½-inch would have been adequate, I went with two-inch foam. I opted to cut the back splat tenons first and fit them to the crest rail before mortising. My reasoning was that this way I am assured of a good fit and shoulders of equal size on each tenon.
There are two steps that I was taught many years ago and that I still practice. At the time of dry fit, eyeball the seat rails side to side and front to back to check that they are in alignment and, secondly, run a tape or a length of ¼” dowelling from corner to corner (i.e. back leg to front leg for both corners). If the chair is square they should both be equal.
. . . Ken Culley