QUEBEC LADDERBACK CHAIR
A worthy replica of a vernacular form
SHOP OWNER: Stephen Shepherd
LOCATION: Park City, UT
I built this chair when I had some free time in the shop on the 4th of July; it took 6 hours to build and 2 hours to grain and varnish. It is a copy of a chair a friend photographed at Upper Canada Village in the 1970's.
The original was a light-colored wood--probably yellow birch--with residue of red paint in the joints. I built mine from a standing-dead Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmanii) that had been killed by bugs then cut down and milled at a local sawmill here in Utah. The moisture content was 12%, which is a little high for furniture but perfect for chairmaking.
I first cut out the legs, did the layout, then turned all of the stretchers. I turned slight bellies on the tenons to lock into the holes in the legs as the wood seasons and shrinks. I heated the stretchers in the oven to dry them to about 6% moisture content.
While the stretchers were drying out, I cut out the two back rails with a frame saw, then scraped and sanded them to final shape. Spruce doesn't scrape well, so there was a lot of sanding.
I hand-planed and chamfered the legs then drilled the holes for the rails and stretchers. I prefer to hand drill the stretcher mortises because the drill pushes the wood fibers as well as cutting them, so when glue is applied they swell back making a tighter joint.
I applied hide glue to the mortises and tenons and assembled the chair. I oriented the grain on the stretchers for the best strength and least shrinkage over time. As the legs season, the mortises will become smaller, making the joints stronger with age.
I painted the chair with red iron oxide and shellac, and then grained it to imitate mahogany. I then applied three coats of thinned satin spar varnish to protect the graining. I still haven't decided upon a seat, perhaps rawhide snowshoe weave or rush or maybe Shaker tape....Stephen Shepherd
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