Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Gorman Bench Final

Hand Made Modern

Main frame joinery complete.
In my last post I finished bending the arms and the main double  tenon joinery complete on the cherry bench.
The good thing about this design is that there is really only 6 major joinery ‘intersections’ on the entire piece and the double tenon method worked great for what I needed.
The bad thing was every joint on this bench is a compound miter!
Patience, patience.
The arm to leg assembly not only splays outwards to add an inviting out-stretched arm feel but they also spread towards the front of the bench making the seating area a welcoming trapezoid shape or better yet, an Isosceles trapezoid depending on your geography-
; )

Seat to crest rail wood would have been better here- I would have used a froe and split them out. we need to work with what we have and that's what I did. It worked out in the end.
Now my next challenge was to decide what to do about the 27 upright pieces that needed to join the seat to the crest rail and that’s where I’ll pick it up again today…
I had the 1″ square pieces of cherry all cut and planed and needed a solution to attach them without having to chop out and saw fifty-some mortise and tenons.
Enter the Veritas Power Tenon Cutters,
( don’t let the name fool you, they can easily be used with a hand brace )
I was excited to add this ‘rustic’ detail to the bench. Not only for the added speed of cutting that many tenons but for the irregular aesthetic it would bring to the piece.
I say irregular aesthetic but truth be told you won’t see this detail once the cushions are in place. Another one of those discoveries to be made in custom furniture.
The shoulders would be a dead give away that this piece was hand made and after the week of hard hand sawing and sweating I wanted the whole world to know that that was exactly how it was made; a big ‘ol plank of cherry wood, a few hand tools and some determination.
A Brad Point bit into the end of some dowel will make a reliable depth stop in the cutter.
Once the hole is drilled the Rare Earth magnet that came with the jig is inserted.
The dowel is cut to length and is inserted into the jig for a depth stop.
Perfectly imperfect. Modern rustic ?

Alright, a quick pause for station identification.
The main frame joinery is almost complete but not yet final shaped.
Joinery Flash...
The arms are bent but also still only rough dimensioned and no joinery to the legs yet….
The back slats are ready for some shaping and smoothing and finally, the crest rail is in need of joinery and a couple dozen holes drilled for those tenons! But before that, a dry fit to check the splay of the leg assembly thus far.
Seeing as I’m on vacation I didn’t bring any large clamps. A second of panic turns into ideas and I find some old rope and with a 24″ length of 1″ cherry I began turning and watch the rope tension ever so slowly and draws the joints into place.
The creaking and moaning as the tenons find their way into their mortises.
Mornings like this are why I love working wood.
With the Spanish Windlass working it, who needs clamps?
With a dry fit complete I’ll take a quick break from the grind and shape a little.
One of the most relaxing parts of the job.
; )
Shaping the arms with a card scraper after the spokeshave work is done. Photo by Don Carstens.
Speaking of joinery, not all of it is glamorous and it really needn’t be.
The seat frame on the bench will be wrapped and woven with 1 3/4″ cotton webbing. This part of the frame will be doweled together. Dowel centers assist and the frame comes together. The front corners will be exposed end grain so I sharpened up a chisel and pared it fine and smooth.
Dowel placement dances around the rabbet in the front stretcher of the seat webbing frame.
Working the end grain down to my scribe lines with a freshly sharpened chisel.
This never gets old. Incredible.
A dry fit and then into a frame for glue.
A quick side note for one of the unsung heroes of the summer time wood shop- allow me to introduce a hand tool that has served me well through the years, always gets me out of a jam when I need it and never gets the credit it deserves.
I’m sure everyone of you have a set of these somewhere and for me I use them to check my dowel hole depths and clean out debris in the holes as I work. of the orginals in the tool box and brother is that not a heavy logo? The hand shake. Sweet.
A million and one uses. The mighty Vise Grip always lends a hand.
As mentioned I didn’t bring any large clamps along so again the glue-up process is one of a kind.
Here two batons are nailed to  the floor and wedges are used to push the pieces firmly together.
The mighty wedge prevails.
The crest rail tenons are carefully laid out and followed by the brace and bit work out….
Compound joinery where the crest rail meets the arms.
The tenon locations are considered and transferred. You can really see the splay on the side arm assemblies here.
Deep mortises are cut into the arms. This was a little stressful seeing as the piece is bent lamination. The brace and then the mortise chisel to clean up. An easy and reliable method for making mortises. Even double ones!
The crest rail is bored...this became a work out. photo by Carolyn Fidgen.
Over my shoulder...
Drilled and beginning to take shape.
Edges are broken, corners are softened and the piece is again ready for a dry fit.
Individual pieces are finished with oil and set in the sun to advance the patina process and 'age' the cherry wood. They're hit again with super fine abrasive paper and oiled again the next day. Every chance I had I placed them in the sun. It's amazing how quickly cherry wood deepens in tone.
Did I mention you should never use the Green tape in wood working? Splurge and buy the blue stuff- ( hey Vic ? ; )’
Seriously, the green breaks down too quickly and you’ll be cursing ever using it. Go blue. Really.
Green tape residue. I hate green tape.
This is what green tape is good for.Oh, and for painting...yeah, sure. painting. on drywall. ; )
With the finish set it’s time to glue up the main frame and again the Spanish Windlass is key.
While the glue sets I drill and drive cherry dowels through all of the joinery and go back to trim flush and finish the area around them.
Here are some frame detail shots after glue and dowels :
Keeping the bent lamination in sequence is vital to insure proper grain re-alignment after finishing. The rays in the wood would be all over the map if the pieces were out of sequence.
My favorite scratch bead is added almost as a kind of signature across the front beam. Granted you'll never see this once the seat is in place. Maybe someone will find it when they wake up on the floor some day in front of the bench after a great party the night before?
This view from the arm to leg is sweet. Notice the cigar shaped tapers to the pieces. Those little details add up. They could have been left square like the original sketch but this gives the piece more dynamic lines.
Meanwhile, back inside my wife and 5 year old daughter are busy weaving the seat frame. A real family affair.
The webbing is a heavy cotton and my client is having full cushions manufactured. They’ll hide some of these details but we’ll all know they’re there and that’s fine with me. The little details are a sign of quality.
The webbing is attached with bronze ring nails and batons are added to insure a long life of heavy use.
Piper weaves at the kitchen table while Mom watches over with a mindful eye.
Inside with Piper and Carolyn while the webbing is woven.

Once the webbing was complete the seat is attached with a few screws to make it removable for maintenance like re-oiling or in case a future repair is needed.
Some final shots in the yard before delivery.
Webbing detail.
The Gorman Bnech. front view
The Gorman Bench. Summer 2011. Cherry and cotton.
Gorman Bench side profile.

Well that about covers it.
Next summer I’ll try to get a shot of the bench with the cushions in place. I’m very happy with the outcome of this project and hope my client is as well. It started with a wish to use local materials and take the modern rocking chair as inspiration. I think we managed to do just that.
A few hand tools and a big plank of cherry wood, about 120 hours and some good old fashion hand work.
Until next time.

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