Footrest and Crest Rail
Making the footrest is fairly straightforward. I like to clamp the chair together and fit the footrest in place, just to be certain that it is working out as I planned.
Once the footrails are made, you can go ahead and assemble the chairs, minus the crest rails, of course (because you haven’t made them yet). Predrill screw holes, both the through holes in the legs and the pilot holes in the chair seat. I use 2″ Kreg Jig® hardwood screws with their flat shoulders, because their threads grab exceptionally well and they are very strong overall. Use glue in the joints and screw the components together securely. Wipe away any glue squeeze-out with warm water and a clean shop rag. Allow the glue to cure. You will need to plug the holes, and I like to make my own plugs from the wood that I am using to make the chair, rather than purchase premade plugs. I use a plug cutter on my drill press and sort through the plugs to get a good color match. It is a small detail that makes a big difference in my mind. One trick that I do to prepare the ends of the back legs for the crest rail is this: I take a 30″ or so piece of 1″ stock and wrap 100-grit sandpaper around it in two spots that correspond to the distance apart that the end of the back legs are. Then, holding the sandpaper square to the ends of the legs, I sand back and forth to even the ends of the legs.
The crest rail looks rather simple, but it actually requires a fair bit of machining.
The scooped-out and carved area on the crest rails is formed using my handheld grinder, then I do the dimple carving with a curved gouge. Then I trim the top edge of the crest rail to shape, so that I get a clean top edge.
You may notice on the back face of the crest rails there are a couple of triangular areas that are planed onto each end of the rail. This gives the crest rails a bit of additional shape, adding a degree of visual interest to the piece. I form them using a bench plane as shown in the image above, at right. Now it is time to locate the dowels that will join the crest rails to the back legs. As with many woodworking tasks, there is more than one way to skin this cat, but I take a small brad nail and tap it into the center of the top of each back leg. I nip it off, leaving just about 1/8″ exposed.
Then I carefully position the crest rail and tap the top edge with a rubber mallet above each leg. This gives me the location to drill for the dowels. I pull the brads out of the top of the legs and use a brad point drill bit to bore a hole to accept the dowels. Then I take the crest rail to my drill press and bore the corresponding holes into the rail. I use a small fixture, just an angled piece of wood really, to hold the crest rail at the proper angle when the dowel hole is being drilled.
Now it is time to cut the angles onto the ends of the crest rails. Sand the crest rails before you attach them to the chair trust me, it is easier.
Test fit the crest rail to the chair, make any additional adjustments that might be required, and then clamp them in place using the dowels and glue. Wipe off any squeeze-out, then allow the glue to cure.
Finishing is the next task on the docket, but not before you do a once-over final sanding. Check all the edges to make sure you didn’t dent or mar them durning assembly. With walnut, I like to wipe it down with a wet cloth to raise the grain, and then final sand to 220- or even 320-grit. Then I like to apply a good coat of Natural Watco Oil and allow it to dry for at least 48 hours. The Watco soaks into the wood fibers and really pops the grain. It also gets into the carved section of the crest rail and seals those exposed fibers. It is almost like it conditions the wood fibers and hardens them. Then I apply several coats of wipe-on polyurethane, with a rubdown of #0000 steel wool before the final coat. After the poly cures (at least seven days to cure completely), a rubout with paste wax and #0000 steel wool makes the finish feel like silk.
There you have it. The chair only has seven main components, but as you can see, that does not mean that it is a snap to make. Chairs never are. But this one is really not too hard, and if I do say so myself, it looks pretty good!