WD: Tools, Jigs & Fixtures


If you are a news junkie like me, what’s out there is pretty depressing. You have the state of politics, worldwide unrest and the economy, not to mention the price of chicken! There is not much to smile about. Well, maybe you’ll get a laugh or two when I explain and show you the weird collection of tools, jigs and fixtures I have used to make chairs for the last 25 years.

I didn’t realize just how backward and uncivilized my collection was until I started to explain them to people. Some are old, some hand-made, and some are downright embarrassing! Many of these jigs and tools I made as prototypes, trial pieces or threw them together to get a job done – I had every intention of refining each one at a later date. (Still do!) But as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Or in my case, medieval looking tools.

We’ll start with what’s needed to get a seat ready for assembly. The seat blank has to be cut to shape at a bandsaw, the gutter cut in, leg holes drilled, the edged shaped, seat scooped and the whole thing sanded. The way I do each of the procedures has evolved over the years as the number of chairs I made increased. The bandsaw is self-explanatory; I have an older model with only a 17″ throat, but it has lots of cast iron and a two-horse motor.

Gutter Evolution

(Fig. 1) The combination of a top-mount bearing and a plywood pattern helps to speed the cutting of a gutter.

The gutter is where the scooped part of the seat stops and the flat part, where the spindles are drilled, starts. This is one of the areas that has evolved over the years. I used to carve each one with a gouge, which was great when I was making a chair or two a week. But production calls for automation. We’re not talking CNC, just a core-box bit in a router (Fig. 1).

The bit has a rub bearing on the shaft that rides along a plywood pattern. Each chair design has it’s own pattern. It’s fast and clean, and a good use to which to dedicate an old router. My router is from the Carter administration. Screw the pattern to the seat blank in what will be the deepest part of the scoop, so that the screw hole disappears during shaping (Fig. 2). I find the gutter on the back edge of the seat more easily done on a shaper, also using a cutter and a rub collar.

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One thought on “WD: Tools, Jigs & Fixtures

  1. Excellent article !
    That old scratch stock has plenty of miles left in it.
    This is a perfect example of the KISS principle.

    Joe’s chairs are beautiful too.


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