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  1. #1
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    Splintering Help

    Hello all. I am working with what I believe to be cedar logs for my rustic chair. They are really splintery, and I need to smooth them out. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to keep the wood smooth and free of splinters? Would lacquering the surface multiple times eliminate the problem?

  2. #2
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    Eastern red cedar wouldn't be my choice for a wooden chair. It's weak, splintery, & tends to push off finishes due to the aromatic oil in it. Some thin glue or polyurethane can penetrate the wood & stiffen it up, but if it is going to be outside, it probably won't last long. Inside, I have seen poly last just fine. Unless you're using some pretty big pieces, I'd be very worried about the legs breaking, especially if someone was big or flopped in it like my kids used to, though. I don't want to be a drag, but you might want to use a stronger wood or you could have a real mess on your hands in the future.

  3. #3
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    You're right; it doesn't seem like a very strong wood. The logs I am using are fairly large, so I don't think I have to worry too much about them breaking. Thanks for the help JimMac.

  4. #4
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    I wasn't any help. Sorry. It's tough without seeing the actual project & knowing more about the circumstances.

  5. #5
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    That's okay (I wasn't being sarcastic when I said thanks.) The chair/stool is basically just firewood pieced together! In other words, really rustic.

    "Rustic is a lack of refinement, not quality."

  6. #6
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    Either was I. Glad you got something out of it. Rustic is cool & hopefully some work with a drawknife, sanding & even some glue will make them work for you. Good luck & post pictures when you're done, please.

  7. #7
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    JimMac, here is a picture of the finished stool. It is actually my first completed rustic piece, so don't expect too much! It is made from a forked cedar tree trunk. I stripped the bark and sanded it down. I plan to finish it with a polyurethane. It is pretty sturdy.rusticstool.jpg

  8. #8
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    The forked sides are neat. Great idea. If I had been making this, I would have made the stool shorter (maybe 6" or 8"), centered the step between the top & ground, if it is for stepping. If it is for sitting, I would have angled the legs making it smaller by a few inches at the top. In either case, I would cap the top. That would have been stronger, looked better, & minimize splintering from the sides in my opinion. If it is for sitting, you can still cap it. I would use the smoothest piece of the bark edge that I could find & might want to bevel the cut ends somewhat. Again, just my opinion & it certainly looks plenty strong.

    When I'm fiddling with odd pieces & have no real plans, there are a couple of things I try to do. First, I look through various books & online for dimensions of a similar piece. In this case, I'd look at both step & sitting stools. I'm not saying I follow them all the time, but through the years folks have figured out that most people are comfortable sitting at a certain height with a foot rest at another specific height from the seat & floor. Ditto with step stools. It's amazing how trained we are to expect certain distances & anything out of that range just feels weird.

    Second, I cut the pieces as little as possible, then use scraps & clamps to position the main ones, basically building a wobbly version of my final project. I stand back & look at it. In the case of a stool like this, I might try to scrounge up a similar one & put it next to it. That helps me visualize what the final form will look like & what I might want to change. Sometimes it just doesn't feel right & I'll leave the pieces sitting around for days until I finally figure it out. Then it will click & I'm far more pleased with the result than if I try to force it. I have some odd pieces sitting around for YEARS before I finally use them or toss them out.

    Anyway, great project. How did you attach the horizontal boards to the legs?

  9. #9
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    I tried to make it into both a bar stool and a step ladder on the other side. The ladder part didn't really work out, but it still works as a seat. That was a good idea, making the sides angled for stability. I didn't think too much about people's height preferences; I will have to remember that. To attach the steps to the legs, I used round mortises and tenons. I drilled holes in the legs with a good forstner bit, and I cut and chiseled tenons on the ends of the steps. By the way, What do you mean by capping?

  10. #10
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    Oh well, many of my projects don't work out all the way, either. That's part of the fun, but also why I dry fit with clamps & scraps to start. It helps minimize such things. Sounds like you joined it well. As for the angled legs, look at most stools & you'll see they're angled a few degrees. That's why I'll put a previously made, similar object up against the dry fit one. I suddenly notice minor details like that.

    By 'capping' I meant putting another piece of wood across the top of the stool horizontally to create a new seat. Think about how it splinters. They will start at the cut ends, which you now have poking into a person's bottom. If they slide off the side, they'll tend to pull splinters out due to the friction of their pants.

    More importantly, water goes into the end grain of wood a LOT faster & easier than from the side. Take a piece of wood & stand it in a bucket of water. In a couple of hours, you'll see it climb up the grain an amazing amount. If water is in the wood & it freezes, the water expands & that opens the grain for more water to get in & freeze which gives it more leverage & more splinters. Don't expect finish to keep it all out. If the furniture sits outside a couple of years, finish will crack & allow water in long before you get around to refinishing if you're anything like me.

    Lastly, it's a matter of looks. To me, a stool without a seat that covers the entire top looks funny. Of course, that's just my opinion & suggestion. It's your project. Do what looks good to you. I'm more of a 'function over form' kind of guy & know what I like. My wife doesn't like the thin bowls I turn that make wavy edges when they dry. I do, so I keep making them. Some like them, others don't. Such is life.

    You might want to google "Furniture Measurements" in the future to get some ideas, too. Tables come in a few standard height ranges which mean the chairs & stools for them should be in a specific range based on normal body types. If nothing else, that will give you a height to shoot for.

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