Furniture Making Techniques

We held our Guild summer meeting last Saturday, June 25th at my shop in Ryegate. The weather was nice and several members made the long journey to the Northeast Kingdom (or Southern Canada as some might say!) for the meeting. One interesting and inspiring aspect of our meetings is when members share and demonstrate a technique they use to build or design their custom furniture. Most of us work in our shops by ourselves and sometimes struggle to come up with a way to get a job done quickly and efficiently while maintaining the quality and craftsmanship (speaking for myself, at least!). These demonstrations not only teach us a new technique or a variation of one we already use, but also serve as a reminder that each of us has had to problem solve and there is so much we can learn from each other. In the past we have had demonstrations by Mario Messina on the bent lamination technique he uses to create his Cephalopod Lamps. Dan Mosheim has demonstrated how he uses his CNC when building his custom furniture such as his custom cherry bed with inlay. Bob Gasperetti hosted the Guild meeting soon after building his new shop compete with an expansive finishing room and showroom of his custom cherry, walnut and figured maple furniture. At Saturday’s meeting, the Guild’s newest member, Hugh Belton of Woodstock gave us a demonstration of the two-part router fixture he designed to make chair backs that are concave from side to side and convex from top to bottom in a single operation.

Hugh has graciously supplied the following text and photos of his ingenious fixture and his custom walnut dining chairs. “Chair backs that are constructed this way are more comfortable to sit back against than those that are flat or only curve in one dimension. Typically, I start with a chair-back blank that is 14″ long, 7″ wide, and 3″ thick. The wood is centered in the box with matching curved sides and secured so that it cannot move during the routing operation. The router, preferably a plunge router, is secured to the second component of the jig.

It is best to use a spiral down cutting router bit and cut no more that 1/4″ at a time to minimize tear-out. The final pass should be 1/16″ again to minimize tear-out. Be sure that the router bit is long enough to cut both ends of the chair back, which will require the greatest depth of cut. Depending on the depth of cut in both dimensions, you may have to raise the chair-back blank after some of the wood is removed. With experience you can bandsaw some of the wood away before placing it in the jig to speed up the operation. This router technique can be used to produce curved fronts on much larger pieces of furniture.

Be sure to wear ear protection, a dust mask, and a face shield when performing this procedure and always unplug the router from its power source when changing or adjusting the router bit.”

Walnut Dining Chair
To see the extensive body of work Hugh has created over the years, please visit his website

2 thoughts on “Furniture Making Techniques

  1. Hugh Belton

    The 2nd to last photo shows a curly maple chair back being shaped. The last photo shows a completed chair that is made from black walnut with a claro walnut chair back that was shaped using the same technique as the curly maple chair back.


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