Take a U-turn to Scoop a Chair Seat

01pwm1308scoopseatA table saw and a simple jig make a time-consuming task quick and easy.

By Mario Rodriguez
Pages 36-39

Woodworkers use all sorts of techniques to scoop out their chair seats. Many commonly resort to hacking out the waste with traditional tools such as an adze, travisher and scorp. Others design and assemble elaborate jigs to precisely guide and control a router. Some take the high-tech route and employ CNC equipment. But no woodworkers I know would turn to their table saws to get this tricky job done.

About 20 years ago I stumbled onto a unique scooping method in a self-published book by Robert Marquis titled, “Making the Classic Windsor Chair.” As a chairmaker, I browsed the book and was intrigued by one technique that the author used that was radical, imaginative and maybe even daring. Marquis used the table saw to cut a shallow but symmetrical hollow in his seat blanks. His technique yielded results that were flatter, less sculpted and had a machine-cut quality. Because I was making more traditional chair styles then, I shelved the book and didn’t give it much thought for the next 20 years.

Later I became interested in mid-century furniture designs, particularly Scandinavian chairs, and recalled Marquis’ unusual method. I was so skeptical of the technique that I consulted a candidate for a doctorate in engineering before attempting it myself. With a green light from the engineer, I constructed the necessary jigs and prepared a couple of seat blanks.

Cove Cuts on Steroids
Most woodworkers are familiar with cove mouldings cut using a table saw. You pass material along its length, guided by a fence, diagonally across a raised table saw blade to produce a cove cut. Well, the seat-scooping technique is a variation on that.

Using a jig to guide the work, you pass the material across the raised table saw blade, stop at a given distance, then make a U-turn and return to the starting point. Successive passes expand the width of the scoop. The depth of the scoop is determined by the height setting of the blade. I usually cut to a depth of 1⁄4″.

The jigs and technique that follow show you how to cut an attractive scoop that measures approximately 141⁄2″ long x 141⁄2″ wide. Both the width and the front-to-back dimensions are reached as cuts are made along the 16″ travel groove, and as the bridge portion of the jig is moved forward on successive passes. Each pass increases both measurements of the seat’s scoop.

Blog: Watch a short video in which Mario Rodriguez put his jig through its paces.
Web Site: Take a tour of the author’s shop and school, Philadelphia Furniture Workshop.
In Our Store: Order our full-length DVD “Table Saw Jigs & Fixtures.

From the August 2013 issue #205
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