A (Still) Better Way to Plane Chair Seats - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A (Still) Better Way to Plane Chair Seats

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

Chair Seats

For many years I’ve used the following trick to plane irregular-shaped objects: Screw a square block to the underside of the piece and then clamp that block in my face vise.

It’s a trick that I showed in my 2007 book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” (Psst, the second edition is coming out later this year.)

I find it especially useful for planing up the seats of Windsor chairs. The little block trick allows you to sidestep all manner of silly tail-vise set-ups and wack-a-doodle cauls.

So today I am planing up a seat blank and fetched my little block of wood and two drywall screws. I tossed the block on the underside of the seat blank. The block landed near the front of the seat and I froze for a second.

Chair Seats

Usually I screw the block to the dead center of the seat. But I just then realized there’s a better way. Screw the block to the front edge (or back edge) and you can get most of the seat supported by the benchtop.

Chair seats don’t flex much when you plane them. But the extra support is noticeable.

It’s a small detail. But it helps.

— Christopher Schwarz


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Showing 6 comments
  • Jennie Alexander

    A breath of fresh screws. Seldom see drywall screws mentioned in today’s enlightened hand tool world. They have there problems but I bought some real screws the other day and was shocked. Never pass a building under construction or renovation. At the right time, there will be enough drywall screws on the floor to last you years.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Been using the same box of drywall screws since we moved here in 1996…. Almost time to visit a construction site.

  • Sawtooth

    Hmmm. I don’t remember reading about that technique in your book, but I’d assume you’d always put the stop nearer the front edge. Also, why does it have to go into the vise? Doesn’t the seat become a kind of bech hook on its own?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Page 47.

      And I guess I’m just not that bright.

      If you try it as you suggest (as a bench hook), you will quickly get your answer.

      • Saville

        For those of us who don’t have the time to make the experiment, would you mind telling us why it fails?


        • drsmith

          Just imagining it in my head, the side of the seat with the block is likely to pop upwards when you apply pressure to the furthest side and then there would be nothing hold it anymore.

          That could be easily solved by changing the block so it’s more like an L that captures the front edge of the bench. No vice needed if you do it that way and it’s super easy to make.

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