Chair Update - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Chair Update

 In Arts & Mysteries Blog, Woodworking Blogs

As you all know, I’m building a Chippendale chair in a series of articles for Popular Woodworking Magazine and I’ve been having some troubles with it. In the first article, I undercut the back legs, and while I tried to salvage the large pieces of Honduras Mahogany, the damage was done. I had trouble mortising the rear legs. The angled mortises were difficult to cut accurately and the result was a poor fit up. Squaring the bottoms of the legs resulted in yet another problem at the rear joints. I poorly planned the size of the back splat and had to cobble pieces on to make up the width. The crest rail to splat joint was also less than perfect.

But the worst was yet to come. Last night, while carving the back splat, I made my worst mistake of all. I guess my gouge was not quite as sharp as it should have been. I was pushing a bit too hard and this, combined with the irregular shape of the chair, created “perfect storm”-like conditions. I slipped, cracking the back splat, and sent the gouge into my left palm. I’m proud of my brutally honest and open approach to writing and sharing with you my mistakes in hopes that you can avoid them in your shop. But I’m not proud to say that with my hand bleeding, I lost my temper and smashed the chair back on the shop’s concrete floor. I had worked very long and hard on that chair, and despite the many set backs, I always kept my cool. I guess this mishap was just the last straw.

My hand suffered sever tendon damage. While I was in the emergency room late last night, waiting my turn while the more “serious” injuries, gun shot wounds, car accidents, “heart attacks” etc were taken first, I had some time to cool off and think about my next project. With my next article due in two weeks, I’ve decided to switch gears a bit and start that Mission style bookcase my wife has been wanting. And again, honesty being the best policy, I feel it’s time to start discussing my back shop with PW readers. I’ve always tried to do as much as possible with hand tools, but like you, I enjoy using machines for rough stock prep. I’ve made some tweaks to my Grizzly G1023S that I’d like to share with PW readers. So while the chair series is officially over, I’m looking forward to this new series even more. While the focus of my column has always been period woodwork, I’m looking at this accident with the chair as an opportunity to explore the more practical side of woodworking. I’ll be back to work just as soon as my hand stops throbbing.


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Showing 11 comments
  • Adam Cherubini

    I’ve never posted an April Fool’s Day blog and every year I’ve meant to. It was a ton of fun for me and hopefully you (all) too. I thought long and hard about this post. To be a high quality prank, I knew it needed to include enough shreds of truth to be believable. I also included things that I think people believe about me (that are untrue).

    So those of you, not to mention names (greg, dave) who related to the feelings of frustration in my story, don’t feel bad. All of us get frustrated once in a while. I tend to step away or do something else. I thought that aspect of the story/big fat lie "felt real".


  • greg

    I would throw this off as an April fool’s joke if similar things hadn’t happened to me (more than once).

    Remember the scene in "The Patriot" where aspiring Windsor chair maker (Mel Gibson’s leading character) throws a factory reject on a tall pile of previous failures? That to me is unrealistic because all of the parts in the chair were at a stage where they represent hours of accumulated work. From my experience, when things go so truly wrong, the ensuing wrath requires not just a pitiful toss of the workpiece, but repeated smashings and bashings of the remnant pieces accompanied by a virulent stream of sailor talk. I believe your reaction was therfore much more authentic.


  • Scott Stahl

    So, you are going to publish a howto on a chair that can’t be built without blood sacrifice?

    I’ll wait for the bookcase.

    Speedy recovery on the hand.

  • Bob Easton

    Nice try Adam, but we aren’t buyin’ it. Not today.

    Looking forward to seeing that fine chair.

  • HB

    HA! Good one. How long did it take you to look up the grizzly model on the website?

    Shoulda been pushing the gouge with your shoulder.

  • NC

    You had me until the "Grizzly" admission. Everyone knows period woodworkers use Dewalt…

  • The Village Carpenter

    Better be careful with those puffy sleeves when you’re running your table saw.
    ; )

    And Mission style furniture…it’s so YOU!

  • Bjenk


    This is such an honest and humble post that it is hard not to be moved by it. I hope your hand will recover. Tendon damage can’t be good.

    I think that you did hurt your hand but I think the table saw tips is a prank.

    Get well Adam!

  • Ken Werner

    I suspect this is not a 4/1 tall tale. Hope you enjoy a full and complete healing. I am relieved to hear that you do have some tailed apprentices there. It was great fun to meet you in Saratoga. Best wishes.

  • Dean Jansa

    Adam — hope that hand heals quickly, or at least enough to push the ON/OFF button on your tablesaw.
    Now that you aired your dirty secret I suppose I can uncover the router table, domino, jointer and table saw in the back of my shop as well. It was a lot of work putting those fore plane tracks on the lumber after running it over my jointer.

    Get Well soon!

    (good one!)

  • Bubba Squirrel

    I’d like to think your story is an April Fool’s joke, but I can associate if it’s not. I once foolishly was holding a piece of wood in one hand while pushing with a carving chisel in the other. The wood split & I was looking at most of the ball of my thumb dangling from the visible bone. This was about midnight one night. I have managed to remember not to do that again, though.

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