Peter Tree Demonstration Evening 11-Oct-2017
Peter comes from Sleaford where he has been a chair maker for about 35 years. He is clearly a multi-talented individual, carrying out all aspects of his work himself; making his own tools, felling, seasoning and bending the timber, turning, assembling and carving the finished chairs.
He brought one of his chairs for us to see; a typical example of his work which would take him about 3 days effort to make and which he would sell for £495.
For his demonstration for us Peter was making a kitchen stool. In order to complete the project in the time available Peter pre-prepared the component parts:-
• an 11 inch diameter circular ash blank about 1 inch deep, drilled with 4 holes to accept the legs
• 4 octagonal section beech spindles for the legs, each drilled with a hole to accept the cross brace pieces
• 1 octagonal section beech spindle for the main cross brace, drilled through to accept the smaller cross brace
• 2 square section beech spindles for the smaller cross brace. Only one was needed, but since its eventual turned diameter is critical to the construction, a second piece was brought just in case !
Each of the leg spindles was turned between centres until the flats from the original section had disappeared leaving a cylinder which then was turned down to the required shape by eye using a very aged (and short) roughing gouge then shear cut with a skew to produce an excellent smooth surface. Next Peter added a simple 3 ring decoration; he used a flat scrap piece of wood which he marked with the desired position of the rings so that they were cut in exactly the same place on each leg. It was noticed that Peter made all the left hand cuts first then all the right hand cuts (initially with a spindle gouge and then with a skew) rather than completing one ring at a time. Apparently the style of decoration used historically was specific to the area where the chair was made, the 3 ring style was representative of the Thames Valley turners, so once you know your decorations you can tell what region the chair came from.
To ensure that all the spigots required for joining pieces together are the same size, Peter uses the same parting tool cutting the spigot two and a half widths of the tool. Then, rather than using callipers to get the spigot diameter correct Peter uses a home-made multi-cut template made from old saw blades (this material gives excellent rigidity to the template). Once the spigot has been turned nearly to size, Peter applies the template which cuts into the work piece leaving a burnt line that he can then turn the whole spigot down to to achieve the correct diameter.
The cross braces were then turned to shape and spigots added at each end in the same way as for the legs. The smaller cross brace was turned to the diameter of the hole in the larger cross brace, again using the multi-cut template; this was the bit where he needed to be careful – too large and it wouldn’t go through the hole, but too small and it would rattle around and not provide the required support. If he had had more time, Peter would have drilled through the centre of the two cross braces and fixed them with a glued dowel in the hole.
The seat blank was mounted on a face plate, the side trued and the face slightly dished to make the seat more comfortable. The top edge was rounded/rolled over, two simple rings added to the side for decoration and the bottom edge slightly beveled. If he had had more time, Peter would have turned a number of small conical plugs which would have been glued and hammered into the screw holes left from the face plate then sanded flush with the base of the seat.
Finally with the help of his trusty home-made mallet the cross pieces were joined to the 4 legs and the seat added, resulting in a very attractive simple stool created from scratch in less than two hours.