Mortising Machine Story Stick
Setting up a mortising machine to create mortises can sometimes be tricky. There’s a handful of adjustments that you need to make, and if you have to recreate a setup, it can be difficult getting it back to where it was. My solution is to make a template that acts as a story stick.
TELL ME A STORY. As you can see in the photo at left, the story stick is a piece of thin plywood. I mark the part name and mortise location, length, and depth. Now, I can use the mortise to set not only the workpiece stops, but also the left and right stops for the machine (lower left photo). The final setting is to set the height the bit. This can quickly be done on the actual workpiece, as you see in the lower right photo, or easily referenced using the store stick set on edge.
In talking with woodworkers, it seems like many build at least one dining table during some point in their woodworking journey. However, the number of woodworkers that build the matching chairs seems relatively small. And I can understand that. You just completed a large project. The last thing you want to do is start four, six, or eight other, slightly smaller, more complex projects.
MATT TO THE RESCUE. Luckily, woodworker and Youtuber Matt Cremona has introduced a line of chair kits that allows you to assemble and finish chairs with little effort. I had heard a lot of hype around Matt’s kits, so I ordered a set of chairs to see what the fuss was about.
As you can see in the lower left photo on the previous page, the kit comes with all of the parts CNC cut, including a steam bent crest rail, lower rail, and back slat. The kits are available in four different styles, with each one being offered in cherry, maple, and walnut. The kit shown here is the most formal of the offering, style 4, with the optional arm rests.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. When the packages were delivered, I was impressed with how securely the bundles were wrapped. Expanding foam packs kept everything safe and dent-free from the ever-careful UPS.
As impressed as I was with the packing, I was just as happy with the quality of the stock used in the chairs. The walnut was clean and clear with great color. Plus, it had some great grain patterns.
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. Just because each of the chair kits comes pre-cut doesn’t mean you can’t get your woodworking fix with these chairs — there are a few details on each that need taken care of before you can assemble them. Most of the things to knock out before you assemble the chair are fit and finish items. The first, at least on this style, is to round or bevel the corners of the back slat so it will fit into the rail’s mortises (upper right photo).
A LITTLE FLARING. In all of the chair kits, you’ll want to do a dry assembly. This will show where some of the joints need blending together. In the lower left photo, you can see the joint between the legs and the crest rail needs a little bit of rasp work to make it a smooth, fluid transition.
When you’re working on the dry assembly, you’ll also probably discover some areas where you’ll want to add an edge treatment, or maybe even some embellishment (carving anyone?). One of those is the seat pan.
As you can see in the lower right photo, you’ll want to round over the edges of the seat so it doesn’t bite into the back of your legs as you sit in the chair. Because of the sculpted design of the seat, you’ll need to stand the seat on edge and use a backer board to add extra support for the router base.
FINISH PREP. After fitting the parts, you can start on finish prep. These parts come pretty smooth, and you can start at about 150grit. I sanded mine through 320-grit, because I planned on an oil finish. While most of the parts can be sanded with a random-orbit sander, some of the curved parts need to be hand sanded (left photo, above).
Pre-finishing parts is something that, as woodworkers, we know we should do. With a chair, I find that especially important. As you can see in the right photo above, I pre-finished all of the parts with oil. Taping off the tenons makes sure you’ll have a good glue bond when you assemble the chair. If you’re applying a top coat, and don’t have a spray gun, I suggest doing your clear coat like this as well.
THREE-PART ASSEMBLY. Assembling the chairs is best done in stages. The front legs and stretcher can be glued togther as one unit, then the back legs with appropriate parts. With the curves on the back legs, a ratchet strap is probably the best bet to clamp them, and it worked well.
After the front and back leg assemblies are dry, you can assemble the rest of the chair. I would suggest installing the corner brackets while you can make adjustments to square. The final thing to wrap up is attaching the seat with screws.
OVERALL IMPRESSION. After assembling these chair kits, I was suprised how much I liked them. The fit, finish, and quality of them leaves nothing to be desired. If you have a dining table project on the horizon, but you’re dreading making chairs, I highly suggest you visit Mattcremona.com and take a look at the chair kits available. I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed.