My Jake's Chair Project

Let me first warn you, that I am in no way, shape, or form, a professional, or even an amateur woodworker. I simply like to build, fix, tinker, etc. And I love power tools. So, when I found the plans for Jake's Chair, it read like an instruction manual for guaranteed success - or so I thought. I was instanly drawn to this project by the meticulous notation and effort that Tom Gauldin had put into these plans.

The wood
As prudent as it would have been for me to build a test chair out of scrap wood, I was not that patient. I went ahead and decided that I was building two chairs anyway, so whatever i screwed up on the first chair, I would certainly be able to correct, and avoid doing the same thing on the second chair. I chose to build my Jake's Chairs out of pine, only because I knew I was painting them white. If I were to stain them, I would have certainly chosen a harder and darker wood for the project. My boards of choice were 1" x 10" x 10' premium pine planks that I picked up at Home Depot for about 10 bucks a pop. I used 4 of these and then 1 1" x 10" x 8' plank. The plans told me this, so I didn't have to calculate anything, and the plans were correct! You can use thicker wood for the design, however, my not wanting to recalculate ANYTHING because of the probability of errors left me using the plan standard of 1" boards.

The screws
I purchased all the screws necessary for two Jake's Chairs at once and saved a little money in the process. I will tell you now, the countersink is a must, especially if you enjoy sitting in a chair without catching your skin or clothing on exposed screws. It takes a bit more time to build using the countersink method, but it will extend the life of your Jake's Chair as well as the life of your clothes, and your backside. Hint: Spend the 10 bucks for a quick release countersink bit for your drill. This will allow you to quickly change between countersink and screwdriver. Another option is to use two drills, one loaded with the countersink bit, and the other with the screwdriver bit. I built the first chair without a quick release (I didn't know it existed) and it was a nightmare. Every 4 screws I would have to unchuck the drill and switch bits. Also, purchase a countersink bit that is long enough or will let you adjust it to the correct length so that you do not have to follow a countersink drill with a regular drill bit for the pilot hole. They have bits that will accomplish all of this in one fell swoop.

The tools
I did have most of the tools required for this project ahead of time, so it only cost me a minimal amount in tools. I did not have a router, nor did I ever have a need for one, so I did purchase this for the project. I got a decent home router for about 80 bucks I think. Its not fancy, but I wont likely use it enough to need "fancy." Halfway through, my jigsaw literally fell into about 15 peices, so I did have to replace that, but they are fairly inexpensive as well. The rest of the arsenal included a drill, for the screws and countersink holes, a circular saw with a fine tooth blade for smooth cuts and easy board ripping (cutting with the grain on a long plank), regular ol' tape measure, carpenter's square, wood glue, palm sander, and most importantly, about 4 of the 99 cent clamps you can buy at the hardware store. These will help hold your wood to the table when sawing, sanding, routing, etc. They are also useful for fitting peices together before you are ready to screw them together (when attaching the seatframe to the Jake's Chair legs). Overall, the tools are not complex or professional, just homeowner grade tools worked fine for me.

The layout
Since the plans were so detailed and easy to use, I had little difficulty with them. My advice is to get several large peices of paper (i used some pages out of an old sketch book and taped them together) and lay them out on your kitchen counter. I took each drawing from the Jake's Chair plans and transcribed the measurements to the large paper. Since most parts of the chair are sharp angles and straight lines, it isnt too bad. The seatframe has a few curves in it, and the back supports as well, but all the radiuses are labelled in the plans and if you have to freehand some it really wont affect the design, as long as the main radius for the seatback supports are correct. To accomplish this, i took a pencil tied to a string. I measured the length of each radius required, and then marked that spot on the string. I then took that spot on the string and made it my circle center, gently scribing the exact radius on the paper. Once all the patterns were drawn out on the sketch paper, I carefully cut them out on with scissors and labelled them each individually. (Hint: save these patterns for future Jake's Chair construction. This will save you at least 2 hours the next time you want to build a Jake's Chair.

The cuts
After all the patterns were drawn, I layed them all out on my raw lumber and put them so that I would get the most lumber out of each plank. I then traced the pattern onto the wood. A true woodworker would tell you to trace the pattern on a thin peice of pattern wood, cut that out, and then use that as the pattern to cut your real peice. I, however, am not that patient and I trusted my tracing skills just fine. Hint: remember to add 1/8" for the width of your circular saw blade when making your marks on the boards. I then began the cutting. I started with the seat slats as they required ripping the long boards first into several thin strips, and then cutting them to length. Then I followed with the rest of the straight cuts. If a peice had a cut needing the jigsaw, I just cut a rough straight border around it with the circular saw and saved it for later. After all my straight cuts, I switched over to the jigsaw and cut all the rounded cuts until all my peices were cut

The routing and sanding
After all the peices were cut, I started the tedious task of routing the individual peices according to the plans. The Jake's Chair sketches show you which peices on which sides need to be routed smooth, but as an estimate its about 90% of the wood you just cut. It is a slow and meticulous process, but it makes all the difference in the world as a finished product. A fine routed edge is what makes the Jake's Chair look professional. After you have routed all your required peices, sand everything as smooth as you can. Hint: You need to sand now because you will not be able to access many of the edges once the chair is assembled, and if you are painting, the paint will magnify these areas that are not sanded. Finish all of your peices as smooth as you can get them but remember to leave the square corners/edges square. This is so you'll have a tight fit, when assembling the chair.

The assembly
Putting it all together is pretty straight forward. The plans tell you step by step what to do, when to do it, and where to place all the screwholes, glue, etc. My assembly went fairly smooth. I did find that the use of a spacer when screwing in the seat slats was especially helpful. I happened to have some scrap wood that was exactly the right thickness, so i was able to place several seat slats on the frame at once and drill all the holes, countersinks, etc at one time. This saves a ton of time. My only issue was that I couldn't figure out where the long bolts that are mentioned in the plans are to go, so I left them out. I did not build the footstools due to a narrow front porch, so possibly they were to go in the footstool, I still don't know. Since the assembly is pretty much paint by numbers, I wont bore you with my Jake's Chair assembly, but if you have any questions, please ask in the forums, and Ill be glad to help where I can. Hint: Don't glue backslats on until after you have cut the radius and routed the peices. I glued the back slats on when I installed them, and at the end it was nearly impossible to rout the top of the the newly cut radius withouth ripping the slats off the chair. Just screw them in temporarily so that you can cut the radius and then remove them for routing. Hint: The plans don't mention this, but you can purchase the little pre-made countersink fillers. You just hammer them in with a soft mallet, and then sand to match the plane of the wood. This is a must, unless you want to leave a bunch of exposed screws.

Finishing my Jake's Chair
After assembly, I took the same pencil on a string and scribed my radius for the top of the back peices, then I cut them with the jigsaw, removed them from the chair, routed them, and then glued and screwed them back onto the chair. I then took the sander and did a complete resand of the whole chair with a finer grit paper. Hint: Sand extra smooth on the arms of the chair. This is where the most contact is made from wood to skin, and your guests will notice the extra work if you spend just a little bit extra time sanding the arms. I followed the sanding with a coat of white outdoor primer. This will help keep the wood protected from moisture and mildew. After the primer dried, the next day, I followed with two coats of white exterior paint.

What did I learn?
Where to start...Building the Jake's Chairs taught me a few lessons definitely. First off, the old adage of measure twice, cut once, could not be more true. Secondly, I learned that wood glue when set, clamped, screwed, and dried, is about as secure as a good steel weld. So before you put that little bead of woodglue anywhere, make sure that the peices fit, and they are the right peices for the right spot, otherwise youll waste alot of time and money on your Jake's Chair build. Also, I found out the hard way that you should plan your cuts around knots in the wood. My first chair had a knot in the dead center of one of the seatframe legs. I put the entire chair together and then decided to test out the comfort, and the angles. The knot ended up taking exactly 1/2 of my weight because of its location, and the leg split right around the knot. I had to disassemble the Jake's Chair (which was already glued mind you), recut a new seatframe for that side, and assemble it all back together. This added about 3 hours to my project all because I layed the pattern in the wrong spot on the raw plank. Finally, patience will be rewarded. You can try to rush through this project but you will utlimately spend more time redoing what you have incorrectly done the first time. Take it from someone with experience! This chair should take a semi-intelligent person with the adequate tools and light woodworking experience around 8 hours to build and assemble. The more Jake's Chairs you build, they will go quicker each time.

In conclusion
I surely hope my account of the Jake's Chair project has helped at least one person in their pursuit of the most comfortable and good looking chair around. If there is a question I have not answered, please find me in the forum and ask so that everyone can share in the question and answer.