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I'm making an armchair for a child. I want the back leg to be straight-vertical at the seat level but kick back down the floor, and lean back at the, erm, back. Much like every other rear chair leg in the universe.

My problem is I only have planed 45×22mm stock to hand. I actually have a lot of this lying around from a previous miscalculation. So my thought process has so far gone:

  • It's too thick to bend. (Isn't it? I've never tried steam bending before but remember I'm a homegamer)
  • I could resaw it down and do a bent lamination.
  • But it'd be easiest —if a little wasteful— to just glue a pile of this together on their 45mm faces and cutting two legs out of the pack. Here's my skilful depiction of how that'd look.

That last option does mean that the bit of wood that touches the floor, will likely be one or two planks away from the main load. I know yellow glue is good stuff but is this a good idea?

Or should I just go and spend the £2 it'd cost to get a bit of rough-sawn timber in the right size?

  • have you ruled out doing this just using joinery? a couple half-lap miters in the right spots will be extremely and sufficiently strong. – aaron Sep 29 '17 at 18:23
  • @aaron I hadn't even considered it. Might be worth an answer. – Oli Sep 29 '17 at 23:05
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    well I didn't post it as an answer because it doesn't really address the question as posed... but we have apparently more liberal policies about this on WWSE than other SE forums, so I guess I will :) – aaron Oct 2 '17 at 11:14
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Thanks for the drawing, I wouldn't have understood what you were hoping to do without it.

It's too thick to bend. (Isn't it? I've never tried steam bending before but remember I'm a homegamer)

It's not too thick to bend, but there are some it depends. Species matters, how the wood was originally dried matters, but the main thing is the orientation of the bend and since this leg style would require you to bend the board sideways — across its width, not through its thickness — which I think alone rules it out. It's probably possible but in practice the hurdles for a first-timer might discount this option.

I could resaw it down and do a bent lamination.

If you have the means to do that I think it's your best option of those presented. It's quite a bit of work of course, but mostly repetitive effort and not especially difficult work. In addition to being relatively easy to do it will also result in a leg that you can trust to be immensely strong, and a good result is virtually guaranteed if you get all your ducks in a row before you begin and simply go through the steps methodically.

So this is the winner IMO.

But it'd be easiest —if a little wasteful— to just glue a pile of this together on their 45mm faces and cutting two legs out of the pack.

This won't work. Well it will in the sense that you could glue up the boards as drawn and cut the legs out, but they won't be strong enough.

That last option does mean that the bit of wood that touches the floor, will likely be one or two planks away from the main load. I know yellow glue is good stuff but is this a good idea?

It's not the joints, the glue joints are actually irrelevant (remember that long-grain joints are as strong or stronger than the wood around them). The problem is orienting the grain that way results in short grain at the bottom of the leg, which is inherently weak and is probably guaranteed to split in service. Good grain orientation on legs is important even on things that aren't intended to take any weight, such as a three-legged round table. On a chair it's a safety issue and becomes vital.

If in addition to glueing together as drawn you also laminated face to face, in essence making plywood, that would be strong enough. But it's a lot of work to go to to prep the wood prior to glueing up and you'd have to be very careful to prevent warping after the wood has been prepped to the required thicknesses.

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  • I'm not nearly qualified or experienced enough to dispute your last last section but I can't find any wooden-legged furniture in this house that doesn't have end-grain feet. Admittedly, it looks like a IKEA showroom in places but nothing has threatened to split apart. – Oli Sep 29 '17 at 23:07
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    It's not the end grain, it's the short grain. Short grain refers to any section of a piece where there is a short run of longitudinal grain. Wood can easily split when strain is placed on an area that has it, this should help clarify. – Graphus Sep 30 '17 at 6:51
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That's a pretty substantial bend.

Steambending is probably not an option, especially if the wood has been kiln dried.

Doing a glue-up is theoretically strong enough, but a lot depends on stock preparation. If I did this, I'd want some mechanical assistance in there (screws, dowels, biscuits...), as it's a pretty substantial bend.

Buying new is certainly an option, but to my initial point, that's a pretty substantial bend, and it might not lend itself to being very strong.

So, aside from joinery-related alternates, that leaves us with resaw/laminate. In my opinion, this is the strongest and possibly the coolest of the options. It might give you an excuse to buy more clamps, and who doesn't appreciate more clamps? You get to learn a new skill in a low-risk environment, so that's good, too.

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    Like I need an excuse :) – Oli Sep 29 '17 at 22:38
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have you ruled out doing this just using joinery? a couple half-lap miters in the right spots will be extremely and sufficiently strong.

There are other options too, involving tenons (loose, or regular), dowels, or biscuits. For example, see my bed project where I simply did not have enough wood to create the angled posts for the headboard - either using half laps or by cutting them from a larger monolithic piece. My solution was to basically cut a tiny wedge out and miter the two post/leg pieces together. The joint is reinforced internally with biscuits, and externally with a 1/2" thick butterfly key on the "knee" of the joint.

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