Heart of the Back
The nine separate parts that make up the back have to be linked seamlessly and flow together fluidly. See how he did it.
After 25 years as a furniture maker and 11 as an instructor at North Bennet Street School, Steve Brown feels this reproduction Federal heartback chair is one of the most challenging chairs he’s ever made. The fluid curves in the back must flow together seamlessly. Creating that illusion means linking nine separate parts with an array of curving joints. The finished web of pieces is delicate-looking but much stronger than it appears.
Fit first. Where possible, Brown cuts and fits the joints before the parts have been sawn to their curved shapes. Above, he dry-fits all the back’s parts except the two side splats, which will be fitted when the main splat is in place.
Then cut curves. Tracing plywood templates, Brown establishes the shapes of the parts.
Leave a few flats. As he saws out the curving crest rail, Brown leaves flat sections above each shoulder to simplify clamping.
Photos: Jonathan Binzen; drawings: John Tetreault