How to Sculpt a Contemporary Piece
Symmetry is the goal and smart layout is the solution
Synopsis: Learn how to shape curved chair parts that are attractive and comfortable. Danny Kamerath breaks his technique down to three steps: rough out the shape at the bandsaw, shape the concave and convex surfaces with an angle grinder, then refine and smooth the curves using a power sander. A grid layout helps him keep the sculpted seat symmetrical.
From Fine Woodworking #222
Many of the chairs I make have shaped parts, and I’ve learned that they should feel as good as they look. Over the years, I’ve tried many tools and techniques and the ones I use now are the most efficient way to make shaped chair parts that are attractive and comfortable.
My layout tools are important, because they help me get a symmetrical shape. I use plastic vellum, a flexible ruler, a drafting triangle, a compass, and a pencil. The technique can be broken down into three steps: First, I rough out the shape at the bandsaw. Then I use an angle grinder equipped with a coarse disk called the Holey Galahad (katools.com, No. 47851 RCB) to shape the concave and convex surfaces. I follow that with a power sander and various grits of sandpaper, a coarse file, and sanding blocks to refine and smooth the curves.
I should note that this is a loud and messy process. I always wear safety glasses, a dust mask, and hearing protection. I also wear a pair of heavy leather gloves and tuck in my shirttails. Finally, I work outside when the weather permits. If I’m stuck inside, I set up a dust collector and large shroud to capture as much of the fine dust as possible.
Bandsaw defines the perimeter: Start by milling a piece of lumber for the chair seat flat and square. Next, draw a…