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The Autodidact’s Chair part eight

Water-based stain and shellac.

Back again with the second to last installment of the Autodidact’s Chair.

With the wood work complete, it’s time to stain.

I’m really not a fan of staining wood and this project re-affirmed that again in me. But, that said- I knew going into this design I needed a ‘working prototype’ and this serves the purpose for me just fine. I’m already planing a hardwood version with a few subtle changes but that will have to wait until summer time. (at least )

At any rate, the stain I’m using is water based and has very little odor. I don’t like using products that have heavy smells or damaging chemicals, etc…

This is from the Lee Valley website- “Yielding results comparable to solvent-based stains, these high-quality water-based stains are low in harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and clean up easily with soap and water.”

As you’ll see I just brushed it on and let it dry.

From there I drilled a few holes through the top concave stretchers for fastening the seat to the lower chair frame. I used a brad point bit and my egg beater drill.  I’m sourcing out/making?? some hardware that will give a more permanent solution for this hardware but for now, I’m using four #8 wood screws. They work fine as the chair frame almost doesn’t need any fasteners- it just sits in the ‘cradle’ of the form. Of course, a mechanical fastener is always better suited to a house with a 6 and 8 year old!

I considered wrapping a few leather buckles and may still…it’s a ‘working model’ what can I say?

So the point is, a removable seat frame is required because if in 10 years the leather for some reason is ripped, soiled, chewed-on ( future beagle? ) then we’ll be able to easily remove the seat frame and replace/repair the leather work.

Speaking of leather- I’m using 1/8-in. ( 8-9 oz.) leather for the weave and needed to rip 2-in. strips off of the side. I should have made myself a ‘leather-ripping jig’ but my Beebe knife works so well at this job and I love using it that the leather jig can wait until the next one.

After the leather strips are cut, the edges are sanded and burnished.

The chair gets a series of top coats of shellac. I mixed up a batch with some flakes of de-waxed shellac I’ve had for a year now. It’s a dark garnet and went over the dry stain without any surprises.

I can still see the ghost of wood grains and hand planes under the ebony stain.

It’ll work for this one but imagine, quarter sawn white oak and a beautiful harness leather? hmmmm…..any takers/buyers out there? I’ll make one some day for my self but you know what they say about the cobblers kids?





Here are some links to a few of the products used in this video:

General Water-Based Stains

Beebe Carving Knives




  1. Posted by stephen melhuish on Jan 7th, 2013


    fascinating stuff, wood and leather work is always a good mixture in my mind.

    Question: where’s your workshop leather apron though, i would have thought you would have knocked one up now you have that lovely sewing machine….i noticed you brushed against the bottom of the chair as you applied a coat with your brush….dear oh dear what’s the world coming to!! ha ha!

    The music track is fantastic, just the sort of music i love when driving on long road trips…good in the shop too.
    Can’t wait to see the leather attached to the frame.

    Now come on Tom, time to make an apron…..and a good item to sell on your on-line shop.

  2. Posted by tom on Jan 7th, 2013

    thanks for the comment. The apron is in the works! Actually, more of a skirted waistcoat but hey, I’m splitting hairs here. (dreads)

    the tune is just that- a road trip kind of vibe I quickly recorded last year on the laptop….


  3. Posted by David Gendron on Jan 7th, 2013

    Hi Tom, nice film again, thank you! On the leather part, a good way to burnish the edge of the strips, is to use a nice polish hard wood dowel, after applying the wax, you rub the edges with the dowel vigorously, and it makes for a nice and smooth finish!

  4. Posted by tom on Jan 7th, 2013

    Thanks David- for both the tip and the comments!

    cheers~; )

  5. Posted by Stephen on Jan 8th, 2013

    Great stuff. I really enjoy watching your work.

  6. Posted by tom on Jan 9th, 2013

    Thanks for the comment Stephen-; )

  7. Posted by Charlie on Feb 21st, 2013

    I am looking for a good polish for some leather and wanted to know what kind you are using on your leather goods here.
    Thanks for the great video on the chair!

  8. Posted by tom on Feb 22nd, 2013

    Charlie, thanks for the comments and question. I almost missed it! I use 100% bees wax on the leather- it works well and is obviously natural. I find it’s easy to work into the leather and seems to add a luster as well as protection.

  9. Posted by Charlie on Feb 22nd, 2013

    Thanks Tom for the info on the polish, is there a particular brand you are fond of or one you might suggest?

  10. Posted by tom on Feb 23rd, 2013

    I never use any one brand- just look for 100% bees wax or a bees wax polish mix. I purchased some from our local farmers market but in the past have found it at a candle makers/supplier as well as many skin/hair care sources.
    Here’s a link to a bees wax polish you can mail order at Lee Valley- I haven’t used this particular brand but it’s usually hard to screw up bees wax!
    Hope that helps-; )

    here is the link:,190,42950

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