Lets start of by talking about how I got Inspired to make one of these Settees. I bought a book called Making Authentic Shaker Furniture which is full of plans that I hope to build in the future. Since every-time I saw one of these benches online , in books, or in real life I wanted to make one of them.They just look so neat. My wife and I wanted a new Bench to sit on in the Entry way ( to put footwear on) so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to build a shaker settee.This project was a mixture of hand tools and hand power tools, but involved a lot of labor by hand. I also wanted a good project to build on my newly finished Petite Roubo workbench. I apologize for not describing the build in detail on how exactly I approached each step or what tool were used, but if your reading this you most likely know how to contact me , and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I must add that this is my first shaker settee and that there is a lot of different ways and approaches of how to build one of these. My steps may sound silly to you or you may find them helpful, so just enjoy the read if your interested and hopefully this inspires you to build one. BTW: this was all Kiln dried wood so don’t hesitate to make one.
I went to the lumber store to find some stock wide enough to make this bench without laminating two pieces, which would have been just fine. I got lucky enough and found a perfect piece of 2″ thick poplar that was just over 14″ wide (final width of the bench is 14″). Since I was going to paint this bench with black milk-paint the seat material didn’t really matter, but it was worth using the poplar I chose for the ease of carving the seat by hand. I used a Cross cut Handsaw to rough cut the Piece in length since I would end up band-sawing out the shape anyway. The final Length was 49 1/2″ in the front and 48″ in the back (spindle deck).
Once I had the 2″ stock cut to length, I proceeded to flattening the seat stock. I’m not going to go through the process of flattening stock by hand, but there’s lots of material online about how to flatten/take out twists in wood by hand and that should be easy to find. I worked of plans from a book so that made it easier for the pencil layout of the legs mortises, spindle mortises , and the overall shape of the seat with some minor tweaks of my own for spindle spacing etc. Also when I laid out the shape of the curves on the seat I just went by eye and made sure it looks good.
Once I had everything drawn onto the Piece I started boring the holes into the spindle deck( 5/8″ holes). Then I went onto Boring the mortises for the legs( 5/8″) and used a tapered reamer to follow.I have a dummy leg that I use to make sure my reaming is done correctly if I don’t have a finished leg on hand. I then started to turn the Maple legs , Stretcher and oak spindles on the lathe. I also used, the Lathe as an opportunity to shave down the leg tenons to make the reaming process easier. Of course all of this can be done by hand, it just takes a while longer and since I have a lathe I need to keep my skills up and have a limited amount of time with projects.The Spindle tenons are 5/8″ in the bottom and 1/2″ at the top . For the Leg tenons I used the 5/8″ Tapered Tenon cutter from lee valley tools with the matching large reamer.
In the Picture below you can see me boring for the stretchers. If your boring through the leg for a through tenon I strongly recommend drilling from both sides or have a sacrificial piece at the exit hole. don’t want no spelching to happen.
Once all the Mortises were drilled, legs and stretchers made and leg tenons saw-kerfed to receive wedges it was time to cut out the shape of the seat. This was a two man operation for me since this piece was quite heavy and awkward to hold by myself using the band-saw. So if your attempting this build and it comes to using a band-saw and you don’t have a support table, make sure you have someone help you. or use a bow saw.
This next task in the build was the most time consuming and most rewarding at the end and that was carving the seat. But before I carved the seat I cheated with a palm router to put a Cove on the edge of the underside of the seat all way around. This adds a nice touch to detail and also feels nice when your sitting down and you can feel it with your hands. Sorry forgot to take some pictures of the build.Anyway , back to carving the seat. I drilled some depth holes closer to the spindle deck to give me a guide on how much I need to carve out. keep in mind not to drill the holes too close to the spindle deck in-case the travisher profile your using cant dish out the deep hole.I used a Barr Scorp to hog out most of the material in the Center of the seat, a spoke shave and drawkinfe to round over the edges. Most of this seems hard to do , but its not really that hard if you have a plan on how your going to carve out the seat and have good the tools to carve . It just takes a lot of time, and it did for me.and you can always practice.
Afterwards the seat was inspected and finished with a card scraper to the best finish my skills would allow. Time for glue up. This glue up was quite simple since there is no stretchers in the under carriage( if you want to add stretchers you can). I applied some liquid hide glue to the tenons of the legs and stretcher, the assembled the stretchers onto the legs, and drove the legs home with a mallet. Turned the piece around and wedge the leg tenons from the seat side. I let the glue dry overnight and the next day I used a carving gouge and a card scraper to clean up the tenons showing though the top of the seat. Before I glued the Spindles into the deck It was the perfect time to trim the legs to level them on a flat surface. Once the legs were cut I used a file to chamfer the legs to prevent spelching if the piece gets pushed or dragged around over its life time.
The crest was the easiest part of this build. Made out of 7/8″ Maple , I used a cordless drill to bore out the holes at a dead 90 with a 1/2″ brad-point bit that has a depth collar attached.Again this can be done on the drill press or with a Brace and bit, but the cordless is what I chose. The holes are 1 1/2″ deep.
The picture below was after me dry fitting the Crest before the spindle and crest glue up. I chose to plane the chamfers for the crest while the crest was dry-fitted onto the spindles, this made it easy for me to see how it looks, since I tweaked the crest a little from its design in the book . I could have also used the bench to do this work obviously.
I chose to Paint this bench using old fashion milk paint co. black milk paint, since I love this paint so much.But If I were to make another one of these benches and I probably will in the future, I could choose a different wood for the seat and perhaps instead of painting it have an oil finish which would also look fantastic. But Chairs and settees painted black just appeal to me .
I applied 4 or 5 Coats of Milk Paint ( sad that I cant remember), sanding lightly with fine sandpaper in between coats to get rid of any paint that had dried and left a high spots or a rough surface. After the final Coat I Used 0000 steel wool to buff the milk paint to a sheen, and followed that with 3 coats of wipe on poly.