Indispensable Gragg Chair Tool #2

One of my fond memories from my formative years as a woodworker was the period of three years hen I was a patternmaker in a foundry, which is where I learned what “precision woodworking” was all about.  To be truthful it is a standard applicable to very little of my work ever since, but it was elucidative nonetheless.  Most of our work was pretty heavy machine-oriented, but we did have a selection of hand tools for shaping the forms.  Because, another lesson from the patternmaking days was that we were, in essence, fabricating sculpture, most of it being sculpture based on blueprints, but sculpture just the same.  But for most of our work we relied on stack lamination and shaping components with large disk sanders, working to the center of a knife strike line.

Every so often we had to really sculpt pieces by hand, hence the inclusion in our tool kits of tiny spokeshaves that I find so integral to Gragg chair work.  Another peculiar tool set for sculpting foundry patterns was the interchangeable thin-walled gouge set made by Buck.  For many years after leaving the patternmaking shop I searched for a set of these gouges, and then all of a sudden I found myself with three complete sets.  I still use these tools in the shop with regularity although I am down to two sets.  When my dear-friend-I-have-never-met Rob Hanson related the tale of losing his house and shop during the California fires two summers ago, I began sending him “care” packages full of tools to get him re-started, concluding recently with a barely used Record 52-1/2 vise.  Somewhere along that trek I decided I did not really need three sets of these gouges and sent one to him.  I have not yet figured out how to integrate these tools into Gragg, but I will.

The small spokeshaves are fine for convex surfaces and larger concave shapes, but for concave surfaces with smaller radii we relied on a set of tools we called draw-spoons.  For shaping the rear seat rail and wallowing out the seating deck of the Gragg chair tools like scorps, travishers, and inshaves do not work for me but the drawspoon fits the bill perfectly.  There were a range of drawspoons in the patternmaking shop, but there was only one set and I never had the opportunity to make another.  The larger of my tools came from Garret Wade back in the day, now I think they are available from Woodcraft as a spoon plane.  I have a smaller set that came from AMT back in the Stone Age, I do not know if they are available anywhere any more.  Lee Valley makes a drawspoon but it is too large for the purposes I need.

I have found that I simply could not make Gragg chairs in any meaningful way without the drawspoon, and if you want to make them you will need at least one as well.