I started out, without really thinking about it, wanting to make an exact copy of the FDR chair, but my efforts to come up with precise templates failed. I obviously can't have the original in my shop to measure and trace. I found out that I could hire a professional to produce a 3D scan which would be precise right down to the dings in the chair. The resulting file could be used to control a CNC router or to produce paper templates. I suppose another option would be to print out a 3D copy of the chair. Not a real good fit with hand tool woodworking, to put it mildly, and extremely costly to boot.
Ray Neufer himself made several copies of the chair later in his life and they don't appear to be exact from the pictures I have seen. Given how he made the original, he probably didn't feel that was important. Linny Adamson, the Curator at Timberline, also encouraged me to not get too hung up on exactness. The Forest Service has made an explicit policy not to produce exact copies of the furniture when replacements are needed, if I understood her correctly. I don't really understand this but, mostly by necessity, I've come to the same place.
Back to the drawing board. The first thing I decided was to pay less attention to the WPA construction drawing. Of the three sets of information I have--the drawing, my photos and the measurements I took--it is the least reliable. My measurements are the most reliable, but I only had an hour with the chair and they are incomplete. The photos are extremely valuable but are distorted by perspective, so you have to be careful how you interpret them. This time around, judgment played a much greater role. Here are the templates I came up with, mounted on thin baltic birch plywood:
I generally don't make prototypes, as I am too impatient, but this time I thought it was essential because of the cost of quartersawn or riftsawn 4x6s and the uncertainty about how this would look. I laminated some of the alder I have and was finally ready to do some woodworking:
Now it's on to shaping to see what I have.