I have decided to assemble the back of the FDR chair before proceeding because the time for measuring is over and the time for fitting the remaining pieces has come. Before I do that, I need to do a lot of rounding over and scraping, which I won't bore you with. I have really come to appreciate scrapers and their many advantages over sandpaper during this project. I'll mention just one here. It you are trying to refine a curved edge a scraper works way better than sandpaper, which just rides over the area needing refinement, leaving it smooth but uneven.
I want to write about something else this project has really driven home to me: the fact that modern plans, drawings, even Sketchup files aren't anywhere near as good as what was done historically. As some point in my past reading, I saw a picture of a back room in a nineteenth century furniture shop. I have looked and looked for it but cannot find it. There were hundred of templates and story sticks for the pieces made in the shop hanging from the rafters. When an order came in, the woodworker used them to make the piece. If you ever used them, you know they are a fantastic way of capturing all of the essential information about a piece of furniture. Just imagine if I had had templates for the back and arms and a story stick with all the key dimensions on it for the FDR chair. They would have saved me many hours of research, drawing, and guesstimating. The construction drawing wasn't accurate but, even if it had been, it wouldn't have been any where near as useful. When I am done with this project, I will make a story stick and put it and the templates away so that, if I ever want to make another one of these chairs again, I'll have everything I need.
We have gone backwards. A set of construction drawings doesn't come close to templates for key parts of a chair and a story stick with all the measurements on it. With the templates, you can just lay out the piece directly and the story stick gives you all of the required dimensions without measuring. Who wants a Sketchup plan if you have templates and a story stick? In fact, I'd argue that the main use for a Sketchup plan should me to make templates and a story stick.
This makes me wonder why woodworking writers don't provide a better way of creating them. Why don't they just have a file you can access that will print out full size templates and a story stick? You could use spray adhesive to stick them on thin plywood and have all you need in most cases.
The first serious hand tool project I ever undertook was a Porringer tea table. Bob Rozaieski published a fantastic video series that took you through the construction step by step. That's where I was first exposed to story sticks and templates. He went the additional step of publishing his dimensions in fractions. They are meant to be used with dividers so you essentially don't have to measure at all and you can scale the project up or down at will. I was amazed at how well this works. I have saved my story stick and template so that I can make another tea table like this whenever I want.
I am not one of those who believes the old way of doing things is always the best way. Progress does happen. In the case of capturing everything you need to know to build a piece of furniture, though, the old way really is the best way.