Star Trek TOS Captain's Chair Build

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New Member
Hey Everyone!

This is my first real prop build, so I don't know what to expect, but I've had an eye on a special project for a while (since Adam Savage's Tested video came out on it), and since I consider myself a decent carpenter, I figured I would give this thing a shot.

For this build, there are not a ton of tools that I think will be needed for the actual chair parts. A circular saw, cordless drill, some sort of sander, stapler, and maybe a couple other odds and ends are all you need. I do have a few other tools I hope to take advantage of though, namely a jigsaw, table saw, radial arm saw, nail gun, and maybe a band saw for the arms. Additionally, you could do all sorts of things for the little switches and knobs and stuff, and there are people who sell all these items, but I hope to use my Monoprice Maker Select 3D printer for a lot of these items.

When I'm finished, I hope to have a fully functional chair that is comfortable to sit in (in the trademark Kirk pose of course), with working buttons, lights, and sounds, and maybe some secret sauce I've been working on involving a certain Amazon-based voice assistant.

If you haven't seen The Original Series, the chair in question is Captain Kirk's chair on the bridge, and it looks like this:

I am using plans I found through some of the INCREDIBLE work and research on the yuku forum found here:

I hope you like it, I'll be posting photos and steps the whole way along, and please feel free to comment and ask as many questions as you like.

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New Member
First Steps! Laminating the curved portions of the chair.

Well, now that the thread got approved, I thought I should give my first update! Today I started the project, and what good project doesn't start with some new tools. I picked up an air nailer/stapler combo, a speed square, and a bigger straightedge from Good Ole' Harbor Freight, and some lumber from a local lumberyard.
Next, I set to work on the first part of my build. The TOS chair basically some added boxes and stuff added onto a commercially available office chair made in the 60's by a company called Madison (I think). Unfortunately, they're not easy to come by, and I am not trying to break the bank with this build, so I used the plans found in the previously mentioned thread (posted ~pg 146) to make my own, albeit with some sleight differences because of available materials. Today's project was to make the curved back and bottom pieces by laminating multiple layers of masonite together in a form and gluing them together.

I started by ripping the 4x8 sheets of 3/16" masonite into 2' wide sections with a circular saw, and then cutting those in half with the table saw to get 13 24" squares

The next step was to sand down the smooth side using some rough 40 grit paper and a random orbital sander to give the glue something rough to bite into.

Then, it was time to make the forms. I ripped some more masonite and scrap wood down to the proper height and brad nailed it all together to make the three cradles that will serve as forms for the glue-up. Altogether, I needed three frames. After lamination, I'll have three 24"x24" (minus changes because of the bending) panels to use, one for the bottom, and two that will be cut into two pieces each for the back sections of chair. Two of them will be five layers (15/16") and one will be three layers (9/16")
IMG_6331.JPG IMG_6332.JPG

I was terrified that any glue I used wouldn't be strong enough, because the masonite is a bit thicker that I would like for lamination, so I sprung for the good stuff for my glue-up.

I gave each panel a healthy dose of construction adhesive and made sure to cover evenly and to the edges

Finally, the last step in the process is to actually do the laminating. So, I broke out the significantly underused weight-lifting stuff (I have no time to work out since I'm building a chair from a science fiction show so I can pretend to be a space captain in my living room), and got to work. I set the frames out, layered the panels, and weighed it down until the panels bottomed out in the cradles.

Because I was still paranoid that the glue wouldn't hold, I took advantage of my nail gun for the second time (slowly becoming my favorite tool), and tacked in brads and staples into each now-curved piece so that nothing will slip, even if the precariously-balanced weights tip over before the adhesive is cured.

Well, that's it for now. Next on the list of things to do is to make the sides of the chair, and figure out how to upholster the thing (I see lots more staples in my future). Then I'll sculpt the arms. In the original chair, the arms are made of walnut, but to get a piece big enough, I'd have to laminate a few planks together, and I don't have a planer or jointer, so that option was out. So, though not ideal, I got a piece of cedar 4"x4" post from the lumberyard. I would've loved to go for a mahogany or some other hardwood, but it is hard to find a piece that thick, and I didn't want to go the pressure-treated route, so cedar and an appropriate finish will have to do, but I think it'll do fine. Plus, I am looking forward to having a softer wood to carve and shape anyway, it'll certainly made sanding a quicker job, as long as I can keep it from cracking.

Thanks for following along, and tune in in the next couple days to see how the chair portion of my Star Trek TOS Captain's Chair build comes along!



New Member
Day 2, Laminated panels and some more supplies

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there today!

Today I didn't get much done, I was helping my dad with some stuff around the house and work on the car, but I did make a (small) supply run.

I picked up some tack strips for the upholstery work, black vinyl for the seat, shorter staples for my nailer/stapler to attach the aforementioned vinyl, and new ear protection for all the power tools I'll be firing up at some point.

Other than that, all I did was remove the laminated panels from the cradles. The glue is cured, and they are quite heavy, but they're also solid as a rock, so I am happy so far about how they're shaping up. The curve formed great, even though the cradles only grabbed the edges of the panels. I am slightly worried about stapling close to the edges of the masonite because of tearout, so I bought extra fabric so I can move the seams closer to the interior of the panels to mitigate that risk as best I can.

Up next, I'm going to make the sides of the chair so that I can assemble and upholster it, and hopefully by the end of the week I'll start to attack the cedar arms.

Lost in Trek

Sr Member
Great project. I built a replica chair a few years ago and, at least for me it was a challenging project. Best of luck with your build and keep posting on your progress.

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Sr Member
You're correct, the original was based around a Madison waiting room chair. If you can get the dimensions or plans of one of those, you'd be off and running.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


New Member
Thanks everyone for the comments!

You're correct, the original was based around a Madison waiting room chair. If you can get the dimensions or plans of one of those, you'd be off and running.

I actually did find the plans! Er, some other people on the main TOS Chair Thread did, by putting years of work into developing them. Thankfully, they are generous people because they put them online! I have made a few tweaks to the chair structure because I used masonite instead of plywood for the laminated curved panels, and Ill probably use a different foam because I want to sit in this chair, but most of the structural bits are already there. The creativity is going to come when I have to make the little doodads that light up, and all the switches as well, since Im hoping to 3D print mine myself instead of buying, and also in the interactive elements I hope to add.

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New Member
6/19/2017 Cutting the Chair Panels and SAFETY

Hi All,

Wanted to give another update, and also give a couple pointers on safety that I like to use above and beyond just wearing safety glasses with some specific tools.

Anyway, I started by cutting the side panels that will go under the arms eventually.
I started by tracing out the pattern once by measurement. Then I cut what I could on the table saw because I like how straight it is. The band saw I have has been really hard to control lately, so I decided I'd cut the curves on the scroll saw instead (God bless Harbor Freight). Finally, I had four panels that I was satisfied with. Two things to note:
1. The panels are on opposite sides of the chair, so it is important that you cut them as mirrored pieces with regards to the smooth side of the masonite. There should be two mirrored pairs. Two pairs because...
2. The outer panels need to be a little bit (a Sharpie marker line's width, to be ~exact~) bigger to accommodate the fabric that will be wrapped around the inner panel when the thing is upholstered, so it is advisable to not just cut all four at once.
IMG_6350.JPG IMG_6345.JPG IMG_6351.JPG IMG_6349.JPG

It is worth mentioning that the creative process is not without error, and so I feel it necessary to share a picture of the piece I messed up on and subsequently broke in half out of frustration. Remember, if you get frustrated in the process of making something, don't rush to fix it or hurry up and speed through things. That is when I find myself most likely to make mistakes that either make my project worse or cause me bodily harm. Which leads me into my next topic...

Soapbox Time
I have a few points about safety I just want to make, because I do believe that basic shop safety is an important part of being a good maker.

1. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): I always wear safety glasses when using power tools. It is such a simple thing to do, and I don't even realize I'm wearing them anymore. Also, when I'm operating loud equipment (most big saws, compressors, even hammering, etc.) I make it a point to ALWAYS wear hearing protection. Cheap earmuffs are like $3 and do a decent enough job, and not having your ears ringing after a day of work is well worth it. Also, make sure you wear a mask when sanding. This is very important if you don't want to ruin your lungs with wood dust. Some woods (cedar, pressure treated, some others) are bad for you in all sorts of scienc-ey ways above and beyond just putting dust in your lungs. For example, some (not all) pressure treated lumber has chemicals like arsenic in it, which I shouldn;t have to telly ou why you wouldn't want to inhale.

2. Photographing your work: I post plenty of "in progress" pictures of material in the process of being sawn, drilled, etc. I am sorry to ruin the magic but, if you notice, the blade is always stopped when I take these pictures. Yes, that means they're a bit staged. But it does a good job illustrating the process and allows me to not have to worry about the spinning blades near my body.

3. Safety Glasses. Again. All the time. Always. No excuses.

4. Table Saw Extras:
a) Make sure the legs are leveled. A wobbly table saw is a recipe for disaster.
b) Stand aside of the work. Especially when using the fence, never stand directly in the path of the blade. My dad has a big scar on his belly where a 2x4 he was cutting bound up and shot back into him. Bad idea. Don't be stupid.
c) Use a push stick! This applies to more than just table saws. But, if you're about to make a cut and stop and think "wow if my hand slips I won't have it attached to me anymore", you should be using a push stick to move the work and keep your body away from the blade. Just because you have a blade guard doesn't mean you're immune to this tip.
d) Watch your feet. One of the most common things I find myself doing on a table saw is leaning as the work is cutting to continue pushing through. Always be conscious of your footing and never lean over a machine when you can step forward just as easily. I often don't use the blade guard, because I prefer to be able to see the blade to make accurate cuts. If you do this, you have to be extra careful as well.

5. If I had long flowing hair, I'd tie it back. I don't, but I do have clothes with drawstrings, long sleeves, etc. None of these should be exposed when working around rotary tools of any kind.

6. Control your reflexes and let it drop. We've all been there. You finish up a cut on a weirdly balanced work, and the piece begins to crash to the floor. In your split-second reaction, you lunge or reach for the piece to catch it. STOP! NEVER DO THIS! If you think that a piece might fall, prepare yourself to let it drop. While you're frantically reaching out to catch that piece, you're liable to run into the blade because it is not your primary concern anymore. If you really can't afford to have a piece drop on the floor, get a friend. Or a pillow.

7. Make sure your hand is not anywhere near the path that you just pointed your nail gun. Nobody's perfect, and you'll eventually miss and put one right into your hand.

8. Slow down. If you get frustrated, you're going to make mistakes or hurt yourself. Sometimes you have to walk away for a little while or go do something else. That's OK. Take your time and do it right.

9. Don't be stupid. I If you think the thing you're about to is dangerous, don;t do it just because it'll save you five minutes or some other dumb excuse. Stop and figure out a safe way to do that thing. Your body and its appendages are paramount to making stuff, and you don't have spares, so just think before you act. You know when you're doing something stupid. Just because nobody is looking doesn't make it okay to hold that piece of wood an inch away from the chop saw blade.

10. This is not a complete list of safety rules, and every shop is different. make sure you know what you're doing with all tools, chemicals, and other stuff, and understand the safe use of these items, before you actually incorporate them into your next project.

*steps off soapbox*

OK, one more thing I did today. I cut the laminated panels I'm going to use for the seat. So far, I decided I only needed two of the panels, so I'm keeping the three layer one in reserve for now just in case. I cut the others on a combination of the band saw and table saw. I had to work slowly because as I cut, the stresses trapped inside because of the glue-up started to bind the work on the blade. I solved this by using lots of relief cuts and a little patience.

I also cut the two struts that go on either side and attach the back panels to the bottom panel. I made them out of some 1-by stock I had because I didn't feel like cutting into the 4x8 sheets of birch quite yet. I cut them on the table saw and band saw, and then sanded the edges with a belt sander to make fabric tears less likely. I also go to use my super-handy garage-sale-find radial arm saw. I don't have a miter saw, but this thing is incredible. You have to be really careful operating radial arm saws, but for $40 at a yard sale a few years back it was the perfect tool, and it cuts wider pieces than a 12" sliding compound miter saw with laser targeting system, turbodrive, and port and starboard attachments, or whatever it is they're selling at Depot nowadays.
IMG_6354.JPG IMG_6352.JPG

After tacking it up with the nailer (still awesome) and screwing it together with some wide head wood screws, I had something that is starting to resemble a chair! The form is definitely there. I know that the back and bottom aren't attached yet, but once thing at a time. I have a long commute so I only get 2-3 hours if I work on it for a weekday night.

I am slowly realizing that this is going to take even longer than I originally thought to get everything the way I want it. But, that's alright. I'm just enjoying the work and taking my time, because if it isn't fun and enjoyable, then what's the point? SO far so good, tune in next time for another Star Trek Captain's Chair update!


New Member
6.22.17 Finished cutting parts for Madison chair, acquired a cushion

Hi All,

Wow this week has been busier than I thought. Tuesday I went to the Yankees game (rough one) and yesterday I was busy too. But today, I got some work and worked up to a natural stopping point. I'm hoping to do a lot of building on Saturday if I can.

The first thing I did was finish cutting the wood (minus the arms) for the Madison chair core and assemble them. I would like to take this time to mention that this build is not an ultra-low-budget build, but I am trying to save money where I can because I am cheap sometimes. So, the flat masonite arm panels form a sandwich with some 3/4" thick stock in between, and that's what I did today. I figured nobody will ever see them so I might as well use up some scraps I had laying around. So, I cut the scraps to size, added some Titebond II wood glue (my personal favorite kind), and nail gunned them into place on the inner panels. I also stood everything up for a test fit (middle picture), which made me really happy because the form is definitely where I want it to be.

IMG_6443.JPG IMG_6446.JPG IMG_6445.JPG

Then, again because I am trying to save money where I can, and because I was going to buy one anyway, I took advantage of an opportunity in the form of a neighbor throwing out a couch cushion. I stripped the cover off, checked for bed bugs (which I expected not to find, and there weren't anyway), and left it in the garage just in case. That amount of foam would've been hella expensive (a 24"x24"x2" piece of high density foam at the big box store was $20), so I'm happy to have saved that money, and it is more material than I'll need by far so I'll be able to make a couple mistakes before I have to start sweating about it.


I reached a nice natural stopping point here, so that's what I did. Saturday I hope to cut the foam to size and actually do the upholstery work, and maybe even take a crack at the arms, since they need to be made before I can complete the Madison chair portion of the build. Stay tuned for more updates!


New Member
To anyone reading this, I do have some things I was hoping people could give suggestions on. Namely, the colored indicator lights that flash on the console.
I am hoping to cast them in resin, but I was wondering if anyone had specific suggestions on an easy, inexpensive resin to use, or an alternative way to fabricate them. I know this is thinking a bit far ahead on the build, but I want to get as much planned as I can and this has been bugging me for a while. Thanks!


New Member

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Today, I did a couple things.

1. I fired up the smoker and made some ribs. Sweet, tasty, delicious ribs. Let's see the replicators top that!

2. I upholstered the chair!

So, here's the process.

Cut the foam up into pieces. I used a filet knife and it cut like butter, but use whatever you feel safe and comfortable with. Yes, the foam is a touch rough, but I used a layer of some white stuff that felt like fake snow (it was originally attached to the foam cushion but I peeled it off) in between the fabric and foam, and it smoothed out nicely.

Then, I attached some more of that white snow stuff to the edges that the vinyl would be laying up against to reduce corners cutting into the fabric.

To hold the foam to the seat and back while working, I used some spray-on tack adhesive (I would've used Super 77 but we had this laying around and it's basically the same thing.

The back was made of two separate panels, so I upholstered each separately, pulling the vinyl through the middle section so I could get both pieces tight. In order to minimize wrinkles, it is important to pull the fabric TIGHT. Obviously don't rip it, but it is fine to pull on it a bit. I just distributed the load to (I am not joking here) the 800 1/2" staples I used to upholster this chair. Yup. 800. I am not joking. I am thanking the big man upstairs that I have an air nailer/stapler, otherwise this would've been impossible. The reverse section of fabric you see in the first photo is not just for show. When I pulled the fabric tight on the two back panels, you could see daylight between the cushions. There will be upholstery on the back of the chair (not yet, but eventually), but I wanted people to see the proper fabric underneath in the gap, so people probably won't notice the gap at all.
IMG_6456.JPG IMG_6455.JPG

I used the three-layer-thick curved panel (the one I hadn't used yet) for the seat cushion so that it was removable, and matches the design of the actual chair. This is where I deviated slightly from the actual chair. I want to be able to sit in this chair, and so the cushion is a little thicker than the actual chair. However, the visual when someone is sitting in it will be unaffected, and it doesn't throw off the overall look anyhow.

Next, I edged the base piece with a strip of fake-snow-looking-stuff and vinyl and stapled it on. Then came for the big task. I put it all together. The back and base were joined by the side pieces, which I glued fabric to so that the inside looks proper too. Finally, I put the seat cushion in. I was going to screw the cushion in, but the thought of sitting on too-long screws was frightening (they could rip the fabric!), and the cushion fit really tightly, so I decided to just leave it as a friction fit, which seems to work fine. The rest of it is held together with 3" deck screws (deck screws typically have square or star drives instead of phillips, so it was easier to drive them 3 inches into solid masonite).
IMG_6458.JPG IMG_6460.JPG

And now, for the (not so big) reveal! I didn't have the arms cut yet, so until then I can't finish the upholstery because of the order of assembly. But, that's OK, because I am happy with where I'm at.

A few final thoughts:
-The back is not upholstered yet. I know, I'm terrible. But I will get there eventually, I promise.
-My most useful/favorite tool is officially the nail gun. So. Many. Staples.
-This chair is heavy as heck.
-It is comfortable! (What, did you think I didn't sit in it yet?)
-I'm not sure if I'm more satisfied with this chair or the ribs.

Up next, I need to do the arms. I've been putting them off for a while now, but I can't afford to stall anymore because they are the limiting step. I am really happy at how this is going, and that the form is actually what I intended it to be. So far, so good. And so much more to do!

Also, I figure since this is a Trek nerd thread, I figure I should share where I'm at in my quest to watch all the Star Trek ever. Er, most of it. I have obviously watched TOS already. This winter I finished The Next Generation. Then, I started Deep Space Nine. After about three episodes I decided to stop because it just wasn't my cup of tea. I'll get to it eventually, but not now. I've also watched some of the movies. Wrath of Khan, First Contact, and the new trilogy of films (not my favorites). I am saving the other movies for later because I am still not ready to not have more TNG to watch, so I'm keeping the TNG movies in my back pocket for when I really need some more Picard. In the meantime, I watch Voyager on my train ride to work. Currently I'm on the Season 4 finale (it's a good one). So far, I'm definitely a Voyager fan. I know that will alienate half of the people who read this (sorry DS9 folks), but I can't hide what I am.

Stay tuned for more! And please leave any comments, questions, or criticisms, it's all part of the process!


New Member
BACK AT IT! Armrests

Wow, it's been a few weeks. But, I finally got back to work the last couple days. This weekend's main task: The armrests.

The plans and original chair call for walnut armrests, walnut is expensive and I don't have a planer/jointer so I couldn't glue up the right pieces even if I wanted to. What I did have, however, is some 4x4 clear cedar (clear meaning no knots). It isn't optimal because cedar is soft and will probably get dented and dinged, but I think as long as I keep the chair inside it won't deform too much, and will take stain and maybe some poly OK, as long as I leave some unfinished on the bottom to let the cedar oils get out over time. But first, I had to rehab the band saw. I snapped the only thin blade I had, and the machine is 50 years old, so hunting around for a while to find the right blade was a problem, and I had to re-do the wiring and switch on the machine, but it is now functional and better than ever.

So, some pictures.
Step 1 was to rough out the general shape on the bandsaw. I did the side profile first, then the top profile, but I think you could do it either way. This part of the project can really only be done on a band saw, unless you are really patient and skilled with a coping saw. I was able to cut the full 3.5" in one pass on my saw, which made everything much easier.


Next step was to cut the top profile and start marking the rests up for the edges that needed sanding, everywhere that was sharpied got taken out, and then I repeated the process for the other edge.

Finally, I spend a lot of time sanding. I used the benchtop belt sander at first, but then that got super tedious and I wasn't getting the result I was looking for, so I switched over to a random orbital, which was much better. I started at 40 grit to hog out the material I wanted gone, and worked my way up to 220 on the power sander, and then went over everything with some more 220 by hand to smooth it up. The sander I have has a really great dust-collection system that just plugs into the shopvac, and it makes a HUGE difference in the amount of dust I was making. But still, especially with cedar, which is bad to breathe in, if you're doing sanding you need to be wearing some sort of mask. I didn't wear a respirator because honestly I don't have one, but just something that protects you from sawdust particulates in the air is necessary. I remember one time I didn't use a mask when working with cedar, and I was sneezing and stuffy for an entire week.

After a couple hours of sanding with power tools and by hand, I finally had a product I was happy with. I had to fill a hole with some wood filler, but I suspect that after finish it will barely be noticeable.
IMG_6647.JPG IMG_6645.JPG

Now, the next thing to do is to pick a stain that I like and that will look like the original, because as of now the arms are way to light. I figure I probably have one that'll work laying around, so I grabbed some scrap from the same wood as the armrests are from and did a quick test. I'm leaning towards the chestnut right now, with some poly on top after to seal it up. Forgive my awful handwriting, I was jyst trying to get this part done quick.

Finally, the basement has been getting cluttered with all my projecting, so I did a little bit of housekeeping work. Nothing like a clean workspace. (You can also see the old bandsaw off to the right, the motor isn't even part of the machine, it's a separate part. But, it cuts great and I love old machines when I can find them.

This weeks plan is to start the pedestal and get a few coats of finish on the armrests, so stay tuned for more!

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Sr Member
Great work on the armrests! I think the edges of the original are a bit more rounded in places, but overall the shape is perfect. :thumbsup
It's hard to judge the stain colour, but the chestnut looks the closest to me too. I perceive the original as having a hint more orange, but that red looks far too reddish.


New Member
Great work on the armrests! I think the edges of the original are a bit more rounded in places, but overall the shape is perfect. :thumbsup
It's hard to judge the stain colour, but the chestnut looks the closest to me too. I perceive the original as having a hint more orange, but that red looks far too reddish.

Thanks! I decided on chestnut as well, and put on a first coat.

I really like the way the grain pops. However, and it isn't visible in this picture, there are some tool marks that I didn't notice until the stain went on. It looks like I'm going to be doing more sanding unfortunately, and even though the marks aren't that noticeable, I know they're there so they're getting sanded away. Hopefully it doesn't mess up the stain job too bad.


New Member
Armrests, Round Two

OK, so the tool marks were nagging me at work all day, so when I got home I know I had to fix them. Obviously cedar is too soft a wood to keep perfectly smooth forever, but I figure it'll be good enough. Maybe my chair will be the battle-scarred version.

Anyhow, I spent a couple hours working my way up to 220 grit on the random orbital, then 220 and 320 hand sanding to take off most of the old stain and put on the new stuff.

After second sanding:

And a new first coat:

I am liking the way the grain comes out with this stain, now I need to start cutting some plywood.


New Member
Cutting the plywood

Hey Everyone!

I got some more good work done this weekend. I'm happy to say that I have basically all of the plywood pieces (as they are set out in the plans) cut to size. I have some other pieces to cut later when I figure out how I want to make the consoles removable, but I'll get there when I get there. Anyhow, there were a LOT of pieces to cut and I only had two sheets of 3/4" plywood to do it. So, I started by laying out everything (measure three or four times, cut once). For the round parts, the good news is that I had a very sophisticated, very expensive compass to make perfect arcs with. One thing to remember, the saw blade is not infinitely thin. Mine was 1/8" kerf, so I made sure to leave at least that much between different pieces. Also I had to do some trig, if you're peeping the TI-83 and wondering why.
View attachment 746267 View attachment 746268

After markup, still outdoors at this point, I rough cut everything with my jigsaw and circ saw, getting everything into manageable pieces.
View attachment 746269

Now that everything was in manageable pieces for one man (me) to run through my table saw and band saw, neither of which are large enough to handle full sheets with one person. So, I used these tools to cut everything down to final size. Another thing I find helpful is to cut all cuts with the same dimension at the same step. For example, the console faces are all 5" wide, and there are 8 pieces total, so I made sure to set the table saw fence once, and cut all of them before moving the fence again, to ensure that all the pieces are as close to the same as possible. For some of the pieces (like the disks and console sides) I pinned the pieces together with a couple brad nails, and cut them together to make as perfect a match as possible. One day's work and a broken band saw blade later, I wound up with a whole heap of pieces ready for assembly (on another day).
View attachment 746270

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