Monday, September 16, 2013

Laser Beams

I've been gearing up to make some chairs for our dining room table for a number of years now. At my current pace, I figure I might get them done by the time I'm 50. It's been three years since I built the table. Wow, I better get busy.

To that end I recently built a couple mounts for my laser levels. I first heard about using these levels from Peter Galbert, who in turn got the idea from fellow chair maker Greg Pennington. Greg came up with the idea a couple years ago and has been using the technique for teaching and building.

While Greg's mounts get the job done, I had a day off last week and thought I'd try and get clever with my own design (watch it kid, don't get cocky.) A couple chunky offcuts from a bench build earlier this year looked they'd work.

I added a protractor scale to the body for quick setting. When using Galbert's sightline square to determine the drilling angle (or resultant angle) the scale will come in handy for setting the laser to that angle without having to adjust a bevel square, then match the laser to that. At least that's the theory. We'll see if it pans out. Most chairmaking angles are 30 degrees or less, but my mounts go all the way to 45 in either direction. Kind of like the amp from Spinal Tap. I also glued some suede to the bottom of my mounts to keep them from sliding around.

To read more about how these laser levels work for chairmaking, visit Greg's blog here. And Pete's blog here.

I bought my lasers from Amazon. Don't be swayed by the bad reviews. They are decent tools for the money, and work very well for this application. Most of the negative comments are about mounting the laser to walls, which it doesn't do well at all. I also covered up all the gaudy competition-orange plastic housing with a sharpie.


  1. This is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to make some now.....


  2. Lol. This is why I've left my lasers in the packaging until now. Your design looks pretty choice.

    When I was at Greg's, I brought up the idea of including a scale on the mounts, or even using a (much more expensive) construction laser that could be zeroed and then set to whatever angle you wanted..

    Greg brought up the salient point that whatever you have the laser sitting on may not actually be in plane with your seat. Especially when drilling the holes for the legs, you had to sit the laser some distance away.

    Of course, this was 2 years ago.

    If you run into any issues with these in practice, I'd love to hear about them. Of course, if they work *perfectly*, I'd love to hear that too.

    Thanks for the post! Beautiful work as always.

    - Matt

    1. I thought of that issue when I was fiddling with these Matt. After I build some chairs, the question will be answered. Right now they just gizmos.

  3. That little project would be a good article for Popular Woodworking. Just a thought.

  4. Very cool Jameel. But I detect some voodo, not that there's anything wrong with that.



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