‘Chairmaker’s Notebook,’ 34 Months Later

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Publishers set deadlines so they can control when their books hit the stores (this keeps the money flowing), and so they can prevent the author’s vision from spiraling out of control (this keeps costs under control).

We eschew deadlines as much as possible. The book is done when the book is done. And if the author’s vision spirals mightily during the process, then it’s probably a good book.

“Chairmaker’s Notebook” by Peter Galbert is a textbook example. The project began on March 25, 2012, when I visited Peter and fellow chairmaker Curtis Buchanan at Kelly Mehler’s school to discuss an idea for a DVD on making a single chair. Peter was going to illustrate a short manual to go with the DVD.

Sometimes you have no idea what is going to come out of the soil when you throw some seeds on the ground. Curtis decided to release the DVDs in a 10-disc set on making a comb-back chair. It’s a fantastic look at the process from beginning to end. You can order the set from Curtis here.

Peter shifted gears and decided to write a book on building two Windsor chairs: a balloon-back and a fan-back. The book was going to have a standard mix of step photos and a few illustrations. (Peter received a degree in photography from the Art Institute of Chicago and also studied painting, drawing and sculpture.)

As Peter started drawing, the book evolved again. The photographs were shoved aside in favor of illustrations. The book became a massive brain-dump of the entire process of chair construction, and there is a lot in Peter’s brain. I’ve studied every chairmaking book available during the last 15 years. Peter has re-thought almost every part of the process and proved his techniques through building and teaching.

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There are more than 500 hand-drawn illustrations in “Chairmaker’s Notebook,” but that’s not an accurate count. There were 500 pages of illustrations that John and I scanned. Many of these pages contained several illustrations. And many of these illustrations were redrawn four or five times until Peter was happy.

The text has been through the hands of five other chairmakers, editors and writers. Not because the text needed a lot of work, but because Peter sought out their critiques to refine every explanation.

And poor Linda Watts, the designer. Most books take about three weeks to design. She’s been on this job since late November, I think. It’s a complicated task to present so much information in a way that makes it look clean and simple.

Last night about 8:25 I finished entering the final changes from Megan Fitzpatrick, who copy edited the book, and I sent the proof to Peter for review. We still have some tidying to do, and Suzanne Ellison is working on the index as I type this. But the end is near.

We have resolved to get this book to the printer on Feb. 10. On that date, I’ll have complete details on the price, the number of pages and (if you are nice) an excerpt from the book.

At the end of massive book projects such as this, I always say something like: “And this is why traditional physical media is dying.” But as I page through the finished product, I also say this: “I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to ‘Chairmaker’s Notebook,’ 34 Months Later

  1. Chris, give them an excerpt from the seat carving chapter. They’ll love it.

    On the other hand the introduction chapter is also really inspiring. That’s a great read.

  2. frpaulas says:

    Can’t wait, but willing to.

  3. kendewitt608 says:

    The great thing about physical media is no delete key. You can skip a page or chapter but it is still there when you want it.
    Keep it up.

  4. tsstahl says:

    I vote “aye” for the dead tree version of everything. 🙂

    Nobody ever heard of a dead sea floppy disk.

  5. Looking forward to it. I’ve been trying to wait patiently for this, but it’s getting difficult.

  6. joecrafted says:

    Look forward to the book. Peter’s videos on youtube got me interested in chair making, but I haven’t had the chance to take a chair making class. And talking with him at a local woodworking school open house, I know he can explain things to a person new to this type of woodworking. Should be another excellent book.

  7. toby2020 says:

    Curtis Buchanan’s YouTube video series is really good. Starts with picking up the log to paining the final Comb Back chair. I wanted to show my appreciating for creating 53 videos so I opted to buy the DVD set from Mr. Buchanan. He doesn’t require it or ask for it. Other series include a continuous arm chair and sharpening tools. He sells the DVDs and really nice measured drawings of the two chairs. Use them for making the chair or great shop art.

  8. Alex A. says:

    It feels like I have been waiting to order this book (and Furniture of Necessity).

  9. abtuser says:

    I’m excited to get a copy. Glad there’s a little lead time as Christmas bills are still coming due.

  10. Niels Cosman says:

    Stoked for this one! Well worth the wait I am sure!

  11. aparent100 says:

    Chris will there be a deluxe leather bound edition?

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