A Review of Mary May’s Book from SAPFM


In the Spring 2018 issue of Pins & Tales (the Society of American Period Furniture Makers‘ e-magazine), Martin O’Brien, a professional furniture maker, stone carver and well-known conservator, reviewed Mary May‘s “Carving the Acanthus Leaf.”

“As an instructional text, it probably has more process images than any other book on carving that I own,” O’Brien writes. ” … I can’t imagine more instructional detail being provided. If the book were composed of pictures alone, it would be worth the cost.”

O’Brien, a skilled carver himself (check out his letter carving here), writes that carving is one of the more elusive areas of the craft. “While it is disguised as woodworking, it really has more in common with drawing,” he says. “Realizing this took me a long time. The skills required for executing a carving  with curves and flowing lines come from a different part of the brain than the skills we use for the predictable hard and straight lines of milling lumber and cutting joints. Think of the chisel as a drawing tool, not a cutting tool. Mary provides ample instruction on how to design, draw, and lay out the acanthus leaf and explains that this is important, not only for the task at hand, but also in order to develop our ability to see and execute fine details.”

O’Brien talks about the Eureka moment he had while reading Mary’s section on sharpening, the importance of storytelling when discussing technique (and how Mary’s memorable tales enhance the book) and, well, the fact that the book is a steal.

“The amount of time and labor evident in the making of this book belie the comparably low cost ($49 or less for the PDF version). It’s hard to imagine creating this much text and countless images in such a superbly designed, printed, and bound edition – in the United States no less!”

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2 Responses to A Review of Mary May’s Book from SAPFM

  1. alan - planesaw says:

    Congratulations to Mary for writing the book, and to Chris for providing the opportunity for such a book to be published. I realize that short sentence doesn’t begin to reflect the number of years in developing her skills, and the amount of work Mary put into the writing, nor the risk and ongoing guidance by values and ideals, in starting and successfully maintaining a business that most people wouldn’t try. A great thanks from many of us.


  2. alan - planesaw says:

    Wish I could edit what I said. In my sentence, ” . . . ongoing guidance by values and . . . ” I intended to say, ” . . . ongoing guidance by values and ideals of Chris, in starting and maintaining . . .”


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