This is a post about the cover of the forthcoming book, “Guerrilla Chairmaking.” Though there is no release date for the book yet, the cover is done. Rudy Everts has written a blog entry on how he made a relief carving for the cover of the book. And no, it’s not a gorilla hammering in a chair leg “à la John Brown” with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
When Chris asked me if I could make a relief carving for the cover of his upcoming book, “Guerrilla Chairmaking,” I was extremely excited and a bit nervous. Having one of my carvings photographed and printed on a book cover is something I never dreamed of, and I am very honored.
After I got the measurements of the book from Chris, I ordered some linden roughly that size. I wanted to carve the relief as close as possible to its final printed size. If you enlarge a small picture of a relief carving it becomes a blurry mess. Better to carve it a little oversized and shrink it for the print to makes the details crisp.
Planning the Carving
We started by deciding what chair to use. We considered the painted version of Chris’ Darvel chairs as well as the ones with a natural oil finish.
The orientation of the chair was an important point to consider. The beautiful head-on chair print by Molly Brown that adorns the cover of Good Work was still fresh in my memory, and I figured a relief carving would be the most striking in three-quarter orientation. We eventually agreed to use the three-quarter Darvel in natural finish.
Carving the Chair
Relief carving a chair with an undercarriage was something I had previously avoided. The middle stretchers are carved in end grain and I was afraid they would be too fragile. Not wanting to start off with an impossible task, I decided to carve a quick sketch of the undercarriage on a piece of scrap linden scrap.
This little sketch came in handy during the carving process. I could see exactly how deep I had to remove the wood and what leg should go in front of which stretcher. I discovered that the end grain of the stretchers is not that fragile, as it is fully supported by the background.
In retrospect I wish I had made a sketch for the seat, sticks and arm too because that was actually where the most difficult part of the carving ended up being. It’s funny how you can be intimidated by the wrong thing sometimes.
Saddling the Seat
The saddling of the seat, making the spindle deck and the edges of the seat were the hardest part of the carving to get right.
The deepest part of the carving is only about 5mm (3/16” deep) so there is not a lot of playroom for errors.
I carved the sticks with a V-tool initially, but I was unhappy with them. I then used a wide chisel for the short sticks and a 60mm (2-3/8″) wide plane blade to make them perfectly straight.
I used horizontal raking light in a pitch-black room to catch any errors. Note how shallow the carving is.
Once the seat was saddled and the sticks were nice and straight, the crest was a breeze to carve.
The Back of the Carving
I usually like it when something is present on the back of a carving. Too many times I have turned over a carving only to find nothing there. Or worse, a generic stamp, indicating it was mass-produced. I had gotten a lot of practice relief carving the chair, so why not relief carve something small on the back as well?
The Lost Art Press dividers were a beautiful thing to relief-carve. And in my opinion they really finish the carving.
— Rudy Everts. See his work and read his blog at underhatchet.com
For the tool nerds among us (that includes me) I will list the knives and gouges I used for this carving: The #5/12mm was used for all the background removal. Two Cherries straight carving knife 3363 for all the stop cuts. A #9/11mm for hollowing out the seat. Bench chisels, 22mm and 32mm, and a 60mm plane blade for making the sticks straight. A #3/06mm and #3/10mm for smoothing the background (used upside down to make the sticks round). A #2/2mm, #2/10mm and #2/4mm were essential in clearing the tiny cavities between the sticks, together with the #1/3mm and #1/5mm. Besides these main tools, I also used specialty tools in hard-to-reach areas, like a long bent straight-edge 1.5mm chisel. I used a small glass scraper to smooth the sticks.