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.
34 thoughts on “‘Guerrilla Chairmaking’ – Carving the Cover”
Wow! After all that work Chris had better write that book, no pressure Chris……
Oh I’m writing it. It’s just a matter of stopping the writing at some point.
I’d pay good money for a print of that carving!
My thoughts exactly. The gorilla image is stuck in my mind. I also wonder if the image will be flipped like a block print or if it’s just a digital transfer.
Thanks for inspiring. I would never pretend to possess your skill set, but sharing your approach and your mind set demystifies the process enough to make the carving approachable.
That’s exactly what I was after, making the carving approachable – thanks!
That’s a beautiful carving, Rudy. Thanks for walking us all through the process and sharing your work.
Thank you Brian, I’m happy you found it informative.
Stunning work, Rudy. Very difficult to accomplish such a powerful illusion of depth with such shallow relief, and you pulled it off masterfully. Subtle things like the way the left arm wraps around toward the viewer, and so much more.
Thanks so much, Dave. The spot you point out was one of the hardest to get right so I appreciate you noticing the finer details!
Beautiful, beautiful work. Very well done.
So few the things that are made with as much thoughtfulness and quality as a Lost Art Press book these days. It is quite inspiring.
That chair is so classy. Great carving too, I wouldn’t expect anything less from @underhatchet.
Thank you very much!
What a wonderful story to wake up to this morning!
Wow! That is beautifully done.
Incredible work! Will the cover be a photograph of the carving or some other manner?
It will be a photo on the book’s dust jacket. And I will use it as the diestamp on the cloth cover under the dustjacket.
Those were the options I considered. Glad you will do both!
You have spoke before about a good furniture design ” hitting you in the gut”. And this one hits me in the gut. I love this design.
Thanks! I am happy with the design.
Terrific. My ancestors from Brienz, Switzerland, the epicenter of wood carving, would be impressed. Now, is I could build one of those chairs. Awaiting the book.
That is quite a compliment, thanks so much.
Rudy, that is an excellent example of relief carving. The photos and the angle of the light are spot-on and truly demonstrate your artistic and technical skill. I know a little of how difficult it is to execute such a carving, and I think you have done it perfectly – and given it life. That is the hardest of all – to make a carving look less “wooden” and more alive so that we believe we are looking at a real chair. Well done.
Thank you Grant, that is about the highest compliment a carver can receive. Much appreciated!
That will make a beautiful book cover! Nicely done Rudy! Always interesting to read your though process.
Thank you Pascal – I am happy you found the post informative!
As someone who is looking to get into relief carving, I appreciate this article’s details in what gouges were used for what task. And yes, that carving is really beautiful.
Fantastic overview of your process. Really, really impressed!!!
Words fail me. The talent that went into that amazes . . . the result, awe inspiring.
Brilliant is as close as words come to describing the result.
Fantastic! I love it
What a wonderful carving, and equally wonderful illumination of your craft. Thank you very much.
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