drawbacks of drawings

I often get requests for measured drawings of furniture forms, most often lately of the three-legged chair I was making in a recent article in Popular Woodworking Magazine.  I don’t usually work with drawings, especially measured & scaled drawings. The closest I come is a set of sketches on which I record the details of a given piece.

 Many years ago, Alexander ran across copies of the Dover Publication of John Weymouth Hurrell’s Measured Drawings of Old English Oak Furniture (NY: Dover Publications, 1983) a reprint of an early 20th-century London publication. I think the original publisher was Batsford. I dug mine out recently, because I need to make some drawings to submit for some work I have coming up. (two of which are wainscot chairs, so more on that subject to follow)


Here is a chair in Hurrell’s book. It is clearly a carefully-done drawing, full of details – molding profiles, turning details, carving patterns. All scaled. What’s lacking is the feeling of the piece. No period chair is this clean, this precise. There’s no way in a drawing like these to record surface textures, tolerances, thickness variations, things like that.

Hurrell, wainscot chair

Hurrell’s drawings are first-rate; but personally I have a hard time reading this sort of thing. I had a little training in mechanical drawing/drafting, whatever it’s called these days. But they are so lifeless & stiff that my eyes struggle with them. I do much better with a photograph for a carving pattern for instance. Another place where Hurrell leaves me confused is the molding details. Here’s one of his moldings:

Hurrell, molding detail

It isn’t until I flip it over, either in my mind, or turn the book upside down, that I “see” the molding. At first, I can’t tell what’s positive & what’s negative. Others see it just fine. Here’s the flipped version. Reads better to me…I think because it looks more like it does on the workbench.

upside down looks right to me

Alexander & I have been very fortunate over the years to have first-hand access to many pieces of 17th-century furniture, in both public and private collections. Without these chances to handle the objects, and make detailed examinations, we would never have got as far as we have in understanding the period work.  For folks who can’t get to see this sort of material, books like Hurrell’s can be really helpful. They can get you close, but still several steps away. I hope the images on the blog provide people with some notion of what we look for when we see a piece of this furniture. For folks waiting to hear from me about the three-legged chair, I’ll see what I can do. No promises.


6 thoughts on “drawbacks of drawings

  1. Hi Peter, I really enjoy your Blog – Please keep up the good work!
    If you need any shop drawings done, I would be happy to produce some for you, from your sketches/photographs, FOC – on the basis that I can use the CAD files generated as part of tutorials on my own Blog.
    Like you I Blog for fun (and to help out my peers) not for profit. Let me know if I can be of any help.

  2. Peter; Thanks for flipping the moulding details over. I like the stalagmite view much better. Hurell gets so much information on one page it is difficult to read. It is so busy tht I missed the front veiw of the chair! Unfortunately he does not show how the complex moldings are built up. Saying this, there is an incredible amount of information. Here is a different style arm pit than usual.

  3. Hi Peter.
    Many thanks for such interesting blog and for sharing your enthusiasm for wood and furniture with us. I have always had an interest in the structure and style of chairs, especially those with cane or rush seats which I had the opportunity to learn how to weave.
    I look forward to following your blog now I have discovered it.

  4. Thank you kindly for contributing this article.
    This method is quiet elaborate and detailed to read.

    I wonder what potential use 3D printing might have with such 17th century furniture illustrations, now that it is becoming somewhat publicly understood and widely available.

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