walnut high chair carving

Today was the day for carving the high chair’s back panel. I decided on a design that I know well, removing one variable in the project. I didn’t want to learn a new design while carving a new wood too.

 The panel is pretty small, about 9” wide by 10” high; so I had to adapt the design to fit the space. To get to that point, I decided to draw it in chalk; ordinarily I would just scribe a centerline on the panel and start carving…too chicken with the walnut. I have only a little extra wood so wanted to get it right the first time.

chalk outline & V-tool work begun

The pattern I chose is from the Devon, England group of joinery, also seen in Ipswich Massachusetts, c. 1660s-1700. I have gone over carving this stuff a number of times here on the blog and in print for Popular Woodworking Magazine (June 2009). One thing about this design is there is very little background to remove. Lots of detail, but lots of leeway too…here it is in oak.

in oak


All I had to do was translate oak-ish techniques so they would succeed in walnut. By now I had enough of an idea how to get that done. The V-tool work proceeded as usual. Maybe a little less oomph with the mallet, but otherwise just cut most of the outlines with the V-tool.

I used hand pressure to incise some of the detail shapes, where in oak I would just strike them once with emphasis to cut the shape. To achieve this, the movement comes from the lower body, rising up on my feet, & coming down with my weight.

hand pressure

Then I snuck up on them removing wood just outside where I relieved things with either the V-tool or hand-pressure & gouges.

removing background

Once I had carefully cut down all the limits of the background, then I took out the waste areas. I did all this work with hand pressure, where I would mostly do it with the mallet in oak. Some of this stuff is covered in detail in the DVD I did last fall with Lie-Nielsen; for instance, the position of my hands on the tools, and bracing the forearms against the torso for stability. Beginners often miss the idea of how to hold the tool, and where the cuts come from in your body…I learned a lot of that stuff when I was a repeat student at Country Workshops many years ago. It has stayed with me throughout my woodworking career, and that’s why I stress it in any instruction I do.

Then some shaping, beveling etc to finish out the pattern.

shaping with bevel up

Some punchwork on the background and accents on the panel itself completed the carving. Then it was time to cut the panel, and bevel its back edges to fit the grooves in the frame. I would use a hatchet on oak for the gross removal of stock, but again, chickened out in walnut. It does plane quite nicely, so this was easy work. I just held the panel in a wooden bench hook to plane the bevels.

bevelling back of panel

Then test-fit. Next time some arms, finials, and seat. And carve the faces of the stiles. And make the rear stretcher. Oh, I thought I was almost done.

test fit
starting to look like something

For more on this type of carving, I’ll be out & about a few times teaching carving & demonstrating in 2011.  Some details are already available, others to come. I’ll do a carved box workshop at Country Workshops in June  http://countryworkshops.org/Joinery.html

I’ll also be at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Showcase in Saratoga Springs this March 26 & 27. http://www.nwawoodworkingshow.org/information.htm

In October I’ll be at Woodworking in America, not sure they have their details up yet….

Roy Underhill’s place in July, for making  a joined stool. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/elizabethian-joint-stool-w-pet/

I hope to do some Lie-Nielsen events, just haven’t figured out where/when yet. The video is previewed here

and their site is here http://www.lie-nielsen.com/


6 thoughts on “walnut high chair carving

  1. Your site’s gone to a whole new level of awesomeness. I’m sure the extra photos are slowing down the actual work, but the last several weeks have been a great insight. While you’ll obviously keep up the great woodworking, here’s to keeping up the great blogging!

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