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Designer’s Alphabet, Y is for ………..

 

Yorkshire chair with a crested back. (Bonhams)

Yorkshire chair with a crested back. (Bonhams)

 

 

durer-latin-yorkshire chair, a regional chair form produced in the latter half of the 17th century in Britain. More broadly they fall under the umbrella of Charles II oak chairs (1660-1685). They were also produced in nearby Derbyshire, and sometimes refereed to as Derbyshire chairs.They had a few features that set them apart from the earlier Jacobean chair designs and hinted at some of the changes to chairmaking in the coming 18th century. Yorkshire chairs

An arcade is a row of arches supported by colunms.

An arcade is a row of arches supported by columns. (Bonhams)

departed from the Jacobean perpendicular chair backs with a solid plank splat, and moved to a more open back that tilted slightly to conform to the human frame. The open backs were often crested like the crown of a hill, or arcaded with a series of arches supported by small columns. To my eye the proportions are lighter than the earlier chair designs from the 17th century, perhaps a nod towards things to come in the chairmaking world in Georgian era in the 18th century.

 

Note: Thanks to Jack Plane for helping me track down some information on these chairs. I originally began looking for an American “York” chair. All roads came to nothing with only one poor example far removed from these English chairs. Sort of a dogs breakfast, cobbled together by committee. If you have a photo of an American “York” chair, pass it along and I’ll post it.

 

George R. Walker

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Designers Alphabet, X is for…….

Vintage Mahogony Planks from "American Lumberman November 1908"

Vintage Mahogony Planks from “American Lumberman November 1908″

durer-latin-xylon, Greek root word for wood. I must admit – X had me stumped. Also Xyloid, an adjective meaning resembling wood or ligneous. If I go through the designers alphabet again I may have to double up on another letter and take a pass on this one. Here’s a link to a great furniture grade wood supplier I highly recommend.  Horizon Wood Products. Great people to work with and xylon to drool over.

 

George R. Walker

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Just want it to be done

Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz, 1606-1682

One year ago Jim Tolpin and I were axehandles and elbows in final edit mode for our manuscript BH&E (By Hand & Eye).  I was struck by how much work is involved down that final stretch and I just wanted it over with.  Sort of like a large furniture project. It starts with the excitement of picking just the right figured boards to unleash something beautiful. That excitement gives way to a different kind of pleasure when the shaping and joinery begins, more like a long hike in the woods. Every good hike has a few brambles to muddle through, but the pleasure of building makes up for the hilly spots. Yet, near the end I always just want to get it done, shed the saddle and roll in some clover.

But this was different. After Jim and I high fived and broke some glass, we went right back to the fun of sending each other articles, links to historic engravings, and random thoughts about how our craft might have solved a problem. Rather than moving on, we continued to moving in. We’ve only scratched the surface as much of this knowledge can only be pried loose at the point of a tool. Jim’s still eager to test out every idea at the bench, and I can’t resist flipping over stones in the creek bed. A year later, actually three years later for the two of us, we are more convinced that the tradition has so much to teach us about how to see. And with each piece of knowledge we become more convinced that the traditional tool set is the key to breathe life into it.

I’m headed out to Port Townsend in March to share this knowledge in a design workshop. There are still a few spots left, so if you are game for a week of eye opening discovery, sign up.

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, V is for ……..

Carved Volute on Windsor backsplat by Richard Grell, Photo by G. Walker

Carved Volute on Windsor crest by Richard Grell, Photo by G. Walker

durer-latin-v is for volute. The Oxford dictionary defines a volute as a spiral or twisted formation or object. For the furniture designer, a volute is a graceful way to terminate a line. No doubt inspired by the unfurling organic forms that abound in nature, volutes are employed in endless variety, from the massive scrolls that grace an Ionic capital down to countless tiny detailed carvings. Most of the historical design books include a section on how to DSCN1103generate a volute with a straight edge and compass. At first blush this seems a bit useless for a woodworker as the actual layouts in furniture are too small to layout with a compass, akin to neutering a hummingbird. For that small carved volute on the end of a chair arm, a freehand layout is needed. Recently I was speaking to a group at the Woodworking Workshops of the Shenandoah Valley and we discussed this freehand layout dilemma. I proposed a little experiment. First I had everyone draw a small volute freehand about the size of a silver dollar. Then we whipped out our compasses and walked through the steps to draw a large classical volute complete with all the 9hieroglyphics and voodoo. Amid all the stumbling and some cursing, I could hear the “ahas” bubble up as the logic clicked at everyone’s fingertips. Finally everyone executed another small freehand sketch, this time using using the knowledge they had just gleaned. Here’s one example of a before and after.  With a little practice and this knowledge, anyone can quickly and easily draw a graceful organic volute.

First attempt is on the left.

First attempt is on the left.

George R. Walker

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Great interveiw with Jim Tolpin

Design - Back to Basics 2

It seems like yesterday I was wrapping up my keynote address on furniture design to a packed house in Chicago. Then a woodworker down in front raised his hand and posed a question I didn’t know the answer to. A little embarrassed, my brain froze and I fumbled through an awkward ” I don’t know”.  The woodworker was Jim Tolpin and he hung around after the event and peppered me with more questions I didn’t know the answers to. That was the beginning of a great new friendship that eventually led to the two of us collaborating on our book “By Hand & Eye. They say that co-writing a book is a recipe for wrecking a friendship, but  in our case we must have lost that recipe. As the project reached that point where it’s a slog (as all books do), my respect for Jim increased as his inquisitive mind and generosity of spirit rubbed off on me.

Charles Brock interviewed Jim for the November edition of The Highland Woodworker . It’s worth a look.

George R. Walker

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Visit a great woodshop

Richard's new shop, the site of this weekends SAPFM meeting

Grell’s shop, the site of this weekends SAPFM meeting

Richard Grell’s woodshop lies at the end of a tree lined gravel lane. I dropped in the other day to see Richard in action teaching a child’s Chair class.

Grell made his sole living for forty years making Windsors and was often sought out by serious collectors and auction houses when the need for museum class reproductions arose. These days he’s changed course and in his words, “Do a download, and offer that forty years of craft knowledge to woodworkers”.  A rare opportunity offers itself this weekend with the Ohio River Valley Chapter (ORV) of SAPFM hosting it’s fall meeting at Grell’s Hudson Ohio shop. Aside from our usual crew of furniture makers from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and West Virginia, this is a special treat for folks up north in the western PA or NY area.  The ORV usually meets in  southern Ohio locations (West Virginia also), so this a a chance to attend an ORV event in your neck of the woods. Any non-SAPFM members wishing to attend and check out one of the premier woodworking furniture groups in the country, contact me at georgewalker.design@gmail.com for more details. This is a weekend you won’t want to miss!

Here’s a short video about SAPFM

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The Bells of Agnone

I’m always a sucker for any story about keeping a traditional craft alive. So a small foundry casting bronze bells for a 1000 years got my attention. At 2:20 the master bell maker explains the simple geometry behind the bell design. Those darn simple ratios seem to turn up everywhere! See this short video of the bell makers of Agnone Italy.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147140n

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, Q is for …….

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durer-latin-qis for quaint. A trade name for a number of lines of furniture produced by the Stickley Brothers in Grand Rapids Michigan. They began using the name “Quaint Mission”, attached to a line of mission inspired furniture and then subsequently used the term as a brand to market lines of factory made furniture under the names Quaint Arts & Crafts, Quaint Tudor, Quaint Manor, and finally Quaint American. Here’s a link to a Quaint catalogue from the early 20th century. Quaint

Note – Thanks to Donna Hill for helping me find a solution to the letter “Q”. I decided to forgo the ubiquitous “Queen Anne” since according to Jack Plane at Pegs and Tails, we Americans cannot keep our Queens (or kings) straight.

George R. Walker

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Best advise I never took

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I debated about posting this non-woodworking advise, but thought you need to read this.

Get your shingles vaccine. Run – don’t walk to your doctor.

It started five weeks ago with what I thought was a kidney stone and the obligatory wrecked back. I did everything wrong – didn’t get the vaccine, or run to the emergency room at the first sign of a colony of angry fire ants holding war games on my midsection. Did I mention you should get your vaccine? Listen, I’ve skidded down thirty yards of tar and gravel hardpan behind a motorcycle hurling sparks into the nightime sky, my right kidney has birthed a litter of stones including one dreadnaught the size of a German mauser rifle bullet, I’ve busted fingers, broke ribs, and gotten knocked out by a rock hurled by my best boyhood pal. I’d trade all those in exchange for not having this present malady. In fact I’d trade a grade four Parker side by side shotgun, a truckload of Cuban Mahogany, and a Sandusky Rosewood centerwheel plow plane for not having to go through this. I swear the Doc has me on placebos, but he says if all goes well, I should get some relief in another month. Did I mention you should get your vaccine?

George Walker

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Design Critique, finished results to share

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One of the really fun parts about our design critiques is to see the finished results on a project. Adrian asked for your help back in Feb 2012.  

Here’s a link to his blog with more pictures and details. Check out the stunning wood he showcases in the top,  nice work!  Adrianmakes

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