Chairmaker’s Notebook


Some of my favorite books have beautifully drawn illustrations.  Books by Eric Sloane and Edwin Tunis come immediately to mind.  I can now add another to that list: Chairmaker’s Notebook by Peter Galbert.

One difference is that, while Sloane and Tunis were primarily illustrators who researched their topics, Galbert is an experienced and gifted chairmaker who can also draw beautifully and instructively.   In this book, he presents an incredibly thorough treatise on the method of chairmaking accompanied by hundreds of drawings.  The drawings are so well conceived, so well done, that one could get the message without reading the text!  But that would be a shame, because, the author has a wonderful writing style.  It is as if he is standing beside you in the shop having a conversation.  He anticipates what potential misunderstandings may occur — what may trip you up — and provides advice to avoid them.

Some of the drawings can be viewed here.

Even if one has no plans to build a Windsor Chair, the book is worth considering.  Galbert includes amazingly detailed and very practical advice on so many things: sharpening, riving, storing green wood, shaving horse design, and on and on.  Although the chapters are organized around the journey, from start to finish, of building a chair, this is not simply or primarily a book of chair plans.  It focuses on the concepts that empower a maker to work closely with wood and make what he or she wishes.  Consider the similarities in the processes of sculpting a chair seat and sculpting a bowl.

No, I don’t know Peter Galbert or Chris Schwarz.  I simply felt it was worth tipping my hat to Peter Galbert for a job incredibly well done.

Meanwhile, I hear some walnut calling me…


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7 Responses to Chairmaker’s Notebook

  1. Scott Kinsey says:

    Terrific post, Dave. Thank you.
    I am sure there are lots of folks such as myself who hope there may be some Dave Fisher books in the works!

    Best, Scott


  2. ctregan says:

    I wonder if some of these drawings did not start off as digital images then penciled over to make an illustration? The perspective looks camera-like to me. Either way. it looks like a nice book with good information.


  3. Robert Tidd says:

    It is a great book! I would also like to see a Dave Fisher book someday? Have you made a Windsor Chair yet Dave?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Not a classic American Windsor like the focus of Galbert’s book. I started on one years ago, but it’s been, um, waiting for me to return to it. Maybe this summer.


  4. herebrooks says:

    So right about Pete’s book David. From what I know, it was a gargantuan effort costing major portions of his life. No penciled in photos there, all hand drawn from his experience teaching over many years. He seems to relish the ability to explain things clearly through words and pictures. Plus, he’s a great fun loving guy.
    He really has taken the legacy of Jennie Alexander, Curtis Buchanan, Brian Boggs and Elia Bizzarri and layed it out for all to understand.
    I follow you both and appreciate the similarity in your work. You should know him, and finish that chair!


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks for sharing that insight. The book is indeed evidence of a gargantuan effort. I like how Longfellow summed it up regarding “Evangeline”: “‘Evangeline’ is so easy for you to read, because it was so hard for me to write.”


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