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…