Being at Ease


Every once-in-a-while, I get an itch to make another post-and-rung chair.  I really haven’t made too many, but I love the processes:  riving the parts, shaving at the horse, weaving the seat.  My first was fifteen years ago, following my discovery of the encouragement given to so many by Jennie Alexander through the book and video Make a Chair From a Tree.


I started this one, a rocking chair, several months back with part of a straight-grained walnut log that also had a section with a natural bend just right for the back posts of a chair.  After the parts were riven, I began refining them at the shaving horse, beginning with the rungs so that they could begin drying.


After the back posts had been shaved, mortised, and dried a bit, I had one more thing in mind for them prior to assembly.  I was making this chair for a friend who loves to pick a guitar and play a fiddle.  I wanted to personalize the chair with some carved lettering, and I had been thinking.


My friend is a big John Steinbeck fan and has a signed copy of Cannery Row.  I hadn’t read that one, so I listened to the audio book while carving.  I loved it, and I felt like I knew the complex characters, including, of course, Doc.  Doc is the most respected figure on Cannery Row, admired by everyone including the otherwise self-serving Mack and the boys.

“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon – and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, ‘I really must do something nice for Doc.”

But it wasn’t until I followed up by listening to the sequel to Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday that “the line” jumped out at me.  It was in another description of Doc.  Steinbeck writes, “Being at ease with himself put him at ease with the world.”  I started sketching letters.


I decided on curving forms that would read as a general pattern from a distance, but reveal itself as an inscription upon closer inspection.  I drew them on with pencil, then got to work with my knife.

Overall, the work on the chair was very intermittent.  I finally got around to the bottoming a few days ago, when Kristin and I wove the hickory bark seat.


I’m not going to get into the business of making chairs, and this one has it’s share of “character,” but I do like how it feels.  With fiddling and guitar playing in mind, I gave it a relatively low seat, no arms, and a supportive back that’s not too wide.  The fact that it’s a rocker gives it some versatility in positioning one’s body, as the seat angle changes when sitting forward to play a guitar, for example. Well, that’s my thinking anyway.

If you’d like to make a chair from a tree, grab your axe.  Here’s a short list of books to get you started:

The Chairmaker’s Workshop by Drew Langsner

Make a Chair from a Tree by John Alexander

Green Woodwork by Mike Abbott

Chairmaker’s Notebook by Peter Galbert

The Woodwright’s Workbook by Roy Underhill

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee

This entry was posted in books, green woodworking, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Being at Ease

  1. pfollansbee says:

    Nice one. thanks for the reminder about Cannery Row too…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Here’s another from Cannery Row for you, Peter:

      “A man with a beard was always a little suspect anyway. You couldn’t say you wore a beard because you liked a beard. People didn’t like you for telling the truth. You had to say you had a scar so you couldn’t shave.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. treenworks says:

    Everyone needs a friends like you. Love that the use of the chair influences the design and construction. And beautiful to boot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael Tait says:

    Absolutely gorgeous Dave, a masterpiece and an everyday pleasure!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. francedozois says:

    another superlative

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Derek Long says:

    Very nice. The carved flats on the back posts are a very nice touch. Like it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jon Bayes Furniture says:

    Nice chair!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. whitedog9 says:

    Very well done – inspiring as always

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Brandon Mansell says:

    Just stunning! Understated elegance at its best.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Scott Kinsey says:

    That’s going to make a mighty nice addition to the Palace Flophouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nat Cohen says:

    Nice work Dave- in every way.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Beautiful chair! I was thinking about your dragon ship bowls today and wondered, have you ever considered the Roman merchant ship?


  12. Ida Von Ruden says:

    Enjoyed your story. Love the rocking chair! You are such a creative artist. I certainly admire your work!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Make a Chair from a Tree: Third Edition | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s