A little bit of letter carving…

A little bit of letter carving. #carving #woodcarving #realcraft #britishcraft #walnut #handtools

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Eight times as bad as antagonising? No. Turning square sections into octagonal sections. How many of us have to use it before it gets a place in the OED?

I’m reading The Anarchist’s Design Book at the moment. I’ve read the first four chapters and skimmed the staked furniture projects. One of Chris Schwarz’s contributions to chair making is finding ways to build them without a box fullof specialist tools. Most of the time this is helpful and appreciated. Rather than creating anarchy it democratises the craft. But sometimes a specialist tool can really help and won’t cost the earth.

Take for instance the process of turning tapered, square section legs into octagons. He quotes Charles Hayward’s method using compasses and a straight edge (since he’s just published two tomes of Hayward’s work it must have been fresh in his mind). It’s a lovely technique and is fun to do. If you’re only going to make one chair it’s great. If you are planning a run of them try this:


Spar maker’s gauge

It’s called a spar maker’s gauge. When building masts, booms, gaffs, lugs, sprits, bowsprits, boomkins or any other pole a boatbuilder often starts with a square section piece of wood, tapers it at either end and then planes or saws the corners off to make it an octagon. It’s then a bit more planing with hollow planes and you’ve got a rounded spar.

Hayward’s compass trick wouldn’t work here. There are tapers at both ends and they aren’t uniform. Instead they use this gauge. Building it is a matter of a few minutes work. The gap between the dowels must be slightly larger than the largest diameter of the spar, or in this case, leg. The spacing is critical. It’s better explained here.

Last year, when I built a stool for my new workshop, I used it for the legs. Works a treat. You might prefer pencils rather than nails. If you plan to build more than one chair it will be worth it.