Chairmaker’s Notebook
Author: Peter Galbert

Published by: Lost Art Press
Published: 2015
Black and white
Pages: 387
RRP: $74


Peter Galbert is a US-based furniture maker who has specialised in green woodworking, in particular chairmaking since the start of this century. He is no stranger to Australia, at least to the lucky few who have attended his workshops at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking and most recently hosted by Rundell & Rundell in Kyneton, Victoria.

Even before you open this book you know it’s special. It’s big, a hardback with a dust jacket, quality satin matt paper and over 500 black and white sketches which, interestingly, are also the work of its author. The name of the book may be a nod to James Krenov's Cabinetmaker's Notebook and certainly it has the feel of a book that will come to be regarded as a classic.

Peter Galbert’s introduction tracks his journey as a furniture maker who found his interests lay in traditional hand tools and techniques as applied to the making of Windsor chairs. To some this may seem archaic but if you read the book you will be persuaded that the methods and designs described therein are the product of a remarkable technology as applied to wood.

Windsor chair design relies heavily on using green wood, that is, wood that hasn’t been air or kiln dried. To obtain wood to fashion spindles, legs, rails and crests from, the maker splits logs into sections. Using sections of wood that have been split means you are always working with the grain and that gives more strength to furniture constructions. Peter Galbert explains the benefits and rationale of using green wood and details how different components are shaped from differently oriented parts of a log.

In another early chapter he introduces the principles, techniques and characteristics of Windsor joinery and gives enough detail to prepare you for the main part of the book, which is how to make two classic Windsor chairs.

The two project chairs featured are a balloon back and a fan back. These, the author explains, are structurally similar from the seat down so the experience of building one will strengthen the skills learnt making the other. The different back designs however open up a host of different aesthetic and technical issues.

Peter Galbert describes the processes for making these chairs fully throughout with his elegantly written text and drawings which perfectly illustrate every tool, technique and stage of construction.

This definitely a book to enjoy even if, and I hate to say this, you don’t intend to make a Windsor chair. But if you do, you will find you have Peter Galbert there to help you as a teacher and a literary friend every step of the way. Highly recommended.

Book supplied for review by Carbatec, see here for purchasing details.


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