Acanthus Carving & Windsor Chairmaking

The October 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine is now available in our store (in both print and digital versions).

Inside (along with many other techniques, tools and projects) you’ll find South Carolina-based carver Mary May‘s article with step-by-step photo instructions on carving an acanthus leaf – a classic motif that originated as an architectural detail in ancient Greece that has evolved into stylized use in many artistic realms, from embroidery to painting to furniture.

In furniture, the Acanthus leaf is an element commonly found in the Queen Anne and Chippendale periods, on table bases and bed posts, and on the knees of carbriole legs for chairs, highboys, tea tables and the like. And while the motif may look intimidating to the beginning carver, it’s surprisingly simple to achieve by following Mary’s process.

But often, it’s easier to learn by watching someone walk through the process than it is reading about it. So Mary has also put together a DVD exclusively for Popular Woodworking Magazine readers: “How to Carve an Acanthus Leaf on a Cabriole Leg and on a Turned Post.” Not only does she provide video instruction on how to execute the carving on both workpieces (covering such considerations such as grain direction), she’s included full-size templates and written instruction on drawing your own design, as well as a tool list.

And for you Windsor chairmakers – or more to the point, for those who wish to start making Windsor chairs or want to know more about the form – we’ve also added James Mursell’s book “Windsor Chairmaking” to our store. James runs The Windsor Workshop in West Sussex, England, where he offers courses and makes specialist chairmaking tools and chairs. (You can read about his techniques for using a spokeshave – and his thoughts on wooden vs. metal-bodied tools – in the October issue.)

This lavishly illustrated, full-color hardcover book explores the materials, tools and techniques used in Windsor chairmaking, and provides plans for two English and two American chairs, as well as a comparison of the forms that considers their differences. Plus, James looks at some other furniture forms that employ the same techniques as Windsor chairs, including a piano stool, candle stand and trestle table.

We have limited quantities available for both “Windsor Chairmaking” and “How to Carve an Acanthus Leaf on a Cabriole Leg and on a Turned Post,” so if either pique your interest, order now. (We also have limited quantities of the print version of the October issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine; the digital version will be available in perpetuity…or at least until technology changes enough to make PDFs obsolete.)

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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