In anticipation of making this chair, I carved several ball and claw feet and several full legs, including one with the knee returns attached. I’m a firm believer in practice. But it doesn’t always make sense to cheap out. I used basswood, which in retrospect was a mistake. Bass carves differently than mahogany…different enough that it’s better to use the real thing.
When it came time to start construction of the chair, truth is, I still looked at it as practice. I knew I wasn’t going to be satisfied by the results. So I used scrap mahogany. Some of it (the better stuff) came from the family boat shop. The leg stock was dense and oily and had a beautiful brown color. The rear legs were stock from a bed my friend Rod sold me years ago. It too was dense and nice.
But the rails were just 4/4 scrap from Lord knows where. Light in color and weight, these pieces carved significantly different from the other pieces. The material felt weak and deflected under the gouge like pine. I’m fairly certain all of it was the same species.
The really nice thing about mahogany (and very likely the reason for it’s popularity in the 18th c) is that it’s easy wood to cut, but it has a crispness to it. It’s almost like cutting dense styrofoam.
So I was disappointed with the way this crest rail came out. If I had it to do all over again, I’d do ALL of my practice with decent quality mahogany.
Practice makes you more comfortable in an activity. But not all practice makes perfect.