Thursday, April 17, 2014

Starting from Photos


I've often been asked about starting a project from a photograph. I made my first chair that way, as a copy of one of Curtis Buchanans chair in a magazine. When I saw it in person, I was surprised by how far off the mark I was. Not only did I get just about every shape and proportion wrong, but the magazine had made his yellow chair look quite green. That was a lucky break for me as the green that I painted the chair became a favorite color!
Since then, I've learned a lot about the process.

A client recently asked me to reproduce a chair for a set, and the Museum where the original is housed refused to let us take measurements. Don't get me started...
Anyway, here is the scan that he sent me.


He is dropping the book by with the image soon so I can get better details, but this is my starting point.

My first step is to create a rough scaled drawing while getting to know the details and relationships in the chair. I'm trying to figure out the role that the different elements play so that I can get the overall impression to match, even before fleshing out the details.
I try to pin the scale of the chair by some educated guesses. Usually, older chairs like this are rather small, but a 17" to 18" height at the front is probably reasonable, and besides, it will ensure that the chairs can be used at a normal table. The chair is not shot straight on, which is almost always the case, but it is straight on enough that I can use the height to guess the distance between centerpoints of the bow where it enters the seat are about 13" apart. I confirmed this dimension on my own hoop backs as well as the measured drawings in John Kassays book.


Once I had those dimensions, I was able to start a scaled drawing at 3/16" scale. After I had found the width of the bow where it enters the seat on the 3/16" scale ruler, I printed a copy of the photo so that the dimension of the bow in the photo matched the drawing. From there I could scale all the parts directly from the photo.

Next, I'll refine all the proportions, measurements and angles in an accurate drawing that I can scale up for the patterns and forms.
Next week Tommy MacDonald is stopping by to film an episode of Rough Cut on building Windsors and we will be showing the construction of this chair.





1 comment:

Caleb James said...

Pete,

Every chair I have ever made, with the exception of your continuous arm and Curtis' comb back, have been made from photos. I think it is a good idea for everyone that is a chair maker to get familiar with.