A carved, ebonized, and gilded, wing back chair. (Pix)

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Blog entry by John Fry posted 05-21-2008 04:24 AM 24786 reads 6 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This commissioned piece is a hand carved, ebonized, faintly gilded, and upholstered, wing back chair. It is upholstered in black leather and faux hide, over 18 hand tied springs. It has come to be known as “Bambi”.

As always, I welcome your comments AND critiques on this latest project.

This custom designed and fit chair is for a very petite lady who has always had problems with chairs fitting her. It is a “modified” wing back chair that is actually designed to be more of an office chair that will be used at a desk, rather than the normal read a book type of wing back chair.

We all understand that the design and upholstery may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is exactly what the client wanted!

This is the chair that I carved the Ball and Claw feet for;

You can see the entire blog on carving these feet here;

A unique style of Ball and Claw feet for a chair. PIX

The construction actually started with a full size prototype that was designed from a “client fitting” in a standard sized dining room chair and then we adjusted downward in size to fit her frame.

After we felt we had the correct size, I used the prototype to make the templates, and cut all the walnut parts. Before I started shaping and leg sculpting, I cut all the mortise and tenons in the leg blanks and aprons.

Next the leg blanks were cut on the band saw.

Only the front legs have B&C feet so the back legs were easy, but I cut one extra blank for the front in case something went wrong I would have an extra blank.

Before carving the B&C feet, I sculpted the upper legs. Notice the “extra meat” I left on the knee section for the carving elements that will be added here later.

The client’s husband is a very talented draftsman and they designed all the carving elements and submitted them to me in full scale drawings.

This made it easy to transfer the layout to the aprons.

Next I cut all the lower profiles on the rails and checked the dry fit.

I finished all the rest of the parts, cut and fit the arm rests, the wings, and cut all the mortise and tenons. Here is the final dry fit including all the upholsterer’s bars.

I cut all the fabric rabbets around the seat rails, and then made a simple platform to allow me to transfer the rabbets to the upper legs.

The arm riser and arm both curved on two planes and then the carving elements were transferred using carbon paper.

This is actually when I stopped and carved the Ball and Claw feet. Then I cut the outlines for the edge beading and outlined the carving elements using a Dremel and a Stewart Mac mini-base.

After a couple practice runs on each of the elements in some scrap pieces, I began to carve for real.

Here all four rails are completed except the end zones, where they will be blended into the legs after glue up.

Here you can see the B&C feet are completed, and the knees are done as well.

The arms and risers are done and the recess for the arm pads are routed.

I made a carrier jig to pass the curved sections of the legs over the stacked dado on the table saw. These dadoes will be where the stretchers attach to the legs.

Now the glue up has begun. I used West System’s Epoxy and this picture actually shows the third phase of glue up.

After both the sides were glued, I glued all the cross members and attached the two sides together.

The corner blocks were glued screwed and bolted, and the upholsterer’s bars were all glued in.

I made a two piece template to draw up and lay out the curved stretchers. A “keystone” like center board will lock the two halves in position.

Once the curves were laid out, I band sawed the template to make the bending form.

Using that template, I made the bending form and lined it with cork.

I resawed and glued up the bent laminates and glued them up in the form using Unibond 800. I made the one piece thick enough to split it into two stretchers.

After splitting and cutting to length, I dowelled the ends and then used a LN #66 beading tool to create the desired edge treatments on the stretchers.

The stretchers are glued in place and the center block is the “wedge” that ties it all together. The curved blocks were fit around the block and glued to hold the stretcher rosette.

I cut the oval to create the stretcher rosette and rout the recess that it will get inlaid into.

Using the template, I routed the outside shape of the rosette and then carved it in the vise. I used the band saw to “re-saw” the actual rosette out of the carving block.

Using the same the template, I routed the recess to inlay the rosette into the center of the stretchers.

I used Behlen’s SolarLux Jet Black dye to ebonize.

I used Sepp’s Mica antique gold for the gilding. A water based size allowed me to brush back to the very faint accent we were looking for.

The Chisel and Bit medallion was inlaid under the rosette.

Here is the frame ready to go to the upholsterer.

I stopped by Mr. Lanzetti’s shop for a picture of the spring work before he covered it in fabric. Both the seat and back have nine hand tied springs. This is a first class upholstery job.

Here are some close-ups of the finished chair and gilded carvings.

The knee carving.

The arm, riser and knuckles.

The clients are extremely happy, she said the chair is very comfortable, and she says she has never really had a chair that fits.

This has probably been the most extensive detailed work I have ever done. It has probably been the most challenging piece I’ve ever done, because I keep telling clients “Oh, no problem, I can do that!” and then I spend weeks wondering how the hell I’m going to do it. It has probably been the most educational piece I’ve ever made, because I have never done this much carving in relief.

Thanks for looking,

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

15 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4233 days

#1 posted 05-21-2008 04:50 AM

Wow John!

You have redefined the meaning of lipstick!

The proportions are awful, the back upholstry gawdy but you have managed to put a lot of beautiful work into this project. The carving is exceptional. I followed your blog on carving the ball and claw feet. It is nice to see where that effort went.

My hats off to you. I hope the commission was profitable. Now take what you learned and go out and build one with nicer proportions and back upholstry.

P.S. thanks for blogging it. Chairs scare me but I want to build a set some day soon.

-- Scott - Chico California

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4406 days

#2 posted 05-21-2008 05:23 AM

Fantastic blog! That carving is great! I wish so much that I had the knack for it.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View daveintexas's profile


365 posts in 4293 days

#3 posted 05-21-2008 05:27 AM

Thanks for he followup blog, it was great to see where the ball and claw work ended up.
Sounds like the client is very happy and you got to learn alot, win-win situation.
Now when are you going to start holding chair building classes ??

Great job John !!

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3355 posts in 4130 days

#4 posted 05-21-2008 05:45 AM

As usual, your work is really exceptional. I think the only reason that the proportions look wrong is because the faux hide upholstery is so bulky and gawdy.

When she decides that she wants you to make her another chair and doesn’t want this one any more, she can donate it to me. I’m a little lady too who never manages to have a chair fit properly. And then I could reupholster it and really make your chair look great!

As the saying goes, the customer is always right . . . and money doesn’t buy good taste.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4191 days

#5 posted 05-21-2008 06:58 AM

Exquisite detail and design. You did a beautiful job on the carvings. The back takes a little getting used to but I am not the guy paying for it. I think it would of looked nicer in all black leather. Just personal taste. As long as the lady was happy, thats all that matters. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4239 days

#6 posted 05-21-2008 11:44 AM

You did a good job on the woodworking, as usual. The carving is simply outstanding. If your client was happy with the piece that is all that matters.

Good job on the woodworking and finishing part. And thanks for the construction blog. It helps clarify the process that went into the piece.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4292 days

#7 posted 05-21-2008 01:31 PM


Thanks for the step-by-step. It is wonderful to see this piece emerge into reality one more time!!! I am still trying some of the things… :-)

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View gator9t9's profile


331 posts in 4122 days

#8 posted 05-27-2008 07:01 AM

Thank you so much …that was a lot of fun watching that happen …Damn i wish I coulda been there ….I love that Chair …so if you made one for a fat guy …like me …275 lbs how much bigger would the chair be ??

-- Mike in Bonney Lake " If you are real real real good your whole life, You 'll be buried in a curly maple coffin when you die."

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 4258 days

#9 posted 05-27-2008 01:37 PM

Wow that is a pleasure to see. You did a incredable job of it, I love the detailed carving work.
I noticed your company medalion, were do you order them from?
Again, Bravo

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View TheGov's profile


18 posts in 4070 days

#10 posted 06-05-2008 03:34 AM

this chair is amazing. My question to you is where can i get more information on making carving like you did in this project.

-- What can i say i'm just doing what i love.

View Bob A in NJ's profile

Bob A in NJ

1248 posts in 4416 days

#11 posted 03-05-2009 02:25 PM

Wow, one of the best blogs, posts and project I’ve seen on LJ. Thanks for posting all this. Bob

-- Bob A in NJ

View hrvoje's profile


272 posts in 3765 days

#12 posted 04-04-2009 11:34 PM

beautyful work..carvings realy great

-- hrvoje

View Rev. Jim Paulson's profile

Rev. Jim Paulson

120 posts in 3694 days

#13 posted 07-12-2009 07:29 PM

Hi John,

Thanks for posting the chair. It is very beautiful.

I want to learn to carve claw and ball feet. Any suggestions on where I could find a plaster cast for the carving the foot you used here? It would help me to have a model to follow as I learn to carve them.



View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4003 days

#14 posted 07-12-2009 08:06 PM

Wow with the back I am wondering if the client was an African chief or something?LOL Otherwise this chair is just stunning. I can’t think what made them want that material on the back but your workmanship is almost perfet I would say perfect however nothing is ever perfect ,but it’s beautiful just the same. I love the carvings too.Kindest regards Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3743 days

#15 posted 07-12-2009 09:51 PM

Thank you for taking the time to create this post! I have been wondering how those kinds of chairs are made. Your carvings are fabulous.

She’s either an African chief or stuck in 1984 ;)

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