The idea that lies at the origins of this carving goes back many years ago when I had the inspiration to carve a book. Combining my love for books and my love for woodworking into carving a book seemed like a great project. But I abandoned it at the time because I had no particular book I wanted to carve.
In the last few weeks the idea crept up on me again, possibly subconsciously influenced by a blog entry on Lost Art Press announcing the upcoming 10 year year anniversary of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest.
I found a small note on my workbench a couple of weeks ago, on which I had hastily scribbled ‘carve anarchist tool chest’. Not remembering having written this down, I must have been in a rush on my way to a crying kid or a burning pizza in the oven.
Coming across the note again made it all click, carve a solid wood Anarchist’s Tool Chest book. Good idea.
I had been carving some relief carvings lately and the English Square that adorns the front of the book (the big ‘A’) would be an excellent subject to carve.
In relief carving you have the choice to make the carving above or below the surface of the wood. I sketched the two possibilities to see which one would look better. The front of the original book has the Square set below the surface. After sketching both, I decided that the one set above the surface looked better – almost as if there was a real English Square glued on there.
I started by laying out the general shape of the book onto a piece of birch wood and made the first saw cut, right through the middle, followed by adzing out the waste. I smoothed things out with a wide chisel and sloped the edges down.
Using the real book as an example, it was easy enough to get the general shape to be convincing.
The things to carve on the backside of the book were the spine and the front cover with the English Square. I sawed two notches next to the spine and adzed out the waste around them until getting the desired shape.
I smoothed it out with a wide chisel, carved the big ‘A’ on the cover and turned the book around to look at it.
Something was missing, it was too empty. But what to add to the middle pages? I initially had planned to print out two pages of the book and glue them to the carving but I abandoned that idea fairly quickly. The book is filled with a lot of text and images, hard to carve these…
Relief carving a tool chest on the left page crossed my mind (I might still do that one day).
When I browsed the book a bit more I remembered the beautiful technical drawings near the end of the book. I have always loved the simple lines and stark contrast between the black ink and the white paper. Could I somehow woodburn these drawings onto my carving?
I printed out all the pages of the book that had technical drawings and, together with my wife, picked out the ones we thought would look the best. We both picked page 404/405.
I used carbon paper to trace the drawings onto the wood, using a bendable ruler. After this I fired up my woodburner and used a metal ruler as a guide to get straight and even lines.
The result looks much better than I had anticipated. I love how the black burnt parts look striking and contrast nicely with the birch wood.
The back spine needed the author/title and the Lost Art Press logo which I considered carving out at first but I decided to woodburn these as well. The result is more readable than carving out the letters would have been.
I added some final details to the book: I used the iron of a toothing plane to simulate the pages in the end grain and used a tiny v-tool to imitate the pages on the sides of the book. I carved the binding of the pages as well. These are subtle details that you won’t see at first glance but them being there adds something to the overall appearance of the carving.
All in all this was one of the most fun projects I have completed. It combined many of the things I learned in my woodworking journey so far into one project.