So I seem to be scaling up my woodwork projects, and last year I was pruning a big branch out of our apple tree when I thought it would be nice to save the bigger pieces, let them dry out and see what I could make. Eventually I figured, why not give a chess board a try? With just hand tools? And a titchy workmate-style thing for a bench? That I have to set up in the back garden because my next project really needs to be Clearing the Shed… that’ll all work really well, right?

Four months later: February me was an idiot. But I did get there.

Did I mention I carved the pieces as well? Yeah I did that too, and hopefully without any further bloodshed here they are:

And I’m going to show off the inside because I’m nice and pleased with that too:

The hinges and spine of the ‘book’ are from an old bedside cabinet, and the rest of the frame and the black squares are oak from the shop. I didn’t have any dark stain, and can’t go out to buy any, so I ended up using shoe polish – I’ll have to see how that stands up to repeated handling. The pieces are all chiselled from apple branches, which I formed in an old worn benchhook and finished in a £5 bench vise from the supermarket. And the rest of the wood, including the white squares and pieces, were rubbed down with beeswax for a really nice finish before I finally got to break out the power tools to, uh, drill the screwholes.

Next time I will try and get time with some kind of table saw and powered sander, because hand-cutting 64 individual squares and then sanding every single one was the particular step that came nearest to breaking me. Unseasonal warmth to the rescue! February and March were dry, April was dry enough, and early May I was doing the finishing touches inside so that was fine.

So what’s next?

Learning curves

The letter ‘g’ is not what you think it is.

When I was learning calligraphy, ‘g’ was one* of the stranger things I had to wrap my head around. Why does it curve like that? Nobody knows! It lurks in texts, an ambiguous little sound waiting to catch me out as my tired paws stick the belly curve on the wrong way round again. And then it finally makes its counter-intuitive way into your muscle memory, and I can start playing with it, and now that bizarre little loopy thing is one of my favourite letters, having two ends that can turn into great glorious flourishes or subtle little interlinks depending on the mood the pen is in.

*The real strangest thing about calligraphy is that you end up having favourite letters, which is both a sign of a troubled mind and a subject for another day.