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The works of Shakespeare, abridged

Yea verily, creating a working pattern for a reproduction when thou canst not touch the original doth presenteth a challenge.

A while back I talked about visiting Shakespeare’s home during our trip to England. Always on the lookout for project ideas, I snapped dozens of photos while there. One item I definitely wanted to make was a stool from the dining room.

I couldn’t touch it, of course, or even get at a good angle to take straight-on photos, so I made do with reaching over the guard rope – setting off an alarm once – to snap what I could. Using those, and my friend Mr. Photoshop, got me a workable pattern.

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The first step was comparing shots to choose the clearest. Then, opening it in Photoshop I used various manipulating tools to crop, stretch and reshape the photo into a flat image. Doing that can create a bit of distortion, so I cropped and copied one side of the image, then flipped it to make a symmetrical image of the stool’s side piece. Later, I’ll do the same with the stool front/back pieces to get a pattern for the decorative cutouts.

I couldn’t get exact measurements, but took several shots with other objects in the room for scale (including my foot extending under the guard rope as close to the stool as I could get it before setting off that alarm), and can use them to get really close to actual dimensions.

This pattern probably isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as anyone could get without some hands-on time with that stool, which was impossible. However, in a manner of speaking I did it just the way Shakespeare would have wanted when he said, “When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw the model.” Of course, he was thinking of Henry the IV at the time, not some guy setting off alarms in his old house.

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