Report from Mount Roubo

Lately I have been getting inquiries, some in hushed tones (whether reverential or consoling I cannot tell), to the effect of, “So, how’s it going with Roubo?” Or, “Are you still working on the French book thing?” And just last week, “I guess Roubo must be dead. Weren’t up to it, huh?” Perhaps Chris has been getting the same communiqués.

Generally I am bewildered by these comments for a minute, mostly because it takes me that minute to realize that these folks are (thankfully) not inside my head, where Monsieur Roubo is never far from the front of the line. Even though I do not blog about it much, fact is I spend a portion of virtually every day working on this mountain peak of a project, which from my perspective is moving along swimmingly. It is not necessarily glamorous at this stage, and it can be brutal work from time to time, but it is moving towards its successful conclusion.

With the exception of the final chapter of our “Volume I, To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Marquetry,” Chris has the transliterated-edited-retranslated-redited-reviewed-redited manuscript in hand. Philippe is still grinding his way through the nearly 100-page long chapter on boullework marquetry, and I am putting the finishing touches on some annotations and augmentations to the translated and edited manuscript.

I’m also wrapping up several photo essays wherein I demonstrate some of the processes and tools that Roubo describes, sometimes with less thoroughness than a modern reader might want.

Michele has been the greyhound of our troop, racing ahead with translation on our second volume. She keeps sending me pages and pages of raw transliterations that I simply cannot allow myself to digest because that won’t help us finish our first volume. I’d estimate that at this point she is almost three-quarters through with her initial pass. To avoid reading it in detail right now is truly a feat of self control.

I still hope for the project to enter the publisher/production phase in a couple of months, but I will not be bound by any arbitrary deadline. Excellence is the goal, not urgency. Our dream is to make “To Make as Perfectly As Possible,” well, as perfectly as possible. We have only one chance to get the first iteration right, and we will take whatever time is necessary. We view this as a legacy for the ages, and a few days one way or the other won’t enhance that gift to the future. After this much effort we deserve a product we can be proud of, a product you will find compelling, and a product Roubo would thank us for.

That said, we are still within shooting distance of the schedule we drafted when we started down this path four years ago(!). I will be happy to regale you with developments at the Second Meeting of the Roubo Society at Woodworking in America this coming September and October, and Chris has invited me to join him and John Hoffman at the Lost Art Press booth at that event. There you can browse through my working manuscripts, which will be at the booth.

I do welcome your interest in our project, and invite you to send any questions and encouragements to Lost Art Press, and they will wind their way to me. And if you are at WIA in Cincinnati please stop by to say “Hi.”

By the way, we will be talking about our next Lost Art Press project there. Stay tuned.

– Don Williams

About lostartpress

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to Report from Mount Roubo

  1. What does a tortoise carapace have to do with woodworking? :) What I personally find the most complicated when I read French from that era is the constant use of “f” in place of “s”. Otherwise, it’s surprisingly close from modern French.

    • lostartpress says:

      Tortoise shell is widely used in boullework.

    • Dave Ring says:

      The letter that you identify as an “f” is actually a “long s”, which was also used by 18th century English printers. You can see the difference in the words “plusieurs” and “differentes” in the last line of the Roubo extract above.

  2. Tom Arrigo says:

    Thanks for dedicating your time to shed some old light on many of the things we take for granted in woodworking. Visiting the past always helps shape the future. I look forward to seeing your finished product to learn more. The road to becoming a master is paved with endless learning.

  3. You obviously have the correct goal: to get it as best you can – keep at it! I will wait eagerly until it’s released. Really appreciate all the hard work you guys do to bring us stunning content.

  4. John Cashman says:

    There is nothing worse than future generations misunderstanding something because they all follow a translation that got it wrong. OK, I guess there are worse things. But still, it’s bad. I’m certain the work will be the best it can be, and I’ll gladly buy my copy when they are ready.

    The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

  5. Vic Hubbard says:

    I love reading books on this old and venerable trade. I have a cool book from the 1800s in English that talks about getting your chemicals from the local pharmacy. That’s a hoot!! “Excuse me, I called in some boratic acid. Is it ready yet?”

  6. Mark Maleski says:

    Volume 1 should be available just in time for Christmas, right? I’ve already drafted my letter to Santa…

  7. Dean says:

    Hey Don, sounds like some prodding and needling going on. Not surprising. Impatience is a common ailment of our “modern” society. Pay no attention to the impatient person behind the curtain. Take your time and enjoy while we patiently wait. Right guys?! Guys?! Now where did they go???

  8. Scott S. says:

    What’s the big deal? Some long dead Frog whose only claim to fame is to have his written blathering survive the ages means what? Heck, even the pictures have a complete lack of perspective!

    Even thinking about it puts my tongue in my cheek.

  9. Mike Mavodones says:

    Looking forward to buying the Roubo Project, and the Studley. I’ve seen only one photo of the bench and can’t wait to see more

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