18 Days Left to Order ‘To Make as Perfectly as Possible’

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This week I am putting the finishing touches on the first third of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” and something has become quite clear to me.

It’s not really a book on marquetry alone.

These four huge chapters from A.J. Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier” in our forthcoming book are about much more. And I can already feel the lessons in the book seeping into my work – and I’m not big into marquetry.

The book opens with a discussion of the different woods used by cabinetmakers – both for casework and for veneering/marquetry. If you read a lot of old books, this is a section you can usually skip – most of the writers just copied one another and so the text is rather boilerplate.

Not Roubo. He collected a bunch of these woods from the Tropics and tried to make careful observations about the species based on visits he made to the Office of Natural History of the King’s Garden to observe woods there.

The text is fascinating because it is the foundation for Roubo’s discussion on color – how to combine the five different colors of woods in marquetry, veneer and solid casework. And that leads into Roubo’s discussion of how to color different woods using dyes.

If you have any interest in historical finishing techniques, this is a fun section of the book. It opens with Roubo visiting a scientist to see if they can figure out how to dye wood all the way through the material – not just on the surface.

Roubo laments that other woodworkers have this knowledge and won’t share it. And that much of the information is lost. Roubo then details how to make many dyes from scratch – including a, ahem, “water-based” one made from horse dung and horse urine. (And you need a bucket with holes in the bottom.)

From there, Roubo discusses sawing logs into veneer. How to build a bench and a saw that are suitable for the work. And he goes into great detail on his “German” workbench, which he says is well suited for high-end work.

This is actually the first time I’d ever read the section on the German workbench. Roubo details its then-controversial details – a tail vise, drawers below the stretchers, square dogs. It’s very cool stuff.

Oh and there’s a whole section on planes with iron soles (author Don Williams makes one a la Roubo for the book). And a whole section on – wait for it – the advantages and disadvantages of bevel-up and bevel-down planes. Oh, there’s also a whole discussion of variable-pitch planes. And what we call a “Moxon” vise.

And all that’s just the first chapter.

The sections on marquetry will likely change they way you build and use a shooting board and introduce you to a whole world of jigs and devices that will dispel the idea that marquetry or inlay is a skill outside of your reach. Plus there is even more information on finishing later on in the book, including information on the polissoir, a tool I now use thanks to Williams’s research.

I’m telling you all this because several of our customers have told me that they are going to skip this first book because it’s about marquetry and wait for the next book on furniture. Well this book is about furniture, too.

We are publishing two versions of this first volume – a very special 12” x 17” edition with full-size plates, color photos and a gorgeous binding that will cost about $400. I think we are going to print 500 of these special books. Everyone who places a deposit before Dec. 31, 2012, will get one of these books. Visit our store here to read more details on that.

We’ll also be publishing a nice trade edition of the first volume that will be 8-1/2” x 11”, hardback and black-and-white. It should cost about $60. This edition will stay in print (we hope) for as long as we are in business. We will have more details on this edition later. Right now, this is all we know.

OK, that’s enough yakking on my part. I have about 60,000 more words to edit today.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to 18 Days Left to Order ‘To Make as Perfectly as Possible’

  1. Bernard Naish says:

    Hi Christopher, I came across a retired polisher the other day. He said that polishing with beeswax was done in England with a BEESER and it was made in the same way as the polissoir but consisted of baize tightly bound up with twine. The twine so held the baize that it presented its cut edge to the surface. I will try and get one made and bring it with me to the Dictum workshop in June next year. Regards, Bernard Naish

  2. Patrick says:

    “Roubo laments that other woodworkers have this knowledge and won’t share it. And that much of the information is lost. ”

    Makes you wonder about a lot of information that has been lost over time.

    On a lighter note, I assume Roubo sent his “helper monkeys” out to collect the neccessary dye ingredients rather than do it himself, so, in the interest of “verifying your source”, are you planning on trying the recipe and have you notified Ty?

  3. Derek MacInnis says:

    Hi Chris,

    So, yeah…dumb question….what sort of binding will it have? Will paper be glossy or matt? Italian hand-laid cotton or linen? One assumes the ink will be of the highest quality and non-smudging? Just curious, as I consider how to sneak this past the wife!

    Thanks,
    Derek

  4. Robert W. Foedisch AKA Bob says:

    All I know is that I cant buy something I don’t know what the price will be

    • Tom Pier says:

      Think of it this way, when you buy a car you don’t know the final cost, just the initial price. Only when you finally get rid of the car do you know how much the car actually cost you. Chris is just expanding the concept to books.

  5. Brandon says:

    It would be nice if there was a way to get a printing with the full sized plates without the expense of leather binding and what not. Its unfortunate that posterity will not have the opportunity to buy the primo edition without the effects of intentional scarcity. I’d like to buy this super deluxe edition for the sake of the larger prints, but am not able to this holiday season. When I do have the means, I fear the only way to acquire it will be from an online auction site where it will be listed for 5 times the price no doubt; similar to what happened with the book on british campaign furniture. Hopefully you will keep an open mind about a second printing one day in the future. Perhaps the smaller book will be plenty adequate.
    P.S. is that a tiny smiley face at the bottom of the page?

  6. Derek MacInnis says:

    Good Morning,

    Have you thought about a payment plan? If $100 get’s you down payment, then what about a payment plan of $100 a month thereafter until the book is paid for, which should be about the time it’s back from the printers? That might make it easier for folks to swallow…and would also make it a lot easier to “hide” from curious eyes, not that I would advocate clandestine purchases! ;-) But a $100 bill doesn’t quite stand out on the Visa bill like a $400 charge (well, a $300 charge, after the down payment)! Then again, that’s why God made checks!

    Just thinking out loud here…might be an accounting pain you wouldn’t want to deal with, though.

    Cheers,
    Derek

  7. Chock me up as “in favor” of the payment plan. I have set of custom side rabbets that will hit soon, as well as the obvious Christmas bills. Letting us add $100 a month till the books are ship would certainly be a favor in my book, and it would seem that it would put the money on the LAP books earlier as well.

    But, it may be a bookkeeping task you guys don’t want to mess with.

  8. I apologize to all the LAP groupies who will view my post as an assault on Chris. Please believe me, it is not mean’t to be. It’s a comment on my own finances, not on the way he does business, reviews tools, uses tools, sells books, publishes books, dresses, drinks, talks, etc., etc.

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