The Top of the Food Chain

Image: Plate 99 from “l’Art du menuisier”

Image: Plate 99 from “l’Art du menuisier”

That’s where Roubo thinks woodworkers belong. In a footnote at the conclusion of his second section of the Third Volume of “l’Art du menuisier,” during which he describes the processes of making furniture from solid wood, he waxes enthusiastically eloquent on the world of the woodworker, and the remarkable people who populate it.

Give yourselves a pat on the back, courtesy of André-Jacob Roubo.

— Don Williams, donsbarn.com

“…(T)he art of woodworking is, without question, the most extensive of the mechanical arts, as much for the different types of woodworking as for the multitude of works belonging to each type of carpentry, which requires a quantity of knowledge distinct one from the other.  Such that the art of woodworking can and should even be regarded as six arts under the same name, but all different from each other. Namely, the art of building carpentry, which is quite considerable, the art of carriage woodworking; the art of furniture making, which is separated in two distinct classes one from the other, the art of cabinetry, which embraces not only the knowledge of choice and use of wood, but also that of different metals and other substances both mineral and vegetable, and the use even of turning and filing; the art of trelliswork or Garden woodworking, which is still another class apart, without counting the art of drawing, necessary for various sorts of woodworking, the detail of which has been made the object of more than half of the second part of this work. This observation is altogether natural – it is the only art that, under the same name, has rapport with so many different objects. With the exception of carpentry, the art of woodworking embraces all which has to do with the use of wood, instead of those arts which have for its object the use of metals, taking different names, although using the same material. Because, without speaking of the use of mines and iron forges, the workers which use this metal, are known under different names, like the blacksmiths of two types, the locksmiths also of two types, the maker of edge-tools, the tinsmiths, the cutlers, the nailsmiths, and even the clockmakers, those who make mathematical instruments, and a number of others who do completely separate arts, distinct one from the others. Their description, if they be united in a single and same art, would contain more than ten to twelve volumes, assuming that they are treated according to the intentions of the Royal Academy of Sciences, that is to say, with the precision and all the appropriate extent for each of them.”

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13 Responses to The Top of the Food Chain

  1. Carl Rogers says:

    Has anybody looked into using the Try Square as a level before the use of the spirt bubble?

    In the background of this image, Plate 99, There is a worker using the try square with what looks like a plumb bob to ensure that a piece of trim is level with the earth. I find it interesting that Chris Schwartz has never mentioned that as something that tool that he has used as an icon can do.

    Carl Rogers

  2. Mike Siemsen says:

    Some time back there was quite a discussion on the bench image in Moxon about the placement of the vise on the “wrong” end of the bench. In this engraving we again see the vise on the right hand end of the bench. Since speculating is what we do, I wonder if it is because it is easier to run a fenced plane away from a vise than toward it?

    • bobdeviney says:

      Looks like a tool rack on the back of the bench, as in other Roubo bench images. Can’t tell if there is a vise on the front side where he is working, but most likely a crochet.

  3. lostartpress says:

    The following comment is from Jennie Alexander, who is having trouble with WordPress:

    Plate 99 and a Roubo bench. This modern joinery is beyond me. I blew it up Plate 99 and found the metal bench hook pointing the ” wrong “way. Either the joiner is left hander , the plate has been reversed or we are looking at the back of the bench. I vote for the latter. What say you? What is the box (?) hanging from the proper left rear of the bench? What are the three whatevers projecting above the box (?) about.? Last question , and least, Is it proper to have two question markjs in one sentence?
    Jennie Alexander

  4. IMHO, the print blocks were caved as drawn, reversing the image!

    At Lockheed, l/we made left& & right pieces( lots love them). All drawimgs were right side, to avoid confusion, I/we hung our prints backwards in front lights, twerks for me.

  5. lostartpress says:

    Bob has it right.

    The bench or plate isn’t reversed. The bench is set up for a right-hander. The “box” on the back is the tool rack shown on every bench in Roubo. The worker is planing (likely plowing or rabbeting) a door wedged into a crochet.

    And I am still not certified on a libella.

    • Brian Eve says:

      I like the idea of the rack extending down, especially in a big room like this. No exposed pointy bits from the tools housed in it to poke holes in a passerby’s skin.

  6. I’m just thinking that putting those doors in was tantamount to a barn raising.

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