About the Obscure, Narrow and Nichey ‘Campaign Style’

Pages from BCF-3-Chapter2-2

Several of my friends and colleagues have been surprised by how well our new book, “Campaign Furniture,” has been selling.

“That’s amazing,” they say, “for a style of furniture that is so ____________ .” Fill in the blank with any word that is a synonym for “obscure.”

The truth is that campaign furniture has been obscure only in the realm of furniture-makers. Everytime I go to an antique mall, I find at least one piece of campaign-style furniture (whether the seller actually realizes it or not). Plus, I can always find reproductions at used furniture stores. And 1stdibs.com is awash in the stuff.

The British campaign style is generally assumed to have been popular during 1740 to 1940, when the British Empire owned a huge chunk of the globe. That’s a huge run for any furniture style. American Arts & Crafts furniture, by way of comparison, had a much shorter run. About 50 years.

Shaker furniture has a similar timeline to that of campaign furniture. However, it is my educated guess that there are far more pieces of campaign furniture out there than Shaker furniture. This is not to say that the styles are “equal,” whatever that means. But that campaign-style stuff is anything but obscure.

In fact, many times campaign pieces are stealthily hiding as non-campaign pieces. Simon and Sean Clarke at Christopher Clarke Antiques Ltd. had many stories for us about how they encountered chairs, Davenports and tables that were knock-down campaign pieces, but the owners had no idea that their pieces could be taken to pieces.

Now, truth be told, I am also surprised by how well the “Campaign Furniture” book is selling. But not because the style is obscure, but because the book is about a style of furniture. All books about a furniture style are doomed to sell worse than books about birdhouses.

But I was heartened – nay, almost Unicorn-fartin’-a-rainbow ecstatic – by Joel Moskowitz’s assessment of the book: “(O)ne of the most important books on woodworking to appear in the last generation.” Joel is a tough customer.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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16 Responses to About the Obscure, Narrow and Nichey ‘Campaign Style’

  1. Daniel says:

    It has been a fantastic read. I hope there is another book on campaign furniture in the works. So many more pieces that could be included!

  2. I might add that the book is a joy to own as a book. A level of quality in materials and binding that you see too much of these days.

  3. toolnut says:

    Two possible reasons why it is selling so well:
    1) You.
    2) The subliminally suggestive cover spoke to all those “wood”workers.
    Either way congrats!
    Patrick

  4. John Preber says:

    I wish I had thought about this before my kids went to college. I wouldn’t have needed such a large truck. Thanks for a great book. I’m planning the projects now.

  5. twalktadf says:

    I believe your friends and colleagues might be over thinking it. Campaign, hand plane, champagne – within reason does the specific topic really matter so much!? LAP has a pretty stellar track record of enlightening and enjoyable reads. Unless LAP gets greedy (doubtful) spewing recycled, overlapping, obvious books, I and surely others will continue buying them as fast as we can read them.

  6. dzj9 says:

    Yeah, for 200 years the British needed something sturdy to strap to a camel and lug
    their claret in (or port, God forbid).
    No wonder it’s ubiquitous.

    • Why should God robid port? If you were in some foreign field, would you not look gratefully upon a string of pack animals laden with Englishmen, port, and good mahogany furniture?

      • dzj9 says:

        Regarding port, I was poking a bit of fun at the upper echelons of the British Army.
        As to your second question, If I was an Englishman, I probably would.

  7. Oh – and great photo of Jim Corbett. If anyone deserved to rest in the shade in a comfortable chair, it was him.

  8. Chris is right: campaign style bridges the gap between Shaker and A&C on the one hand, and modern on the other. If a woodworker likes simple lines and less ornament, but also enjoys hand tool work, campaign style fits very well.

  9. chucknickerson says:

    One reason to buy the book even if the style doesn’t interest you is the book teaches you to take hardware seriously. Any style of furniture you build will benefit from taking the hardware more seriously.

  10. mcdara says:

    I am agog at “Unicorn-fartin’-a-rainbow ” imagery

  11. Madhav Mehra says:

    Well, Chris, having grown up in India and so regretting the fact that I don’t have samples of the campaign furniture I saw in every Government Rest House, I must be in the minority of your audience. Shaker and Mission are well known in the US, but your diligence in bringing this style to light has made me reminisce with my parents about something we took for granted.
    (PS I was born in Roorkhee)

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