Americans Need Not Apply

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One of the oddest criticisms I’ve received about the book “Campaign Furniture” is that I’m not British, and therefore have no legitimate connection to that historical style.

It’s true that I am an American citizen – I didn’t have much control about precisely where I emerged from the birth canal. And it’s true that I have a good deal of German blood. My mom could tell you exactly how mongrel (but not mongol) I am.

But I do have a long and personal connection to campaign furniture. As I mention in the book, my grandparents collected pieces in the style. Plus my grandfather and father built pieces in the campaign style. The West home was filled with all sorts of antiques, and many of them were in the campaign style – campaign chests, coaching tables and my grandfather West’s document box.

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My mother brought this to me in May for my birthday. It is probably the nicest birthday gift I have ever received. The box is veneered in a tropical hardwood, likely some sort of mahogany, and joined with miters at the four corners.

The inlaid brass is set in beautifully in most places, except for at the back of the box. The veneer on the lid has buckled a bit, which has pushed some of the brasses around.

However, there are two other details that are far more satisfying than the workmanship.

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1. The bottom of the box is covered in green felt, the tell-tale sign that my grandparents owned the piece. And the bottom still has the label noting that it belonged to my grandfather. He affixed this label on items that he took to work with him.

2. All the screws are clocked and filed flush to the hardware.

I cannot wait to fill the box with NASCAR stickers and Slim Jims. Cheerio!

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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33 Responses to Americans Need Not Apply

  1. Adam Palmer says:

    So, this argument lends itself to all sorts of limitations. Given that there was exactly one book about campaign furniture (that I’m aware of) before your book came out, I feel that the Brits obviously haven’t kept up their end of the research. Someone had to step in.

  2. dndculp says:

    Let’s see: I wasn’t born or raised in the South and never owned slaves so I have no legitimate connection to plantation furniture. I guess that makes sense.

  3. toolnut says:

    So a historian can only research the history of his or her own country. Hmmm. To quote Mr. Spock, “That is not logical.”

    (And Megan if you are reading this, talk your buddy into making the above box and submitting to PW. If it’s already in Campaign furniture, never mind.)

  4. theindigowoodworker says:

    It you really want to get them going tell them they don’t pronounce their words properly.

  5. diceloader says:

    Will you be tempted to repair it or will you leave it as found?

  6. tsstahl says:

    “I cannot wait to fill the box with NASCAR stickers and Slim Jims”

    BWAHAHAHA. I love to poke at the Limeys; the real vitriol is saved for the French. ;) Mostly kidding.

    As to the criticism, let me get this right. The British Empire spanned the globe. Citizen and soldiery were sent to every nook and cranny to impose colonial will. They brought travelling furniture with them. So, non-British can fold clothes and stuff that furniture, but nay, not a single opinion can be voiced over it. My absurd observation is only about one-third the absurdity of such criticism. Color me bemused. :)

    I enjoyed the book.

    • tsstahl says:

      Dangit! Forgot the part that prompted me to write to begin with. The top piece of showy brass (in the lid) looks like a real bear to set flush.

  7. Morgan Reed says:

    Seriously? Was the comment about your English heritage (or lack thereof) public? Somewhere that we can all visit and post comments about the mental strength of the author? I’m just befuddled that someone would say that – Would this mean that no one can write about Da Vinci without being a) Italian, and b) from the 1500’s?

    Heaven forfend that you would be trolling your readership to generate outrage; I would hope you’ve gotten far enough away from journalism’s motto “If it bleeds, it leads” and now live by the code of “if it bleeds, I probably nicked myself with a chisel!”

  8. oldbaleine says:

    So, is that drawer at the back of the box? Does it lock? I’m trying to imagine how the box would be used, with the lid opening from one direction, and the drawer sliding out in the other.

  9. abtuser says:

    I heard David Charlesworth wants his ruler trick back too.

  10. What a load of hooey. As if the Brits invented the stuff. Campaign furniture was an old idea when Ceasar was whoopin’ up on the Gauls (of which some folks apparently have a lot of).

  11. nathanbreidinger says:

    This is precisely why I didn’t write a book on Shaker furniture. I am not a Shaker. You should know better. I’d be willing to bet that those are the same people who scour woodworking magazines looking for safety deficiencies in any of the photos and, as the self-appointed Woodworking Safety Police, write nasty letters to the editors. Get a life people. If you devoted the same amount of time you spend criticizing others’ work you could spend thousands of hours researching a topic, write a book that we could buy, and actually be useful. Please, Chris, continue to write books on subjects with which you share no ethnic heritage.

  12. During my short time on the earth I’ve found that criticism is seldom kind or useful.
    I tend to ignore it.

  13. Sean Wiggins says:

    If only you lived in a place where the British campaigned.

  14. sirlurkcalot says:

    From a British perspective, it’s mind over matter. People like that don’t matter, so you don’t mind.
    And I WILL carry on making Shaker furniture!

  15. fitz says:

    I kind of am a Shaker…except for the dancing bit. (Regardless, I’m building the furniture.)

  16. carpenterman says:

    The Queen has some German heritage in her blood too.

  17. Don’t forget the Moon Pies!

  18. misterlinn says:

    I’d love to know why we’re called Limeys by them pesky foreigners, and what’s a Slim Jim?

    Also, it seems we Brits love to comment on everyone else, so why not everyone else comment on the British? We can take it! (…or maybe I’ve missed the point. Ah well, back in my brass cornered box..)

    Cracking book, by the way.

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