We’re still sorting out a few international transactions today, but we
basically have only one copy left of our leather-bound edition of “The
Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” I’ve removed the item from our store so we
don’t accidentally sell that copy more than once.
If you are interested in buying the last copy, please contact Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call her at (317) 603-3605. As always, it’s first-come, first serve.
We might do a second run of these special books later in the year if
there’s enough interest. Drop me a line at email@example.com
and let me know.
For those of you who are awaiting your copy of the leather-bound book,
the shipment of books arrived in Brooklyn on Wednesday for Joel
Moskowitz to sign. He is signing them and dispatching them via priority
mail as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone who ordered this book and the regular edition of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.”
“To Make As Perfectly As Possible” by Donald C. Williams and Michele P. Pagan
Andre Roubo’s 1769 “L’Art du Menusier” is one of the most important Western works on woodworking. Roubo, a learned man and a Master Cabinetmaker, chronicled the craft and its tools from the unique perspective of a practicing menusier (woodworker). Yet until now his five-volume masterwork has never been translated into English.
Lost Art Press is pleased to announce that we will publish the first of two volumes of Roubo in 2011 (the second in 2013) that have been translated into English and annotated by a special three-person team that possesses unique knowledge of the history of woodworking and the language, history, craft and skills of 18th-century France. Our title for these volumes, “To Make as Perfectly as Possible,” is taken from a phrase Roubo used repeatedly in his exhortations to excellence.
As a result, these two volumes – one on marquetry and the other on furniture making – will be more than a simple transliteration of the text. These books aim to capture the spirit and intent of Roubo, explain the processes in language that a modern woodworker can understand and (in some cases) fill in the gaps of knowledge that Roubo assumed his readers would have.
Work on this project is well underway. And after reading more than 80 pages of the team’s initial work, I can tell you that it is mind-blowing and is easily the most important publishing project I have ever been involved in.
The Team and its Work
The translation process begins with Michele P. Pagan, a Washington, D.C.,-based textiles conservator with more than 20 years experience in preservation of historic materials. Ms. Pagan has previously translated conservation and other historical and technical materials privately for colleagues.
Pagan translates Roubo as verbatim as possible, making no alterations to the original syntax unless that renders it incomprehensible. This is the best way to capture both the information and the flavor of the original.
Then the text goes to Donald C. Williams, an internationally recognized furniture conservator, educator, writer and scholar who has been employed for more than two decades by the nation’s largest cultural institution in Washington, D.C. He is the co-author of the highly successful “Saving Stuff” (Fireside: Simon & Schuster, 2005), and is an expert furniture-maker, marqueter and finisher (his specialty is shellac).
Williams edits the text, reconfiguring it as much as necessary to make it readable to an artisan of the 21st century. He is not rewriting Roubo, but merely modifying it enough to make it comprehensible and read smoothly. He also inserts explanations of some of Roubo’s processes. Readers of this blog may be most familiar with his writings on historic finishes (especially shellac) and historical tool marks.
After a couple rounds of editing, the manuscript then goes to his colleague Philippe Lafargue who trained as a traditional chair maker at the Ecole Boulle in Paris. He is well-versed in the arcane jargon of ancient French cabinetmaking, which is fortunate since some of the phrases Roubo used are simply untranslatable otherwise. Lafargue reviews the result from the perspective of a native Frenchman and historical craftsman to make sure the new English version would meet with Roubo’s approval.
In addition to this, Williams is constructing tools and exercises contained in Roubo, combining photos with new essays on the making and using of the tools, and explaining processes that Roubo glosses over.
The Result Lost Art Press will publish two large-format hardbound volumes (the exact size has not been established), on acid-free paper with Smyth-sewn signatures. Like all Lost Art Press books, these will be produced entirely in the United States, from production to printing to binding. We have not yet determined the price.
The volumes will feature replicas of the artful original plates, plus the translated text with details of the plates inserted into the text at the appropriate place.
As this project advances we will keep you posted here on this blog. I’ve already received two extensive chapters for review and am practically sick that I cannot tell you everything I’ve learned so far. But I guarantee this: It will be worth the wait.
When we first spoke of this project, Williams stated the team’s goal as, “… to let the reader practically experience the sounds of the saws and fragrance of the wood shavings and glue pot in the shops where Roubo worked.”
We now have 26 leather-bound copies of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” available for sale that will be individually lettered, signed by both Joel Moskowitz and myself and include the DVD in a sleeve that can be affixed to the book.
The leather-bound edition is $165 plus $8.50 for priority mail shipping anywhere in the United States. (Foreign orders will cost more for shipping. Contact Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.)
This edition is quite special. I picked up the 26 copies on Wednesday from the bindery, which is located in the basement of the Ohio Book Store, a Cincinnati institution since 1940. The two brothers who work there, Jim and Michael Fallon, have been binding books using traditional methods and materials for more than 20 years. (Their father owns Ohio Book Store.)
When I picked up the books Michael gave us a tour of the bindery and the processes he used to take our unbound copies of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” and add marbled end sheets, stout boards, a hand-aged leather cover and the gold lettering on the cover and spine.
The process uses many 19th- and early 20th-century machines (one machine was clearly once attached to a line shaft), plus many traditional tools and materials, such as hide glue and simple knives, and modern ones, such as PVA.
The 26 unbound editions had to be trimmed slightly to tidy up the edges, some of which were damaged in shipment. The books were trimmed with the guillotine. Then the books were taken to the rounder machine to have the spines rounded. This curved shape on the spine is a traditional touch and is done by pressing the spine against bar that squeezes the book, allowing the operator to shape the book to the desired shape.
A second machine squeezes the spine again to create a lip for the boards. Then the leather is trimmed to size and thickness (a tricky process that involves skilled handwork at the corners). Then the book is assembled and pressed overnight.
The foil lettering is added to the spine and cover by first creating a stamp using a Ludlow machine, which casts the stamp from lead – much like an old Linotype machine. The slug is then chucked into an arbor press. The press first debosses the leather (which simply creates an impression). Then the foil is inserted and the book is stamped again.
The work the Fallons do is very nice – I looked at a lot of their volumes before selecting them to bind these copies of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” And if you have binding needs of your own, I highly recommend them. The prices are reasonable – I shopped around – they are fast, easy to work with and do jobs for people all over the country.
For those of you who can afford a leather-bound edition of this book, I can promise you that you will be impressed by the craftsmanship – you’ll find that the same care that we put into writing the book is also in the binding job.
I’m a fairly good instructor, but there are some things I just cannot teach.
When I work with a student who keeps saying: “That’s good enough” as they put a project together, I despair. When they say: “This is just a classroom experience,” I freak out (inside).
The way I look at woodworking is that we get only one chance to get things right. Not close enough. Right. With most things in life I’m an “I’m OK, you’re OK” kind of person, but not with woodworking. Either it’s sharp or it’s dull. Either the joint is tight or it’s trash. Either the toolmarks are gone or they aren’t.
How can you teach that? I point out problems, gaps, toolmarks, but either they can see it or they cannot at that point in their lives. (Be assured that I think that sometimes people have to be ready to receive the message. And people change.)
So today, my daughter Katy and I started building a version of the Packing Box from “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” This was Katy’s idea. She volunteered to build a box for her third-grade class that would hold the class’s craft supplies. And she picked out the Packing Box as the ideal form (with hinges, a hasp and chains).
So today we trekked to my office to pick over the pine in the racks and get a good start.
I decided to introduce her to the machines today, including the jointer and planer. She wasn’t going to operate them, but she was going to understand how they worked. So we picked our wood, cut it to rough length and started milling it on the machines. I pushed. She caught.
Immediately chips started flying in my face. The dust collector was clogged.
So we stopped what we were doing and flushed the sucker out. I took the 55-gallon bin out to the dumpster. When I returned, Katy had swept up the entire area and deposited things in the garbage. It was at that moment I knew this was going to be a good day.
We milled all her stock, and she would settle for nothing less than correct. She adjusted the rip fence on the table saw to exactly 5″ (I did the ripping). When we milled the joints for the top and bottom panel, she could spy every gap and send me back to the jointer to fix the error.
When the panels went together, she adjusted all four boards in the glue-up. They were as flush as a veteran cabinetmaker’s. I didn’t even have to tell her what to do. She pushed the boards around until they were dead flush.
She pre-drilled, glued and nailed the entire carcase together by herself. I was only there to hold the boards. She became frustrated when one of the 16 cut nails split the end grain a bit.
“We have to start over,” she said.
“No, I’ll show you how to fix it,” I replied.
She wanted it done right. She didn’t want to cut corners. She wanted to do it herself. I can’t teach that. After four hours of hard work (she was drifting off to sleep over dinner), she asked: “Can we attach the bottom tonight?” I told her it would be better to wait 24 hours for the glue to cure. She replied: “I can clean the shop.”
I’m sorry to gloat here about my daughter, but this day was the best Christmas present I got.