Reading Robert Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker” was one of three lightning bolts that have struck me since I began woodworking.
The first shock was cutting my first perfect dovetail. Then there was the moment when I processed my first board entirely by hand. And the third came one afternoon while I was sitting in my chair and cracked open an English book that I had bought on a whim for about $5.
I read the entire book in one sitting (it took only a couple hours), but in that short period of time, Wearing assembled all the random puzzle pieces I had collected for years about handwork. He filled in all the missing details about dozens of basic processes, from laying out door joinery to truing up the legs on a table.
When I closed the book, I couldn’t wait to get into the shop. All the bits and pieces made sense.
Then I did a bad thing. I wrote about the book on my blog at work. And the price of the out-of-print book went to a ridiculous $80 to $100.
So for the last several years, John Hoffman and I at Lost Art Press have been trying to reprint this book so it will be available at a reasonable price and in a nice and permanent format. It took a lot longer than we expected. Robert Wearing was very eager and willing, but let’s just say that other publishing companies kept throwing sand on our strop.
Robert Wearing (photo courtesy of David Wearing).
All that is behind us now, and I am pleased – thrilled actually – to announce that “The Essential Woodworker” will be available this summer on the Lost Art Press imprint. We re-set the entire book, incorporated corrections and revisions from Wearing and retook many photos, which were lost.
Like our other books, “The Essential Woodworker” will be printed in a 6″ x 9″ format, hardbound with a cloth cover, and produced entirely in the United States. What is different about this book is that we will be using more expensive paper. It’s a little thicker and has a more old-school texture. Like our other books, this paper is acid-free, and the signatures will be Smythe sewn and casebound. We have not yet set a retail price, but we expect the 256-page book will be $25.
But enough about the manufacturing details. What’s inside “The Essential Woodworker?” I think it’s a gold mine of traditional hand tool techniques. Assisted by more than 530 hand-drawn illustrations, plus dozens of photos, Wearing walks you through the process of becoming a hand-tool woodworker. He starts with sharpening and ends with dovetailed casework.
To illustrate all of the basic principles, Wearing deftly guides you through building a few small projects. He starts, most ingeniously, with building a table, which teaches many of the core skills you need to build more advanced casework.
He then works you through open casework, backs, plinths, doors and then drawers. He presents no shortcuts or cheats. All the the methods are “neat and workmanlike” and would stand up to the scrutiny of an 18th-century master joiner.
But most of all, I think that Wearing can help you organize everything you know (and don’t yet know) about handwork into a framework that makes sense and is the baseline for every skill you will acquire in the future.
I know, I know. I’m gushing. But believe me, we wouldn’t go to all the trouble to bring this book back if it were merely another brick of information on your bookshelf. This, my friends, is an entire brick wall.
As of May 1, here are our plans for this book: We will produce one run of these books with a hardbound cover. There will be no leather-bound edition. We also will be offering a digital version of this book that you will be able to download when you pre-order the printed edition. The first announcement will go out via our e-mail newsletter.
— Christopher Schwarz