Robert Wearing’s masterwork, “The Essential Woodworker,” is now at the printer in Pennsylvania and is scheduled to arrive in our office on July 16.
In the meantime, we’re offering a special pre-sale of this product for those of you who don’t want to wait to consume this book, which is packed with everything you need to build casework, tables and boxes using hand tools and traditional English methods.
Purchase this book before July 15, and you will receive a pdf version of this book immediately — you’ll be the first woodworker on your block to own this book and not pay $80 (or more).
Yup, that is how much vintage copies of this fantastic book are going for. We have entirely re-set the text, restored missing photographs, incorporated revisions from Robert Wearing himself and printed it on nice 55-pound paper in the United States in a hardbound, cloth-covered 256-page edition. This is the official version sanctioned and approved by the author. The price is $23 plus $4 shipping in the United States. International customers can contact Sharon at email@example.com for a quote.
To pre-order the book, visit our store here. Once your order is confirmed, you will receive an e-mail from us within 24 hours (please be patient — we’re a small company) with a link to download the entire book.
I wasn’t born or raised in Cincinnati, but I feel a deep kinship with the city and its incredibly rich history with the decorative arts, including furniture.
The city was a hotbed of decorative carving in the 19th century, with a world-class school devoted to carving that was dominated by women. Furniture-wise, the city experienced an intense Asian-inspired burst of creativity in the 1880s that resulted in many furniture companies here producing Asian-inspired furniture that was sold all over North America. The Greene Brothers were born here. Rookwood Pottery was founded here — and is still here and making objects of intense beauty.
And we had the Shop of the Crafters.
Now, if you are a fan of Arts & Crafts furniture, you might have heard of this shop, which is now beneath a highway I drive on every morning on my way to work. The Shop of the Crafters was different than all the assorted Stickleys that populated New York.
The output of the Shop of the Crafters was unique because of its inlay, European influence and profound unevenness. In the Cincinnati Art Museum, there is a display of some of the shop’s work. On the left is a beautiful china cabinet that delights you the more you stare at it. On the right is a clock that looks like it was made with home center materials.
I have owned a Shop of the Crafters Morris chair since I was 23, and it is one of my most favorite tangible objects. I bought it from an antiques warehouse in South Carolina for $335. They had a big scarecrow sitting in it and the cushions were green leatherette covered in the ugliest flowers you’ve ever seen.
But I scrimped and saved for that chair (we qualified for Food Stamps at the time) and it is the first thing you’ll see when you walk into our house.
Today Lucy, Katy and I went to the Cincinnati Art Museum and I renewed my love affair with many of the decorative objects in their collection. If you come to Woodworking in America this fall, I hope you’ll take some time out to visit this absolute jewel box of a museum. Admission is free (thanks to the sweat and blood of me and my co-workers). But the wankers now charge for parking.
When people visit our shop, they almost always marvel at all the tools and machinery sitting around. And they almost always say: “It must be fun to get to play with all these tools.”
Truth is, reviewing tools has always been the least favorite part of my job – well, it’s actually right above unclogging the dust collector.
My feelings about tool reviews might be colored by the fact that I’m not really a gear head or gadget freak. Case in point: I am crazy about cooking, but my knives, pots and pans are mundane. I follow music as closely as I do woodworking, but I have a stock stereo in my car and don’t even own a home stereo.
So maybe I’m not genetically predisposed for reviewing tools.
I’m sure you’re thinking: You whiner. What’s not to like about trying new tools? Well, nothing really, except that it takes away from time I’m actually building. I get an endorphin squirt when I’m writing, building, cooking or listening to music. I don’t get much pleasure from comparing stats on drills or measuring the sole flatness of a handplane.
What makes it harder for me is that I’ve come to know many of the people who design and make the power tools and hand tools that pass through our shop. And being asked to compare brands A, B and C sometimes feels like I’m choosing who to side with when married friends get divorced. I try to separate my feelings from the tools on the bench before me, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy.
Another thing that troubles me: When I review tools it always feels like small differences get magnified by writing about them. With almost any kind of tool, there is a point where the differences among the brands are minor. Let’s take cordless drills as an example. You don’t need me to tell you that a $39.95 drill is disposable. You can’t build a durable tool for that. Once you get somewhere above $100, most drills are pretty good, especially if you don’t make your living with it.
Lastly, there are some qualities of tools that fall under the adage: familiarity breeds.
Each tool has a personality. Once you get used to it, you can even learn to like it (ask my wife about this re: my personality). My first dovetail saw has a certain feel to its tote – its thickness, girth and the distance between its horns. When I pick up a similar saw, I’m immediately more comfortable with it than, say, a new design.
The solution to these problems are not things that any woodworking magazine could afford to do, such as forming a peer-review panel, having a team of reviewers or reviewing tools over a year of daily use. All those ideas are great for medicine and other critical comparative tasks. But they are financially unworkable for a small publisher (and for large publishers — have you ever read a tool review in Consumer Reports about a category you knew something about?)
So why have I dragged you down this path? I’m not soliciting solutions. I think I just want you to understand the forces at play when I do discuss tools in the magazine and on the blogs, and that I would always rather be building something than flattening another chisel back.
I’m good with CAD. And I’m good with Google SketchUp. Still, Robert W. Lang has me beat by a mile.
His new eBook, “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp,” is so far ahead of anything I’ve read before that it is in a class by itself. It begins by teaching you the basic strokes – even if you’ve never used SketchUp you’ll be in fine fettle. But it takes you so far so fast, you’ll wonder why no one ever conceived of this sort of product before.
The genius of “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” is that it exploits every iota of its medium to make the process of learning SketchUp – the greatest free gift to woodworkers ever – as easy as possible.
Yes, there is text. And screen shots of the important steps that lead to a proper drawing. But the real killer is the short bursts of video that are embedded in the text. Sometimes when you need to see motion, Lang has created short movies that elegantly show you how to create a moulding or a turned part in SketchUp – something that is hard to explain with a static medium.
For Woodworkers – Really and Truly The other big plus to this eBook – which is available on CD – is that it is totally unlike the tutorials offered by Google. Google’s short video tutorials are designed for people who are building cities or (at the least) houses. Building furniture is easy with SketchUp, just not with Google’s instructions.
“Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” is all about woodworking – building furniture-scale components, mouldings, turnings, cutting lists and the like with no silly trees or pitched roofs and bushes. Want to build a living room floorplan with square corners? The Google directions will do fine. Want to make cabriole legs, cabinets, bookshelves, built-ins and frame-and-panel doors? You need Lang’s new CD.
He shows you stuff that Google doesn’t even think to show you. Make dovetailed drawers, coped-stick doors – then alter those basic components with just a few clicks and drags to suit your needs.
The skeptical among you might be thinking that I’m writing this review because I work with Lang and that he’s paying me off. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He handed me his CD to review it for technical errors, and I became totally sucked into the text and have spent the last three nights studying the text, looking at the drawings and marveling at the short videos.
Heck, my parent company doesn’t even carry this CD – Lang has written and published it on his own – so I have no financial interest in the product. But I do have two $20 bills in my pocket, which I plan to lay on his desk in the morning in exchange for this CD.
You, however, don’t have to pay as much. Until July 1 you can order this CD from Lang’s web site for $29.95 with free shipping in the United States and Canada. It is absolutely the best money you will spend on improving your woodworking all year. For less than the cost of a router bit, you will be able to draw anything your brain imagines and transform it until you can build it in wood, steel and brass.
I rarely say this: Buy this. Cash in your pennies, sell some plasma and just buy it. “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” is a mind-blowing revelation for anyone who wants to design simple or complex projects using this free design software.
After more than a dozen months and many thousands of hours of grinding work consuming countless evenings, Chris and my reviewer/readers received the final installment of a complete rough draft text manuscript of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.”
At this point, the material for this first volume has been 100 precent translated by Michele, I have edited and annotated it and returned it to her for a second pass, and we have made it ready for its limited (five recipients) editorial distribution. There are still many rounds to go, making sure our new English version presents accurately the tenor and substance of the original, and that the new annotations and still-in-development photo essays result in these becoming “must have” books for everyone interested in historical furniture craftsmanship.
For now, Chris and his posse have the task of familiarizing themselves with approximately 450 legal-sized pages of text and illustrations to enable the strategic editing, design and marketing decisions necessary for the production of the volume. It is probably akin to legislation and sausage making: it’s best not to watch.
My critical readers have an entirely different responsibility. Their goal is to help ensure that “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” is much more than a simple recitation of historical materials and techniques (as remarkable as that would be all by itself). Yes, it will present faithfully the seminal historical treatise, but it will also serve as a contemporary guide for today’s artisans wishing to employ the techniques of 250 years ago. My readers’ charge, then, is to provide critical feedback from the artisan’s perspective on whether or not the illustrated annotated manuscript accomplishes that goal. In some cases it is as simple as telling me whether some passage of text actually makes sense; in others it is to suggest additional or different illustrations for the photo essays demonstrating the techniques. This conversation will undoubtedly be ongoing until after the book hits the shelves.
I appreciate the many offers to read and comment on the book-in-progress, and I may just take some of you up on them!
This project has proceeded out-of-order much like a movie, which is rarely filmed in the order of the final product beginning with shooting minute one and concluding with minute 120 (or minute 6,483 in the case of “Lord of the Rings”). Movies are generally filmed in a manner most amenable to logistics, and are not woven together until long after most of the participants have moved on to other endeavors.
As I can now step back just a bit and browse the completed rough manuscript for the first volume of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” in its desired order for the very first time, I feel my excitement building all over again. Such enthusiasm waned occasionally in the middle of the night after spending several hours reconstructing a single transliterated paragraph or page into comprehensible artisan-friendly American English – some really tough passages were left with more red ink than black type on the page.
It is truly an astounding compilation of knowledge, and as one of my readers exclaimed just a couple days ago in response to the gigantic chapter on Boulle-work techniques,
“This information goes DEEP. These are the ‘lost’ techniques that I currently crave.”
That pretty much brings you up to date on “To Make as Perfectly as Possible,” the culmination of my decades of interest, scholarship,and craft related to veneering, engraved brass and tortoiseshell Boulle-work.
About the only thing that gives me as much satisfaction as learning is the delight in sharing it with you. I will be teaching Boulle-work at Marc Adams’ school in September and also at Woodworking in America 2010, and veneer and marquetry restoration at DCTC in Rosemount, Minn., in July (www.woodfinishing.org). I hope to see many of you there