We’ve received our print run of Robert Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker” and have started shipping out orders to customers on a first-in, first-out basis. At the current pace, we should have all the pre-orders in the mail sometime in the coming five days.
I just received my personal copies this morning, and I am pleased with the more expensive paper and the printing quality overall. And we hope you will be, too.
This book has been, hands down, the most successful book in the short history of our little publishing company. And for that, I’d like to thank each of you. We ordered a fair number of copies of this book, but because of the strong orders, we probably will run out before the end of the year.
And now I can move onto Lost Art Press’s next projects, which include the Andre Roubo translation project and two other books in the works that we aren’t quite ready to announce.
While I’m enjoying the food and culture of London and Paris this week with my wife and girls, I have squeezed in some serious work for Lost Art Press. In London, Maddy and I turned up two antique English woodworking books (one from 1875) that I have never seen in the United States.
One is quite promising and features plans for a treadle table saw and an absolutely ingenious freestanding leg vise. The writing is also delightful — the author mentions that he has used the leg vise for chaining up a monkey and a trained squirrel. No lie.
I also spent an afternoon in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, which I have been writing about all week and inspired several forthcoming entries about the English Arts & Crafts movement.
In Paris, Lucy and I spent today soaking in some impressionist paintings (for her) and stunning Art Deco and Art Nouveau furniture and housewares at the Musée d’Orsay. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos at the M.O., as the locals call it, because American woodworkers need an education in Deco and Nouveau.
But the highlight of the trip was a brief visit to the Librarie du Camée at 70 rue Saint-André-des-Arts. This bookstore is surrounded by art galleries and other bookstores and feels so much more like the Paris of your imagination than the Paris surrounding the monuments (I wanted to put a gun in my mouth at Versailles).
The store is about the size of a half-decent American closet, but is absolutely crammed with books dealing with traditional crafts, including housewares, tools, horology, textiles and even making perfume. And, of course, there is a large section devoted to woodworking.
I spent about an hour going over all the shelves. I could have dropped about 1,000 Euros without regret, but I restrained myself (for now). Instead I picked up some more modern books so I can get my rusty French skills back on track.
Two volumes were a reprint of “Menuisier En Baitiments,” an 1882 book describing the craft in great detail, including many plates I’ve never seen. I also bought a new book, “Les Rabots: Histoire, Technique, Typologie, Collection” by Pierre Bouillot and Xavier Chatellard, which is an enormous and comprehensive book on Continental handplanes of all types. And I bought a third book — not a reprint — describing machine and hand woodworking operations circa 1965.
Also hanging out in the closet was a husband and wife team from Washington, D.C., who tipped me off to a tool museum and library that I’ll have to visit during my next visit to Europe in September.
Then it was off to get some iced coffee and start devouring the books. Right now, it’s a bit like reading “Riddley Walker,” but I’ll get my French back up to speed.
One of the few truths in woodworking is this: The hardware you choose is as important as the boards you select, the joinery you use and the finish you apply.
Cheap, mismatched or poorly scaled hardware will ruin a piece – like using ramen pallet wood for a highboy.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, one of the museum’s largest public collections is its ironwork display. This fantastic ferrite section contains everything from hinges and locks to gates and signposts. I spent as much time looking at the museum’s ironwork as I did at its furniture. The beauty of these handmade articles was enough to convince me that I need to make friends with a blacksmith.
Take a gander at this unremarkable and thoroughly mongrelized cupboard. The piece dates from the 14th century and was said to belong to the last Abbot of Whalley. During its lifetime, it has been scraped of its original finish. Shortened. New back. New shelves. And an extra foot added to the middle.
Despite all this, the piece is impressive because of the hardware. Forget about the inconvenient design of the cupboard (only the two center panels open), or the split wood, or that the top that is made from the gnarliest piece of wood I’ve ever seen in a museum. The hardware is awesome, and it makes this forgettable piece into something worth preserving.
Now if I could just find the item number for this hardware in the Lee Valley catalog….
When I first learned about dovetails, the tale was that this mechanical joint was one of the things that helped transform the squat furniture of the Jacobean era into the soaring vertical styles of the 18th century.
The problem with that tidy story is that dovetails turn up in early furniture and other carpentry constructions, suggesting that the history of the joint is far more complex than most people suspect. I’ve seen evidence of dovetails in Egyptian woodwork.
While at the Victoria & Albert Museum this last week in London, I broke away from my family to examine some of the furniture treasures there. An Italian chest from about 1500 caught my eye. Displayed in the museum at floor height, you couldn’t really see how the walnut chest was joined. I crouched down, and its delightful dovetails became apparent.
Now back in my office I have photos of interesting paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries that show dovetailed chests, but the dovetails are widely spaced and probably poorly represented by the artist (e.g. in some of the paintings the joints clearly wouldn’t be possible in a three-dimensional universe).
These Italian dovetails look very unusual to the modern eye. The maker of this chest had to join planks that were easily 1-1/4” thick. The dovetails are extremely thin and equally spaced. That is, the widest point of each tail was about 1/2” wide. And the widest part of the pin socket was also 1/2” wide. The spacing between the tails was extremely tight – perhaps 3/32”.
Other interesting details for joinery nuts: The top edge of the chest began with one very big half tail, and you could clearly see baseline marks on the sides of the chest, but not the front.
The joinery was A+ from a modern perspective. The chest wasn’t heavily stained or colored, so it was easy to see the remarkable fit of the pins and tails. I hope my work looks this good after 500 years.
I suspect this chest was built for a wealthy individual’s valuables. The chest is inlaid inside and out, according to the museum’s description. And it has two sets of hinges, two sets of locks and a false bottom compartment.
I wish I could have opened it and poked around the inside of the chest to get some more details, but they frown on that at museums (speaking as someone who has been the object of multiple frowns).
But at the very least these photos of the exterior continue to help fill in the often misunderstood relationship between furniture styles and furniture joinery.
Well I would, and many others did. So to update all on our newest production here goes:
“The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing has been printed and bound. The book will leave the bindery on Monday, July 19th, 2010. The book will be at Lost Art Press this week and shipping will begin immediately. We are fully supplied with boxes, tape and shipping labels. Thank you all for your support; we are confident that you will enjoy this new book.