Little wonder that after a short time the beginner in woodwork experiences a familiarity with his tools that not all his preliminary blunderings can quench. It comes not from the moment of time in which he experiments but way back through countless generations of his forbears to the unknown men who had nothing but their tools between them and bodily and defensive needs, having at the same time the urge to create and enjoy the thing they had created.
When the hand of modern man closes round a tool it is in the old traditional manner and in no time at all he finds himself falling into the rhythm of working action. Skill itself can only come with experience, but the potential skill is there, craving for an outlet.
I’ve been working on my next book, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” since February 2010. But it has been brewing inside me for much longer than that.
When I first let slip that I was working on this book, I was in Germany, teaching a class of a dozen Europeans and Americans how to work wood by hand. We were sitting at lunch around a table when I told them the title of the book.
Everyone in the room laughed.
Then, after a moment, it got quite quiet. One of the Germans in our group – a quiet man with excellent hand skills – spoke up.
“I don’t think that’s a good title,” he said. “Anarchism does not have a good name here.”
The rest of the students nodded their heads. One of them piped up:
“It might be better to call it the ‘Practical Tool Chest,’ ” he suggested. “At least in Europe.”
When I returned to the United States, I weighed their advice against my gut. I’m not a political person. I would rather talk about almost anything than politics. In fact, covering politics and business and government as a newspaper journalist is what soured me on… everything.
So I decided to go with my gut. The book might make you uncomfortable. The ideas inside it might make you dislike me. But in my heart, I know that most woodworkers are “aesthetic anarchists.” This short movie shows some construction details of my chest and has my two favorite quotes about anarchism. If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.
When a Craftsman of to-day sets to work to make a chair, the knowledge which he takes so much for granted is the stored-up inheritance of generations of craftsmen who had preceded him. He is profiting by their discoveries, their failures, and adding whatever of its own particular worth in new processes the present age has to offer.
Only in our own age the ratio of skilled craftsmen is diminishing, and with so much that is good and civilised in process of being destroyed, one wonders how much will survive.
Thanks to our customers, 2010 has been a record year for Lost Art Press. The book “The Essential Woodworker” has sold like crazy – we had to go back to press for a second printing after only four weeks. We sold out completely of our first book, “The Art of Joinery,” and overall sales have been great.
To thank you, we’d like to offer you a small downloadable gift: Henry Adams’s “Joints in Woodwork.” What, you’ve never heard of it? Well read on.
We first learned of this document years ago when reading “Spons’ Own Mechanic’s Companion.” The authors of Spons called out this Adams’s document as the definitive source on wood joinery. So we have been looking for it for a few years now.
This fall, I finally found it bound into a series of papers presented by Henry Adams, a professor of engineering at the City of London College. Most of the papers dealt with steel structures, ironwork, fireproof floors and cisterns. But there is also a paper that Adams presented to the Civil & Mechanical Engineers’ Society on March 1, 1877, called “Joints in Woodwork.”
What’s neat about these papers is that they include these huge 11″ x 15″ foldout posters relating to each topic. Then there is a 33-page paper discussing the joints. After reading Adams’s paper, it’s clear that most of the audience was concerned with carpentry first and joinery second.
So there is a lot of discussion on 19th-century house construction. But if you look past that, I think you’ll find some really good information in here. Adams’s six principles for designing any joint are excellent, and I haven’t seen those published anywhere. The discussion of the material itself is also interesting, including how the medullary rays play a role in splitting.
But the coolest part of the paper is by far the poster, which contains all manner of joints that we (and carpenters) use to build furniture. And it’s done in a nice 19th-century style. I’m going to print it out on nice paper and hang it in my shop.
Using the links below, you can download both the poster and the 33-page paper. There’s nothing to buy, or register for or what not. Just click on the links and the download will begin.
Andre Roubo’s passion for learning, and sharing that knowledge, undoubtedly grew from the limited opportunities presented to him when a yoot.
— Don Williams
I didn’t enjoy this education for long, totally imperfect that it was, because at the age of 11, (it was in 1750) my father, who was and who is still of the Guild of Furniture Makers, made me begin to work with him in order to transmit his knowledge and his position to me, the only good that he had to give me, and that he had likewise received from his father, also of the Guild of Furniture Makers.
From this time up until 1768 [at the age of 29], when I began to make my only object the Description of the Art of Woodworking, I was more occupied with the practical knowledge of my position, than those which, however appropriate to expanding the soul and mind, were strangers to my principal purpose. I have had the happiness to make progress in my profession during the 18 years that I practiced manual work, and still more to know the late Mr. Blondel, with whom I worked for five years, during which time he gave me all assistance possible, in giving to me freely all the help and counsel which could be useful to me both in public as in private, to help me acquire the knowledge necessary on architecture in general and relative to my position.
Instead these readings, although absolutely unconnected to my goal (of learning my craft and subsequently writing this book) but obtained at a time where my reason began to develop (to which the study of geometry has served me greatly), put me in the position to render my thoughts without a florid and elegant style, but at least with precision and a sort of clarity. They have also allowed me to know and to feel the order which is necessary in a didactic work such as mine, where all the content should tie together and often in sequence. Repetitions are sometimes inevitable and perhaps even necessary to better know the truth and importance that one is advancing, and the consequences that one should or one can derive.