New: ‘Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw’ by Tony Konovaloff

While reading John Brown’s columns in the 1990s, I learned about a West Coast woodworker named Tony Konovaloff who built furniture for clients entirely by hand. Brown, writing in Good Woodworking magazine, mentioned that Konovaloff was writing a book about the way he worked.

At the time, that seemed crazy to me. The biggest force in woodworking was Norm Abram’s “New Yankee Workshop,” and the Internet had yet to bring together all the nutty hand-tool woodworkers in the world. We had Roy Underhill, but his show seemed no match for Norm, who was everywhere.

But something that Konovaloff wrote back then stuck deep in my craw:

“The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.”

Konovaloff’s book languished, slumbered, hibernated. But earlier this year, Konovaloff started a web site and made the finishing touches to the book, which had been in the works for two decades.

Like everything in his life, Konovaloff published the book on his own terms. He did the lay out. The photos. He had it printed by a local printer. He was determined to get the book published in the way he envisioned it.

Because his book embodies so many of the principles that we believe in at Lost Art Press, we have taken the unusual step of carrying the book – “Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw” – in our store. It is a great book. Opinionated. Based on experience. Succinct. To the point.

In its 146 pages, Konovaloff discusses both how he builds furniture by hand and why. He spent a year under James Krenov at The College of the Redwoods, but it would be a mistake to say his work is derivative of Krenov’s.

In the book, Konovaloff says his biggest influence is the Shakers. Yet, when you look at the cabinets in “Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw,” you cannot help but feel there is a modernist muscle that pulls each design taut. His work is clean and focuses on small and subtle details – tight-fitting drawers and doors. Subtle reveals and quirks. Precisely fitted frame-and-panel backs.

And yet, his stuff is designed for living – not for display.

The majority of the text of the book focuses on how he works – the minimum tool kit, the shop and the mindset for modern hand work. He uses basic tools, and yet Konovaloff stretches them to their limits to make drawer blades with sliding dovetails, haunched and mitered mortise-and-tenon joints and coopered doors.

If you appreciate things that are simple, well-built and fit for a contemporary home, we think you will appreciate “Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw” as much as we do.

The book is black-and-white with both photos and hand illustrations. Printed and bound in the United States. The book is available to ship immediately. Click here to order it for $35 plus shipping.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to New: ‘Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw’ by Tony Konovaloff

  1. Jeremy says:

    Bravo. Lost Art gets another feather in it’s cap (it’s starting to look like a headdress) for being a class act.

  2. pauls49 says: if you are interested.

  3. Gordon says:

    I’m sure this is a great book for a handtool woodworker and I know you publish books for a living, but, since I have Jim Tolpin’s and Aldren Watson’s books for using handtools in furniture making, I’ll need a few teaser’s on this new one before I buy it. I’ll only buy it if I see I really need it to supplement the other two. Can you furnish some more info or pictures?

  4. Rascal says:

    Tony Konovaloff also built one heck of a beautiful tool chest, featured in Jim Tolpins toolbox book, I think, and also featured in Fine Woodworking way back. His tills go side to side vs. front to back. I know I’ve got enough woodworking books, but heck, there’s no such thing as too many!

  5. Marlon E says:

    My Lord man, that statement does stick in your craw!

    • Rascal says:

      I must be dense this morning… I don’t get it.

      • Marlon E says:

        Due to this:
        “But something that Konovaloff wrote back then stuck deep in my craw:

        “The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.””

  6. Rick Lapp says:

    Wow, how has his website flown below the radar? Rick

  7. lashomb says:

    Hmm, the redirect product link didn’t work for me in Safari in OS X Mountain Lion. It did work going to main site and into Books to find it:

  8. Found my copy sitting on my chair at work yesterday morning (via USPS, not some uber-friendly co-worker). Managed to get through 1.5 chapters on my lunch break. I had to laugh when I pulled out my iPad to weigh the book down so I could read while using both hands to eat – no matter how easy and convenient it is to read digital copies, there is something to be said for ink and paper and binding.

    The binding, by the way, is top notch. I wasn’t at all worried about breaking the spine with the weight of the iPad.

    Preliminary thoughts: Tony’s writing style is very clear and concise. His attitude reminds me of Frank Klausz. Some people might not like this, but I relish it. Don’t beat around the bush; tell me how you do it and why you think it’s a good way. Tony does just that.

    There are some minor grammar issues, mostly involving things like commas and semicolons that only someone who edits documents for a living might pick up on. And I haven’t yet decided if he has a wry sense of humor or if a hyperactive Find/Replace produced the following sentence:

    “What I have tried to do with this book is tell you how I do things without leading you by the handtool.”

    I’ll get a more detailed review up on the blog after I read through it a few times.

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