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