‘To Make as Perfectly as Possible’ – Nitty-Gritty Details

If you are considering plunking down $400 on a book, you have every right to ask questions. And while I’ve answered as many questions as I can in the last 24 hours via e-mail, I’d like to offer even more details about our two forthcoming books: “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” and “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.”

Question: Why did you choose these two particular volumes – marquetry and furniture making – to translate and comment upon? Don’t you like carriage-making?

Answer from Don Williams: “These sections addressed the questions I had compiled over the past four decades in the business of finishing, patternmaking and restoration. It may be worth noting that this project began as a simple labor of love driven by my own curiosity, with originally no expectation of any audience interest.”

Question: WIll these two volumes be “complete” works?

Answer: Yes and no. The book on marquetry will include all four chapters that A.J. Roubo penned on ébénisterie. One chapter in the middle of this volume, Chapter 13: Tools and Machines for Furniture Making, fits better with the book we will be publishing on furniture making in 2014. So we moved it there.

Here’s what Don had to say about that: “(Chapter 13’s) inclusion here in the original was always an oddity to me, since it really has almost nothing to do with ébénisterie and has everything to do with menuiserie. So I removed it from the volume on marquetry and moved it into the volume on furniture making. Once you see the final product, I think you will agree with my decision. Incidentally this Chapter 13 is mammoth, almost twice as long as any other chapter in the entire corpus, weighing in at nearly 100 pages in the original. And even though it has been translated, I have not yet unified it but estimate it at nearly 50,000 words by itself!”

The second book on furniture making will be “nearly complete” in its scope. We opted to omit the section on beds and some of the sections on geometry. Don says: “I have omitted those sections that discuss in exhaustive(!) detail the role of geometric rendering and layout for mostly architectural elements.”

As someone who has paged through all five volumes, I concur that the geometry section is huge and relates mostly to large-scale architectural details.

Table of Contents
As requested, here is our table of contents for these two books. These are still a work in progress, though any changes would be minor. Note that the page numbers refer to the page numbers in the original text, not in our editions.

“To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry”

An Essay on Appreciating and Measuring the Value of Hand Work p1242 -1254

Conclusion of the Art of Carpentry p1255-1264

The different woods appropriate for veneering pp766-814
Section I: Description of “Wood from India” and its qualities, relative to cabinetry.
Section II: French woods appropriate for cabinetry.
Section III: Different dye compositions appropriate for tinting wood and the manner of using them.
Section IV: Thinning of wood for veneer-making.
Description of tools of veneering.
Section V: Appropriate carcass construction for veneering, their manner of construction.

Simple Veneering: general instructions pp. 815-865
Section I: Various Kinds of Compositions.
a. Manner of cutting and adjusting straight pieces and tools for same.
b. Manner of cutting and adjusting curved pieces and tools for same.
Section II: Manner of gluing parquetry veneer.
a. Finishing of veneer and different types of polish.

Ornate Veneering, called mosaic or painted wood pp. 866-897
Section I: Principal rules of perspective absolutely necessary for cabinet makers.
Section II: Manner of cutting, shadowing and mounting wooden ornaments.
a. Manner of engraving and finishing wooden ornaments.
Section III: Representing flowers, fruits, landscape and figures in wood.

About the 3rd type of veneering in general (aka boullework-DCW) pp. 982-1031
Section I: Description of different materials for construction of the 3rd type of veneering.
Section II: The skills one uses in the 3rd type of veneering.
Section III: How to work the different materials used in marquetry, such as tortoise shell, ivory, horn etc.
Section IV: How to construct marquetry and how to finish it.

“To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making”

Proper wood for furniture making pp. 22-39
Different ways of assembling wood pp. 45-48
Proper tools for furniture makers: different types, forms and uses pp. 49-89
Drafting and gluing pp. 273-291
Section I: how to take measurements
Section II: About wood glues
Furniture-Making in general pp. 600-633
Chair making pp. 634-664
Making case furniture pp. 743-765
Tools and machines for furniture making pp. 898-981

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to ‘To Make as Perfectly as Possible’ – Nitty-Gritty Details

  1. “menuisiery”? “ebininsterie”? Interesting spelling 🙂 It’s “menuiserie” and “ébénisterie”. If you want to use French words, use “marqueterie” and not “marquetry”. OK, I’m being a smart ass now 🙂

  2. Nathan says:

    If there is still the time and/or energy to do so I would love to see you include the section on beds.

  3. Wilbur Pan says:

    Hi Chris,

    Since the title of Volume 1 is “Tools and Architectural Woodwork”, is there tool information in that volume that might be of interest to woodworkers that isn’t covered by “Proper tools for furniture makers: different types, forms and uses pp. 49-89”?

  4. lee Marshall says:

    Kudos to Don, Chris and everyone else involved in this project! What an incredible amount of effort that is obviously not driven by profit, but love for the subject.
    Thank you for the love invested.

    Lee (the saw guy)

  5. Thanks for the additional info, I appreciate it. 🙂

  6. Per Hansen says:

    I admit that I have never seen the originals and I admit it is you who do all the work, but I too think you ought to include the beds and make the work complete. Having gone so far already, taking the last steps would seem a natural and some of us wood nuts might want to make a bed once in a while, after all we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, might as well do it in style. Have I got it right: you are taking the whole tool chapter from volume one and the tool chapter from marqueterie and printing it together in the book on furniture, great idea.

  7. Glen says:

    Geez guys, give it rest will you. Lighten up Francis’.Correcting spelling? Dictating what you think should be included? I don’t think any person with the exception of the those who have been directly involved with the project are in a position to be demanding anything at this point. I’m sure that the decisions that have been made with regard to the translations have been considered and not just a fleeting thought on the issue. I think we should all be indebted to the entire team at Lost Art Press and all others involved for their unwavering commitment in seeing the project through, not adding our 2cents worth when it’s not our place to do so. Thanks L.A.P, my deposit is in.

  8. Jim Maher says:

    I can’t wait – until 2014.

    I’m a little concerned that others might be more interested in the second book than the first, like me. I consider marquetry a niche that I’m probably never gonna get into. So I don’t plan on buying the first one. But I don’t want you guys to have sales that DIS-courage you from continuing the project.

    Furniture making excites me. And Chris has been talking about this translation for years and about Roubo forever. And I really like the idea of the over-size volume. Plus, by 2014, I can probably save enough pennies for the limited edition.

    I wish you good luck and great sales on this first volume, but I predict that the second volume will far outsell the first.

    • lostartpress says:


      I don’t dig marquetry either. Yet, editing this book on it has been a transformative experience for me. It hasn’t inspired me to do marquetry, but it has changed the way I approach some work, and it has opened my eyes to some processes I never considered.

      I’ll be writing more about this soon.

      I’m not saying everyone should buy the marquetry book, but there is more to it than marquetry.


      • Bob DeViney says:

        I don’t have an interest in marquetry either, but have placed my order for two reasons. One, I’ve read a number of woodworking books – that address styles, skills and forms that don’t particularly interest me – simply out of curiosity and a desire to gain greater appreciation for the craft and those who keep it alive. Two, I want to do my small part to keep your business healthy and growing, for the greater good of all who take up wood working now and in generations to come.

  9. Bob Jones says:

    Request – please make an electronic version of the high res scans of the plates available with the book. That would be great.

  10. I don’t see any of the input above as demands, that is a bit of a stretch. And it’s not their .02 they are putting in, but their $400. I’m sure those involved with the project appreciate the input. Nobody has expressed their wishes as demands or “do it or else”. If I were involved in the project, I’d take it all as food for thought and nothing else. If a hundred people email about the bed Chapter, and I was writing the book, it might tell me something. If only one does, it tells me something else.
    It doesn’t make this blog anymore enjoyable when people are touchy or defensive about the issues.

    • Glen says:

      Hi Pete, your right, it doesn’t make it more enjoyable. Especially if you take the time to read the blog entry and see that Chris has spent the past 24hrs replying to questions about the book and then has provided even more comprehensive information to explain why important decisions have been made. The first comment on the post corrects his French of all things. I agree with Julien, he was being an ass. A hundred people, a thousand people, could email about the Geometry sections that have been omitted. It doesn’t change the fact that those parts of the original book have been omitted for a reason, not on a whim. Should LAP start taking direction on font style and size too or binding techniques because of the price? I don’t believe so. I agree it’s an expensive book, quality items always are. If $400 is too expensive then perhaps the trade option at $60 is best for those who are aggrieved about their beds. Cheers

  11. Sean says:

    On the “I ain’t likely to do marquetry” issue. It’s funny where woodworking can take you as you think of new projects you want to make over time. Chris, you’ve learned a good deal about leather and now even canvas work because you wanted to make Rookees, right? I’m assuming that there may be others out there like me who were attracted to windsor chairs, wanted a lathe to make chair parts, and found turning many other things, like bowls and whatnot, was great fun too. Marquetry is my latest fascination. I wanted to make some interesting panels for a backgammon case idea I had, and before I knew it I was drawn into marquetry. It’s great fun and opens lots of new vistas for many other projects. (For those who might be interested: Tools for working wood has great tape and veneer saws. Silas Kopf’s double bevel method is wonderful for gap free parts.) In short, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

    • lostartpress says:

      Oh, I’m sure I’ll try some of the techniques from the book because they are simple (once you get it).

      I was trying to say that there’s stuff in the book that will affect non-marquetry woodworkers. Very cool shooting boards, compasses, cutting gauges and new ways to use them. Stuff like that. In any case, I’ll write more later to explain myself.

      Roubo calls.

  12. I understand Glenn, but the grammar and other remarks were supported by either humorous comments, or compliments, and a soft suggestion of what the buyers or prospective buyers want. What if 1000 people had written in that the bed chapter would push them into buying the book, I think the writers would be interested, if nothing else. This isn’t the only book they intend to publish. They will be seeking content in the future.

    It’s all good. I’ve no beef with you, but I don’t think their comments hurt anyone’s feelings. They weren’t said as ultimatums.

    Personally, I’m waivering. Of course, I want the most expensive book, but times at least here in Louisiana for me are tough. But Chris’s responses to some of these questions have convinced me, that even though the subject had turned me off, Marquetry, I have much I can gain from the book. So in answering all these questions, I feel I have to make at least the investment on the tradesman volume to hear about the cool shooting boards.

    The information seems to be flowing both directions and it’s all good.

    (I’m really not normally this flowery a fellow, I must have gotten some bad water.

  13. Graham Burbank says:

    Although I have dabbled in marquetry enough to pull it off if a client requests it, I figure that reading work by those who made a living from it will have much to teach my imperfect hands. I may never build a guitar, but I have three books describing different approaches. I may not be a timber framer, but I have built a workshop timberframe for myself, and own a half dozen books on the subject. The joint stool felt very familiar… I may not carve violins, but if you know a good book on the subject, I’ll buy it. Ditto on the subjects of Chris Craft repair(try don dannenberg’s book on “How to restore your wooden runabout”) , carving acantus leaf motifs or ball and claw feet, or building timber bridges. It’s all wood. Techniques from one feild can cross-pollenate into another. You may feel no need to investigate construction techniques for furniture to be used on a Gulfstream jet until the day you land a commission for a 40 foot conference table with the company’s logo inlaid in the center. On that day, you might find both this roubo book and a technical manual on “working with honeycomb” extremely useful. You just never know…It’s a shame that so many people limit themselves to one small set of techniques and shun all else. Solid wood vs. veneer, hand vs power tools, modern vs. period, glue vs. fasteners, hide vs. epoxy. Use it all, wherever appropriate. The day I stop learning is the day I start dying.

  14. Publius Secundus says:

    Ol’ Roubo might have put that holdfast a bit further away from the fulcrum, for the benefit of the sawyer fellow standing on the board past the point of no return.

  15. Jonathan says:

    Any idea when in 2013 the trade version will be available? Looking forward to a good read.

  16. Ron Dennis says:

    Chris, John, Lucy:

    Isn’t it wonderful to have such an involved customer base? How luck you are.

  17. Michele Pagan says:

    Yes, it is indeed wonderful to know that the customer base for this book is truly interested in the final product.
    Speaking as the translator for this project, I can attest that this was a labor of love. Since I have very little experience with working with wood at all, the drive to acquire more knowledge – and to improve my understanding of the French language – is what made me persevere towards the completion of this project.
    For me, the satisfaction was in the knowledge that with each sentence, I was unlocking a little secret for people like Don, who would receive such enjoyment from each new translated phrase.
    The tools chapter almost made me quit the project, since, as I said to Don, “I don’t know what this means in English, never mind in French!”
    But, persistence pays,in more ways that monetarily ( at least, usually) , and how could anyone walk out on Don in the middle of any project?

    Best wishes to all,
    Michele Pagan
    New Roubo Fan

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