Now that “To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” has been birthed, or put to bed, or sent to press, or whatever cliché is appropriate (I only know that my part is done), we now draw your attention to the curtain marked “To Make As Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making,” behind which the work has continued unabated even through the seemingly endless tribulations of Roubo on Marquetry.”
See, I am learning from Roubo: one paragraph, one sentence, no problem.
Much of “Roubo on Furniture Making” is fairly straightforward, seeming all the more so after six years of our interpreting and expressing Roubo’s voice. Some days I find I can get through as many as a dozen pages of Michele’s raw transliteration, mostly to clarify the idiosyncratic jargon and syntax A-J employs. This process can be a bit humorous as Michele does not even begin to know what particular tools are (or do), while Philippe – though superbly skilled in their uses – identifies them only in his native French. He never needed to converse in English about the arcane details of 18th-century French woodworking tools, so he is relying on me to phrase things properly in the language of a 21st-century Anglophone.
It is excellent that “Roubo on Furniture Making” is going well because in sheer scale it renders “Roubo on Marquetry” a mere warm-up act: This one is almost TWICE as large as our first volume.
For example, this week I am working my way through (again!) Volume 1 Section 1 Chapter 5: “Some Tools Belonging to Woodworkers, Their Different Types, Forms and Uses,” which contains the much-heralded Plate 11 “Interior View of the Furniture Maker’s Studio” and its ballyhooed image of the French Workbench, the source of much of Schwarzophinia.
Many hands have given at least part of the text for this plate the old college try. I am unashamed to suggest that our 17-page treatment of this plate’s text is as accurate, nuanced, understandable and downright elegant as any thus far.
That text and the remaining passages of the chapter delve excruciatingly DEEP into the esoterica of the 18th-century tool box and workshop. Really, Andy, did you need to give us five pages on the moving fillister plane?
At more than 100 pages of working manuscript, this chapter would make a fine little book all by itself (still, it is barely half the length of Vol. III Section 3 Chapter 13: “Tools and Machines for Furniture Making”), but the thrill of this chapter is a near-perfect analog to my new status of “retirement.” I am busier and working harder than ever, yet I simply cannot wipe the smile from my face.
— Don Williams