Don Williams, the primary force of nature behind “To Make as Perfectly as Possible,” is a man of few vices but many vises.
He doesn’t drink, smoke, curse or even drink coffee. But the man will travel to the ends of the earth to examine pianomakers’ vises. This peculiar, beautiful and woefully undocumented form is featured prominently on H.O. Studley’s workbench. And so Don has spent weeks researching, restoring and examining original pianomaker’s vises.
He has been documenting his findings on his blog. Have you bookmarked it yet? You should.
With our second edition of Joseph Moxon’s “The Art of Joinery” at the printer, I’ve had several e-mails from readers wondering why they should buy a 17th-century woodworking book written by a printer, globe-maker and hydrographer to the king.
Note that “woodworker” is not on Moxon’s CV.
Moxon is probably best known for his treatise on printing, but he also made Bibles, globes, mathematical instruments and theorized that the Arctic was free of ice – encouraging explorers to sail further north to find an open sea and the Northwest Passage. Even Capt. James Cook adopted Moxon’s wrong-headed theory.
In the woodworking world, Moxon is known for publishing the first English-language book on woodworking titled “The Art of Joinery,” which began in 1677 or 1678. His 14 small books on joinery, bricklaying, carpentry, turning and blacksmithing were combined into the now-famous “Mechanick Exercises.”
The book was not intended for joiners. They would have seen the book as superficial – an outsider’s view of the craft told with little detail and subtlety. Yet, “The Art of Joinery” is important – very important – because it is a snapshot of the tools and techniques among English joiners in the 17th century. And we have very few other sources as detailed as Moxon.
In this book, you get an introduction to all the tools in a typical joiner’s kit, from the chisels to the hatchet. You get basic – and actually quite good – explanations of how to flatten a board from the rough, how to cut mortise-and-tenon joints and how to lay out and cut miters of all angles.
For me, it it always important to return to Moxon to understand what was important to the 17th-century joiner. Moxon spills tons of ink on the fore plane but says only a few lines about the smoothing plane. Moxon explains how joiners (and blacksmiths) would use coarse tools for as long as possible. He outlines a tool kit that is small and simple.
In other words, Moxon is the closest thing we have to a direct link to the joiners of the 17th century, where everything was made by hand.
For these reasons, we have chosen to republish “The Art of Joinery” in a format that makes it easy for you to digest, easy for you to understand and helps illustrate why what you are reading is important.
Our book is hardly a hagiography of Moxon. We challenge his observations and assumptions at every point. But we do acknowledge that Moxon is the real deal. His was a serious look at the handcrafts of Great Britain in the 17th century.
You can read all about our version of “The Art of Joinery” here in our store.
And to get a taste of what it is like to read, we’ve prepared a short excerpt that you can download. We are proud of every aspect of the book, from its manufacture to even the font we used for Moxon’s text.
Yesterday morning I turned leg after leg, experimenting with different diameters and shapes to produce a folding stool that would easily hold a 225-pound person but not look like it was made with Tuscan-order columns.
About 2 p.m. I had my answer. Here are the specs on this stool:
Legs: 1-3/16”-diameter x 24” long. The ankle is 7/8” diameter with the taper starting 6” from the floor.
Hardware: 5/16” x 3” hex bolt, 5/16” x 2-1/2” eye bolt. Three washers. Two acorn nuts.
The stool is stout. Sitting in it inspires confidence. And it looks only marginally heavier. The one shown is in teak (yes, more teak offcuts. Will I ever be rid of them?). The design also worked fine in mahogany.
One other note: This stool starts out with a seat about 18” from the floor. After the leather stretches, it ends up about 16” from the floor. Now I can write the chapter for “Campaign Furniture” on these stools.