With “Campaign Furniture” now at the printer, John Hoffman and I had a chance to catch our breath this month before we launch into another busy season of product development, including Peter Galbert’s chairmaking book.
After taking inventory, we have 64 deluxe versions of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.” I know we will sell them all, especially when the second book on furniture comes out. So this isn’t some crass ploy. If we were unscrupulous, we’d just sell them on eBay when the second book came out.
This entry is, instead, about me making peace with the project. A project of this scale will make you hate the project on an equivalent scale. That happens when making furniture or books.
Lately, I’ve been taking my deluxe book down to the shop to read it. The workbench is the best place to do that because the book is so huge. (I really need to build a bookstand for my personal copy this year, though the binding is incredibly tough and flexible.)
As I’ve been reading this book with fresh eyes, I have concluded that it is mistitled. It’s not about marquetry – that’s only a small part of it. It’s about seeing your own work through 18th-century eyes. Just like our century, the 18th century was filled with craftsmen who did shoddy work, stuff that was glued together without real joinery or regard for wood movement.
The fight, according to Roubo, is to be the better craftsman. To do the good work even if it does not pay. To refuse to sink to the level of the furniture-selling middleman, or the customer who values price over everything else.
If you take this high road, you’ll take your lumps. Roubo did. But your furniture won’t fall apart when the humidity or the whims of style change.
And maybe, avec bon chance, you will make something that endures like “l’Art du menuisier.”
— Christopher Schwarz