It’s easy to think that there aren’t any secrets left in woodworking. But I don’t think that’s true.
While a lot of the basic hand and machine skills are widely discussed and disseminated (thank you, Internet), a good deal of specialized and advanced knowledge is still frustratingly obscured. Here’s one small example.
When I was a junior editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine I was assigned to work with a prominent furniture-maker to help him develop his article ideas and get them into print. Standard stuff. I won’t use his name because I was raised right.
During a visit to his shop I noticed he had a lot of complex moulders and hollows and rounds planes. At that time, there were maybe four articles written about these planes that I could find. I was personally desperate to learn more, so I assumed that our readers would be as well.
The guy refused to write an article or even demonstrate how to use the tools.
“That,” he said, “is what makes my furniture special. I’m not going to show others how to do it.”
I think there’s a 50/50 chance that the guy actually had no idea how to use the planes and was embarrassed that he had them up on the wall. And if that was the case, then I totally forgive him for being human.
But if he really did know how to use them, then he’s no friend to the craft.
Most woodworking (even the complex stuff) is pretty simple once someone shows you the tricks that break the process down into logical and predictable steps. So I bristle when someone throws up a stone wall. That usually means the process really is exceedingly simple.
My search for an author who could explain hollows and rounds didn’t end that day. It ended several years later when I met Matt Bickford at a woodworking show. At the time he was thinking about becoming a full-time planemaker. He showed me two tricks at his pink-painted workbench that day, and I knew I had found the answer.
My years-long search eventually ended in us publishing “Mouldings in Practice” by Matt. It is one of our books I am most proud of because it is the first real text on making mouldings by hand. It makes the process incredibly simple. And it flips the bird to that furniture-maker I encountered many years ago.
Bottom line: If you know something, say something.
— Christopher Schwarz