Ants Viires (1918-2015)


Ants Viires, the pioneering Estonian ethnographer and author of “Woodworking in Estonia,” died on March 18, according to friends and family.

At the time of his death, Lost Art Press was actively preparing an all-new translation of the landmark “Woodworking in Estonia,” which Roy Underhill listed in 2011 as one of his three favorite woodworking books. The surviving family fully supports our translation effort, and we expect to release the book by the end of 2015.

“Woodworking in Estonia” is one of the most detailed studies ever written about an active hand-tool culture. It really is like stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. Viires dedicated his life to recording this vanishing Baltic culture and recording their tools, processes and products.=

Oddly, “Woodworking in Estonia” was first translated into English in the 1960s by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations and – even odder – was published by the U.S. Science Foundation as a typewritten text with low-quality images.

Viires disavowed this edition, saying it was unauthorized.

Nevertheless, this weird little book is how most of us encountered “Woodworking in Estonia” and became fans of it. About two years ago, we encountered an Estonian woodworking in Toronto who put us in touch with the Viires family and we all agreed to embark on a completely new translation.


Since that first 1960s edition, Viires had updated the text in “Woodworking in Estonia.” And the Estonian publisher, Kirjastus Ilo, reissued the book with gorgeous and crisp drawings and photos.

We hired a translator who was familiar with Viires’s work to handle the new edition, and he turned in his final translation about the same day that Viires died. The book is now in the hands of Peter Follansbee, who will comb through the text to ensure it is technically correct. And then we will design it to look very much like Viires’s 2006 edition of the book, with all the sharp drawings and photos – and with the full support of the Viires family and the Estonian publisher.

In other words, this will be the first authorized English translation of this book, its sales will support the Viires family and English-speaking woodworkers will finally be able to fully experience this amazing woodworking book.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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26 Responses to Ants Viires (1918-2015)

  1. kendewitt608 says:

    Thank you for saving works like this for future generations, You will not be able to retire yourself on these kind of things.
    But we all thank you for them.


  2. Joe Eberle says:

    You’re forcing me to look up where Estonia is.
    US engineers didn’t get to that learning


  3. beshriver says:

    i’ve been waiting for this book patiently since i first heard about the LAP version, consider it preordered… it seems there is going to be an all LAP shelf at my house. The Anarchist Tool chest …it’s a gateway drug.


  4. TrevorML says:

    when you do see this wonderful sounding book being released Chris? I have been scouring around for a copy for a quite a while but with your version having better illustrations, and ethically done at that, I am really looking forward to it. Thanks for all your great work in getting such brilliant woodcraft books out in such great quality.

    cheers from Down Under

    ps… pity you can’t get to Adelaide this year…


  5. mrogen says:

    Chris, John,

    This is why you are loved and respected by so many!
    I Thank You



  6. Wonderful! I have struggled with the unauthorized version if this book for years.Your retranslated version with good images will be fabulous. Much of the work covers an Island off the coast of Estonia that as sometimes occurs was behind the times. A rich vein of hand tool country technology. Delighted to hear that Peter Follansbee will assist.


  7. tpier says:

    You have to wonder how The History of Wood manage to miss the Estonians and their massive contributions to hand tool woodworking.


    • mcdara says:

      Actually I did mention Estonia, but only in a joking way. Mainly because Chris had mention this project before The a History of Wood appeared on LAP blog. In studying for THOW I have to find actual history. Before Chris mentioned it, I never read anything about Estonia.


  8. trainman0978 says:

    I wasn’t aware of this project…. But just tell me when you want my money, which pretty much expected when I tell the wife another LAP book is on the list. ( although picking up the book of plates from highland was nice to avoid shipping costs. )

    Can’t wait to see this one!


  9. David King says:

    I had a Fulbright teaching dance at the Estonian Culture Academy in Viljandi. That little country works really hard to keep it’s crafts alive. I got to use one of their student’s thesis projects, a traditional dovetailed log, birch bark shingled, suitsusauna – an open hearth sauna. Their black smithery is also extraordinary. If you ever get a chance to get that far north grab it.


  10. Niels Cosman says:

    This is a big win for the craft! LAP FTW!


  11. pereqa says:

    I was sorry to hear about the death of such great person as Ants Viires, but equally happy to know that his work will live on in the best possible quality. The Estonians are well known in Scandinavia for being very skilled artisans. Especially known for their fabulous axe work in log house construction. On a curious side note, today Estonia is among the most advanced countries in the digital world. It is even possible to become a digital citizen of Estonia from anywhere in the world


  12. djmueller says:

    Wasn’t Raney working on this project, too, until his workbench exploded?


  13. shopsweeper says:

    A worthy project.

    Thanks to Lost Art Press for being involved.


  14. alanws says:

    I usually wind up getting even those LAP books I initially thought I would not. This one I will order as soon as it’s available.


  15. bobdeviney says:

    Welcome news indeed, about the book. If the family is agreeable, I’d love to print out a high resolution copy of that photo of Ants Viires, to paste inside my copy of his book. That is a smile for the ages.


  16. gtrboy77 says:

    Ever since I heard about this book as one of Roy Underhill’s top books every woodworker should own, I’ve been wanting a copy. I did manage to read some of it in a very beat-up copy from my local college library that I got through an interlibrary loan and it was rather fascinating. Needless to say, I got excited when I read this post about the book being reprinted through Lost Art Press. I can’t wait to see how it looks with better pictures.


  17. woddawg says:

    I recall St Roy mentioning this book, which took me on a quest to locate a copy, which I found in pdf. Not the best quality, but readable. Bravo to you and LAP for the work you do to promote woodworking.


  18. Bear Limvere says:

    Chris — consider this a pre-order. As a woodworker of Estonian descent I want it. Can you tell me where I can order a copy of the Estonian revised version? I’d love one in both languages, plus one for my mom.

    Thanks for publishing such wonderful bookstore!

    Bear (Karu)


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