Charles H. Hayward: Duck, Duck, Goose


“The distortion is way too clear.”

— Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

One of the criticisms frequently leveled at my writing is that I am not consistent.

The criticism is 100 percent true.

After writing many woodworking articles, blog entries and books during the last 20 years, things have changed. My work has changed. The tools available to us have changed. The way we communicate ideas has been transformed.

But still, I wish I had popped out of the womb knowing everything I know now – plus all the stuff I will learn before I die.

As a result, I am taking small comfort from editing the 800 pages of our forthcoming book “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years.” When we selected the articles for the book we grabbed everything the magazine published during a 30-year span on some core woodworking topics.

All of these articles were filtered through the traditionally trained hands of Charles H. Hayward, the editor of the magazine and the author of most of the articles.

We decided not to change a single word of the writing, even when his articles contradicted one another. When you read this book, you might find this annoying at first – why didn’t we fix these blatant problems? After you pass through the stage of being annoyed, you might appreciate our approach.

Take, as an example, the topic of glazed oilstones. This comes up in about a dozen different articles.

At first Hayward says there is little you can do except send the stone back to the manufacturer for refurbishing. Then it becomes clear that his readers have schooled him for that comment. Later articles include all manner of reader-suggested solutions, including boiling the offending stone in a solution with washing powder and liquefying the glazed oil with a torch.

This happens over and again throughout the articles. It allows you to see the breadth of knowledge (or lack of it) in the very best 20th-century writing on handwork.

Hayward, unlike other some woodworking writers of his time and ours, refused to close his mind to other perspectives and techniques of his craft. He could have easily said: “This is how I learned to do it, and so this is the way to do it.” And he would have been right, and also above the criticism of being inconsistent.

But then I wouldn’t like Hayward as much. And we wouldn’t publish this book, which has been another multi-year “how-much-money-can-we-lose” odyssey.

Perfect consistency is for our robot overlords.

OK, back to the editing.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to Charles H. Hayward: Duck, Duck, Goose

  1. fitz says:

    See also: Sharpening and wooden v metal planes and…

    Not a complaint — I found it both charming and reassuring…and human.

    He is large and contains multitudes — as do we all.

  2. Bartee says:

    So, all of the articles were typed from the original text, therefore the need for all of the yellow tabs ?

    We all DO appreciate the work you do and your complete dedication to the product. I will not ask when it will be ready. I know the answer.

    • We have reset the entire book so it is easy to read and crisp as possible. The yellow tabs are mostly scanning errors or images that need to be tweaked.

      We are fighting like heck to get this one out before the end of 2015.

  3. Consistency is the hallmark of small minds.

    Whenever I meet anyone who feels like they have the lock on anything I worry. Being open to change, and admitting you’ve changed over time, just seems like an honest way to live.

    I’m really looking forward to this coming to press.

  4. momist says:

    I am really looking forward to this one.
    I’m lucky enough to have a 1973 revision of his 1946 “Tools For Woodwork”, and it’s lovely. 🙂

  5. momist says:

    BTW, in “Tools For Woodwork” he says :
    “Gummed-up stones. Kerosene oil or gasoline is generally used for treating a gummed-up stone.” . . . and then later “If this fails, the only alternative is to send the stone to the factory for a refinishing operation.”

  6. It’s about the journey not the destination. It’s amazing how many times I’ve been sure of a solution, only to find a better one later. It’s the hallmark of progress. The road to success is paved with mistakes.

  7. Farmer Greg says:

    Did he ever publish and article about birdhouses?

    (I think it would be awesome if he did.)

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