The Benefits of Mandatory Inactivity


Editor’s note: The following is a special update from Don Williams on his forthcoming To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making. For those of you unfamiliar with Don, he is the mastermind behind our editions of Roubo on marquetry, Roubo on furniture making (forthcoming), Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley, and the Virtuoso DVD (forthcoming). Don is also a former conservator for the Smithsonian Institute. You can read more of his writings on

Thanks to my recent bone-crunching encounter with a gravel-laden wheelbarrow, I am essentially recliner-bound for the next month.  Starting this week I get to putter in my studio, provided I sit in my rolling office chair or use a grandma-style walker. But mostly for the past fortnight and the next four weeks, I must sit and undertake isometric exercises.

Fortunately, I am well stocked with productive tasks. The main “benefit” to all this is that I can devote my undivided attention to To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making. A tote bag from Chris, overflowing with printouts for the book, has been sitting next to my desk for many moons, patiently awaiting my return from other endeavors. Chris’s edits are finished, and now I am diligently working through them to either approve or disapprove his revisions. (Yes, I do get to tell him when and where he is wrong, but his comments are usually correct.) I will also add my final set of revisions before releasing the manuscript to the ministrations of copy editing and layout.


It is fun work, actually, as I have not looked through the manuscript carefully since the  H.O. Studley projects went supernova last summer. Looking at Roubo on Furniture Making with fresh eyes has been very enjoyable. Far from being displeased with the text, I continue to marvel at this trove of wisdom from an age long past.

I am also enjoying reviewing the essays that we have curated to accompany Roubo’s original text. In his contribution, Chris reflects on the Roubo bench illustrated in Plate 11. Mike Mascelli’s essay examines historic upholstery methods.

Philippe Lafargue and Michele Pagan, two of my colleagues for the book, also add tremendous insight. Philippe’s essay is about his training as a classical chair maker at the École Boulle. Michele’s piece sheds light onto 18th century bed linens.

The book is chock full of good stuff. Another of my favorite contributions is Jonathan Thornton’s narrative about how he reproduced the wave moulding machine that even Roubo admitted he had never seen.

In addition to these remarkable essays are a dozen or so expositions I’ve authored on the tools and techniques that Roubo describes in the text. After I finish this final round of edits, it should only be another few weeks until I am released from the recliner gulag.

– Donald C. Williams.

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7 Responses to The Benefits of Mandatory Inactivity

  1. bearkatwood says:

    Sorry to hear you are banged up Don, my best to you for a speedy recovery. Look forward to the Roubo work. Take care.

  2. dave ball says:

    Don – Very sorry to hear about your mishap. God Bless and a speedy recovery.

  3. Sergeant82d says:

    Don, first, sorry for your injury. I have spent the past nine years working through a series of back, knee and neck injuries caused by jumping from airplanes and carrying obscene amounts of weight on my back for 25 years as an Army Paratrooper. Inactivity sucks.

    I’m fascinated by the wave molding machine article you link to. Is there any more information on Thornton’s version published that you know of? I showed it to my wife and we are very interested in possibly building our own.

    Can’t wait for the next iteration of Roubo; thanks for your efforts!

  4. Jeff Faulk says:

    Am I the only one who can’t see the third image down from the top? IMG_0299.jpg…

  5. Jeff Faulk says:

    Thanks Brian. Looks like it’s about moulding planes, which reminds me that Caleb James is coming out with an article on Roubo type moulding planes in PW sometime soon. That should be lovely 🙂

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