‘You Smell Like Mothballs’

0319 Jonathan Fisher Chests of Drawers-2

Last night I got home from work and my wife said, “You smell like mothballs.” I am pretty sure I looked a bit disheveled too. I had a blank stare on my face and had the hair-falling-out-of-the-ponytail halo going on. “I just had a mind-blowing experience,” I replied.

I had just gotten back from the Fisher house and was digging deeper into a couple of chests of drawers that had never seemed relevant to the Fisher story. I never gave them too much notice because they looked nothing like the rest of his work – too fancy. Because he built furniture for a rural community, most all of Fisher’s work was on the less expensive side of things. He made ladderback chairs, candlestands, six-board chests, etc. ranging between $1 and $3 apiece. He never really got the opportunity to exercise his (uber meticulous) skill on furniture that was a bit more upscale. That is, until Mr. Johnson commissioned two chests of drawers in 1812. As I was tracing through this story while putting together the manuscript, I was struck by the fact that Johnson paid $14 for the two chests, making it Fisher’s biggest commission ever.

What did those chests look like? And where are they?

At that moment, it dawned on me to revisit the two chests I’d been dismissing as not from his hand. Maybe these were made by Fisher?

0319 Jonathan Fisher Chests of Drawers

Mike and I had the drawers out, our heads inside and flashlights glaring for a good long while. We began to reveal bit by bit little evidences that make it possible that Fisher was, in fact, the maker of these chests. Besides the fascinating chalk marks that tie these pieces together, we were looking at some unique construction details like the fact that the backboards that were resawn by hand and attached bookmatched next to each other.

My mind reels as I record this story in the book. With the War of 1812 (which Fisher was adamantly against) just declared, his new infant son deathly ill and his windmill partially assembled, this commission must have been a dramatic one to work through. Putting these kinds of stories together in this book has been an amazing privilege. There is more to write so I should end here, but it’s refreshing to come back up for air to share with you my adventures in writing.

— Joshua Klein, Mortise & Tenon magazine

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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5 Responses to ‘You Smell Like Mothballs’

  1. kendewitt608 says:

    A nice touch to what you are finding out about this craftsman. Am so happy I went and bought #1 and #2 of Mortise & Tenon. Keep up the great work.

  2. hgordon4 says:

    Very cool Joshua. I look forward to reading your book.

  3. mysticcarver says:

    Whetting my appetite! Sounds like an amazing read and looking forward to it. Living vicariously through you doing such amazing things in your life.

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