The Final Touches on ‘Hands Employed Aright’

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Joshua Klein’s biography of Jonathan Fisher, “Hands Employed Aright,” needs only a few tweaks today before it goes into production with our prepress agency. With any luck, the finished book should be in our hands in early August.

Even though I’ve edited this book several times, reviewed every photograph and examined every finished page, I am continually struck by how amazing this book is. It is – in short – a window into the daily life of a working hand-tool craftsman on the American frontier in the 19th century.

In many ways, this book answers the question a lot of us ask ourselves: What was it like to run a pre-industrial furniture shop? But instead of answering that question with conjecture or breadcrumbs of evidence from probate inventories and price guides for piecework, Klein answers the question with an absolute fire hose of original material that has been under wraps for almost 200 years.

Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847) documented every aspect of his life in daily diaries written in a code he made up. Many of his tools and finished pieces of work have survived. And once his secret code was broken, the diaries and the archaeological evidence could be put together to paint an incredibly detailed portrait of Fisher and his daily life in the shop.

While that’s interesting, Klein didn’t stop there. He examined Fisher’s tools and furniture in remarkable detail to figure out his working methods. Then he put those methods to use in his shop, reproducing several pieces to determine if his theories were correct.

While this book won’t teach you how to cut dovetails or plane boards, it will definitely make you reconsider your own methods and your view of what craftsmanship really is.

In addition to all this, Fisher provides us with a photographic inventory of Fisher’s tools and finished pieces, much like Charles Hummel’s classic “With Hammer in Hand.”

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It has taken five years of hard work by people all over the country to put together “Hands Employed Aright,” and I think you will be pleased with both the content and the way we are making this book. Designer Linda Watts took immense care with the layout and was slowed down by the fact that she kept reading and re-reading the book herself.

We will open up pre-publication ordering in the next couple days. “Hands Employed Aright” will be 288 pages, hardbound, in full color and printed on heavy coated paper. The price will be $57, which will include domestic shipping.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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15 Responses to The Final Touches on ‘Hands Employed Aright’

  1. Richard Mahler says:

    Good thing I am ultra-busy through August, otherwise I would be cranky that I cannot begin reading this book today. It promises to be an absorbing read not only for craftspersons but for readers of authentic history sources.

  2. NR Hiller says:

    Been waiting a long time for this one. Everything I have read about Fisher and Joshua’s approach in this book is right up my alley. “An absolute fire hose” of original research has to be among the most evocative expressions of respect ever typed on a keyboard. My LAP shelf of books waiting to be read is getting unwieldy!

  3. johncashman73 says:

    I cannot describe how much I am looking forward to this release!

  4. inorthwoods says:

    I’ve been hoping for a book about Jonathan Fisher ever since I saw a show about him at the Farnswoth Art Museum in Rockland Maine.

  5. Richard O. Byrne says:

    Slowly we are opening the doors to our collective creative past that the industrial revolution tried to quiet with its ever present “shark tank” mentality. We all owe a tremendous debt to Joshua Klein for recounting the life of Jonathan Fisher, who like so many then and now, had such a liquid curiosities that it splashed onto every aspect of his life,and thus thankfully, now enriches the memories of his passing. His shadow will not pass as those of us with thinking hands stand in his light and create our own in tribute.
    Richard O. Byrne

  6. Joe says:

    LAP is going to force me to build another book case. Any suggestions on a bold to teach me that which will hold my ever growing LAP library?

  7. John says:

    After reading this post, it makes me wonder just what kind of man Fisher was. We all document our work to some degree or another, but why did he use encryption to protect his works? Was he worried about copycats? Rival shops stealing his ideas and prototypes? Maybe he just had a passion for puzzles. Or maybe he had foresight and wanted to play a spiteful prank on the future builders.

    Who knows, but I think it’s well worth $57 to see if the book can provide some answers.

    • My guess would be that the “code” is just a form of shorthand; i.e., a quick, simplified method of taking notes (and another dying art). It would be curious indeed if he were writing in code to avoid snoops.

      • John says:

        Quite possibly. I had not considered that possibility. I wonder if there will be a “deluxe version” with the original text available.

        Then we can all learn the code and document our works in “Fisher font”……

      • Hi, I’m President of the Fisher homestead museum, and you are correct. It was shorthand, designed as much to save paper, then expensive, as anything else actually.

  8. Gary Greenberg says:

    If I could pre-order, I would. Can Not Wait!

  9. atogrf1 says:

    I just finished a tome on Nathan Lombard and have been dying for this one to come out. I can’t wait!!!!

  10. Chris F says:

    What a great topic for a book. Looking forward to this one.

  11. haandkraft says:

    Love that photo on the cower. The light coming through the back boards, is a nice touch.

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