‘Enslaved to Line & Level’


In some old images of staked stools and chairs, you’ll find the legs and other components are a bit curved. Sometimes this is the result of the “hedge carpenter” using a curved branch scavenged from the woods. Or from using sections of a log that are riven from the swelling at the butt of the tree, which is naturally curved.

Today I encountered a description of a hedge carpenter that was charming that led me back to Walter Rose’s “The Village Carpenter” (of course).

“Thus they had never become enslaved to line and level; their minds had not been trained to revolt if their work deviated from the square, or if it was slightly on the twist and the faces of their joints not absolutely flush. They themselves made no claim to art – I doubt if they knew the meaning of the word. But the work they did was part of the beauty of the countryside; the cleft fence-rails and posts split from oak saplings, with the bark left on in places, and the rough knots trimmed with axe or drawing knife.”

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to ‘Enslaved to Line & Level’

  1. tsstahl says:

    Yup, that just about describes my ‘fine’ furniture. Probably shouldn’t have a crowbar and an 8lb sledge in my toolbox…


  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    I find I like the style you describe more that a perfect piece.
    I really love to build furniture using what I find and try to make it work and look good at the same time.


  3. jtolpin says:

    Indeed: Why measure twice when you need not measure at all?


    • Alvin says:

      I’ve found the “cut once” part of that phrase to be wrong and in my earlier foray into woodworking, just plain misleading/ hindering. I might design to a measurement/ module/ scale, and I then cut larger and fit/trim to fit. Its more like “ Perfect one design, measure twice, cut thrice “ (and of course perfect the design even more and do it all over again, lol)


  4. Chuck Burnett says:

    perfect imperfection


  5. johncashman73 says:

    Since you mentioned The Village Carpenter, I miss Kari. I hope shes doing well.


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