Free Excerpt of ‘Joiner’s Work’

For a more in-depth look of Peter Follansbee’s “Joiner’s Work,” check out the (free!) PDF excerpt we’ve posted here. It includes the table of contents, dedication, acknowledgements, introduction and the bookstand chapter.

While copy editing Peter’s book I was delighted with its rarity. It’s difficult to write a how-to, project-based book in a conversational tone well. Peter excels at this. He treats the reader as if he or she is in the same room and there’s no stuffiness, no holier-than-thou, no “my way is the right way.” He makes his recommendations, tells the reader what has worked for him – and what has not – and emphasizes that it’s fine to do it another way. This style of writing reads so easily but its casualness reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Oh, and Peter is a master of boosting one’s confidence without making you feel like a child. Its subtle, but brilliant. You’ll see. And when things do go wrong? He promises you he gets it – for almost everything he warns you about, he recognizes his own humbling experiences.

I could go on. But just check out the excerpt. This one is a joy to read.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

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12 Responses to Free Excerpt of ‘Joiner’s Work’

  1. Ken says:

    I can’t wait to get the paper version in my hands even though I’ve already read the pdf version. My only complaint is that the carved element, top center, looks like a troll doll and it kind of creeps me out.


  2. johncashman73 says:

    Peter is the best in the world at 17th century joinery. It’s not often we get to learn from someone you can say that about.

    But even more than that, he is an incredible teacher and communicator. He honed that craft for many years alongside his woodworking. In all, its an incredible package deal.


  3. Greg says:

    Anxiously awaiting the Jennie Alexander book. Any updates, please?
    Thank you.


    • Hi Greg,

      Jennie’s book is a high priority for us, but I haven’t made much progress on it during the last two months. In truth, I hit a wall with the book in one of JA’s technical sections on bound water vs. free water. We take this stuff seriously and it will take time to untangle what JA wrote and science.

      Sorry I don’t have a date for you. When we know more, we’ll post it.


  4. Devin says:

    Just curious about how a lot of folks that knew Jennie Alexander seem to refer to her as, “JA.” Did she go by, JA? I guess it makes me wonder if people are not confident to refer to her as, “Jennie.” I am acutely aware of what a large leap this assumption is! I just hope that she is remembered as who she was.
    Also, this excerpt is fantastic! Can’t wait to get my copy!


    • pfollansbee says:

      I have many hundreds of letters signed “JA” when she was John Alexander. Most commonly I called that person “JA” or “Alexander”. I was “PF” or “Follansbee” – “shitbird” was another name either one of us could be called at any given time.


      • Devin Shea says:

        Good enough for me! I’d never call you shitbird, Mr. Follansbee!


      • Madeleine says:

        It was wonderful to read your loving and poignant dedication to Jennie, and for this amusing anecdote! I am not familiar with her work, so I look forward to learning more about her.

        It is clear you had a close friendship with her, one that was able to transcend the momentousness of her transition to focus on what was actually more important: the work you both did to preserve this area of knowledge, and to bring these valuable skills to an new audience.

        Good luck on you new book! I look forward to reading it soon!


  5. Madeleine says:

    Apologies to fellow readers of this article for an off-topic matter.

    Hi Kara, I am sending this through the blog as per Lost Art policy.

    I can see how much work went into the production of Peter’s new book — I know and appreciate what it takes to bring design, typography, images, drawings, and editing together so that readers can access the content clearly and enjoyably. I know I’ll enjoy reading it when I get my copy.

    Reading Peter’s post in this thread relating to their amusing use of initials when he and Jennie communicated got me to thinking. I have a few suggestions for citing the work of a transgender person in future productions, using Jennie as an example.

    First, I recommend citing Jennie in the catalogue the following way: J. Alexander. This has big advantages: it avoids using an unchosen first name she did not identify with, and it helps others find her work published under her old name. I do not recommend using her old first name followed by her newer first name placed in parenthesis, as this gives the mis-impression that the name was not permanent or it is somehow ‘optional’ — feeding into the misunderstanding of who trans people are. In text sections, following Peter’s example, I suggest referring to her as J. A. or Jennie. I cannot presume to know if Jennie had input on this, or whether she had expressed any wishes to her long-time friend and collaborator Peter, but books live for many decades after we’re gone and it is important to help future readership have the clearest perspective.

    Second, I do not recommend the use of a photo depicting her in earlier years before her transition on the page dedicated to her memory. My immediate thought is of course it may represent a special memory for Peter, but from another perspective, I doubt that is how Jennie would have wanted to be remembered. Again, I cannot presume to know the minds of Jennie and Peter, but she sure went to a lot of trouble to change herself to be more comfortable in her shell; absent any input from her, we should respect that she made that change, and reflect that in how her image is presented on her dedication page. I did a quick search on the ‘net and found images of her in later life, though they are probably not suitable or available for print production; might there be others available?

    As a woman who had transitioned many years ago, I have to admit to being flummoxed when considering this matter. The reality is that life is complicated: sometimes the things we do in our private lives find their way into the public sphere in counterintuitive ways. By citing her as J. Alexander in the book catalogue, and in all images as Jennie or J. A. (even ones showing her and her earlier work), the users can make the connection on their own. That way, the journalistic focus continues to be on the work and not on the fact she transitioned.

    Thank you Kara for your valuable time for this consideration. If you wish to speak more about this, I am very delighted to be at your disposal.

    — Madeleine


    • Devin Shea says:

      I’m very glad you added this, Madeleine. I certainly came to a grinding halt when I saw “Jennie,” in parenthesis. This is certainly not an attack by any means on the author, I only hope that she is remembered for who she really was for her entire life. This insight you’ve offered is very concise and useful!


      • Madeleine says:

        Thank you, Devin,

        I’ve found this blog to be very, very welcoming. I have followed Chris’ writings and those of his colleagues for some time now, and when discussions emerge regarding cultural intersections in woodworking, I’ve found their consideration of many perspectives valuable. We are going through a period of great change where old assumptions no longer hold: if we can embrace Risk and open ourselves up, great things can come forth. That’s good for everybody, and for Woodworking. That these discussions crop-up is not a sign of conflict, but proof of a growing vitality and expansion of the field.



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