During the last two weeks I have been deep into designing Chris Williams’s book on John Brown. It’s great to see all these years of work from people all over the world come together on the page.
In addition to Chris’s detailed account of his life with John Brown and all the important details on chair construction, the book features essays from other important voices in John Brown’s chairmaking life. Anne Sears, JB’s wife while at Pantry Fields; David Sears, a nephew who built chairs with JB at Pantry Fields; Matty Sears, one of JB’s sons who made chairmaking tools for his dad; and Nick Gibbs, the editor who hired John Brown to write a column for Good Woodworking. We’re also using many linocut illustrations made by Molly Brown, one of JB’s daughters.
On top of all that, we have purchased the rights to publish 20 of John Brown’s best magazine columns. I’ve just finished laying out that chapter, and it’s 72 pages long – almost a novella. As a result, I’ve pulled a few choice quotes that I’ll publish here this week in an attempt to give you a taste of JB’s writing.
This leads me on to gripe about some of the woodworkers I come across. I hope you will forgive my opinion. When I talk to readers or get letters it often seems to be about the petty cash of woodwork (technical points about dovetails or getting joints to fit), but rarely about shape, proportion or colour. I don’t think joints are that important. I would prefer to see woodworkers look at the total picture, is the piece they have just made beautiful, will it hold together, will it do the job it was made for?
Woodworkers don’t buy my chairs, but they spend ages looking at the details of construction and then frown disapprovingly. They want engineering perfection. People who buy my chairs do so for two main reasons. Firstly and by far the most important point, they buy because they like the look of them. Secondly they buy them because they like sitting in them. They rarely inspect the joints. They think they look good, they think they will do the job they are made to do and even though the parts don’t fit particularly well, they are strong enough!
The book should be off to the printer in January and released by March. I’ll have more details as they become available.
— Christopher Schwarz
16 thoughts on “John Brown Week: Day 1”
Well done Chris S and Chris W. Ready sooner than expected.
We are pushing forward at a good clip. I have designed about 100 pages so far these last three weeks.
Very exciting! We knew about the book, but the 20 magazine columns are a very exciting addition.
Off the top of your head, do you know how many columns he wrote for Good Woodworking?
I cannot say exactly. I can report that I have 103 of his columns in my personal file that I’ve collected since the 1990s. I’m sure other people track it more closely.
Not every column is a winner…. just like every blog entry of mine isn’t a home run.
Oh, don’t think like that. That’s what internet forums are for.
Let’s hear it for the sacrifice fly!
Good quote. I appreciate his perspective on the craft, and human behaviour in general. He sounds like a very interesting and humble man.
This is so great. I cannot wait to get the book. This is going to be a fun week.
I’ve been wondering something since you announced this book a while ago: Will the construction section be Chris’ methods and design details incorporating what he has learned and changed over the years (i.e. what he currently teaches) of will he be true to how John built them? I’m hoping the former as the latter seems redundant given the republishing of JBs book.
Chris covers both the early chairs and later chairs. The chair in the book is built the way Chris and JB worked up until JB’s retirement.
Da iawn Chris!
Looking forward to read the book over here in west Wales 🏴
This is going to be a beautiful thing.
“petty cash of woodwork”… that’s great. Woodworking’s version of the “narcissism of small differences.”
Very much looking forward to this book, maybe especially the columns. Brown’s commentary in “Welsh Stick Chairs” was very insightful.
I love it! I’m buying this book.
please explain the chair on the right in the photo. From this angle it looks just like it has only three legs: two on one side, one on the other. That’s so odd I simply don’t think it’s true, but hard as squint, I can see nothing else. Please correct me!
There is a fourth leg (and a stretcher) hiding directly behind that front left leg. It’s funny how the brain works!
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