Don’t get me wrong. You do need skills to work with machines. But you end up with engineering skills: precision engineering in wood. I have spoken to woodworkers about this and have been heartened by their defensive attitude. “I have a few machines,” means they have a lot. “But I seldom use them,” means they use them all the time.
— John Brown, Issue 30 of Good Woodworking magazine
16 thoughts on “John Brown Week: Day 4”
This is the voice of a man unencumbered by social media. His thoughts are not influenced by followers. Ideas flow organically from time at the bench not in front of a screen.
Boy, I miss those days.
These little vignettes are barely wetting my whistle. This book will be ordered as soon as it is available!
Absolutely love this series, definitely makes the book even more exciting.
Though I have to admit that while this particular JB quote doesn’t at all imply that machine usage is inherently bad, or that he doesn’t use machines, it is worth a chuckle that in the photo he’s got a… bandsaw? drill press? in the background. 🙂
Bandsaw. He was a big proponent of the bandsaw.
JB had a bandsaw outside of his workshop, that ran on a belt hooked up to his tractor. At a later point in life, when he got a shop with electricity, he got an electric bandsaw.
I have a few machines, and I seldom use them due to time constraints. I wish this was a fish story. Sigh. :/
I liked “The revival of the Shaker style is due to the simple beauty of the designs, and not the noted celibacy of the Shakers.”
You should do a Welsh stick bench/loveseat.
He did that already. It is in the expanded ADB under “wonky designs gone wrong” or whatever the chapter was called.
I also would like to tease people: Brown mentions a lot of fascinating books in his articles, most of which I had never heard of before. It seems he was an avid reader, which makes me like him even more.
Some of those books are hard to come by. If anyone finds an affordable copy of Norman Potter’s “Models and Constructs: Margin Notes to a Design Culture,” grab it. I’ve been looking forever, and I can’t even find a library with one to lend.
Norman Potter sounds like a character –
Influenced by George Woodcock, an associate of Freedom Press over in Whitechapel, banged up in Wormwood Scrubs…which is adjacent to the hospital where my daughter was born, hopefully the prisoners still sing obscene songs when you’re walking on by.
He seems a fascinating individual. I was not at all surprised to find that the obituary you linked had termed him an Anarchist!
Agreed. I’ve actually searched them all up on Amazon (those I could find) and stored them in a wish list there. Now I just have to sell my car to afford them. It became a long list.
I feel like J. Brown’s point is not whether to use machines or not, but rather “Don’t be a poser.”
Still this post reminds me of this quote:
“There are two kinds of fools. One says, “This is old, and therefore good.” And one says, ” This is new, and therefore better.” ― John Brunner, The Shockwave Rider
No, he really hated power tools for woodwork. Hated them. Rumor has it he got into bar fights with anyone who used a lathe.
I like the contour of the chair seat, interesting use of a swivel vise.
He was a big fan of using his machinist’s vise and used it to hold all of his chair parts while working on them. In lack of a high vise, I’ve also started using a machinist vise (and a swivel one) mounted a bit high up, when shaving sticks, carving the seat and so on. It’s really neat!
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