This week, we are finishing the layout of our latest book, “Honest Labour,” which is a collection of essays from The Woodworker magazine while Charles H. Hayward was editor (1939-1967). This book will be the fifth and final volume in our series from The Woodworker.
When we started on The Woodworker project more than a decade ago we didn’t intend to publish “Honest Labour.” The series was going to have four books that covered handwork: tools, techniques, joinery, the workshop and furniture plans. But as we paged through every article from The Woodworker during the 29-year period, we kept getting stuck on the “Chips From the Chisel” column at the beginning of every issue.
These columns during the Hayward years are like nothing I’ve ever read in a woodworking magazine. They are filled with poetry, historical characters and observations on nature. And yet they all speak to our work at the bench, providing us a place and a reason to exist in modern society.
For years I heard rumors that the unsigned column was written by a clerk or assistant at the magazine, but I don’t believe that for a second. After reading Hayward’s writing on woodworking most of my career, I know his prose like I know my own.
For the last few years, we’ve been working on “Honest Labour” in the background. John Hoffman secured the rights to the material, which was no small effort or expense. Kara Gebhart worked through all of the “Chips From the Chisel” columns, selecting the best ones. We decided to organize the essays year by year, and so Kara has written a short column for every chapter that lists the major news events of that year. These short essays provide important context – even woodworking writing is different in wartime.
During the last couple months, Megan Fitzpatrick and I have been laying out the book, with Megan doing most of the heavy lifting. The structure of the book is more like a book of favorite poems you can pick up while you are waiting for your family to get ready for dinner. Or when you sit down in front of the fire after a long day of work.
Every page spread in the book consists of one column only, illustrated with line drawings from the magazine that were published during the same year the column was written. The illustrations were also made by Hayward.
Here’s a small sample of one of the columns from the 1960s. Like a lot of good writing, it’s difficult to divorce a piece from the whole without diminishing it.
How easy for anyone having sufficient professional skill to get away with a semblance of truth. There are some craftsmen who simply take it for granted. The lack of precision in marking up, the careless cut, the small faults which declare themselves when a piece is assembled. Such a craftsman knows all the answers. “Oh I can soon put that right,” he says easily. And he can, filing, adjusting, smoothing, gluing here, screwing there, using as much casual skill in faking as in making. The furniture he produces may deceive the untrained eye but by any true standard it falls short. Without perhaps even being aware of it, the casual craftsman lets himself down more than anyone: the real damage is to himself.
It is all too easy, demanding no particular effort, no particular sense of responsibility, either to himself or to anyone else. But anyone who wishes to lift himself out of the rut, as a person as well as a craftsman, needs to feel responsibility and to be committed to a standard. Only in this way can he keep the sense of effort alive, and to cease from effort is to die before our time.
“Honest Labour” is going to be a sizable book – 488 pages – the largest book in The Woodworker series, and will have the same manufacturing specs as the other books in the series so they look good on your shelf. We hope to deliver it to the printer by the end of the month for a release in April or May 2020.
We know this is an odd woodworking book and that a lot of people will be skeptical, so we are doing everything we can to keep the price as reasonable as possible. And we are prepared for it to be a commercial flop. That’s OK, as we consider it an honest labor of love.
— Christopher Schwarz
32 thoughts on “Coming Soon: ‘Honest Labour’”
*grumbles while adjusting shelf dimensions*
I would not have planned to buy this book, but after reading about the way you, Kara, and Megan have presented the material, I can’t imagine not adding it to our library. I’m really eager to see it.
Count me among those anxious to read this collection!
This is the book I’ve been waiting for…philosophy of craft is too short of a shelf in this world and this book will be a welcome addition. I’ll be buying multiple copies. Thank you
“These columns during the Hayward years are like nothing I’ve ever read in a woodworking magazine. They are filled with poetry, historical characters and observations on nature. And yet they all speak to our work at the bench, providing us a place and a reason to exist in modern society.”
Kind of sounds like Seller’s blog to me. I wonder if most woodworkers as they age feel a stronger connection to mature and trees etc. I need stuff like this to get my mind off of real life goings on in the world.
Except this is copy edited and nowhere near as disjointed as some other essays.
When will you be taking advanced sale on this one?
LAP, Good Morning.. Will there be a preorder? And will it have a bookmark ribbon?
We won’t have a ribbon for a couple reasons. We want to keep the cost reasonable because this is will be a very difficult book to sell. And we want it to match the other editions. We should be taking pre-publication orders by the end of the month.
Great news! Another swell book on the way.
Thank you, Chris, and everyone who helped with the book.
I’ll order as soon as you start taking orders.
not skeptical, ecstatic! Thanks so much LAP gang.
I’ll probably buy the book, because I’m upset by that quote (upset as in, intrigued to move out of my comfort zone, not angry). I think actually one of the greatest values of a craftsman is the ability to correct and manage mistakes. The quote seems to imply that misplaced cuts and errors aren’t acceptable. I find they are reality, whether we like it or not. A craftsman who can recover from an error is laudable. So, I’d like to read more of what he writes to better understand where he’s coming from.
The implication is that if you applied more skill to begin with, you wouldn’t have to use “casual skill in faking”. Not that mistakes never happen. 🙂 His conceptual and procedural writing is on another level. Reading Hayward has taught me to start writing about what I was thinking before writing the first thing I did in a project.
This is a very pleasant surprise! I had no idea there was going to be another Woodworker volume. Look forward to this, very much. And I think the historical context bits are a great idea.
Will this be like the others, with no pdf available?
We are unable to get the electronic rights for Hayward’s work. Wish we could. I also wish….
No matter, I’ll still be at the front of the line.
I was surprised to see you mention above that this will be a difficult book to sell. I would have guessed that these babies sell themselves.
All the Hayward volumes have been slow sellers. It doesn’t matter to me, because I have mine. And that’s why we did it.
That’s a bit of a shock. I think they are amazing resources. I’d accumulated several of the Woodworker annuals, but it would have cost me a considerable fortune to collect a significant number of Hayward’s writings. To have you minions put it all in one place is fantastic.
Hayward. Brown. Who’s next?
I am an essay lover, especially a long series written over years. It is like reading the history of a culture.
I too, am upset after reading the quote, in as much as I saw myself in that position of error. Too often, I find myself rushing through a process to get to final result, only to be disappointed in the efforts of my haste. I think I need this book. Sign me up. Bob Glenn
I’m very excited to read this.
This last Hayward book “Honest Labour” sounds absolutely wonderful. I have immensely enjoyed the first 4 Hayward books and I look forward to reading this one. Thanks for making this material available.
If you add a thorough, categorized index that includes all five books I promise I will buy it.
Like my ’75 edition of “Joy of Cooking”. It takes 15 seconds to find anything. That’s a good index.
If you create an index, I promise I will publish it.
Hi I have your wonderful series of books by Hayward (gift from my lovely wife). I was wondering if this new book will include pieces/columns that are already published in my other Hayward books.Or does this new book have all new writings not seen in the other books? Thanks. Paul
As far as I know, there is no overlap between this edition and any other. But I haven’t dug into it word by word. In the 1970s, they published a book called “Chips from the Chisel,” but it had virtually none of his columns.
Is that British chips, as in french fries to us? Or is it cookies? I always get confused what they call crisps or chips, or biscuits
Like so many others that you’ve published, this will be an important addition to my library, I often spend time with this sort of volume for perspective and to responsibly learn from those that came before me. As a professional, it’s too easy to get lost in the standards possible by the precision machinery I use in my daily work. I’ve no interest in competing with CNC work and, indeed and do better by customers who appreciate hand-made and explanation of design and construction. Yogi Berra said it best “if the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be”.
Cool! I love the series, this will be a welcome addition to it. Thanks.
This is a book I have been looking forward to. One for a dark night with rain battering outside at the window and me sitting indoors with a glass of something decent and Mr Hayword’s musings.
488 pages? Holy crow, you folks don’t do anything by half measures, do you? Looking forward to this.
Comments are closed.