Until the harcover book ships, all customers who purchase the book get free pdf download of the entire book at checkout. The pdf is hi-resolution and searchable – handy for taking along on a trip or for searching.
Also, like all Lost Art Press digital products, it is offered without DRM (digital rights management), so you can easily integrate it into your personal library without passwords or having to be connected to the internet when you read it.
As of now, the hardcover book and pdf cost $43. When the book ships, the price for the book plus the pdf will be $53.75.
For those who might be unsure if this book is their cup of tea/La Croix/bourbon, here’s a high-resolution excerpt of various sections of the book. It’s short, but will give you a taste of what this book is about: how-to, design, the business of woodworking, inspiration and measured drawings. Click the link below, and the download will begin:
“Shaker Inspiration,” Christian’s Becksvoort’s new book, is a bit different than most Lost Art Press titles; it’s part inspiration (both for the reader, and a look at the Shaker furniture tradition that has inspired much of Becksvoort’s furniture), part woodworking and design how-to (including some of the high-end touches he incorporates into his work), and part business advice, from a woodworker who has made a living at the bench for many decades (though one of the keys to his success is the time he spends away from the bench, at his drawing board and talking with clients). Also included are measured drawings for 20 projects: 13 are signature Becksvoort pieces (including the 15-drawer chest pictured above); the other seven are reproductions (and near-reproductions) of Shaker pieces he’s made time and again.
Below is a taste of what you’ll find inside.
Opinionated? You bet. Nobody goes through life without forming strong likes, dislikes and opinions.
Informative? Positive. Again, working at a craft for five decades or more, one acquires, skills, knowledge and techniques that want to be shared.
Interesting and inspirational? I hope so. Let me state right here and now, however, that this is not intended to be the definitive last word. Nor is it intended to be a path to woodworking nirvana, nor a silver bullet for your business – and I’m not trying to foist my inspirations off on you. I am not a marketing specialist, lawyer, financial advisor or PR guru. What follows is just an overview of what has worked for me – a sharing of my experiences, failures and successes. Feel free to follow your own path. If any of my suggestions motivate or spark your own creativity, all the better.
Rigid? Not. I try to find a balance in my shop, and to suggest other options. I am not an “unplugged” or “silent” woodworker. I can’t make a living without machines. Nor am I a power-tool fanatic. I think that items spit out by CNC machines are useful for mass production, but have nothing to do with craftsmanship. I use hand tools where it shows, and machines where it doesn’t. You make your own choices.
Remember what’s important to you, your family, your friends, your standards, your idea of “craftsmanship.” Remember to volunteer, to give back and to help others.
Craftsmanship is a tough concept to get your head around. Even the dictionary gives it short shrift. “Skill in a particular craft.” Pretty lame. This is a bit better: “The quality of design and work shown in something made by hand; artistry.” Much closer. I guess it’s one of those abstract impressions that’s hard to define, but you know when you see it. It has to do with skill, accuracy, artistry, expertise, technique, workmanship and sometimes even design. That’s thanks to a hunt through the thesaurus. What all those words have in common is a connection to the human hand and heart. That, I think, reiterates the notion of practice stated in Chapter 2: Do anything long enough and you become good at it. You develop and become proficient at craftsmanship.
I think that brings up the very important notion of standards. What are your standards when building a desk, cutting dovetails or finishing? Chances are that your standards are not mine. We all strive for a different benchmark.
A Few Leftovers
Lastly, here are few miscellaneous techniques and jigs that don’t warrant a whole section of their own, so they’re just lumped together here. First, you’ve probably been told that there is no such thing as a board stretcher. Well I beg to differ. Suppose you have only a 1′ x 3′ (30.5cm x 91cm) piece of pine left. What you really need is a piece 4′ (1.22m) long, and maybe 7″ (18cm) wide. Here’s the deal: Cut the board diagonally, plane the cut edge, and slide the two halves past each other until your reach the desired length, then glue up. Not too shabby, is it?
Now suppose you have that same, single board, but you want it 16″ (40.6cm) wide, but only 22″ (56cm) long. Same deal. Again, cut the board diagonally, plane, slide the two halves in the other direction, and glue them together. True, in both cases you do lose some footage (meterage?). Hey, nothing in life is free, it’s all a matter of making the best of a less-than-desirable situation.
In the office corner of my shop I keep all my paper records. The computer lives in the house. It doesn’t do well with dust. Dust is not an issue with a tablet or phone. Ever try to write an article or a book on a touch-screen tablet? No chance. All my important papers are in a file cabinet in the “office.” The bottom drawer has various leftover goodies, the next drawer has woodworking and supply catalogs, the third drawer has files for safety sheets, tool service manuals, shop drawings, ideas, non-customer correspondence and a variety of miscellaneous files. The top drawer has my customer files. The phone sits on top of the file cabinet.
For each customer, I have manila file with their last name on the tab in alphabetical order. Inside is their address and phone number, email address, correspondence copies of any drawings or sketches I have sent, and a list of what they’ve ordered in the past. When a customer calls with a question, issue or a request, I can pull their file and make a note, or check a drawing if there is a problem. Because I work alone, if there is an issue, I know exactly what the issue is. Most commonly, it’s usually a new customer with a new piece, and the first time they cleaned the cabinet top and moved the lamp, they discovered a light spot under the lamp. Or it’s maybe someone who wants a replica of a piece I built a few years ago, for child number two. All the information I have is immediately at hand. I can’t stress organization enough, in all aspects of the business.
Shown here are a few pieces that typify classic Shaker design. Many consider Shaker furniture to be “simple.” That’s far from the reality. It’s unadorned, for sure, but often more complex than the pieces appear. The designs, aesthetics, joinery and meticulous craftsmanship are truly created as an “act of worship.” True, not all Shaker pieces were perfect. The range of workmanship is evident in nailed-together drawers made for shop use, while those for offices and dwelling houses were fastidiously dovetailed. Likewise, not all Shaker woodworkers had the same degree of talent or experience. But as a general rule of thumb, antiques are old because they were built well. …
The pieces shown here are a mix of early, mostly classic and some Victorian. Many have been shown in other publications, and are fairly representative of the Shaker style. A few are making a first time appearance here.
My association with the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake started in the mid ’70s. My interest, area of expertise and my vocation is furniture – specifically, Shaker furniture. Yet, by concentrating on this one small facet of the Shakers’ contribution to society, I am in some respects, short-changing them. When Mother Ann Lee and her followers landed in New York in 1774, furniture was the farthest thing from their minds.
The Shakers, whose official name is the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, are first and foremost a Christian, celibate and communal religious sect. Their arts, crafts and inventions are purely secondary to their theology, the life of Christ, which also stresses pacifism, equality of the sexes and races. In the larger context, that is a more important legacy than their material creations. However, it is my hope that through their furniture, it may ignite in some readers a further interest in this small but highly influential social and religious group of progressives.
These 16 pieces represent just a fraction of the furniture that the Shakers produced. Should you get the chance, take a look at the genuine article. Visit the Shaker museums at Harvard or Hancock, Mass., Watervliet and Mt. Lebanon, N.Y., Canterbury and Enfield, N.H., Pleasant Hill and South Union, Ky., Shaker Heights, Ohio, or Alfred and New Gloucester, Maine. Seeing the objects, the history, the colors and the workmanship up close and personal is an amazing experience. It has sustained me for decades, and hopefully will leave a lasting impression on you as well.
“Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship,” by Christian Becksvoort, is now available for pre-publication ordering. The book is $43 and will ship in November 2018. All customers who order the book before it ships will receive a free pdf download of the book at checkout.
I know it looks as if we’re running a woodworking school, but when classes aren’t going on (which truly is the majority of the time), the Lost Art Press storefront is Christopher Schwarz’s working woodshop and publishing office where he develops furniture ideas for new books, and works on editorial and design for upcoming titles. (And he generously allows Brendan Gaffney and me to hang out there and produce shavings, too.)
But the classes are a lot of fun…so we’ve added a few more for 2019, including several from Chris, who’s easing back into teaching after a couple of years of taking it easy (on that front, anyway), along with some guest instructors (including Roy Underhill, and the return of Chris Williams from Wales!). Plus, we’ve added a handful of one-day, three-day and week-long classes. Almost all the classes have room for no more than six students, so you get a lot of personal attention from the instructor (whether or not you want it!) and his or her assistant (which is often Chris, Brendan or me). Plus, you can try out our tools (well, I volunteer mine, anyway) and seven different bench forms, and relax (as time allows) in the Mechanical Library or in the biergarten. And there is usually a group dinner and visit to a local watering hole. In short, it’s a great time.
This Friday (Oct. 12) at 10 a.m. Eastern, registration goes live for the January through June 2019 classes listed below (we’ll announce July-December classes in early 2019). Click through to each to read the full descriptions. If you’re interested – and I hope you are – I recommend being poised at your keyboard at 9:59 a.m. Eastern; these tend to sell out quickly. But do sign up for the waitlist if you don’t get in right away; life happens and things change. And if you can’t make it for a class, the storefront (837 Willard Street, Covington, Ky., 41011) is open on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. for all your Lost Art Press book needs, woodworking questions, tool instruction and more.
I had the great privilege of working on David Savage’s new book, “The Intelligent Hand” – yet I confess it flummoxed me on my first several editing passes. After years of writing and editing straightforward, linear woodworking how-to articles, I couldn’t from a dispassionate technical viewpoint wrap my mind around what I eventually came to know as a weird and wonderful book. To realize that, I had to turn off at least in part my left brain and approach the book mostly with my right brain (the side that hears music real and metaphoric, and absorbs art emotionally rather than analyzes it). Doing just that is a lesson David imparts throughout. It took me a while.
So I got through the technical sentence structure/grammar/English spellings stuff, then read it again with my literary, not technical brain. And there it was: A book that forces you to consider your own motivations/reactions/work as it reveals in a sometimes-coquettish style the thought and design processes of its author. Like David’s furniture work, it is altogether unexpected, yet altogether delightful and inspiring.
I don’t think I’m yet among his 863 (see below); I’m still too scared by my lack of a corporate safety net (with its attendant health insurance and regular paycheck). But I’m getting closer; books like David’s help.
I need to take you back in time to the beginning of the 20th century. I need to do this in order to explain what I think has happened to us, and why.
As Henry Ford set up his first production line in America in 1913, the Arts & Crafts Movement was being established in the sunny fields of England. Ford developed an existing (brilliant) idea to “bring the work to the worker.” In truth, it was more complex and more revolutionary than that. What Ford was did was to create a system of activities.
Until then, vehicle manufacture occurred in small workshops and factories with relatively skilled engineers doing varied and various work – the stuff we celebrate. What Ford did was analyse that work and break it down into a series of steps. Each step could then be carried out by a relatively unskilled person. The steps were put in sequence, and the partially complete vehicle was brought to the worker.
This is one of the most famous examples of what was to become a major management process in 20th-century industry, not only in the factory but also the office. The “Knowledge Engineer” systematised skills and created processes that became the management’s property. All that was left after their passing was the script and the process.
To fill 100 jobs on his new production line, Ford was forced to hire 963 skilled workmen and women (863 did not stay on). And he had to double his wages to achieve his goals. Rather than hissing and spitting, Ford described this as one of his best business decisions. The extra cost for wages was recouped straight away by increasing the speed of the production line, instantly doubling, and later trebling, production. This was new. Before this, paying extra for piecework didn’t increase production and may in fact have decreased it. Ford had workers working at a speed he could choose. This could not have been achieved just by paying people more money.
The 863 who could not stomach Ford’s new factory are, for me, the interesting ones. Where did they go? History consigned them to the rubbish dump of the past. Like buggy whip makers in the age of the automobile, they were no longer needed. But my hat is removed in honour to their instincts. I would have been amongst them. For they knew that their skills and knowledge were part of a balanced and well-lived life.
This was called “scientific management” and was outlined in the monograph “Principles of Scientific Management” (1911) by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor writes:
“The managers assume the burden of gathering together all the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by workmen and then of classifying, tabulating and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws and formulae…. All possible brain work should be removed from the shop and centred in the planning and layout department.”
In this way, Taylor, whose work was hugely influential in the early 20th century, was able to encourage the concentration of scattered craft knowledge into the hands of “the process managers.” The “time and motion analysis” was born. The objective was to create a process that, once designed, needed no further thought or tinkering. In that situation, skilled workers could be replaced at machines by unskilled ones. Labour and cost were thus reduced as production increased. Skill once observed and analysed was no longer needed.
Soon after this, the age of consumer spending was upon us. Thrift and avoidance of debt – a mark of prudence and good management – was to become a thing of the past. Consumption engineers such as Claude Hopkins, one of the early leaders of marketing, sought to bring consumption under the hand of scientific management. Now we could earn money building cars, and maybe, if we paid over 10 years on the “Never Never” (aka an installment plan), we could drive one as well! Aren’t we smart all of a sudden! All we needed to do was to give up the personal skill we earned over 10,000 hours. Plus, the personal pride in the achievement of making, of doing something complex and difficult and doing it well. For there was no real skill required on Ford’s line – just hard manual work, day after day, after day, after day. The 863 who could not take up Ford’s offer could not do that. All hail the daft old 863!
Who can deny the enormous prosperity and economic comfort that this scientific management has brought us? We work, we earn money, we have holidays and we pay taxes. Then we get a pension and die. And don’t think that being a smarty in an office will save you. The same “expert systems” are coming your way. In the book “The Electronic Sweatshop: How Computers are Transforming the Office of the Future in the Factory of the Past” (1989, Penguin), Barbara Garson writes:
“The modern knowledge engineer performs similar detailed studies, only he anatomizes decision making rather than bricklaying. So, time and motion study has become a time and thought study…. To build expert systems, a living expert is debriefed and then cloned by a knowledge engineer. That is to say, an expert is interviewed, typically for weeks or months. The knowledge engineer watches the expert work on sample problems and asks exactly what factors the expert considers is making his apparently intuitive decisions.
“Eventually, hundreds or thousands of rules of thumb are fed into the computer. The result is a program that can ‘make decisions’ or ‘draw conclusions’ heuristically instead of merely calculating with equations. Like a real expert, an expert system, should be able to draw inferences from ‘iffy’ or incomplete data that seems to suggest or tends to rule out. In other words it uses (or replaces) judgment.”
My wife, Carol, worked recently in an office in Bideford. She spent her day on the telephone reading prepared scripts to prospective clients, who were owners of holiday cottages. Carol has a degree in economics; she has worked on the trading floors of some of the world’s most famous investment banks. Carol could sell ice to Eskimos. But their scripts were what the company wanted spoken; Carol was only a mouthpiece. Her ideas of what they were doing wrong and how it could be improved were of no interest to the company. She was cheap local female labour that came and went while the system controlled by the company remained intact. Its image as a small family company remained unchallenged, but the truth is very different.
I do not suggest that this is bad. I cannot ague that this systemisation, this splitting of thinking and doing, has not resulted in huge economic benefit. We are all vastly more wealthy and more secure than previous generations. This is good; nobody can argue with that. But there is a type of person – and I see them coming to Rowden year after year – who does not quite fit this pattern. Someone who wants a bit more from life than a job, money, holidays and a pension. She wants something else; she wants to use her head and have responsibility for what she makes. She wants to make a thing about which she can say, “That’s mine; I made that.” And she wants to sell it for money, decent money.