My father-in-law was by trade a sawyer, and a good workman; in fact, Thomas Leaf had the reputation of being the best veneer-sawyer in that part of the country. I, being destitute of employment, and no prospect of obtaining any, except by leaving England, which I was unwilling to do, Mr. Leaf undertook to teach me the art of mahogany and veneer sawing.
From the commencement of that business I gave promise of success, and it was not the least consoling to know, that at length I had found a trade wherein I could become respectable, and at least, something more than mediocre. It was soon my father’s boast, that with his “ big lad”—for I was too boy-like to pass for a man—with his lad “he could turn more veneers out of an inch plank than any other pair of craftsmen in the town.”
Thomas was an original in his way ; he had superior qualities as a workman, and seldom forgot to talk about them. He was generally upon good terms with himself; he had an unflinching independence of action, and a deep sense of honour and integrity regulated all his dealings. In a pecuniary point of view, my new trade was not so remunerative as it had been before the invention of the circular saw.
Extract of a Letter* from the Reverend Mr.—— to —————, Member of the Society for encouraging Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce; and by him ſent to Dr. Templeman: Containing Hints towards attaining a Method of ſtaining Elm of a fine Mahogany Colour.
* This letter was read before a committee, on Sept. 12, 1763
You know very well, my dear ſir, in what manner I ſpend much of my time, I agree with you that philoſophical enquiries are very amuſing; but ſhould not we ſometimes indeavour to benefit the world by our reſearches, as well as entertain ourſelves? I have been for ſome months thinking of a novelty, at leaſt, in the arts; whether, if compaſſed, you would allow it to be an improvement, I cannot ſay.
The world of England has been, for ſome years paſt, running mad after mahogany furniture: an inferior artiſan thinks it a great misfortune, if he cannot have his two or three mahogany tables, or whatever elſe you pleaſe to call it, the wood is abſolutely, as I am very well informed, grown ſcarce in our Weſt-India iſlands, ſo that a great deal of French mahogany is yearly imported *, notwithſtanding which, the price, the dealers ſay, is of late very much riſen. What I would propoſe is that the hard cloſe-grained English elm ſhould be ſubſtituted in its place. I know it will take a good stain, but I have not yet found out a method of giving it a true mahogany colour.
* A great deal of mahogany, of a very inferior quality, has been lately imported from the Havannah: It is much ſofter and paler than the Jamaica wood, and will ſooner decay.