Monday, July 25, 2011

My take on the trinity


Lost Art Press  has really been cranking out some wonderful books.  Inspired by this review, I thought I might join in the chorus of high praise.

The Joiner and Cabinet Maker is a ridiculously fantastic book - one of the most interesting and exciting I can think of.  Its core is an anonymous 1839 fictionalized account of an apprentice's experience in a cabinetmaking shop in rural England.  What makes it so amazing is that it is the only known book of the era to actually detail not only the apprenticeship system and how it really played out, but it also takes great pains to describe in incredibly granular detail how to perform several woodworking operations - including 3 projects in their entirety.

The prose is very well-written and amusing.  I especially enjoyed the young customer's delight upon receiving his custom hod-rodded schoolbox; he can't help but to operate the lock mechanism over and over just for the satisfaction of its steady click.

This in itself is fantastic reading, but this volume also includes new additions from the publishers which tremendously enhance it.  Joel Moskowitz provides extremely thorough contextualization and historical footnoting, while Chris Schwarz details his own experiences in re-creating the projects from the book.  I really cannot praise it highly enough - anyone interested in traditional woodworking needs to consider it a must read, and I would suspect its fairly interesting just for those who are interested in history and might skim through some of the technical sections.

My only criticism would be that it lacks an index, which is oddly the case for all three of these books.  I am sure it was considered, and if it was just too much to do in order to get the books published, I am fine with the inconvenient omission.

I'm taking this book very seriously, and in fact planning to spend all of my woodworking time dedicated to mastering the projects and techniques in the books (note the name of this blog).  I will be detailing this exercise here soon enough - in the meantime I am preparing wildly.

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The Anarchist's Toolchest by Christopher Schwarz is this year's Must Read for anyone interested in woodworking, our disposable economy, and the future of manufacture in America.  It is part reference library informing the reader of which tools are essential, how to choose and restore them, and how to build an heirloom toolchest to store them in.  The book continues into ontological renovation, however, delivering heavy food for thought while tricking you into breezing through its enjoyable pages.  I can't add much to the discussion sparked by Godet Woodworking, other than to say you need to get this , read it, and live it.  It sadly lacks an index, as mentioned above.

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Robert Wearing's "Essential Woodworker" is perhaps not as suitable for the armchair crowd, but is a wonderful introduction for new woodworkers, or fine-tuning for those who believe they know it all.  Very lucid style, excellent illustrations, and rich examples make this a pleasure to refer to.  It can take several readings of a section for it to sink in, but this is due to incredible density of the subject matter being presented rather than through any fault of the author.  The tips are all heavily contextualized; there are tips on specific tool technique in the section on how to build a table rather than in a "how to use tools" portion of the book, so it warrants a complete reading from cover to cover.

There is much to love about these books and so little to criticize.  Its been a long time since I have found three books so exactly catered to my needs as an amateur woodworker, my ideology, and my tastes as a reader.  Lost Art Press is really one to watch, and all involved in these projects have my deepest gratitude and appreciation.

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