Monday, June 20, 2011

Update and Book Review: The Joiner and Cabinetmaker

Sorry for not updating in a while. Been busy with work and house projects so I've been a little lax about posting recently. I do have the Workbench Part II post in the works as well as a post about the rabbet plane I made recently. In the mean time I hope you'll enjoy this review of the Joiner and Cabinetmaker available from Lost Art Press.

The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker
By Anon, Christopher Schwarz & Joel Moskowitz; Published by Lost Art Press LLC

Well after reading about it and looking at it for a while on the Tools for Working Wood website I finally broke down and purchased a copy of "The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker" with its companion cd "The Joiner and Etc." The one I purchased is the standard edition in the red cloth covered hardback binding.

Initial impression
When the book arrived I have to say I was highly impressed with the overall quality of the edition. After reading mostly pulp paperbacks and tech books for my day job I was so glad to receive a book printed on such great paper and the over all quality of the printed text is excellent. The chosen type face is easy to read and the binding and covering of the book makes me feel like it should easily last as long as the original editions of the book that inspired the production of this edition.

Part 1: History
In the Introduction section Joel Moskowitz explains how he came upon this book and it's significance to the modern hand tool woodworker as a rare "How To" type book meant for beginners or literate children considering Joinery as a trade at this time. In the section "England in 1839" Joel lays out the context for the book by helping the reader to understand the general state of work and craft at this time in England as well as changes that were taking place due to the ongoing Industrial Revolution.

I found this historical introduction quite helpful and in fact interesting as it takes an unbiased look at trade, work, and employment practices at this time which are quite different from what we expect today. This context was appreciated as I continued on with the rest of the book.

Part 2: Original Text
This section contains the original 1839 text of "The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker" along with annotations by Joel. It also contains an 1883 Supplement to the original text.

The original text describes the apprenticeship of Thomas in a local Joiners shop in rural England. The story is told in a narrative format and covers three projects that Thomas completes at different phases of his apprenticeship, a packing box, a School Box, and a Chest of Drawers. This section is annotated by Joel with what I thought were quite relevant notes explaining social differences from our day, wood working techniques, or aspects of the apprenticeship process among other things.

I found these notes to be quite good and at least as interesting as the original text itself, especially the items on hand tool techniques. These techniques are certainly those used at a time when there were no power tools to fall back on and efficiency with hand tools was a necessity. These certainly describe some of the most efficient ways to work with hand tools.

I have to admit to skipping most of the 1883 Supplement as it mostly describes "Innovations in tools" since the original publication and I didn't find it that interesting. I was in a bit of a hurry to move on to the next section.

Part 3: Construction
This part consists of 5 sections in which Christopher Schwarz goes on to build the projects constructed by Thomas as he moves along in his apprenticeship.

The Introduction and the second section "On the Trade" lay a foundation for the construction of the projects and cover some of the items that are in common to all of the projects and which may seem foreign to us modern woodworkers, like using nails for instance.

In each of the the project sections Christopher saves us some time by providing a bill of materials for each project. Also going through each project in detail he outlines techniques as he encounters them in the projects, explains where and why he may vary from the techniques demonstrated in the original text, and assists the modern woodworker in successfully constructing these projects.

I feel that this is the part that really makes the purchase of this book worthwhile. I learned a lot about hand tool practice that I'm putting into use in my own shop as I start using hand tools more and more. Especially useful I felt were the sections describing the efficient preparation of lumber with hand planes as a lot of modern hand plane use puts an emphasis on fine shavings from all sizes of planes. Also just the basics of getting parallel and square edges and faces was helpful and well explained.

Part 4: Further Reading
This final Part contains the Epilogue, Bibliography, Appendix, and a section entitled "Contextualizing the Joiner and the Cabinet Maker." The "Contextualizing..." section was interesting as it spent some time describing the book binding industry at the time of the first release and some thoughts on the audience for which the original books were intended.

In Conclusion
If you are a woodworking interested in hand tool practice but don't know where to start I'd take a look a this book. After reading this my hand tool skill, efficiency and satisfaction have increased using the techniques described inside. Even if you are merely interested in the history of the trade of Joinery you will find this a fascinating read. I recommend it highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment