Full Chisel Blog

May 3, 2013

The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide – J. Stokes 1829

stokes1829

Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has done it again and reproduced a fine tome from the nineteenth century.  The book has many full color plates, hand colored engravings and Mr. Roberts has reproduced the entire book in color, so the pages appear as they would in an original edition.

Mr. Stokes has done an excellent job at assembling material from his peers and predecessors, which I won’t call plagiarism as it was common practice.  Some of the engravings have the long f for the s, indicating an earlier time.

The book is however full of very useful information about lay out, perspective, drawing, design and construction of furniture, with an emphasis on finishing, which I found fascinating.  This is a great hardbound edition of an historical work that is a pleasure to hold in ones hand and read about the past and the ways of old.  Add this one to your bibliotheque.

Stephen

March 25, 2013

The CIRCLE Of The MECHANICAL ARTS, Thomas Martin 1813

Well it looks like Gary Roberts has done it again, bringing back for our enjoyment another traditional title from the nineteenth century.  Toolemera is offering this large volume of Thomas Martins opus on the trades.  You can order it here at a discount.

martin1813

Weighing in at over 4 pounds it has many plates reproduced in color of the period.  I have just started to read this tome and it is fascinating.  The stuff on hardening and tempering is excellent as is the information on paint and turning is worth the price of the book.  I strongly recommend you add this to your bibliotech.

Stephen

January 11, 2013

Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker – First Review

bookcover2

This is the first book review of my first book that was originally published in hardbound in 1981.  This review appeared in Smithsonian Magazine April 1982.

smithsonian1

smithsonian2

 

 

I found this while doing research at the University of Nevada, Reno at their excellent library.

Now I need to find the reviews in Workbench Magazine, Soldier of Fortune Magazine and Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly.

Available at Tools for Working Wood

and The Full Chisel Store or from Amazon.  Amazon also has original hardbound editions for sale.

Stephen

July 26, 2012

Price of Goods in Boston, March 6, 1856 part 2

 

From the Boston Press and Post

 

 

DUCK, per piece

Alexandrotsky             none

Billibins                      — @ –

Chepotchkins               — @ –

D. Bruisgins                — @ –

Gontsharoff                 none

I Bruisgins                   none

Kinoploff                     none

Massaloff                    none

Plotnikoff                    12 50 @ 13 50

Serikoff                       none

Ravens, Imp.               none

Do, light                      7 62 @ 7 75

Do, heavy                    9 62 @ 9 75

 

DYE STUFFS, per pound

Cochineal                    1 06 @ 1 15

Indigo, Bengl best       1 20 @ 1 40

Do, do, mid                 1 00 @ 1 18

Do, do, Inferior           — 50 @ — 95

Do, Guatemala          – 80 @ 1 20

Do, Manila, prime       — 60 @ 1 00

Logwood, Campeachy, per ton  — @ –

Do, St. Domingo          20 00 @ 21 00

Fustic, Cuba                35 00 @ 40 00

Do, Maracaibo                        — @ –

Do, Savanilla              21 00 @ 24 00

Do, Tampico               — @ –

Brazilletto                   23 00 @ 25 00

Camwood                    — @ –

Hache Wood               37 50 @ 43 00

Nicaragua, Coromandel — @ –

Do, Lima                     62 00 @ 72 00

Sapan Wood                55 00 @ 62 00

Indian Coast do           28 00 @ 32 00

 

GLUE, per pound

American                     — 10 @ — 18

Chinese                       — 18 @ — 17

Russia                         — 14 @ — 18

 

GRINDSTONES, per ton

Finished                      20 00 @ 30 00

Rough                          — @ –

 

GUNNY BAGS, each

No. 1                           — @ –

No. 2                           — @ –

No. 3                           — 14 @ — 14 ½

 

GUNNY CLOTH, per yard – 12 ½ @ — 13

 

HIDES, per pound

Buenos Ayres, dry salted        — 25 ½ @ — 26

Do, wet do                              — 13 ¼ @ — 13 ½

Chili                                        — @ –

Maranham                               — @ –

Maracaibo                               — @ –

Montevideo                             — 25 ½ @ — 26

Pernambuco, dry salted           — @ –

Porto Cabello                          — 19 @ — 19 ½

Rio Grande                              — 25 @ — 25 ½

Truxillo                                   — 19 @ — 19 ½

California                                — @ –

West India                               — @ –

African                                    — 15 @ — 24

New Orleans                           — 15 @ — 15 ½

Deerskins                                — 18 @ — 47 ½

Calcutta, buffalo                      — 13 ½ @ — 14

Do, cow, dry, salted each        — 90 @ 1 00

Do, do, wet, do                       1 12 @ 1 22

Buenos Ayres, horse               1 37 @ 1 62

Goatskins, Cape Good Hope, per pound

24 ½ @ — 25 ½

Do, c. de Verds                       — @ –

Do, Calcutta                            — @ –

Do, Curacoa                            — 45 @ — 50

Do, Patna                                 — 19 @ — 21

Do, Madras                             — 25 @ — 28

 

HONEY, per gallon

Cuba                                        — 72 @ — 80

 

IVORY, per pound

Prime                                       1 50 @ 1 75

Scrivellas                                1 00 @ 1 30

 

LEATHER, per pound

Boston, slaughter                     — 20 @ — 25

Eastern, dry hide                     — @ –

Do, Slaughter                          — @ –

New York, light                      — 23 @ — 24 ½

Do, middling                           — 23 ½ @ — 25 ½

Do, heavy                                — 20 ½ @ — 23

Philadelphia City                    — 25 @ — 31

Do, Country                             — 25 @ — 28

Baltimore City                         — 28 @ — 31

Do, dry hide                            — 25 @ — 27

Calfskins curried                     — 70 @ — 80

Do, In rough                            — 57 @ — 60

Neats, thick waxed, per foot    — 15 @ — 18

Do, light, do                            — 11 @ — 18

Do, heavy, do                          — @ –

Kip                                          — @ –

Black grain                              — @ –

 

NAILS, per pound, 6 mos.

Cut, assorted                           — 4 @ — 4 ½

Do, 3d                                     — @ –

Do, 4th [sic]                               — @ –

 

NAVAL STORES, per bbl

Rosin, extra                             3 75 @ 4 50

Do, No. 1                                2 50 @ 3 50

Do, No. 2                                2 00 @ 2 12

Do, Common, 6 mos.               1 85 @ 1 90

Pitch                                        2 25 @ 2 50

Tar, Wilmington                      3 00 @ 3 25

Do, North Co.                          2 75 @ 3 00

Spirit of Turpentine, per gallon cash   — 44 @ — –

Varnish, bright             — 16 @ — 17

 

OIL, per gallon

Lard Oil                                  — 80 @ 1 10

Neats Foot                               — 75 @ — 95

Sperm, Fall and Spring, un-bleached and bleached 1 90 @ 1 95

Winter, bleached and un-bleached 2 00 @ 2 10

Do, crude, cash                       1 80 @ 1 85

Linseed, Dutch                         — @ –

Do, English                             — 87 @ — 85

Do, American                          — 85 @ — –

Red Oil                                   — 67 @ — 68

Pine                                         — @ –

Olive, Sicily                            1 17 @ 1 18

Palm, per pound                      — 10 @ 11 10 ½

Straits, per bbl                        24 00 @ — –

Bank                                        23 25 @ 23 50

Shore                                       22 00 @ — –

Florence, per case                   — @ –

More good stuff.

Stephen

July 24, 2012

Price of Goods in Boston, March 6, 1856 part 1

 

From the Boston Press and Post

BEESWAX, per pound

White, best,                 — 42 @ — 50

Do, block,                   — – @ — –

Yellow                           — 27 @ — 30

Cuba                            — – @ — –

 

CANDLES, per pound

Sperm, Nan.                                        — 37 @ — 38

Do, New Bedford and Boston             — 38 @ — –

Mould, Boston                                    — 14 @ — 14 ½

Do, extra,                                            — 14 ½ @ — 15

Adamantine                                         — 25 @ — 30

 

COTTON, per pound

New Orleans and Mobile

Inferior, 6 mos,            none

Ordinary                      — 10 ¼ @ — 10 ¾

Mid to good mid          — 11 ¼ @ — 11 ¾

Middling Fair              — 11 ¾ @ — 12

Fair                             — 12 @ — 12 ½

Good Fair                    none

Choice, upland            none

Ord to mid                   — 10 ¼ @ — 11

Mid to mid fair            — 11 ¼ @ — 11 ½

Fair to good                 — 11 ½ @ — 11 ¾

 

DOMESTIC GOODS, per yard

Sheeting, 37 inch         — 6 ¾ @ — 7

Do, 37 inch stout         — 8 @ — 8 ¼

Do, 40 inch do             — 8 ½ @ — –

Do, 48 inch do             — 10 ¼ @ — 10 ½

Do, 30 to 40 in., fine   — 6 ¼ @ — 9

Shirting, 27 to 28 ½ inch, brown         — 4 ¾ @ — 5

Do, 30 inch, stout        — 6 ½ @ — 6 ¾

Do, 33 in., do              — – @ — –

Do, 35 in., fine            — – @ — –

Do, 40 in., do              — – @ — –

Drilling, 30 in., stout   — 8 @ — –

Do, 28 in., blchd.        — 8 ½ @ — –

Jean, 30 in., fine          — 8 ½ @ — 8 ¾

Do, 28 in., blchd.        — 9 @ — 9 ¼

Osnaburgs, negro, 4-4,– 10 ¾ @ — 11

Do, do, 7-8                  — 8 ¾ @ — 9

Linseys, negro             — 15 @ — 23

 

DRUGS, per pound

Alcohol                       — 77 @ — 85

Aloes, Cape                — 19 @ — 21

Do, Curacao                — – @ — –

Alum                           — 2 ½ @ — 2 ⅝

Annatto                        — 22 @ — 30

Antimony, crude          — – @ — 8

Do, Regulus                 — 12 @ — 13

Aquafortis                   — 6 ¼ @ — 6 ½

Argols                         — 13 @ — 27

Arrowroot                   — 8 @ — 33

Assafœtida                  — 8 @ — 18

Balsam, Copaivi         — 30 @ — 35

Do, Peru                      1 87 @ 2 00

Do, Tolu                      — 55 @ — 60

Bark Peruvian             1 70 @ — –

Do, Quill                     — 25 @ — 30

Berries, Persian          — 11 @ — 17

Do, Turkey                  — – @ — –

Bleach’d Powders       — 2 ¾ @ — 3 ¼

Borax, refined             — 28 @ — 28 ½

Do, crude                    — – @ — –

Camphor, refined        — 34 @ — 35

Do, crude                    — 28 ½ @ — 20

Cantharides                 1 92 @ 2 00

Carb. Ammonia           — 15 @ — –

Castor Oil, Am per g.  1 62 @ 1 75

Do, India                     1 62 @ 1 75

Chamomile Flowers per lb     — 30 @ — 33

Copperas                     — 1 @ — 1 ¼

Cream Tartar               — 31 ½ @ — 32 ½

Cubebs                        — 47 @ — 50

Dragons Blood            — 45 @ — 60

Extract Logwood         — 11 @ — 11 ½

Flour Sulphur              — 3 ¼ @ — 3 ½

Fr. Rotten Stone          — 5 @ — –

Gamboge                     — 24 @ — 26

Ginseng                       — 25 @ — 31

Gum Arabic, Bombay  — 8 @ — 13

Do, do, Turkey            — 35 @ — 40

Do, Benzoin                — 20 @ — 30

Do, Copal, large          — 35 @ — 75

Do, do, medium           — 30 @ — 34

Do, do, fine                 — 20 @ — 25

Do, Mastic                  2 25 @ — –

Do, Senegal                 — 15 @ — 17

Do, Shellac, orange     — 12 @ — 14

Do, do, liver                — 9 ½ @ — 10 ½

Do, do, garnet              — 10 ½ @ — 11 ½

Do, Tragacanth            — 18 @ — 75

Iodine                          4 25 @ 4 50

Ipecac Root                 2 12 @ 2 37

Isinglass, Am.              — 44 @ — 77

Do, Russia                   4 00 @ 4 50

Jalap Root                   — 66 @ — 70

Lac Dye                       — 10 @ — 60

Liquorice Paste           — 16 @ — 24

Do, Root                      — 7 ¼ @ — 8

Madder, Umbros         — 10 @ — 10 ¾

Do, crop                      — – @ — –

Do, common                — 9 ½ @ — 10

Do, French ESFF        — – @ — –

Do, do, SFF                 — – @ — –

Do, do, SF                   — 10 ½ @ — 10 ¾

Magnesia, calc’d         — – @ — –

Do, lump                     — – @ — –

Manna, flakes              — 90 @ 1 00

Do, small                     — 60 @ — 65

Do, sorts                      — 45 @ — 50

Myrrh, India                — 20 @ — 25

Do, Turkey                  — 35 @ — 40

Nutgalls                       — 30 @ — 37

Do, white                    — 18 @ — 25

Oil Almonds                8 00 @ 9 00

Do, Anise                    5 00 @ 5 25

Do, Bergamot              2 00 @ 2 12

Do, Caraway               1 75 @ 2 25

Do, Cassia                   3 00 @ 3 25

Do, Cloves                  1 50 @ — –

Do, Lemon                   2 00 @ 2 12

Do, Orange                  1 75 @ 1 87

Do, Origanum              — – @ — –

Do, Peppermint           — – @ — –

Do, Vitriol                   — 2 ¼ @ — 2 ½

Do, Wormwood          — – @ — –

Cod Liver Oil              1 75 @ 2 00

Opium, Egyptian          — – @ — –

Do, Turkey                  4 37 @ 4 50

Otto Rose per ounce   4 00 @ 5 00

Oxalic Acid per lb      — 33 @ — 34

Potash. Bichrom.         — 17 @ — 18

Do, Prussiate               — 28 @ — 29

Do, Hydriodate           4 37 @ 4 50

Pumice Stone               — 1⅝ @ 1⅞

Quicksilver                 — 43 @ — 46

Quinine, sul. per oz     2 60 @ 2 70

Rhubarb, E.I. per lb     2 12 @ 2 25

Sago, pearl                  — 7 @ — 8

Sal Ammoniac             — 3 @ — 4

Do, refined                  — 11 @ — 11 ¼

So, Soda                      — 1 ¾ @ — 2

Sarsaparilla, Hond.     –30 @ — 32

Seammony, Aleppo     6 00 @ 7 00

Senna, Alex.                — 14 @ — 15

Do, East India             — 10 @ — 14

Snake Root, Seneca     — 80 @ — 90

Do, Virginia                — 40 @ — 42

Soda Ash                     — 2 ¾ @ — 3

Do, Super Carb.          — 4 ½ @ — 4 ¾

Sponges, Bahama        — 9 @ — 16

Do, Turkey fine           — 50 @ 1 00

Do, extra fine              1 00 @ 2 00

Sugar Lead, white       — 14 @ — 16

Do, brown                   — 9 ¾ @ — 10 ¼

Tapioca, Para              — – @ — –

Do, Rio                       — – @ — –

Tartaric Acid              — 45 @ — 50

Turmeric                     — 4 @ — 4 ½

Vitriol, Blue                — 10 ¼ @ — 10 ½

I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

Stephen

 

 

 

July 19, 2012

Prices of Wood, Boston March 6, 1856

From the front page of the Boston Post and Press.

BOXWOOD, per ton   60 00 @ 85 00

LIGNUM VITAE, per ton  15 00 @ 20 00

LUMBER, per 1000 feet

East Boards, white pine, No.1  40 00 @ — –

Do, do, No.2   40 00 @ — –

Do, do, No.3   33 00 @ 34 00

Do, coarse, No.3   23 00 @ 24 00

Do, do, No.4   13 00 @ 14 00

Do, Scoots     9 00 @ 10 00

Do, Flooring, southern pine  18 00 @ 20 00

Clapboards, extra   38 00 @ 40 00

Do, clear    33 00 @ 35 00

Do, No.1    17 00 @ 20 00

Shingles, pine, shaved, best   4 25 @  5 00

Do, do, do, 2d qual.    2 25 @  2 50

Do, do, sawn best    3 00 @  3 25

Do, cedar, shaved, best   3 50 @  4 00

Do, do, 2d qual.    2 00 @  2 50

Laths, pine, 1 ½ in.    1 75 @  2 00

Spruce Lumber, at measurement   9 00 @ 11 00

Hemlock do,    8 00 @  9 00

Sugar Box shooks   – 45 @ — 50

Ton Timber, white pine best   6 00 @  8 00

Do, do, ordinary    4 00 @  5 00

Do, do, southern pine   10 00 @ 12 00

MAHOGANY, per foot.

Cuba    – 12 @ — 24

St. Domingo   –   8 @ — 17

Honduras    –   9 @ — 18

[MAHOGANY – At public sale 586 logs Mansanilla at 11 ¾ @38c per foot, 6 mos.]

ROSEWOOD, Rio, per log  20 00 @ 60 00

WOOD, per cord

Eastern hard    6 75 @  7 60

Nova Scotia do    7 00 @ — –

Pitch Pine     6 75 @  7 00

South Shore, hard    7 25 @  7 50

Just to keep things current.

Stephen

 

 

July 16, 2012

Iron & Steel Prices, Boston March 6, 1856

IRON, per ton,

Russia, Old Sable, P.S.I –@–

Do. N. Sable   –@–

Swedes, common assorted 95 00 @100 00

Do, square and extra sizes 105 00@ 118 00

Glendon bar   –@–

English, flat, round & square  –@–

Do, do, refined  65 00@ 75 00

Do, Foundry   –@–

A Forge   –@–

Pig, American, Anthracite –@–

Do, Charcoal   –@–

Do, do Foundry  –@–

Do, Scotch, 1st quality  34 50@ 35 00

Do, do, other qualities  –@–

Sheet, English, per pound -13 ½ @-4 ½

Do. Russia   -15 ½ @-16

Boiler, Penn, 1st quality –@–

Do, do 2nd do   –@–

Do, Brandywine best  -6@ -6 ½

STEEL per pound

German, cast steel  -18@ -19

Do, Halbach   -12 ½ @-13

English, best   - 13@ -17

Do, common   -6 ½ @-7

American   - 5@ -7

Check out the difference in prices between iron and steel.  Interesting.

Stephen

 

 

May 10, 2012

Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes – recent printing

The Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint books are being restocked at both Tools for Working Wood and Lee Valley and to a new as yet undisclosed retail outlet.  I also have copies on hand.

The only difference is the ISBN and bar code on the back.

Stephen

November 26, 2011

Great ‘new’ Catalogue from Tools for Working Wood

Joel and the folks at Tools for Working Wood in Brooklyn New York have come out with the finest catalogue I have seen recently.  Based on traditional design and implementation it is a joy to receive in the mail and a pleasure to read.

Nice to see old traditions preserved, Thanks.  Most catalogues when they are out of date go into the recycle bin, this one will go in the bookcase.

Stephen

October 4, 2011

Woodworking Unplugged – 2000

I wrote this back in 2000 and thought it might be worth putting out to the web.  I do have to say that I no longer use power tools, as I don’t own any.

This is a collection of works describing an original way of working wood. Away from the scream of modern power tools, the whine of the Industrial Revolution, removed from the fast pace of mass production is wood working, pure and simple. You can go to the store and buy a maple table that is just like tens of thousands of other maple tables or you can take a few boards of hard rock maple and fashion by hand an antique of the future, an heirloom and a unique piece of furniture. If you use power tools you are further removed from the work. They isolate you from the work. When you rip the boards with a saw, join the edges and plane the surface by hand you are much closer to the process. You pay attention to what is going on, you are involved. And after all that is what is important here isn’t it? I love wood working, I am in no real hurry to get it over. It is exactly like fly fishing, it’s not about fish. I enjoy the process. Sure it is nice to have a finished piece, but those are ephemeral, the memory of fine craftsmanship lasts a lifetime.

Recently I was called upon to carve rope molding in knotty red alder. The moldings were for a rather nice kitchen and were matched pairs of opposite twists, 1 ½” wide, 30″ tall and ¾” thick. There were 68 of this length with another 36 longer matched pieces. Instead of thinking I had nearly 300 feet of molding to carve, I devised ways to make the process easier. I first hand planed the stock to a half round, then made a gauge that gave the correct taper, it was reversible so it worked for left and right hand twists. I next cut the kerfs then rough carved the rope, first in one direction then in the other. Then the final finish carving again in one direction then the other and the molding was completed. Then again and again, then I thought about how many times I had to push the carving chisel to cut a single molding, how many saw strokes to do one molding then how many to do 104 moldings.

While it only took 2596 strokes with the dovetail saw to do the lay out kerfs, it took 103,784 strokes with a chisel to finish the moldings. Sometimes math is fun, sometimes it is several barrels of wood chips. I also carved 6 large full round drawer and door handles with matched rope twists. Alder, the chisel and me, we are one. I can deal with that wood in any way it comes to me, I have looked closely at its very nature, I know its grain, I am aware of its working characteristics, I can make that wood do anything. Why would I do this, you can’t find 1 ½” match rope moldings and carved handles in knotty alder but you can spend some time, with a few simple hand tools and make them. Besides, there is nothing else in the world like it. And the only sound was the saw cutting the kerf and the steady low hiss of the wood slipping past an extremely sharp chisel. It was a quiet moment, no it was a quiet several days.

It is not that I have anything against power tools, I use them when it is difficult to do something by hand, but those are rare occasions. I use power tools for production work, but that is not what we are talking about here. This is about doing woodworking by hand. Using hand tools to produce unique hand crafted creations in wood. The closer you are to your work the more you appreciate that work. The more you know about the wood you are working, the easier your labor. Having a relationship with the cutting edge of a tool, always knowing where that edge is and what it is doing, not only eliminates cutting oneself, but gives you control over the work and how it is progressing.

If you are using a wood new to you, get to know the species, read up on where and how it grows, its working characteristics and how it is best finished. Then take pieces of the wood that you are using and note where the board was cut from the tree, which end was up, how the grain is in the board and which side is best for show, the money side. Look closely at the end grain, see if you can find the medullary rays, sight down the board and check for twist, imagine where it will go in your finished piece. How will the nature of the woods movement effect your final project, what is the best way to join the pieces together, how will the wood age. Slow down and smell the wood. You don’t need to hurry through this.

Select your boards with care for your projects, then sharpen and tune your tools and you are ready for one of the more pleasant experiences in life, making something unique from wood by hand that will last for generations. Your only connection to this project may just be in its creation, it may be a gift or built for hire. You may only own it for a while and someone else will be able to appreciate it in the future, but you will have this pleasant memory for the rest of your life. You have created something of greater value.

I do not get that attached to anything I build because the act of designing and especially building are reward enough. While it is nice to be surrounded with the fruits of my labors, I would rather others could have that enjoyment as well and the physical possession is secondary. For me the real joy is building, the physical act of working wood with hand tools, of starting with rough sawn boards and ending up with a fine piece of furniture. Who ever ends up with the piece will enjoy having it, but I will always enjoy having built it.

Your tools are extensions of your hand, your whole body and they should be extensions of your mind as well. The more experience you have with hand tools the closer you become to the work you are doing. Your tools need to be clean, sharp and well tuned. They should feel good in your hands and your hands need to feel how the tool is working. You need to watch how your tool is working, how the shavings look as they come off the blade. You need to listen to your tool to hear how it sounds as it cuts. This sensory inputs give you clues as to how the work is going. You can always afford to pay attention. Subtle changes in any of these warn you of changes in the wood or the tool or how you are using the tool. Be aware and you will be a better craftsman.

The Feel of Woodworking

This will be a difficult thing to communicate in words because it goes beyond semantics, syntax and usage and gets to a deep understanding of the trade. This is the Zen of woodworking where you go beyond the tools, materials and techniques and transcend the mechanics and comprehend the philosophy, the very foundation of making things from dead trees. This is where you Gestalt what you are doing, where you have a deep fundamental basis for the art and science that you are practicing. What an interesting choice of word we have to describe what we do. So many things that we do are classified in categories, we go by definitions, conventions, rules, guidelines, regulations and parameters that we forget that we are suppose to enjoy what we are doing.

Too many things have either black or white explanations as to what to do, when we fail to look at the gray areas, we do not read between the lines, we miss the subtle nuances, we miss an opportunity, we fear the unknown. Sometimes an uninformed observer, a naive apprentice or an independent point of view can add new dimensions to a point of consideration. A fresh viewpoint can come from some one who isn’t hobbled by all of the knowledge in the world. We can be so set in our ways that we fail to see all points of view. When we take a position we might be willing to defend it to the death, when in fact if we consider all opinion we might be willing to capitulate just to save our skins. If we are unwilling to consider other options then we have become stagnate in our outlook.

But there is nothing wrong with being right. There are certain constants with woodworking, wood and finishes behave in a predictable way, tools work well when sharp and well tuned. Just as soon as you are confident in your methods, a project, a piece of wood, a method of working will present a fresh new problem for you to consider. I had read that elm is difficult to split because of there interlocking grain, and that is generally the case. In a discussion with a seasoned woodworker I made the comment that elm couldn’t be split into shingles. The next day he brought in an armful of split elm shingles and I reconsidered my position.

You are held to a higher level as a woodworker that other endeavors. If you are a Doctor and you do not heal your patient, you still get paid. If you are a Lawyer and you loose a case, you still get paid, if you are a Weather Reporter and it snows when you say it will be clear, you still get paid. If you are a woodworker and your work is not 100% you do not get paid.

This is an honorable profession, remember Jesus was a cabinetmaker. A carpenter, I don’t think so, Joseph made furniture. Ludwig Wittgenstein gave up his study of Philosophy for working with wood.

Why would I choose to join the edge of a board with a wooden jackplane instead of running it across a power joiner, because anybody can use a power tool. When you take a sharp well-tuned hand plane and produce a perfectly square and smooth edge on a piece of wood, there is something about that. The scream of the power joiner cannot compare to the sweet song of the thin curl of wood, as it is gently coaxed from the edge of the board.

I am not certain that I can prove that wood is affected by the tools that are used to render it into furniture but the more gentle you are with the work the better it turns out. If the boards are cut by hand, planed with hand planes and worked only with hand tools the work somehow turns out with a gentler appearance. You are not subjecting the wood the extreme forces and high speed of power tools. The sound that is generated from power tools is not good for the person using them and probably is not good for the wood. I believe that it sets up vibrations in the wood and alters its characteristics, this can be important if you are making a violin or other musical instrument. The power tools are harsh and attack the wood at high speed, while hand tools are a gentle touch and if the wood has spirit it will remember its treatment.

When I carve wood, I think of Grindling Gibbons, Samuel McIntire and Ralph Ramsey. When I build a fine piece of furniture, Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton, Duncan Phyfe and William Bell are foremost in my thoughts. When building a traditional piece of woodwork, I try to imagine what the original craftsman had on their minds as I use the same tools, materials and techniques as our ancestors.

When repairing a piece of antique furniture, I want to know what the originating craftsmen was thinking when they created this particular example of their work. Is all of this necessary? Well, no but I am in a better place for doing so. I try and think what they would have said about my work, how accurately have I done my job? Have I kept the spirit of what they did alive by doing what I am doing? Would what I do be acceptable to them? Have I preserved their tradition, have I accurately reproduced their work, would they be proud? These things might not be important to others but it is to me. I need to sleep at night, I need to know that I have not destroyed or distorted history by my work.

Stephen

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