Issue Four T.O.C. – Peter Follansbee Recommends “The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay”


Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

We at M&T have found that, although there are many new books that cover the topic of historic craftsmanship, there is a nearly inexhaustible and often untapped well of knowledge to be found in older titles. We want to reopen these pages for our readers and bring this information back into the light so that it can become a part of the conversation again and inform us more deeply about the handcraft heritage we are passionate about. As such, rather than regularly reviewing only new books, this space will now be used to recommend works both new and old that our contributors believe are worth another look.

Peter Follansbee got his start in traditional woodworking in the 1970s. Starting with ladderback chairs, coopering, and basket making, he found himself inexorably drawn to the world of timber framing. In those days, handcraft resources and information could be hard to come by, but Follansbee pieced together everything that he could find in his study of this trade. Eventually, his hunt led to the discovery of The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 by Abbot Lowell Cummings, first published in 1979. Such a geographically-specific title may lead a reader to question the practicality of this book, but Follansbee was immediately drawn in. Broken into 10 chapters and organized much like a house-building project, the book lays out a thorough historical context before diving into plans, tools, and raising timbers. The chapter on “Interior Finish”, Follansbee notes, contains the most information directly useful for the furniture maker: baluster turnings, molding edges on timbers, even painted decoration. The images and diagrams throughout are large and full of detail.

Follansbee writes, “The author’s multi-disciplinary approach, studying the artifacts (the houses) and the documents pertaining to them, fleshes out what could be a dry study [but] Cummings shows us the life of old houses.”

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.