Next Apprenticeship Video: Tables


 

After shipping out orders yesterday morning, Mike and I spent time reviewing the outline and logistics for a video shoot next week. We’ve been discussing this second video in the Apprenticeship series since we released the Foundations video last year. The idea behind this series is to bring you into the shop to learn the skills every pre-industrial cabinetmaker learned. It is designed to teach you the skills and mindset to approach any project without elaborate full-scale plans or expensive (and dangerous) machines. Rather than show you how to build one specific special piece, we decided to approach this series the way you’d learn in a real apprenticeship setting: you learn the form.

This teaching model is perfect for what I’ve long wanted to convey. I think there are too many videos and articles today on building one specific object. I’d rather enable woodworkers to grasp the form so that they can build whatever size or version they can imagine.

Rather than draw plans for every single commissioned object, period artisans typically approached each piece the same. “You want a table? What wood? How long? Got it.” A table is a table. Under the master craftsman, you’d learn the form’s construction and all the rest is decoration. There are a few variations in construction but most period tables share the same guts.

The video we will be shooting next week is all about building tables with hand tools. Although I won’t be building every table possible, I’ve picked a design that has most of the variations you may encounter. Any features not incorporated into this table will be taught as a side tutorial. The unique focus in our videos is teaching the efficiencies and tolerances of pre-industrial process. Mike and I talk so much about not fretting over tool marks in secondary surfaces but seeing it in the context of a build is important. It’s one thing to tell you not to worry about tear out but it’s another to show you exactly how much tear out is normal and where it’s found.

Pre-industrial cabinetmakers didn’t screw around in their shops and neither do I. This video is about working efficiently with simple tools to achieve real results. It is a powerful feeling to build furniture with a few wooden planes and saws. And anyone can do this. I want you to see how simple this process is.

We rearranged a few shelves in the studio yesterday to install my Nicholson bench for the build. It now has a workholding peg system I copied from Jonathan Fisher’s fascinating workbench because I have fallen in love with it for stock prep. I wrote about this system in the Jonathan Fisher manuscript (which is in Chris’s hands right now) but I had to incorporate it into this video because I want to show how simple and awesome it is. Fisher’s bench is the only known extant example of the peg workholding shown in the 14th-century Nuremberg paintings. There is so much to learn from this way of working. Stay tuned.

So the studio is cleared of clutter and the lumber awaits us at the bench. It all begins Monday morning.

- Joshua