Blog — Issue Eleven RSS





Go to the Materials

A further advantage is that the drawknife can be used almost anywhere – I can fit the template, drawknife, vise, and auger to affix the vise into a backpack and walk to wherever I want to work. This simplicity replicates the work practices of the Jimmy Possum chairmakers, and also allows me to go to the materials rather than having them come to me. In a time when there were no automobiles to transport materials, it was much easier to bring back lighter finished components (as the bodgers did) than to transport the heavy timber to a workshop or factory to process. The model of production that is stationed at the source of the materials circumvents the pin-balling of modern...

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Disciplined, Regular Practice

Nobody I’ve ever met wishes their shop time was more like Henry Ford’s assembly line. Most of us seem to pick up saw, plane, and chisel as an act of independence and individual creativity. We want to cultivate the ability to make our own stuff. Author Matthew Crawford has argued that manual crafts are “a natural home for anyone who would live by his own powers, free not only of deadening abstraction but also of the insidious hopes and rising insecurities that seem to be endemic in our current economic life.” But we’re mistaken if we think we can shortcut this cultivation of skill with a new app or “life hack.” As we strive for agency, we can easily overlook...

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They Sold Like Hotcakes

The middle class was growing by leaps and bounds at the beginning of the 19th century, demanding cheap consumer goods. Retail showrooms, an ancestor of Rooms To Go, started popping up and eating into chairmakers’ profits. Windsor chairmakers quickly adjusted, redesigning their chairs, changing their joinery techniques, increasing their division of labor, and using interchangeable parts to speed up the chairmaking process. Did the Industrial Revolution really start in a chair shop? Early 19th-century chairmakers were fast. Really fast. In her book, Windsor-Chair Making in America, Nancy Goyne Evans calculates that a chairmaker making batches of two dozen side chairs – starting from the log and using all hand tools – could have a chair ready for finish in about...

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Stories and Songs

Folk cultures around the world (including in Appalachia) have been built primarily around oral, rather than written, tradition. In song, story, and lore, truths and values were conveyed to the next generation and maintained over centuries. But to us rationalist moderns, this ancient way of recordkeeping seems imprecise and vague. Folklore scholar Richard M. Dorson describes our rather haughty perspective: “To the layman, and to the academic man too, folklore suggests falsity, wrongness, fantasy, and distortion. Or it may conjure up pictures of granny women spinning traditional tales in mountain cabins or gaily costumed peasants performing seasonal dances.” Dorson, a defender of the value of folklore, invokes in these words the unconscious bias that many today harbor toward indigenous, poor,...

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Finding Mountain Music

 My grandparents had a couple volumes of the Foxfire series on their bookshelf, and I was captivated by them from a young age. I remember thumbing through Foxfire 2 again and again, amazed at the knowledge captured in those pages that seemed so outside of my own experience. Spinning wool into yarn, wild plants as food and medicine, and a spring-pole lathe, of all things! Who ever heard of that? And this knowledge seemed alive, because it was often conveyed through direct quotes from the skilled individuals who still practiced those arts. Rather than a dry historical treatise, this information had vitality. There was magic here, and I was entranced. Fast forward an odd number of decades, when I found...

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A Peek Inside Issue Eleven

  For those of you who haven’t been spending your evenings flipping through the latest issue, we thought we’d share a brief look inside. Issue Eleven is full of rich and interesting spreads. Between all the chairmakers (and their drawknives) and the constant emphasis on the ‘folk’ in folk craft, we’ve got lots of humanized woodworking going on. This issue truly is a celebration of human creativity over against the sterility of mass manufacture. The premium ($$$) paper we use is currently in short supply (what isn’t these days?), and so we had to purchase it in advance of the printing. Yes, this up-front cost stings a bit, but we’re resolved to keep with this stock because the final quality...

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With a Steady Focus

It’s hard to convey how small-scale our operation is. For years, Mike Updegraff and I did literally everything in one small shop space. We’ve since built a 24' x 26' wood shop/office and hired Mike and Grace Cox to handle administrative and shipping responsibilities. The two of them do their work together from their house while Mike Updegraff and I work in the shop each day. Especially in times like these, we’re grateful to keep things small. This morning, the four of us had our monthly team meeting to go over current and upcoming happenings. Grace brought us her delicious pumpkin bread to indulge in as we discussed the soon-to-start inaugural term of our 8-week Apprenticeship program, the progress on...

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Let the Chips Fall Where They May

It is always an exciting moment to finalize and release the new issue’s cover design. Though we never premeditate any theme, we always look for naturally occurring threads running throughout the articles. The cover often reflects some of the content in the issue, though it is not even close to regurgitated material. Unlike all the rest of our seat-of-the-pants, natural-light photography, we take great pains with the cover shots. We bounce around ideas and fuss over minutia to get it right. Believe me, I know how dumb that sounds. But what we’ve learned over the years doing this is that hands and the work they do can communicate more than most people can put into words. Take the cover of...

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Issue 11 T.O.C. – Dr. Mike Epworth – “The Drawknife & the Butterfly Effect”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come.  The subscription window which includes Issue Eleven is open now. To get Issue Eleven when it ships early October, you can sign up for a subscription here.  If you aren’t sure about your subscription status, you can reach out to Grace at info@mortiseandtenonmag.com. Keep in mind though, if you are set to auto-renew, you never have to worry about getting the next issue of Mortise & Tenon. Issue Eleven is coming your way soon! ___________________________________ Dr. Mike Epworth – “The Drawknife & the Butterfly Effect” When a...

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Issue 11 T.O.C. – Hunter S. Rhodes – “On His Own Book: The Story of Chairmaker Richard Poynor”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Eleven. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come.  The subscription window which includes Issue Eleven is open now. To get Issue Eleven when it ships early October, you can sign up for a subscription here.  If you aren’t sure about your subscription status, you can reach out to Grace at info@mortiseandtenonmag.com. Keep in mind though, if you are set to auto-renew, you never have to worry about getting the next issue of Mortise & Tenon. Issue Eleven is coming your way soon! ___________________________________ Chair made by Richard Poynor. Photo courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery....

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