Blog — Issue Seven RSS





The Misrepresentation of Shaker Furniture

“Shaker furniture is often misrepresented. Because most collectors and curators only want to show the very best of Shaker design, the same 100 objects are carted around to exhibition after exhibition, printed in book after book. They never exhibit the piece that didn’t work or the ones that were clunky, mis-proportioned, painted an ugly color, too plain, too fancy, too primitive, or too derivative of Victorian fashion, but these are all legitimate Shaker-made objects, too. They served a purpose and were well-used over several generations. This myopic presentation gives the public a skewed perspective on our work that does not do our legacy justice, and it has given birth to the sentimental notion that Shaker craftsmen made chairs laboring under...

Continue reading



The “Four-tool Philosophy”

“As the unique traits of every culture shape its woodworking traditions (and vice versa), the North Woods traits of adaptability and mobility wove themselves into the way indigenous craft evolved. The tools themselves developed to meet these criteria, being portable, versatile, and endlessly repairable. They could all be used one-handed, with the other hand (often in conjunction with the body and feet) providing the necessary workholding. Only four tools (with variations of each) composed the “tool-box” of the Northern maker, and every necessary wooden object (from spoons, bowls, and snowshoes up to canoes and shelters) could be made using this minimalist kit. Modern practitioners of this ancient means sometimes refer to it as the “Four-tool Philosophy.” Nick Dillingham, a skilled...

Continue reading



The Salt and Pepper of Free Workmanship

“For all the benefits we’ve gained from mechanization and automation, it is high time we take a step back to consider afresh if our shop work is actually any richer when our tools are Bluetooth-compatible. There is no doubt that “information technology is changing the nature of human work in industrial production. The machine operator has become the machine overseer. [But] whether this change is making work more humane is another question.” In Pye’s day, he saw his contemporaries’ appetite for antiques as a “sign of an unsatisfied hunger for diversity and spontaneity in the things of everyday use.” Our fenced tools and highly jigged operations give us precise, quality work. But they cannot give us technophiles what we so...

Continue reading



Podcast 15 – Workshop, Timber Frame, and Issue Seven

This podcast episode (listen above) is all about filling you in on our incredibly intense summer. Between the workshop with our six students, Issue Seven shipping out, and our hand-tool-only timber frame blacksmith shop, we’ve been out straight busy. Also, in this episode, meet Grace, our new team member. You’ll hear our enthusiasm for the whirlwind of events that happened as well as the new projects we’re working to wrap up now! A new book, a documentary film, and another apprenticeship video all on the horizon!  

Continue reading



Issue Seven in the House – Pre-orders are Ending!

The packing party for Issue Seven is this coming Friday and Saturday. (Subscribe here.) That means tomorrow is the last day to subscribe if you want to get a wrapped copy of Issue Seven! Also, we just discovered that we can fit a few more people into the party. So, if you want to join us at the 2-day wrapping party in Sedgwick, Maine, send us an email at info@mortiseandtenonmag.com right away! Issue Seven is heading out soon!  

Continue reading



The Penultimate Packing Party

As we’ve been announcing the Issue Seven table of contents over the past two weeks, Joshua and I have been juggling the many logistical details that lead up to each issue’s release – both from an editorial standpoint (chasing down image permissions, formatting endnotes) and from a practical one (how many shipping labels do we need again?). And, of course, this means it’s time to announce the next M&T Packing Party!  With every issue so far, we’ve had friends come in from far and wide to help us wrap each magazine in brown paper, affix a wax-sealed trade card, and place it in a rigid mailer with a few pine plane shavings. We’ve loved adding this special touch, and the fun...

Continue reading



Issue 07 T.O.C. – A Shaker’s Perspective on His Community’s Craft

This is last installment in a blog series which reveals the table of contents of upcoming Issue Seven.  Please note that the subscription window which includes Issue Seven is open now until Sep 24th. A NEW CHANGE: WRAPPING FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS ONLY From now on, we will be wrapping magazines (brown paper, wax-sealed trade card, and pine shaving) for subscriptions only, not individually purchased copies of the magazine. This is an effort to simplify things a bit around here. Individual copies can be ordered after the subscriptions ship on September 30th, but if you really do love that wax seal, brown paper, and pine wood shaving, be sure to get a subscription now. If you aren’t sure about your subscription status, you can reach out to us at info@mortiseandtenonmag.com....

Continue reading



Issue 07 T.O.C. – Axioms of Pre-industrial Craft with George Walker

“What do a prehistoric flint spearpoint, a Windsor chair, and a carved wooden spoon have in common?” begins author George Walker. What follows is a fascinating, winsome defense of what Walker calls the “Axioms of Craft,”: guiding principles that have been universally accepted by artisans from time immemorial. Tracing the thread back 12,000 years to the Clovis culture, following it through Ancient Greece and into the Victorian Era, Walker makes his case for the immutability of these three guiding principles: “Firmitas, strength and durability; comoditas, function; and venustas, beauty.” All craftsmanship had to contain these values in complementary measure, he argues, or it was considered lacking and mediocre.

Continue reading



Issue 07 T.O.C. – A Good Day's Work with Richard Arnold

What constitutes a “good day’s work” for a hand-tool craftsman? Judging by historical accounts, quite an impressive amount. Different period references cited a number of tasks that were typically accomplished in a day, but author and professional joiner Richard Arnold looks to the classic memoir of Walter Rose for guidance. In his 1937 book, The Village Carpenter, Rose notes that “the making of a simple four-panel inside door was considered a good day’s work.”

Continue reading



Issue 07 T.O.C. – Understanding David Pye’s “Workmanship of Risk”

Have you read David Pye’s classic book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship? If so, you’re in the minority among those woodworkers who express a strong opinion of this seminal work. Many have heard of Pye’s concept of “Workmanship of Risk,” and often hold marked views of the concept (either positive and negative) based on secondhand opinions rather than personal reflection on his actual arguments. Pye’s philosophical explorations into the nature of craft seem even more relevant today than they did when the book was first published over 50 years ago, as tremendous advancements in woodworking tool technology (CNC machines, Bluetooth-equipped saws) have found their way into many hobbyists’ shops. 

Continue reading