Blog — Jonathan Fisher RSS



“Hands Employed Aright” Poster Now Shipping!

When I got home from work yesterday, the long-anticipated shipment of the Jonathan Fisher workshop posters was sitting on my front porch! This poster features the incredible illustration that was commissioned for my new book, Hands Employed Aright: The Furniture Making of Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847). The image is a recreation of a typical Jonathan Fisher workshop scene, in which the parson is hard at work making furniture for his and his community’s homes. Everything from the barn he worked in, the tools hanging on the walls, the partially assembled desk in the foreground, to the sheep inside and pigs outside are all based on surviving artifacts or documentation. Little in this illustration is conjecture.

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Klein’s New Book, “Hands Employed Aright”, Available for Pre-order!

The book I’ve been working on for the past five years, researching the work of Jonathan Fisher is now at the printer! Thanks to the support of my publisher, Lost Art Press, the wise advice of colleagues, and generous research grants from the Early American Industries Association and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, this labor of love has, at long last, become a reality. The publisher, Lost Art Press, has now opened pre-publication ordering for this book which will arrive mid-August. You can order your copy here. I began writing a blurb about the book but decided I couldn’t improve on what Chris Schwarz (my editor) wrote: “Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847) was the first settled minister of the frontier...

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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...

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Roman Workbench Build-Along

  Inspired by Chris Schwarz’s article in Issue Two “Decoding the Roman Workbench”, Mike and I have decided to build our own Roman (i.e. staked) benches. I’ve been doubly curious about this form because Jonathan Fisher’s bench of this type survives in his house (now a museum) and I’ve really wanted to get some time working at one before finishing off my book on him this winter. The week of February 20th, Mike and I will each be building a bench. I will be basing mine largely on Fisher’s bench, which is a 12.5” wide by 7’ long rough-sawn board with four riven and hatcheted legs. His is a little less than 2” thick but the plank I have set...

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What Should You Expect to See From Us in 2017?

  As we’re only days away from the packing party to ship out Issue Two, I can’t help but reflect on the year (11 months actually) since Issue One was released. 2016 has been a wild ride for me. Before M&T launched, I spent my work week alone in my studio regluing chairs and refinishing dining tables. I ran a little blog documenting some of it but, for the most part, I was pretty much in my own little world. This leap-in-the-dark magazine idea was simply the culmination of my many thoughts and observations working on period furniture. I never knew if it would resonate with anyone else. Mortise & Tenon has completely flipped my life upside down. The interest...

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Lost in Translation

One of the most exciting aspects of working with old handmade objects is deciphering the stories told by tool marks. An undercut here, some traversing there - these can give great insight into the thought process of the craftsman who first handled these pieces of wood centuries ago. But the language written by old bits of tool steel can be mysterious and inexact - our familiar rules of grammar don't apply.  How do you ask, "Did you use a template?" in Old Dovetail? Or, "What's with that drawer bottom?" in Rough Hatchet? It can be a great exercise in forensics trying to solve these very, very cold cases. Occasionally, a piece will contain a much clearer form of communication from...

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Finally Behind the Lens

Over the past few weeks I’ve been photographing the furniture and tools of 19th-century Maine furniture maker Jonathan Fisher. This is part of a four or so year long research project I have been working on to tell the story of this rural polymathic Harvard-trained minster/artisan. For more information about this fascinating research, you read about it here or refer to my piece in American Period Furniture in 2014. The book is under contract to be published by Lost Art Press in 2017 and thanks to grants from both the Early American Industries Association and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, I have been able to dig deep examining the numerous surviving objects as well as research the broader historical context in which...

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The Reassembled Jonathan Fisher Workshop

  I have been looking forward to this moment for three years now. When I began researching the furniture making of Jonathan Fisher, I had no idea just how much surviving material there was. The house he built is filled with furniture he made with a collection of tools he used to build them all recorded in his surviving diary entries. That’s amazing for any period cabinet or chair maker but especially for a rural one. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when his house was being turned into a museum, many of the objects were sold to a sister institution to ensure reliable preservation. Although the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME owns the majority of the furniture and...

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