Working in Circles

I hate working in circles. There once was a time that I came at woodworking as an artist – I wanted to experience, to play, to create unfettered by time or convention. Back then I just wanted to be in the shop, regardless of what I accomplished. I loved making shavings and agonizing over tight-fitting dovetails. During the past few years, though, as I’ve learned to walk in the footsteps of the craftsmen before me, I’ve grown weary of this kind of meandering. 

Any good student of historic furniture making will tell you that apprenticeship-trained, full-time cabinetmakers didn’t fool around at their workbenches. As they set out to tackle yet another table build for another customer, they had a construction process mapped out in their heads. There was an order to the work. A system.

Because most of us have not been privileged to learn this trade in the context of a formal apprenticeship, we usually resort to making it up as we go – including me. The last few years, though, I’ve tried to change that. I’ve spent time refining my table making system1 and have resolved to stick to it. If I’ve learned anything at the bench, it’s that consistency reduces error. The system I’ve committed to is an amalgam of historic practices that I’ve seen on surviving period pieces. 

– Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “The Artisan’s Guide to Pre-industrial Table Construction,” in Issue Four


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