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An Unjustified Mystique: Period Dovetails Up-Close… Issue Two Table of Contents

The modern obsession with perfectly-spaced, aerospace-tight, single-kerf-pin dovetails is rampant. Why is Instagram full of immaculately executed dovetails? Or, more importantly, why does today’s woodworker agonize over the few thou of an inch gap on these joints? It’s because they haven’t seen period dovetails. Although artisans of the past were exceptionally skilled, I would like to bust the myth that they obsessed over dovetails as much as we do. It is apparent from the work they left behind that the vast majority of pre-industrial artisans were more concerned with the strength of the joint than they were with impressing their “social following”. It is not uncommon to find noticeably irregular spacing of the tails, considerable variation in the angle of...

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A Furniture Conservation Primer from Don Williams: Issue Two Table of Contents

Art conservation is one of those disciplines that can be shrouded in mystery. When famous paintings or buildings are restored, it gets published in the New York Times. The public oohs and ahhs at the magic of restoring a relic from hundreds or thousands of years ago back to its former glory. Conservation projects like these are exciting because it’s the closest thing we have to time travel. It’s the only place that the authentic past is revived in the present before our very eyes. As the senior furniture conservator of the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Don Williams has been routinely entrusted with restoring some of our nation’s most significant cultural artifacts. Considered by colleagues the “inimitable” Don Williams, he...

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Chris Schwarz on Using the Low Roman Workbench: Issue Two Table of Contents

In my mind, one of the most interesting bits of woodworking research to crop up in the last few years has been Chris Schwarz’s journey into “Roman” workbenches. If you’ve been following along at his blog, you’ll remember he built two different variations. One of which is a based on a 16th century plate and is essentially the precursor to the modern workbench. It’s funky looking but pretty familiar in function to modern woodworkers. It’s the other bench that has grabbed my full attention because it is so different to the way we work today. This second workbench he built is based on illustration of ancient Roman workworkers. Besides the fact that it has 8 “staked” legs, it is so...

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Walker on ‘Assessing the Eye of Blue-Collar Geometers’: Issue Two Table of Contents

George Walker has written a fascinating piece for Issue Two that we’re calling ‘Dividing the Line: Assessing the Eye of Blue-Collar Geometers’. In this essay, George presents his own design research from a new perspective. By comparing two 18th century cabinetmaking cousins’ apron profiles to each other, George is able to reverse engineer their designer’s eye for us. At first, you think their aprons look similar enough but after he walks you through the layout process, you see how different they really are.This fascinating exercise will help you in your workshop by teaching you how to layout your own aprons or profiles. How do you capture your inner designer’s eye? How do make something that reflects not just general attractiveness...

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Examination of an 18th Century Drop Leaf Table: Issue Two Table of Contents

Every issue of M&T will have an in depth analysis of a particular period piece. In the last issue, we looked at a Federal Boston secretary. (Yes, the ebook is still in the works.) The objective with this kind of piece is to provide numerous up close and personal photographs of not only the pretty show surface, but also the guts of the thing. This is the stuff museums don’t typically publish for people and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that woodworkers want to see. For Issue Two, I chose this mid to late 1700s New England table that I purchased at an auction earlier this year. I selected this piece because it’s not rare or unique in at...

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Interview with David and George Sawyer: Issue Two Table of Contents

Regularly in my interactions with colleagues I get leads and recommendations for stories. The one that stood out above all else to me was a recommendation from Peter Galbert that I do an interview with legendary chairmaker David Sawyer and his son George, who is now taking over the business. David has a reputation for being one of the most influential Windsor chairmakers in the early days of the modern Windsor revival. I leapt at the opportunity and arranged a visit with the Sawyers. I made that trip this spring, on a drive back from New York, and spent a few wonderful hours with this rural Vermont family. We talked craft, design, technology, rural life, homesteading, etc. It was a...

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Announcing the Table of Contents: Reproducing a Yale Banister-Back Chair

Over the next couple weeks I will be releasing the table of contents for Issue Two here on the blog. Once a day, I will post about one of the articles that will be in Issue Two. The folks who saw the list at WIA universally agreed that Issue Two looks even more exciting than Issue One and so I am looking forward to sharing the list with you. Pre-orders will open November 1st here. We’re expecting a January delivery. I’ve talked about some of Issue Two’s content already so this first one should not be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned before, the Yale University Art Gallery commissioned a reproduction of an 18th century banister-back chair for their new exhibit...

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Free Audio: “Cutting the Cord” at WIA 2016

At Woodworking in America this year, I presented a talk called, 'Cutting the Cord: Why I Converted to Hand-Tool-Only Furniture Making'. During the talk, I had my voice recorder on to be able to share it with you readers that couldn’t make it to WIA. That audio can be heard here. Please note that the recording reflects the fact that I had been talking non-stop with visitors for two days straight. Excuse the strained voice. If you are curious to hear what inspired me to put the power tools away, listen to this 27 minute podcast. And pass it around. I’d like to give more folks a chance to hear a case for hand tools in the 21st century shop....

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How to Make Your Own Liquid Hide Glue

One of the great things about WIA is that the marketplace was closed on the last day. This enabled vendors to drop into a few of the presentations before heading home. One of the talks I was looking forward to was Chris Schwarz’s chairmaking process. His demo, as always, was less than dogmatic about how to approach any particular operation. It was because of this openness that his stance on glue choice was startling in its inflexibility. Chris put it simply, “There is no choice.” He declared without hesitation that hide glue was the only appropriate option for gluing this joinery. He mentioned a few of the many reasons for such a strong stance but especially emphasized the importance of...

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Old Hickory

I've been doing my best to hold down the fort around here while Joshua was away at Woodworking in America. In the weeks before he left, we'd received a disproportionate number of chairs to be reglued, recaned, or otherwise repaired. At one point I think I counted 16 in the studio, surely a new record (if anyone is keeping score). One chair I worked on recently I've affectionately dubbed "Little Abe Lincoln's Rocker": a pretty 19th-century child's chair with a woven hickory-splint seat. The seat appears to be original, but the splints had unfortunately been broken all across the front. Our goal with this project was to restore the appearance of the chair without resorting to using new materials -...

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