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Fidelity to the Past: An Interview with Zachary Dillinger… Issue Two Table of Contents

When I published The Mortise & Tenon Manifesto in Issue One, my friend Zach Dillinger sent me an email laughing because he said he swore he could’ve written it. To illustrate the point, he attached a draft of the first chapter of his upcoming book With Saw, Plane & Chisel. I read through it and saw an uncanny similarity in his emphasis and creative objective. I chuckled to myself knowing he and I would work well together. But I’ve always admired the work of Zach Dillinger. Zach has long been a furniture maker and collector (and user) of old tools. His level of understanding of pre-industrial process is not common these days and it’s his emphasis on period authenticity that...

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Interview with Tool Collector Skip Brack: Issue Two Table of Contents

Liberty Tool Company in Liberty, Maine has become a legendary stop for woodworkers vacationing in Maine.  This massive three floor grange hall full of antique hand tools is the labor of love of Skip Brack. Brack has been picking tools all around New England for decades and turning them around for sale to honest to goodness users. His prices are very affordable and his selection is reliable. You won’t often find rare mint collector items but if you are in need of a trusty jointer plane or a Stanley #4, you know Skip will have tons of options for you. If can’t find what you’re looking for at Liberty, then you can try his two other tool stores not far...

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Why We Don’t Sell Ourselves

This post may be a bit more candid than it needs to be but I thought I could use the opportunity to share my experience here. Today I had two situations in which I felt blindsided by a salesman’s pitch. You know those times… The guy walks/calls up and seems extra friendly and even interested in you personally. He asks a couple of questions to get you talking about your interests. Then he aligns himself with you as ‘on your side’.  As conversation continues, he slowly begins talking about what he has to offer you. Before you know it, you have been pressured into an awkward situation in which you must listen to his spiel or you look like the...

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A Case for Cadwalader: Issue Two Table of Contents

Sometimes conservators get to put their detective hat on when they come across an object that challenges their assumptions. Even when a first glance leads them to make assumptions about the origin or age of a piece, occasionally a deeper look leads them down a rabbit trail of puzzling clues. UK-based furniture restorer, Timothy Garland, has been on such a rabbit trail for a number of years now. When an unusual high posted bed came to his attention, he was intrigued to dig deep to make sense of the evidence before his eyes. Although the bed had been previously described as severely messed with over time and was of probable English origin, Garland began to suspect the evidence pointed in...

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‘Woodworking in Estonia’ Book Review: Issue Two Table of Contents

In every issue of M&T we want to review a book we think will benefit our readers. For Mike and I, this issue’s selection was a no-brainer. Woodworking in Estonia, recently republished by Lost Art Press, has got to be one of the most important books released on traditional woodworking in a long time. Antes Viires spent many years of his life documenting and studying the wood craft tradition of Estonian artisans and wrote a comprehensive book founded in scholarly rigor and aimed to inspire the next generation of craftspeople. Because Mike has been poring over this book since it came out he jumped at the opportunity to write a review. He has been particularly fascinated to see that understanding...

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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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