As a long-time reader of Christian Becksvoort’s work, I awaited my pre-ordered copy of Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship with some anticipation. It did not disappoint. In it, Becksvoort covers three majors topics: woodworking fundamentals, the business of woodworking, and building in the Shaker style. I was most interested in the last section, but each part offers something for new and experienced woodworkers. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the fundamentals section was Becksvoort’s discussion of wood movement and the painstaking steps he takes to accommodate it in his commissions. The wide-ranging advice for making a business out of woodworking covers the pratical considerations of setting up shop as well as those activities often overlooked in such an endeavor—creating a business plan, marketing, outsourcing, etc—and offers a solid introduction, though anyone not dissuaded after reading will want to further explore the subject before taking the plunge. Readers familiar with Becksvoort’s work in Fine Woodworking will recognize many of the author’s designs featured in part three, though here they are neatly encapsulated by illustrations, pithy commentary, and measured drawings. I find Becksvoort’s signature piece, a fifteen-drawer chest, and his reinterpretation of a Hancock village shelf especially appealing. Seven reproductions and a survey of original Shaker pieces (primarily from Mt. Lebanon, Sabbathday Lake, and Hancock villages) round out the section. Shaker Inspirations is a delight to hold as well as to read, the team at Lost Art Press demonstrating its usual care and attention to book design and production. Like the Shaker work which inspired it, Shaker Inspirations pairs form and function to create a delightful whole.
I can imagine a happy retirement volunteering in the cabinet shop at Hancock Shaker Village, if only because it would allow working at one of the shop’s massive workbenches. These benches are typical of the form, with a wide top over a storage base. A tail vise and leg vise (supplemented by a sliding dead man) provide workholding.
My personal bench is a scaled-down version of the Roubo as documented by Christopher Schwarz in an issue of Woodworking Magazine and later in Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use. It has served me well, but there are times when I would prefer enclosed storage rather than its single open shelf.
While I’ve written about Shaker peg board before, a trip to two Shaker communities (the Mt. Lebanon, NY and Hancock, MA communities are close enough to visit in a single trip, but go to the Hancock community if you only have time for one) gave me a chance to get close up with several samples of original and reproductionContinue reading
I first encountered Thos. Moser’s interpretation of a Shaker side table in the second edition of his How to Build Shaker Furniture in 1999. At the time I wasn’t equipped to build it (I had just started building simple pieces with jigsaw, circular saw, and drill, working on a flat roof or kitchen that could be easily swept out after building), but could still admire the graceful taper of the legs and and the beveled top. The table’s design makes it perfect for the side of a bed or couch, the embodiment of Shaker simplicity captured in the compact package. Continue reading
I’ve wanted some method for storing yard implements for some time, but I wanted something with more appeal than the utilitarian plastic and metal options available. I finally decided that Shaker peg board would make a nice alternative. I ordered some maple pegs online, but only afterward did it occur to me that even my best free-hand drilling attempts were likely to leave the pegs at least slightly off-center and a bit splayed. So I deferred and other projects intervened until I had access to a drill press and was ready to build. Consulting Thomas Moser’s How to Build Shaker Furniture and John Shea’s Making Authentic Shaker Furniture, I decided on a three-inch wide board with the pegs set 6″ on center.
Actual construction went quickly. After ripping some poplar to width, I planed away the machine marks on the show side of the board, ran a chamfer around its perimeter and hit it with a quick pass of 220 grit sandpaper before priming and painting. I then marked the location of the pegs using dividers and a square, then drilled them out with a 1/2″ Forstner bit. I had contemplated different fastening techniques, ranging from a French cleat, to plugged screw holes, when it occurred to me that each peg was an effective plug. So I drilled pilot holes in every few peg holes, positioned the board on the wall, and marked the concrete wall. Even with a hammer drill, it took some time to drill holes for masonry anchors. With the anchors finally set, I screwed the board to the wall and tapped the pegs into place with a wooden mallet.