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.
A trip to Portland this weekend meant we could admire the Craftsman homes in Hawthorne and browse for books at Powell’s. There’s been some substantial rearrangement since we were there last, but I was able to find the woodworking section eventually and was pleased to see my books on Limbert Furniture and Mid-Century Modern furniture on the shelf.
Amazon now has a listing for my forthcoming book, Mid-Century Modern Furniture. While I’ve seen the insides of the book in their laid-out glory, this was my first look at the cover. I like it. You can click through to preview the table of contents and introduction on Amazon. In addition to dimensioned drawings, the book includes a historical overview of the period and step-by-step builds of variations on a coffee table by Finn Juhl and book case by Børge Mogensen. Selecting the pieces was a bit of challenge since my intent was to include interesting designs that could be recreated in the home shop, a constraints which eliminated a lot of fine work that relied on industrial processes for construction.
Mid-Century Modern Furniture is due out in June.
I went outside early one morning a few weeks ago to put the outgoing mail in the box and found an anonymous copy of Roger Billcliffe’s Mackintosh Furniture there. The mystery resolved itself a couple of days later, but not before I had ample cause to thank my then anonymous donor. I’ve long admired Mackintosh’s furniture (and Kevin Rodel’s reinterpretations) for their use of negative and positive space and the way they synthesize Arts & Crafts, Art Noveau, and early Modern impulses, and Billcliffe does Mackintosh’s work justice, tracing its development in chronological order from the late 19th century through 1920.
Billcliffe considers Mackintosh’s furniture in the context of his architectural work, providing detailed verbal descriptions of Mackintosh’s buildings and renovations. And it is in these extended passages that I found my attention wandering, wishing for illustrated floorplans. Too, Billcliffe seems overly invested in defending Mackintosh’s reputation, but these factors can’t detract from the true appeal of the book, the lavish collection of black-and-white photographs documenting Mackintosh’s furniture design. Mackintosh’s most popular designs—including tall chairs and the Hill House hall table and chairs—are well represented, but the book also documents pieces I’d never seen before, from writing cabinets to beds and built-ins. I haven’t read widely in the field, so I can’t speak to how well Billcliffe’s work compares to other books on Mackintosh, but I know I enjoyed it and will return to again when I’m looking for inspiration.
Used copies of Mackintosh Furniture are available in hardback or paperback on Amazon.
I’ve been following Chris Schwarz’s writing on campaign furniture on his blog and in his articles for Popular Woodworking with interest, so I’ve been looking forward to the release of Campaign Furniture. It was worth the wait.
Schwarz begins with a brief introduction to the style and surveys the wood and hardware used in building these pieces before moving to the heart of the book, how to build eight campaign pieces: chest, secretary, camp stool, Roorkee chair, trunk, desk, bookshelf, and traveling bookcase. Schwarz has distinguished himself as a proponent of hand-tool techniques, and that shows in how he approaches construction here, but he outlines alternative approaches for building with power tools. And these aren’t merely step-by-step instructions for reproducing exactly these projects; Schwarz provides direction for variation in the final product. This flexibility is especially useful for woodworkers looking to move from replication of existing work to building their own pieces. A collection of historical sources closes book (as a fan of original catalogs as a source of inspiration, I especially enjoyed the excerpts from Army & Navy Co-Operative Society’s catalogs). The book itself is a delightful physical object, printed on quality stock and lavishly illustrated with photos and period artwork. I did wish at times that it had been printed to a larger page size, especially when I had to turn a page to see a photo illustrating text I had a hard time visualizing.
While it’s unlikely I will build a piece of campaign furniture, I still found the book useful for a number of reasons. Schwarz is an engaging writer, and his enthusiasm for the style is evident in his prose. There are construction techniques that I can appropriate building in other styles, and the style provides some useful design solutions for anyone looking for practical, portable furniture (the drop-front drawer serving as a desk, for example, could find application in any chest of drawers, regardless of period, and suggests interesting possibilities for built-ins as well). While it might not be the best place to start for novices, Campaign Furniture is worthwhile for more advanced woodworkers, whether or not they plan on building in the style.
Read more about Campaign Furniture or purchase it from the publisher here.
… though some so-called up-to-date men may dub them old-fashioned, they are not so by any means, being in constant use at the present time for good work by many who decline to do “jerry” work
I’m taking a short break from timber frames to review Lost Art Press’ new Doormaking and Window-Making for Carpenters & Joiners (available here). The book collects in a single volume two booklets originally written by an experienced joiner and published in England in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Get past what may seem overly-formal language to a modern ear, and the book contains a wealth of useful information. Doormaking covers the construction and installation of board-and-batten and frame-and-panel doors as well as door frames. Window-Making moves from the simple to complex, detailing the construction of casement and sliding sashes and frames, then bay windows before concluding with Venetian windows. Frequent drawings and occasional photographs illustrate the text. The care with which the originals were scanned and reproduced is evident—the text and images are clear and show minimal artifacting. And all of this comes in a delightful package: the diminutive hardback is embossed with a drawing of the bolection-molded three-panel door (figure 64 from Doormaking), a visual invitation to open the book and learn. Continue reading