Some good news and sad news have put books in the forefront of my mind. It’s also the start of the school year, and even though I am many (many) years out of school, I have never lost the excitement of discovery that I associate with new, or new-to-me, books.
First, the good news: Lost Art Press has released a bunch of new books in quick succession: Sharpen This, Chris Schwarz’s concise and helpful guide to sharpening; George Walker and Jim Tolpin’s Euclid’s Door: Building the Tools of ‘By Hand & Eye,” a companion book to the authors’ book of artisan geometry for woodworkers; The Belligerent Finisher, in which John Porrit shows how to give furniture the warm patina of antiques with imaginative finishing techniques; and Chris Schwarz’s Stick Chair Journal, a the inaugural edition of a journal for lovers of stick chairs.
The sad news: the death of our friend Nancy Hiller has brought renewed attention to Nancy’s wonderful books, including her memoirs, Making Things Work and Shop Tails, and her insightful guide to kitchen design and construction, Kitchen Think. Nancy’s legacy lives on through our memories of her kindness and wisdom; through her magnificent woodwork; and through these encouraging books.
Fall is also a good time to recommend books generally, so I thought I’d mention a few classics and a couple of relative newbies that are worth checking out.
If you are fascinated by Joseph Moxon or Roubo but consider them too, well…recent, how about Theophilus’ On Diverse Arts? This 12th century treatise on trades and crafts is a surprisingly enjoyable read - it's a "how to" - with many of the crafts and their challenges surprisingly unchanged in their essence.
Gerrit Rietveld was one of the 20th century’s most innovative furniture designers and his work is explored in How to Construct Rietveld Furniture. Rietveld’s zig zag chairs are deservedly iconic - for their accessibility of construction, comfort and overall snazziness - and many other designs are also worth exploring. This book has measured drawing and plans for most of Rietveld iconic designs.
Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn, founder of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, has a title that says it all. Give it as a gift to anyone who finds satisfaction in making things.
Two reissued books by Scott Landis, The Workbench Book and The Workshop Book, deserve wider audiences. I have both books in the original editions and I used plans in The Workbench Book to build my own workbench in the early 1980's. I’m thrilled to see these influential books available again.
I can personally attest to the fact that Daniel Clay is a wonderful teacher of chip carving, but if you can’t take a class with him, get the next best thing, his book Chip Carving: Techniques for Carving Beautiful Patterns by Hand. Once you learn the technique, you’ll see blank wood in a new light - and ready for beautification.
We often get questions about books that can help transmit the magic of woodworking to the next generation. We have books that build skill, like The Complete Guide to Soap Carving and books that build connection to the craft, like the storytelling powerhouse Cadi and the Cursed Oak. Since so many schools have given up on handcraft instruction, books may be a good way to pique young interest.
Finally, two of our greatest woodworking magazines, Quercus and Mortise & Tenon, have new issues out. These magazines have very different styles but both fill their pages with vital celebrations of craft.
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