Arts & Mysteries: 18th-Century Stock Preparation

Different goals allowed period woodworkers to surface boards quickly.
By Adam Cherubini
Pages: 32-35

From the April 2007 issue #161
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Dressing stock by hand isn’t hard work. The trick to doing it efficiently is forgetting everything you know about woodworking machines and just about everything you’ve read on the Internet.

Woodworking machines produce a consistent level of surface and dimensional quality. Trying to emulate machine quality by hand is a waste of time. Some boards need more attention, some need less; you need to sort them out before you start. It just doesn’t make sense to have a “one-surface-fits-all” approach. Ninety percent of what I read on the Internet involves people trying to produce aerospace precision with their hand tools then complaining about how long it takes.

Believe it or not, I’m not judging these folks. It’s a perfectly fine way to work wood if that’s what you’re into. But don’t be fooled: This isn’t how people worked in the 18th century. Let’s take a look back at the evidence together.

From the April 2007 issue #161
Buy this issue now