Chris Schwarz's Blog

Denning: Get it Before it’s Gone

Popular Woodworking Books has just reprinted the classic text “The Art and Craft of Cabinet-Making” by David Denning (1891) in a beautiful edition at a great price. If you are at all interested in historical woodworking methods, you should stop reading this blog entry and buy the book.

It’s only $36 (with free domestic shipping). That’s a lot less money than original copies fetch, and this reprint is actually nicer than the original in my personal collection.

Why should you care about Denning’s Victorian-era book? It’s one of the many books that form my core library. Denning was clearly a practitioner – not just an observer – and was intimately familiar with handwork. His book details the essential tools required for building furniture; he has no use for silly gizmos. He also details many of the basic construction techniques for building casework, from drawers to how to install glass.

And, unlike a lot of Victorian-era reading, the book is an easy read – a delight in fact. Denning is highly opinionated, and his opinions are supported by his training. You’ll find yourself both agreeing and disagreeing with him on every page.

Like old work from the 18th century? Denning thinks they were inefficient and perhaps lazy. Want to make drawers that are high-style? Denning has just the ticket. Learn to flatten boards, use a toothing plane and sharpen tools with little or no nonsense. Denning gives it straight from the shoulder and clearly walks the talk.

Unlike a lot of modern books, this edition of “The Art and Craft of Cabinet-Making” is built to last. Unlike “print on demand” editions that fall apart after one reading, this version has a tough sewn binding and durable cloth-covered boards for the cover. This book should outlast you.

Like any book from a commercial publisher, it likely will be around for only one print run. So buy it now and buy one for your son-in-law who seems interested in woodworking. You’re not likely to see an edition like this at this price again.

— Christopher Schwarz

2 thoughts on “Denning: Get it Before it’s Gone

  1. Lieb

    Chris I have another question for you. I am building your “Classic Shaker Side Table” from the Autumn 2004 issue of Woodworking Magazine.This is in reference to the upper drawer guides which are used to attach the table top. You recommended using #8 x 1″ screws and elongating the holes to allow for wood expansion and contraction. Are these regular wood screws? if so, what do you recommend to allow the head of the wood screw to move freely?

    Thanks,
    Terry

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