When I hang out with other woodworkers, the conversation almost always turns to what we are building now and what we are building next. Recently I said something I didn’t think I’d ever say:
“I want to build a fork.”
As I’ve been digging deeper into the 250-year history of campaign furniture, I’m turning up projects that are cool and unusual – not your typical bookcase, birdhouse or whirligig. A couple months ago I found an awesome fork and knife set that were illustrated in Nicholas A. Brawer’s “British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas” (Abrams). Tip: If you want to read the book, get it from your library – it’s crazy expensive.
This might just be the coolest fork and knife set I’ve ever seen. The mahogany handles are riveted to the metal tangs of the fork and knife. But what is crazy is that the fork and knife slide together to make a compact traveling set.
I am so enthusiastic about building these that I’ve been soliciting help from readers who have metal skills. After some CAD work, reader William Heidt came up with construction drawings and this 3D render.
And now we are talking about getting someone to cut out the metal using laser or water-jet. Stay tuned here. If we find someone who will cut them for us we will let you know.
After years of building stuff, finding a new sort of project that you’ve never encountered is startling and energizing – like finding a room in your house that you never knew existed. It also reminds me how myopic I can be. It’s easy to get focused on typical woodworking projects.
There’s nothing wrong with that because we all need bookcases. But if you look around a little more you might find things that will inspire you to acquire new skills. For example: Making treenware for our house has been the real motivator in learning to turn. Some of Robin Wood’s beautiful spoons and bowls have made me want to carve.
Remember: At one time, almost everything in the house was made of wood. Spoons, cups, bowls, platters, even shoes.
So there’s no reason that could not be true again.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you are interested in the history of wooden objects, a good (non-academic) place to start is with Eric Sloane’s books. “A Reverence for Wood” is a book I think every woodworker would enjoy – and you can usually find it for $2 used. Check AbeBooks.com and you’ll find tons of copies available.