With the exciting new publication of Nicholson’s 1850 text, I fully expect we will be hearing a great deal more about Nicholson, and very likely a great deal less about Roubo. This is as it should be. For those who feel these texts and our fascination with them are mere fads I offer my heartiest Roubo-esque Au Contraire!
These texts are veritable gold mines of woodworking wisdom. They are the work of professional woodworkers (excluding Moxon) who spent their life times working with hand tools. While no similar Anglo-American texts exist dating to the 18th century, Moxon and Nicholson serve as book ends, implying what did and did not take place between them. I transcribed the sections on sharpening in my previous post. They did indeed seem remarkably similar. We can assume therefore, that 18th-century trade practice was similar to Nicholson’s 19th-century description.
I suspect this will be true of comparisons with Roubo as well. As we collectively pour through this new (old) text, I suspect we will learn from the contradictions and similarities that emerge. I urge you to take part in this process by buying this book and reading it carefully.
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“Smith’s Key to the Manufactories of Sheffield” is an excellent companion text. Though not currently in print, individual plates of it may be available on the net. I would seek them out. It provides greater detail of the specific tool forms than Nicholson and is roughly contemporaneous. It also has a very helpful list of what was and was not available. Were there such things as one inch tanged mortise chisels? The answer is no. What about 1/8″ socket chisels? No again. What emerges is that these different sorts of chisels probably had specific uses. They weren’t simply different versions of the same tool (any more than a dovetail saw is a different version of a long rip saw).
Don’t cut up your Roubo bench for fire wood just yet. My article on my Nicholson bench was rejected. But it is inevitable that new or contradictory information is forthcoming and that Schwarz will likely be smitten by it. Understandably, this has annoyed some searching for the one right way. But you should know by now that there is no one right way. Each of us must find our own way. I intend to do so armed with as much information as I can get my hands on.