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John Gloag

The last woodworking book that had me reading cover to cover was “Is it Genuine.” Here’s another that had me doing the same: “Time, Taste and Furniture,” by John Gloag.

I love discovering a good book as much as finding a unique piece of woodwork. I found this one in a local antiques store. I had no prior knowledge of the author, so I had to judge the book by its cover. I need not have worried. The book is in three parts. In basic terms, part one is early furniture, part two is modern (based on the publishing date of 1925) and the third provides context. What this book has, just like “is it Genuine,” is a strong narrative that feels like a conversation; I felt like I was being spoken to and learning from the conversation.

John Gloag 2

Parts one and three read well and I did not skip a page – but it was part two that really grabbed my attention. It was the wrestling between hand work and machine work; it was about using the lessons of the past coupled with a vision for designs of the present. And it was, for me, also an introduction to some of the influential people within the craft during the early 20th century.

On the issue of machines it seemed clear that there was a realisation that they could offer the opportunity to allow more people to enjoy quality without the expense of totally hand-made furniture.

john gloag 3

Thanks to this book, I have been introduced to Gordon Russell and found, rightly, there is a museum reflective of his contribution. Others (whom I doubtless should have known already) – such as Ambrose Heal and Peter Waals to name but two – also feature and the photos within are inspirational.

gloag 4

So along with shop time and all the other things to grab your woodworking attention, don’t be afraid to gamble on a vintage (or new) book. There is only good that come from broadening your horizons and considering things in a new way; that’s what “Time, Taste and Furniture” did for me.

— Graham Haydon

Editor’s note: A quick search on Bookfinder.com shows there are a number of copies available of the 1925 original printing in the $20 range.

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Showing 7 comments
  • oneeyelid

    Gordon Russel is truly an inspiration and all John Gloag’s writing is worth the read.
    I live about two hours drive from the Gordon Russell museum in Broadway in the Cotswolds. It is a wonderful place to visit and unlike other museums I have visited you are allowed to touch the exhibits and examine them closely.
    I visited the Gordon Russell factory in 1964 and had a tour of the whole place. A wonderful experience that demonstrated how to mix machine and hand work to produce excellent woodwork.

  • John Vernier

    I just received a copy of the 1925 US edition which I bought on Abebooks, which is naturally much easier to find in the US (several copies in the $20-30 range). It appears to be the same as the UK edition, as it is printed in Edinburgh, just in case anyone was worried. Excellent text, as Graham says, and I will mention that there are many photos of furniture by Ernest Gimson, Peter Waals, Sidney Barnsley, and Gordon Russell. Thanks for the tip, Graham, as I’m always on the lookout for more information about the Cotswold school of woodworkers, about whom there is not nearly enough information.

  • hmerkle

    Thanks Graham (said facetiously) as if I didn’t already have 90 things tugging me in 180 different directions…
    Seriously, I too love to find “Gems” out there – I was at a junk shop I frequent looking for tools and he had a box under a table and I picked up a Krenov – cabinetmakers notebook for $3! (weird that I didn’t have it already…)

  • Roseville Rob

    Found a copy on ALIBRIS.com for $15. It is on its way. Looks like a cool book. Thanks for the tip!!

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