‘Time, Taste and Furniture,’ by John Gloag – a 1925 Gem
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.
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.
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.
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.