An Excerpt from Roy Underhill's Next Article
The February 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine
is off to the printer. And I can safely say that it contains one of my
three favorite articles we’ve published since I started here in 1996.
It’s Roy Underhill’s article titled “Roubo’s Folding Bookstand.”
while the article itself tells you how to build the clever project, the
text itself is something you almost never see in a woodworking magazine
– a fine piece of writing. I’ve included a short excerpt here to give
you a taste.
The February 2011 issue will mail out to subscribers
the week before Christmas. (And thank you, subscribers. We don’t say
that enough.) The issue will be on the newsstands starting the week of
Jan. 11. If you do want to subscribe, this link will hook you up. Otherwise, read on!
— Christopher Schwarz
Paris, July 14, 1790
bells began ringing through the rain at 5 a.m., but everyone in Paris
had been awake for hours – if they had slept at all. André Roubo’s boots
were soaked through by the time he reached the door to his workshop. He
fished the key from the sodden pocket of his blue lieutenant’s uniform,
unlocked the door and half-closed it behind him. Once inside, he
slumped into a sigh that was instantly followed by uncontrollable
coughing. Gagging for the moment, he pushed forward into the blackness
of the shop and slapped his hands onto the first of the eight long
Roubo rested there for a moment, drawing strength
from the massive oak benchtop. Slowly, running his hand along the dips
and damages of the front edge of the top, he eased down its length until
the nip of the iron-toothed bench dog told him he was at the end.
Reaching out with his left hand through the darkness, he rattled against
the chisels lined up in the rack on the rear of the neighboring bench.
he turned and made his way slowly back toward the door. Dawn was
approaching and so too was his duty for this momentous day. Outside,
joyous in spite of the persistent showers, singing packs of
torch-bearing, arms-over-each-other’s-shoulders citizens passed the
half-open door. The beloved Benjamin Franklin had inspired their song.
When asked about the rocky progress of the American revolution, Franklin
always replied, “It’ll be fine, be fine!” And so the citizens sang the
new song as they passed, “It’ll be fine, be fine!” – everyone relieved
that their own revolution seemed to have been won so quickly with such
minimal violence – at the cost of only a half-dozen heads to speak of.
“It’ll be fine, be fine!”
Much Like Franklin
watched as the torches passing in the street sent flickering beams
sweeping across the vacant workbenches. No crowds would ever sing words
from his books. “The torch of theory must illuminate the lessons of
experience,” was simply not as catchy as “It’ll be fine!” Still, he had
much in common with Franklin. Like him, Roubo had once been a penniless
apprentice who had often chosen to buy books over having a full stomach.
Young André had even made a habit of pocketing candle stubs so that he
could work through the night, studying his old books….
— Roy Underhill