With all the woodworking books and magazines out there, it’s a bit surprising that we need any more. But we do. Nearly every woodworking book and magazine that gets published eventually crosses my desk, and I’m always amazed at the vast amount of homogeneity within the covers. The techniques and tools used are similar. In some ways, it’s like the authors all went to the same school , or maybe they’re simply all reading the same books.
It’s not that these authors are using the wrong techniques or tools or joints , quite the opposite. The advice in the books is generally sound; it’s just narrow. You can learn a lot about woodworking by exploring books that were published before you were born.
A fantastic place to begin is George Ellis’s “Modern Practical Joinery”. For $15 (or less if you buy it used) you can explore the vast world of machine and hand-tool woodworking that existed just as shops were beginning to mechanize. Ellis extols the virtues of the labor-saving machines and an affection for the fine work possible with hand tools. But more importantly, Ellis’s enormous book explores the vast and interesting world of joinery for cabinets and house fittings. There are joints in here you’ve probably never seen (really good and solid ones). Ellis explores aspects of joinery and construction that are rarely covered in today’s texts , such as scaling the components of many joints. I cannot recommend this book enough. And we’re lucky the sucker is still in print.
Which brings me to my next little adventure. For about a year I’ve been after a copy of Andre Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier,” the book that inspired me to build the workbench in Issue 4. Sure it’s in French , and I probably won’t be able to read it even with my translation dictionary. But the plates are illuminating.
But finding a copy hasn’t been easy. Vintage copies cost thousands. There is a reprint, which I believe is published in France. I haven’t been able to find a U.S. bookseller that carries it, but I did find one in Quebec at Archambault. So I ordered it months ago. It was out of stock. I waited. No luck.
Then yesterday I received an email in French. My MasterCard had been charged and the book was on its way, with a tracking number. As of today, it had departed Quebec and was headed toward Kentucky. It looks like my own copy of Roubo might finally arrive. They have the text in three volumes; and the price? Much less than thousands.
There are, of course, a lot of other books that should be available (such as many books by Charles Hayward), but we’ll save that for another day.