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Book Review: The Joiner and Cabinet Maker

The Joiner and Cabinet Maker

Book review time!

As I promised a few posts back, I’m going to write up my thoughts on this book and share them with you all.

The book is “The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker” by Moskowitz and Schwartz.  It’s available here at Lost Art Press for $29 by itself, or $34 with a companion DVD.  Which was the version I got, and it was worth it.  My first copy got lost in the mail somehow, and the wonderful people there sent me a copy again, first class customer service there.

This book is different, that’s what makes it hard to summarize or review I think.  It’s not the normal woodworking or history book, it’s both and also more than that.  It’s a history book, a how to book, and an inspiring story all rolled into one.  It’s very readable, hard to put down, and makes we want to work on my hand tool all at once.

The first part of the book is some context for the story, and the history behind it.

The second part is a story following a young apprentice as he learns the craft of joinery.

The third part documents the three projects discussed in the story, and lays out practical steps and context for the tools and techniques.

The context provided is the best part.  It’s like you’ve got a master craftsman sitting there reading with you, and pointing out parts that are unclear based on the drift of language over time or providing details to make something a bit more concrete.  Joel Moskowitz covers a lot of background, and practical stuff in the footnotes sprinkled all through the story text.  It adds so much to learning part, helps with context and makes it all the more useful.

The story itself is a bit quaint, but the knowledge presented is unique, since most of things being discussed are rarely written down from that time, and represents a chance for a modern person to take a few lessons in a long gone joiners shop.  And then, Christopher Schwartz translates the actual projects for us, helping us bridge the gap in ways that make sense.

I read it cover to cover, and was sad when it was done. I want more books like this, and I don’t think they exist.

I highly recommend that any aspiring hand tool woodworker should read this book.  It’s worth it.


*corrected who wrote the footnotes.


Tonight after a scrumptious dinner of Sushi with the family, we went next door to the book store.  I found an interesting set of books that look like fun.  Called “The Modern Carpenter, Joiner, and Cabinet-Maker” it’s a reprint of a 1902 printing, with a new forward by Roy Underhill.  For $6 a volume, I couldn’t turn it down.

The Modern Carpenter, Joiner, and Cabinet Maker, 8 Vols.

Also, today I picked up my books that I’d reserved from the library, notably “Furniture in England: The age of the joiner” which after a brief scan is on my MUST BUY list already.  It focuses on the period of 1550 – 1650 furniture with lots of good pictures.

All in all a good book day.


Second Use purchase

I was going to make some crack about Vice or Vise, but I think it’s come off a bit flat.  Instead, I’ll just post a pic of my new score and babble on a bit about my workbench plans.  (and struggles.)

I found this at a fun store to visit, Second Use,  where I like to check for recycled materials to use in my woodworking.  Kind of my thing, which should be interesting as I move into more furniture type things.  I did see a bunch of Poplar that might be good for a project I’m considering.  Any way, I saw the vise pictured to the right on the site, and went down to take a look.  It is a bit rusty on the surface, but it’s still usable, and it’s massive!  It cost me $45 at that size, and condition for a quick release vise I think that’s about fair.  A little elbow grease, a wire brush and some WD-40 should be good.

As for the bench this goes on, it’s a bit of a struggle right now.  I’m having lots of problems figuring out what I want out of a bench, at what I can afford to pay.  I want it solid, a thick top, a good height for hand tool wood working, and able to hold work well in lots of ways.   I’ve been reading Chris Scwarz’s book on Workbenches, and it’s full of good ideas.  Too many good ideas.  It’s somewhat maddening because I want to narrow it down, not expand the list.

Woodworking Book

Workbenches, From Design & Theory to Construction & Use By Christopher Schwarz

I’m actually coming close to a final idea, only just recently, from the book mentioned above.  The “roubo” which is oft mentioned on the internet, in the woodworking forums, etc.  However, it’s got a lot of what I want, plus it’s compatible with what I already have.  I have a base pretty much built already in another bench that came with the house.  It’s got solid 4×4’s for legs, and is a good layout size, it’s too high but some sawing will fix that.  It really just needs a good top, and some hardware.

Which brings us back to the vise. :)  See what I did there?

I heartily recommend the book, and the author for reading.  They have a good blog and magazine for us woodworkers.


Mary Rose

I finally got a hold of a copy of “Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose” through inter library loan.  It a veritable treasure trove of information on woodworking and tools from 1500’s England.  So many of the wooden tools survived due to amazing and somewhat miraculous circumstances.  Much of the iron is gone, but you can infer a lot from the markings and residue.

Amazing stuff, and very well documented.  Unfortunately I can’t keep the book, and copies go for hundreds of dollars.  Time to get busy with a copy machine I think, at least to grab the sections I am most interested in. There is a great dovetailed box that I might want to recreate.  They were most likely imports from the Continent, as dovetails weren’t the norm in England until later.

— badger

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