"The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" is a
huge book – with more than 370 pages of detailed handtool instruction,
including many processes that have not been covered before in the early
woodworking literature. Though
this sounds impossible, please read on.
Let's begin in 1839. In that year, an English publisher issued a small
book on woodworking that has – until now – escaped detection by
scholars, historians and woodworkers.
Titled "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker," this short book was written by an
anonymous tradesman and tells the fictional tale of Thomas, a lad of 13
or 14 who is apprenticed to a rural shop that builds everything from
built-ins to more elaborate veneered casework. The book was written to
guide young people who might be considering a life in the
joinery or cabinetmaking trades, and every page is filled with
Unlike other woodworking books at the time, "The Joiner and Cabinet
Maker" focuses on how apprentices can obtain the basic skills needed to
work in a hand-tool shop. It begins with Thomas tending the fire to keep
the hide glue warm, and it details how he learns stock preparation, many
forms of joinery and casework construction. It ends
with Thomas building a veneered mahogany chest of drawers that is French
polished. However, this is not a book for children. It is a book for
anyone exploring hand-tool woodworking.
Thanks to this book, we can stop guessing at how some operations were
performed by hand and read first-hand how joints were cut and casework
was assembled in one rural England shop.
Even more delightful is that Thomas builds three projects during the
course of his journey in the book, and there is enough detail in the
text and illustrations to re-create these three projects just as they
were built in 1839.