If it were 1839 and I were 14, I would be heading to the neighborhood Joiner and Cabinet Maker's shop and begging for an apprenticeship. Sadly, the apprentice system has all but collapsed and woodworkers nowdays are mostly self-taught. At best, they can hope to attend costly workshops and classes, if they live in area fortunate enough to offer such things. I do not.
A cruel paradox for would-be craftspeople is that it is difficult to afford all the tools needed to get going, yet it is impossible to learn or complete a project without them. My vision is to solve this dilemma by creating a quasi-apprentice system where I serve you, the Kickstarter sponsors, as a personal apprentice. I will be learning to create traditional woodcraft items, and you will receive the fruits of these efforts.
What I Will Do
I'm going to follow in the footsteps of Thomas, the fictionalized apprentice whose story is told in the 1839 work "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker". This book details not only Thomas's experiences as an apprentice in a Cabinetmaker's shop, but also explains in amazing detail how he builds 3 specific projects.
I will build these 3 projects for you, using the kinds of tools Thomas used and the methods he used to make them.
I will use local wood (including some cut and milled from trees on my property) whenever possible and no electricity except for lighting on winter evenings and a bench grinder to adjust some tools. The lumber will be dimensioned, cut, smoothed, and joined using hand-powered tools, using traditional methods. This is woodworking with a high level of ethical integrity; the use of hand-powered tools transcends even solar power as the most sustainable possible method of working wood. Well-crafted wooden items should easily last more than a lifetime. In this era of disposable merchandise, planned obsolescence, and suspicious quality and materials from distant lands, this project is an attempt to reclaim a very proud heritage - that of hand-made woodcraft in the best of American and European traditions.
Rather than simply asking for handouts or loans, it is my wish to instead put the results of my apprenticeship right into your hands. You will feel great about sponsoring your own artisan, but your contribution will also bring you a unique item of traditional woodcraft and a relationship with a woodworker who is at your call. My alternative is to take out a line of credit - putting me in debt, giving you nothing, and dumping fees and interest into the coffers of financial institutions. With Kickstarter, we all win. With a loan, none of us do (except for the credit card companies).
How I Will Do It
While I already have modest woodworking skills and much "book learning" on the subject, I will be taking this apprenticeship seriously and start from scratch with the very basics using the best materials available to serve as my mentor: the historical record left by authors such as Roubo and Moxon will serve as the pillars of philosophy and technique, while the 1839 work The Joiner and Cabinetmaker and Robert Wearing's The Essential Woodworker will serve as a more specific curriculum for this project. From Dovetail Month (a joint a day) to making 100 saw cuts in a row to ensure superb form, to constructing the 3 items Thomas the Apprentice makes during his education in the above Joiner book, I will be learning to build traditional woodworks by actually building them. I'll be journaling the building processes so that anyone interested may follow along. In this way, you might already be familiar with your specific reward before you receive it, something which is generally not possible with purchased goods.
What is in it for You
As a sponsor, you may opt to receive one of my hand-made items. I do realize that woodworks are expensive, and so there are other rewards available for lesser ammounts - and every bit helps. You will be receiving the satisfaction of helping ensure that traditional and ethically-appropriate woodworking remain alive. It is my aim that you feel more than justly compensated for your patronage, and I believe this will be the case.
How the Funding is Used
I've created a list of the most essential, effective, and historically accurate tools. This is largely informed by Chris Schwarz's excellent tome, The Anarchist's Toolchest ( lostartpress.com). I will seek antique tools when possible, and restore them to usable condition. When needed, I will use professional restoration or sharpening services when a tool is too fragile or exotic for my comfort. In this way, I will keep costs as low as possible while remaining true to the spirit of the project. When antiques are not available or not of reliable quality, new tools from small shops (individual makers when possible) will be purchased. Additional costs include materials (glue, nails, finishing supplies, etc) and in cases where I cannot secure my own lumber, I will use that from regional wood product dealers. Of course, there are also the costs of reward fulfillment and the various fees which this campaign requires.
It also bears mention that this campaign is not adequate to cover all costs - the real total is quite a bit higher than the campaign's goal. However, if the campaign is a success, I will be able to get started very quickly and concentrate on building instead of fundraising.
The time, determination, elbow grease, problem solving, organization, blood, sweat, and tears are all simple enough for me to provide. I merely require the tools and materials themselves - and while I would gladly accept donations in the form of tools or lumber, it is the finances to procure them which are in short supply.
Hand-powered tools are quiet, safe(r), and a joy to use. They tend to produce shavings instead of sawdust, reducing health and fire hazard. The shavings themselves actually end up in my woodstove - which heats the shop. The tools are a link to both the past and (it is my hope) the future. Perhaps most importantly to me, they allow my daughter to witness and eventually assist with their operation. I feel this type of historically-informed exercise is an important way to bring long-forgotten concepts back into the public's grasp, and will hopefully prove entertaining and educational for you, my sponsors, at the same time.
Thank you for considering my project, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns, and I look forward to working on something special for you.
Photos by Chris Schwarz of his versions of the projects I will build:
Chest of Drawers:
The tool roll will be similar to this design, sized for common woodworking tools, and featuring project artwork:
- (30 days)