We don’t normally review books targeted at hobby woodworkers, but when Thomas Moser revisits, revises and re-releases his classic treatise on Shaker furniture, it’s worth a look, even for professionals. Let’s face it: Thomas Moser has lived the life many woodworkers dream of. He started as an avid hobbyist and left a career in academia to attempt to make a living at furniture making. Today, few can argue with the success of Moser’s furniture operation in Maine, which currently employs more than 135 people, has customers around the world, and his sons are actively involved to ensure the next generation of the business.
When Moser originally wrote this book 35 years ago, it was a reverent and serious examination of Shaker furniture with a practical emphasis on how it could be reproduced. Beautiful black and white photographs were accompanied by measured drawings and ample illustrations to make sure the reader/woodworker understood the subtle and distinctive details.
This new edition boasts lavish full-color photography, and it takes pains to recognize that while the appeal of Shaker design remains, the technology and tools available to today’s woodworker have changed. That means the book has an entirely new section on tools. Some projects were dropped and nine new projects were added to the 36 original projects retained.
Moser’s new foreward to the book is a thoughtful reflection on some of the changes that have transpired in the furniture industry in particular and in woodworking in general over the last 35 years. His original 1977 introduction to the book is also included and proves profound in its commentary even today.
While readers of CabinetMakerFDM will likely quickly gloss over the information in the book about woodworking basics, thoughtful discussions about the roles of hand tools and machines will draw us back in. For example, Moser writes of the work of someone he knows who makes traditional Windsor chairs with only traditional tools and techniques and produces a steady two chairs a week with a 16-month backlog. Then he compares that to his own factory’s production of Windsor chairs where each worker using “all the tools available to us” was able to produce an average of 10 chairs a week.
Moser’s voice is wonderful in the book. For example, he compares the multitude of new woodworking aids as often being like the “revolutionary device” for use in the kitchen hawked in a late-night infomercial. Then he advises, “Let us simply conclude by saying that a mastery of these basic tools should precede other more technical or exotic contrivances.”
All of us who love wood and fine things made of it will appreciate the craftsmanship in wood and words in this book.
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