WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture

Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture
by Robert W. Lang

Cambium Press, 2001
Paperback, 144 pp., $22.95
ISBN 1-892836-12-2

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    Here's a "must-read" book for any woodworker interested in building "Craftsman" furniture, the well-known style of quartersawn white oak furniture introduced and manufactured by Gustav Stickley in the early 1900s. This distinctive style, with its rationale grounded firmly in the philosophy of the Arts & Crafts movenent, is still immensely popular a hundred years later, not least among woodworkers, who have always appreciated its simplicity, elegant proportions, and sturdy, straightforward construction.
    Occupying over 100 pages at the center of the book are drawings, bills of materials and construction tips for 27 of Stickley's most popular furniture forms, carefully derived from measurements and photographs of actual Stickley pieces and rendered in crisp, AutoCAD-generated images--both orthographic and perspective--ready to take to the shop. There are also complete parts lists for each of the featured forms, which include "prairie" sofas, Morris chairs, a queen-size bed, settles, desks, side chairs and various bookcases and cabinets. It's all here, folks--a nicely representative cross-section of the most popular Stickley designs.

    But wait, there's more! Not content to give us merely drawings and detailed bills of materials, author Robert Lang's introductory section begins with a brief, clear history of Craftsman furniture and the Stickley family. (Imagine five brothers running four separate furniture companies making essentially the same designs!) Lang begins this chapter with a discussion of the the philosophical underpinnings of the Arts & Crafts movement and a nutshell description of the design principles underlying the furniture. We also learn about Stickley's and his brothers' companies and about the impact of designer Harvey Ellis and others on the Craftsman style. Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters receive just a passing mention. For more in-depth information on all these subjects, you might want to look into a couple other sources listed on the last page of the book.
    Another nice feature in a book of drawings is Lang's primer on how to read and interpret drawings. You may find this section to be an education in itself if you're not fully conversant with drafting conventions. The drafting chapter is followed in short order by another on the characteristic materials and hardware used in Craftsman furniture, though no sources are given for reproduction hardware such as the distinctive hand-hammered copper pulls seen on upscale originals of Stickley's designs.
  Rounding out the introduction is a collection of ten short, information-laden technique sections, delivered in a rapid-fire bundle of savvy tips, insights, and things to watch out for. If you have any questions in your mind about how to actually build this furniture, you'll probably find the answers here, along with a lot of the reasoning behind the techniques and construction concepts. I thought the finishing section should have included more detail on Stickley's original methods, but it offers enough information to help you successfully build authentic-looking pieces. You'll have to fill in some of the blanks for yourself though.
    At the end of the book, you'll find instructions for ordering larger AutoCAD prints of the drawings directly from the author's website, www.craftsmanplans.com, should you need or want them.
    The main attraction in Lang's book is the drawings themselves, although there are enough juicy morsels of information to interest woodworkers of all abilities. With this book, a pile of white oak and a long winter to spend in the shop, you could easily outfit a good sized home with authentic Craftsman-style furniture.

...Ellis Walentine