|by Aldren A. Watson
WW Norton & Co.: 2005
paperback, 275 pp., $18.95
Recently republished from the 1975 edition, this is an inclusive history of the early American craftsman, where he came from, how he made his tools and what he did with them. "Knowing virtually nothing of conditions in America, the earliest woodworkers crossed the Atlantic with their few belongings and tools. And when they got here some of them probably discovered they had brought the wrong ones." Black and white illustrations show us a foot powered, spring pole tablesaw, a three-gang frame saw, draw bored joinery, hand made comb-back Windsors and hand cut sprial turnings. The author describes what regional woods were valued for what purposes, and how individual trades meshed and crossed over.
These people made what they needed and valued what they had. It is all here: clamps, planes, hardware, files, grindstones, augers and lathes. Not only what they worked with, but how they worked and for what wages or barter. Watson included census figures showing how many cabinet makers worked in New Enland in 1730, how many pieces and what type pieces were produced by an individual cabinet shop, and what diversity of work they listed.
The book is a fascinating history, and a step back in time to discover what our early American ancestors had to deal with to engage in their trades. The author provides wonderful drawings and informative text. Highly recommended.
. . . Barb Siddiqui