wooden board workshop at the Huntington

This fall, November 8-12, 2010, I will be teaching an intensive five day master class at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.  This will be the first time I’ve taught this class, and hopefully it will be a great introduction to woodworking and the conservation of wood board books.  I’m really excited about it and think it will be a lot of fun, as well as a lot of learning. The workshop fee is a very modest $650, and I’m estimating about $150 for materials and some basic woodworking tools.  Please contact Justin Johnson ( jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org) for an application, or if you have questions, please contact me.

WOODEN BOOK BOARDS: THEIR CONSERVATION, HISTORIC CONSTRUCTION AND THE PRAXIS OF WORKING WOOD.

This five day master class will focus on the fundamentals of wooden book boards: the basics of using hand tools to shape wood accurately, easily and efficiently; the making a sample set of wood to identify common historic varieties; the examining of historic techniques of shaping wood; and the making a sample set of common treatments for split boards. Choosing, tuning, using, sharpening and maintaining woodworking tools will also be taught. Exploring some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for conservation treatments will also be covered. Participants are encouraged to bring documentation concerning specific split board treatment problems for class discussion. No previous woodworking experience is necessary.

Bio: Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and the inventor of conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation. For more than 20 years, he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals.

GOALS OF THE WORKSHOP

  1. Learn how to evaluate, use and maintain basic hand wood working tools.
  2. Construct a sample set of reference wood commonly encountered in historic book boards.
  3. Construct a specialized jig to plane thin wood boards.
  4. Reproduce historic board shapes, channels, tunnels, chamfering and learn to recognize the tools used to make them.
  5. Construct samples of currently used techniques to repair split and splitting boards, and discuss their applicability in various real world situations.
  6. Make one sample board from a log, by hand, to understand the historic hand technologies– using a maul, froe, and broad axe.
  7. Begin to appreciate some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for real world books.
  8. Discuss in depth the results of a recent article by Alexis Hagadorn and  Jeffrey S. Peachey  “The use of parchment to reinforce split wooden bookboards, with preliminary observations into the effects of RH cycling on these repairs” Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Volume 33, Issue 1 March 2010 (pp 41 – 63)
  9. Consider storage, housing and display issues unique to wooden board bindings.
  10. Discuss specific potential treatment options from examples that participants supply.

The registration fee for this 5-day workshop is $650.00. Other costs apply. Class size is limited to 10. For more information and to apply contact Justin Johnson at jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org.

Jig For Planing Thin Wood Boards

A couple of years ago, I devised a simple jig to make planing of thin wood boards easier.  I noticed Christopher Martyn, who writes the blog Finely Strung, and is a stringed instrument maker in Winchester, United Kingdom, came up of a surprisingly similar jig. We exchanged some information on the topic and he posted an image his jig and mine, although his is quite fancy compared to my pedestrian design!

Recently, I needed to plane some larger boards, so recently improved my design quite a bit.  This jig is also useful for book conservation labs who don’t have a dedicated woodworking bench, since it can clamp, with a standard “Quick-Grip” or  C-Clamp onto an existing bench while protecting your benchtop.  This one is about 12 x 9″, although it could be made to any size.  The adjustable, and replaceable, stop is held on with a 1/4 x 20 x 2″ carriage bolt, and tightened with soft grip knobs so that no tools are necessary to adjust it.  I find if convenient to rout a slot so that it can be raised up and planed flat if it gets damaged in use.  This one was made of birch faced plywood, and held together with drywall screws driven deep under the surface of the wood.  The height is 3 layers of 3/4″ plywood to allow for a variety of clamping options.  It can also function as a bench hook and can be used with tapered pieces of wood. It seems to grip the wood being planed better by not applying any finish to it.  I’m not left handed, but the light was better for the photo in this position.

The Joiner and Cabinet Maker

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“A joiner’s or cabinet-maker’s apprentice would find some instructive reading in this [The Joiner and Cabinet Maker] little work. It contains, in addition to certain rudimentary information, some hints to apprentices of how to turn their leisure hours to permanently useful account. The book is a good shilling’s worth.”

-The Furniture Gazette, Sept. 29, 1883.


Christopher Schwarz, editor of Popular Woodworking, and Joel Moskowitz, founder  of Tools for Working Wood, have teamed up to reprint, expand and annotate the 1839 edition of The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.  I also contributed a chapter,  “Contextualizing ‘The Joiner and Cabinet Maker'”, so am unapologetically biased about this book!

The first section reproduces the complete 1839 edition, which consists of a fictional boy describing his apprenticeship, accompanied by a large amount of historical information about cabinet making in the mid to late 19th century.  The next section consists of Chris following the textual descriptions in the book and builds three projects; a packing box, a schoolbox and a chest of drawers.  In a conversational writing style, he adds his own knowledge of woodworking techniques, bits of history and documents building the projects photographically–the overall effect is like having a private tutor guide you through the project.

I examine three editions of this book (1839, 1841, 1883), relate them to the history of book structure, then investigate how their physicality influences our interpretation of the text.  I am very interested how craft based information gets transmitted through descriptions and manuals. The hands on explication of  historic texts, rather than just reading, is invaluable to a deep understanding, and often opens up new areas of inquiry.  Also, I attempt to make a case for the value of primary sources and their conservation, written for the general public, rather than preaching to the usual conservation and rare book choir.

For readers who haven’t attempted any woodworking, this book has enough general information, historical details and how-to information to serve as an wonderful introduction.

The book is available for sale from Tools for Working Wood. 373 pages, tons of photos, acid free paper, sewn signatures, hardcover. One shilling. $28.95

I should be getting copies in sheets later this month, that I will be selling, and well as providing it for students in the historically oriented Cloth Case Binding  class I am teaching at North Bennet Street School, Boston, February 19-21, 2010.

I also want to credit Matt Murphy for assisting me with some  research, especially concerning Charles Knight & Co. Thanks Matt, librarians rule!

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