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Thread: Book Review: Furniture Making Plain & Simple

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Book Review: Furniture Making Plain & Simple

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    I believe that the appeal Aldren Watson books have for me has to do with not just his emphasis on hand tools, but his focus on the most elementary of those tools, the chisel. Although we are experiencing a resurgent interest in hand tools and hand tool methods of woodworking, much of that is driven by the interest in hand planes. A majority of the discussions you read on the various woodworking forums focus on the many variety of hand planes and their uses, to such an extent that you begin to believe that chisels are only used to chop out dovetails. Watson in his books makes you aware how much can be accomplished with just a saw and some chisels..

    Aldren Watson has written three woodworking manuals,”Country Furniture”, “Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings”; and “Furniture Making Plain and Simple,” Although I own all three, this review is about the last, “Furniture Making Plain and Simply”. There are no photographs in any of Watson’s books, instead you are treated with beautiful illustrations that more accurately detail what he is describing.

    The book consists of 328 pages. The first half of “Furniture Making” is a detailed explanation of the basic skills and methods you will need to build the eleven projects he illustrates in the second half of the book. The skills include making joints such as the dovetail, groove, halved, housed, mortise and tenon, tongue and groove and rabbet. Almost all of these joints are illustrated using only a saw and a chisel. He also explains drawer construction, hanging doors and turning legs. The turned legs are accomplished using a saw, chisels and rasps.

    The furniture projects include a New York Hutch, Armoire, Corner Cupboard, Slant-back Dresser, Pine Dressing Table, One-drawer Stand, Breadboard-top Table, Pencil Post Bed, Writing Table, Blanket Chest and Sideboard.
    Although the book is currently out of print, many inexpensive used copies are available. If your bent is toward woodworking as practiced in the 18th and 19 century, I highly recommend this book.

    I have a fairly modest collection of books and if it is of some interest to the forum, I will continue with additional book reviews.
    Last edited by Bill Satko; 12-23-2010 at 06:10 AM.
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Excellent Bill, I'll keep an eye out for it!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Great review Bill. Sounds like I need this book in my collection. Now that I have learned to sharpen tools better I am gaining interest in using hand tools more often.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Just a little history on Aldren Watson. He was born on May 10, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. He currently lives in rural Vermont. He had a varied career, but is probably best known as a book illustrator.

    His small laundry room workshop in his Vermont house is illustrated on page 29 of the "The Workshop Book" by Scott Landis.

    The information above was derived from Raymond McInnis's excellent online narrative of amateur woodworking in America from 1900 to 2000. Raymond is a Bellingham, WA resident who I have had the privilege of corresponding with and hope to meet in person someday soon.

    Link to information on Aldren Watson:

    Link to Raymond McInnis home page:
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

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