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.