Old joints were messy

We like to think that joints should be nice and clean, crisp. But that was not always the case. Functional furniture had functional joints, even if they weren’t pretty. Below is a half-blind dovetail joint from a drawer in a vintage piece of furniture. Notice that the pin is thin, over-cut, and irregular in shape. In this drawer there are four pins, and three long tails. The joints are rough, but fit together well, and produce a joint with character.


Christopher Schwarz in his latest book The Anarchist’s Design Book, talks about the fact that we have been “ruined by plastic and its inhumane smoothness“, that we look for smoothness everywhere, including the inside of a chest of drawers. Real hand-made furniture does not need to be perfect. Perfection is for engineered things, such as jet turbines.

It is okay for joints in furniture to have a disheveled appearance, as long as they do their job.



Woodworking magazines in the British Commonwealth

Was there ever a golden age of woodworking magazines? By all accounts British magazines such as The Woodworker, were exceptionally well designed magazines. But what is out there today?Let’s start first with British magazines. Of the British magazines I have read, the two topping the list are British Woodworking, and Furniture and Cabinetmaking. British Woodworking isn’t available in paper form in Canada, but it is available digitally. It seems to be an extremely cohesive publication, providing a combination of projects, and tool reviews.


Here is an example of a article to build a panel gauge.


The publisher also produces Living Woods, a magazine dedicated to woodlands and the outdoor life.  (Note that British Woodworking is currently in hiatus, as the editor Nick Gibbs suffered an injury from an accident in 2014). The second magazine, which is exceptionally well designed is Furniture & Cabinetmaking. This magazine provides a good marriage of projects, and skills, often including articles on  techniques to restore and refurbish tools.


Here is an example of an article on rasps.  Furniture & cabinetmaking abounds with exceptional articles on the selection and use of tools, as well as tool refurbishment – a topic not covered by many magazines.


There is also Good Woodworking, a magazine for “aspiring designer makers”,  and The Woodworker (& Woodturner), which is the contemporary edition of the old school magazine The Woodworker (I have never read either, so can’t really comment). As to Canadian magazines, there is Canadian Woodworker & Home Improvement. Probably the most lightweight of the woodworking magazines.

An excellent magazine from Australia is Australian Wood Review. A quarterly magazine which has been around since 1992, it focuses on furniture making, woodturning, carving, woods, tools and machinery.


Here is a sample page, showing the step-by-step photographs and the multi-toned diagrams. Nice, clean deconstructions of joints, and well thought out details.