Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach, 2nd Ed.

A gem of a book by a master craftsman that makes an enjoyable and very fruitful read.

book_cabinetmaking_alan-pet

Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach, 2nd Ed.



Alan Peters may not be a household name in North America; but in the UK he is considered one of the leading furniture designer/makers of the past three decades. He spent seven years under the tutelage of Edward Barnsley, subsequently opening his own shop in 1962. In 1990 he was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to furniture design, and in 2002 was given the Award of Distinction from the Furniture Society. If you have heard his name before it's likely in connection with the first edition of "Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach", published in 1984, or his 1987 revision of the classical Ernest Joyce's "Encyclopedia of Furniture Making" (first published in 1970 as "The Technique of Furniture Making".)
 
This second edition of "Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach" is somewhat of a misnomer. Essentially it's a reprint of the 1984 book with the chapter on training replaced by a 17 page portfolio of Peters' work. There is really no new or revised textual material in the book. Nonetheless, this is an important book in woodworking literature. The book is written in a conversational style, and consequently you get a real sense of the woodworker behind the writer. While reading the book I was reminded of James Krenov's "A Cabinetmaker's Notebook".
 
The first 31 pages of the book provide an overview of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, which had such a profound influence on the development of the American Studio Craft Movement (and in turn influenced the work of the 'modern masters' of woodworking: Wharton Esherick, Art Carpenter, Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, and Jere Osgood), all contemporaries of Alan Peters.
 
The next two sections (Equipment, and Finance and Business Efficiency) make for interesting reading, but are largely outdated. However I enjoyed going through Peter's list of shop hand tools and machinery, contrasting it with my own inventory (and realizing just how similar there are).
 

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I found chapter five, on design principles, very instructive. Peters emphasizes the importance of function over personal artistic expression, visual simplicity and technical competency. He is a great proponent of the importance of sketching to develop ideas, followed by the construction of full sized layouts and maquettes (models).
 
You might think that the chapter on Working to Commission (advertising and promoting your work) is not very relevant in our digital age. However it contains a lot of insight and common sense advise that will be of interest to anyone trying to make a living at this craft.
 
This is followed by a short section on Batch Production - designing a niche product that can be made efficiently in a cost effective manner. Anyone who has attempted to make a living as a woodworker (without the benefit of an employed spouse) will understand the dilemma associated with this. Peters emphasizes that "Neither should it be regarded as a necessary, but rather tedious way of paying the bills, whilst our creative energies are reserved for those few one-off masterpieces that keep us sane. It can in fact be a very rewarding and satisfying way of working and running a craft workshop..."
 
The Techniques chapter contains a lot of wisdom from an experienced woodworker. In particular, the section on drawer construction, is as the Brits say, 'brilliant'.
 
The book ends with a selection of nine projects (stool, nest of tables, magazine storage/table unit, dresser/bookshelf, dining table, chair, student's desk, low backed chair and drop leaf table). Each contains a detailed illustration, cut list, and construction notes.
 
The book isn't as 'polished' as we've come to expect - many of the photos are black and white, the project illustrations are somewhat dark and muddy looking, and the colour photos are on the dull side.
 
But, if you can put these minor issues aside, this is a gem of a book that makes an enjoyable and very fruitful read.



CHAPTERS:

  • The Cotswold School and the Birth of the Craft Furniture Movement
  • Setting up a Professional Shop
  • Equipment
  • Finance and Business Efficiency
  • Design: Thinking, Techniques and Inspirations
  • Working to Commission
  • Batch Production
  • Techniques
  • Projects
PUBLISHER:Linden Publishing
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
RETAIL PRICE:$30.95
FORMAT:Softcover, 192 pages
ISBN:978-1933502267
YEAR PUBLISHED:2009
AUTHOR:Alan Peters

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