My mission in life is to preserve craftsmanship. – Waris Ahluwalia
I will no doubt sound outdated in the extreme when I say this – but I truly miss craftsmanship. In this day of plastics and throwaways, the feel of a truly well made table, the curve of a hard-carved chair arm or the beautiful lines of a bookcase is something I search for, and don’t often find. So, it was with great pleasure that I accepted when asked to review The Unplugged Woodshop by Tom Fidgen.
Mr. Fidgen is a true craftsman, and it shows in all of his work. This volume contains some of the most amazing works I have seen come out of “unplugged” shops – workshops that use solely hand tools that don’t require the modern day convenience of electricity! His works are amazing. There is a drafting table that looks as if it came straight from a Craftsman Era workshop that would be beautiful for any aspiring architect or artist. A gentleman’s valet would fit beautifully in any dressing room or bedroom, while an old-fashioned doctor’s medicine chest, complete with carry strap, makes a beautiful and highly unusual wine tote for visits to friend’s dinner parties.
Handcut dovetails in all of his drawer work is especially prominent in my favorite piece – an absolutely stunning library style card catalog. For those of you too young to remember, there was a time when we didn’t run to a computer to look up books. Instead, our fingers did the work in a different way, running across sometimes handwritten tags on the fronts of many drawers holding 3×5 cards, each neatly lettered with the titles and information about all the books in the library. I spent many happy hours in the library when I was in school, paging through the cards, enjoying the smells of old paper, and dreaming of the worlds to be found in books. Tom has repurposed the card catalog for use in the kitchen,setting the height to 43 ½ inches in order to be at a good working height. I envision it in another setting, in my quilting workroom where the drawers will hold spools of thread, small tools, and the myriad of other items I am constantly searching for as I work. Tom gives gorgeous examples of how you can utilize cheaper woods and yet still turn out gorgeous pieces by using veneers of highly prized woods to give your project a million dollar look on a budget. His zebrawood veneer on the card catalog is stunning, while blending walnut, quarter-sawn oak and cherry woods, along with veneers of more exotic woods can turn the simple architect’s table into a museum quality piece of art.
The photos in the books are absolutely stunning. Great care has been taken to not only show the beauty of the finished pieces, but to give beautifully illustrated photos of the projects as they are built. Any of the photos in the book are works of art in and of themselves.
Don’t have the proper tools for working wood? Tom even helps you there, as he gives patterns and instructions for making your own tools! He also gives tips and hints about how to handle your tools properly, how to us a handsaw properly for best results, properly using a plane (which he shows you how to build) and other methods of proper workmanship and hand tool safety.
If you are at all interested in the fine art and craft of woodworking, you could not go wrong with this beautiful book and the stunning projects within.