The Wood Wright’s Eclectic Workshop, by Roy Underhill, was more than I expected. On the cover it says “How to start with a tree and an axe and make one thing after another until you have a house and everything in it.” I figured that it would show you how to make furniture for the house. It was much more. Open the cover and look at the table of contents and you will get a slight glimpse of what to expect.
The first chapter, Log Cabins, takes you from the very beginning of the process starting out with explaining how to fell a tree. What do you do with a tree after that? Don’t worry, that is explained as well. If you follow along closely you learn what types of trees to look for and why. It always teaches you how to make your door openings and how to create a roof for your newly built log house or cabin (yes there is a difference).
Chapter 2, Building on, is what interested me the most. It talks about the carpenter and his importance in a town. This chapter also goes over how to make your own planes. I might even try to explore this and make my own molding plane one day because it seems quite easy. You could also build a ladder from the detailed drawings in this chapter.
Chapter 3, Machines, is just as entertaining. The lathe makes it’s debut in this chapter starting off as a two person job (accompanied with a bottle of wine), then ends up as the springpole lathe and eventually the treadle lathe. Chapter 3 ends by telling of terrible times when great carpentry was put aside for cheaper, quicker, less quality work.
Chapters 4 (Furniture), 5 (Amusements), and 6 (Musical Instruments) all dive into the smaller side of woodworking. These chapters don’t describe building houses, but furniture and toys such as the tavern table, adirondack chairs, toboggans, and even musical instruments such as a walking-stick flute. There are no extremely detailed pictures in these chapters, but you can base a design off of the pictures that are included.
I’d recommend this book not only to the hand tool woodworkers, but also the power tool woodworkers as well. It gives great insights as to where we came from and also provides some quality pictures as well as projects you could build.
Tags: axe, building, hand, roy, tools, trees, underhill, wood, wright