The Wood Age —The First “Age” of Man

THEODORE Roosevelt in an address to the members of the American Forest Congress remarked that “wood is an indispensable part of the material structure upon which civilisation rests, and civilized life continually makes greater demands upon the forest. We use not less, but more wood,” and he proceeded to show that the more “material” of other kinds is used, the greater demand is there for the mother-stuff. How remarkable his words were, perhaps he himself was unaware. For the part played by wood in the world affairs of man has really been tremendous.

Forest Homes

Man, primitively a savage, or wood man, lived, literally, in a material age he was a genuine sylvaticus, a forest lover, a tree liver. He was, besides and necessarily a climber, into his arboreal haunts. His hands and his feet were as near to him then as they have ever been since, adapting him to his more social existence, which was to be his adopted heritage.

The human hand has, especially, played a prime part in man’s rise in the world. It lent itself directly to the grasping of the spreading branch, bough, or beam, which served as a rung in the primitive ladder by which the leafy home was reached. When man first grasped a tree branch he took his fate in his hand. If an accident had not happened, he might have been a tree dweller still. The accident by means of which he acquired greatness was the result of what man was to afterwards come to understand as gravitation. Taking hold of a branch, it broke, and he came to the ground with the branch in his hand. This branch was what he was to ever after call a “stick,” and he multiplied its uses, forms, and names.

When man took a stick in his hand, he was ready to go forth and conquer. It was his first weapon, not only of offense, but of defence; it lengthened his arm, giving him a wider swathe and sway in the world. It was, too, ever after to be the symbol, patent and potent, of authority and office. When man, therefore, took this stick in hand, he actually staked his future and reputation upon it. The history of the stick, and its varieties, would need a chapter to itself; it is an immense family, of all kinds, leading up even to the almost canonized “big stick,” whose rise to fame was thus anything but accidental, and which is not likely soon to degenerate into a condition of innocuousness as a mere “bauble.”

The first age of man and its place in the structure of our civilisation, comments of striding and instructive style upon things oft overlooked in our wording world

In his primitive arboreal existence, man was an inoffensive animal he had

neither tooth nor claw to defend himself or attack others. Therefore, he had to seek the obscuring umbrage of the tree tops, to avoid the penetrating gaze and search of his terrestrial foes. It was not until he precipitately bit the earth with his future weapon in his grasp that he discovered himself capable to meet his enemies face to face and obtain a “square deal” in the fight. Hence the stick developed the possibility of his hands as things that could take hold, and, hence, gained him full possession of what made him what he was to be man, in mind.

Primitive Houses

He commenced at once to “build upon” his experience and observation while cogitating is his leafy eyrie. He may have become acquainted with the practicability of the more yielding stems of younger trees, and in coming forcibly to earth, he no doubt soon put into effect some ideas he had gradually conceived appertaining thereto. He selected a suitable young grove of trees, and brought the slender stems together at their tops and formed them into a tent like shelter, which was rendered more comfortable by clearing the ground space within and then filling in the spaces between the stems with twigs, leaves or bark. This became not only man’s first real place wherein to lay his head, but the first shelter of his homely hearth and sacred altar. The part here taken by the birch or other bark was destined to become an important one.

The stems which he had utilized in their growing state, he eventually applied artificially as he advanced into his “groving” or “graving,” that is, cutting stage, and the stem or stick became the stake which made the stockade, and that the “stokes,” which occurs in the names of many towns. The stick and the stake were thus the first enactments for the protection of the home and its industries.

The establishment of such shelters suggested their congregation, not in isolated spots, but in communal or social clusters, around which better and bigger stockades were developed. The same evolution is seen in the series indicated by “pile,” “pale,” “palisade,” and, perhaps (to violate a confidence), “palace,” for why not? To the same form of protection, we owe the names “haw,” “hag” and “hedge,” to which cluster of homes so surrounded the name “ton” or “town” literally applies. These are facts proved by the word “hag,” equivalent to which (the woman or wise or “witch woman” of the hag or hedge or town) by such a place name as Haughton, and by such a city name as the Hague.

Boles and Bulwarks

At last the boles the very bellies of the trees themselves were used not only in building homes but in protecting them. These boles, stuck close together, formed an actual wall: the bole works were not only actually, but literally (that is philologically), the wall works of the town. “A walled town” is ever a conventional description applicable to certain ancient cities on the continent of Europe. But these boleworks were also the bulwarks of the cities and thereby hangs another tale. These wood works, following the course of events as in other lines of constructiveness, became replaced by the more enduring material of stone and mortar. These walls or boles of the city thus became transformed into very unlike progeny and were forgotten. The bulwarks degenerated, with the advance of peaceful over warlike manners and methods, into the more elegant “boulevards,” which are now known as the beautifully tree lined avenues around the old “walls” or ramparts, the use of which became quite obsolete but which might be retained, as far as they could be adapted to ornamental purposes. But there are bulwarks of another kind yet to make themselves “felt.”

These bulwarks or boulevards, in the meantime, remind us of the lobbies leading to the shaded oak groves which in- closed in a circle the sacred oak tree so much venerated by Druid and Dryad, and which gave us the names of such cathedral seats as Dryburgh and Dresden, oak groves to be freely synonymous, or spots where the “sacred bole” as the solitary oak or even its shapeless stump was worshiped and its altar maintained. This sacred bole or stump was primitively known by a name which has assumed such forms as nau, naos, and naves. These terms at once draw the curtain aside upon some wonderful tableaux. For the nau, representing the sacred bole, in its central place of worship, developed into the grand nave of our cathedrals. The nau, as the solid bole, becoming the centre-piece of the wheels of all commerce, became the nave or hub that facilitated all progress. The nau, or single stick or trunk dug out, became the first fashioned vessel, the central aim of the future navies of the world that floats its seas. Thus, the original plaited tent like shelter of man was the beginning of all architecture of all building construction on land as well as water.

But let us see what has further come out of this primitive wicker sort of work. Perhaps the most curious is that which actually gave us of all things the umbrella. From the umbrage of the tree tops, man, we saw, constructed for himself an umbrage or shelter upon the ground. The idea embodied in this tent like structure was utilized by the adaptive inventor, resourceful man. He conceived the idea of cutting the stems or stakes of his early home away from the ground and of hoisting the same upon a centre pole. This furnished him with a transportable shelter, umbrage, or canopy. Thus, we have before us what gave the idea of the umbrella itself, an affair that has long been the symbol of royalty among certain Eastern monarchies. It was by the number of umbrellas such a ruler could “sport,” that he was to be “rated.” The bearers, protectors and constructors of these umbrages were, doubtless, among the chief officers of state, where they were in vogue. These umbrellas were the distinctive prerogatives as well as insignia of the royalties affecting them; they alone could have them; they alone could have them borne in front of them to protect them from the fruitful sun.

Wagon and Ship

But the same primitive shaped “dome” gave origin to another sort of transport- able shelter. Modified and evolved, but similarly lifted from the ground, it was placed upon a primitive platform which resting on primitive naves or wheels was movable from place to place. Thus, the first wagon or animal-drawn car was evolved. We see its descendant in the prairie schooner of today. This structure was called by our ancestors carpenium, and the builder was the “carpenter.” By it the restless populations of old moved their households from site to site, founding as they went towns and cities. From this sort of craftsmanship then we have our word for our builders in wood, a designation that is now applicable, not to car or carriage builders, but to house and shipbuilders, while the more modest prototype became known by the homespun name of wheelwright.

While it was out of the hollowed single sticks or trunks that the first boats or ships were made, the navigation of early man was even as much indebted to the idea furnished by the bark or hide covered shelter with its primitive frame work. The birch bark canoe and the Irish coracle, for instance, were thus constructed; and the one and the other must have been capable transports for they seem to have been able to hold quite a number of persons. This wicker or pelt-wrought ship further received an addition in similarly constructed protective bulwarks. Coracle is a word derived from the name for the hide used, and likewise the name for a birch-bark boat, was itself called a bark, or barque, a form of which, “barge,” had a significance of state among medieval royalties.

But what is of importance here to point out is the several applications of the word bulwarks or city fortifications, of the Norman style as they were, to the side protections of a war ship and lastly to the ships themselves constituting a fleet or navy. And as the first ship was made out of a single tree and the first bulwarks out of solid stakes, we can at last appreciate the full value, literally as well as materially, of the “wooden walls” or “impregnable bulwarks” of England as an instance, a description that has had as much inspiration for her as for Greece at Salamis.

Stick and Cane

Herein there has not been attempted any full demonstration of the tremendous part wood has played in the affairs of man and his world. There have, however, been slightly suggested along a direct line some of the developments of man’s first acquaintance and manipulation of the stick. It will be seen that that has really been always to the. fore and always strenuous enough as it should be. And there has never been any “veneer” about its furnishings.

Cane, of course, we all know is a synonym for stick and really seems to have been one of the original big sticks. It has, therefore, an autobiography of its own. Belonging to the common (Aryan) source of language, and understanding the primitive nature of boats and ships for these are once more involved as merely hollowed-out sticks, the primitive cane became in fact the veritable canoe of world fame, for which we have not to go to the West Indies for its source. In Aryan India the cane was the name for a hollow tree that grew as thick as a man’s body, and one of them split and cut the proper length actually made two very practicable ready-made boats. The common word is preserved in the German Kahn, a boat; and in the old French cane, a ship, and canot, a boat. Without enumerating the tribe of canes, it is worth noting that the Latin had canna, a hollow reed, thence applied to a sort of dandy’s cane, perhaps; and hence “canon,” a straight rod or “ruler:” while, reverting to the primitive sense of hollowness we have the idea of a tube, of capacity, and of a passage. And it is in this way that we got our cannon, ordnance; Canongate, a passage; and, likewise, canal, wherein ships may ride, and canon. Thus, also, the modest looking cane brings again into conjunction the big stick, and the big ditch. And herein we find a good deal of material for some canonization of the symbolic stick, of we may believe happy memory to be. This slight appreciation of the part wood has played will begin to show the inner significance of Mr. Roosevelt’s words. Wood we see was the first actual “material” handled by man, it was what enabled him to become separated from the beast, what, though literally also making him a savage, brought his hand (manus) into play, and with that his mind, which in fact actually made him what he was to become man. But let us unfold the aeriform wrapper of this word “material,” so curiously used by Mr. Roosevelt in his address. Doing so we find, what? That the word means no more, no less, than timber, that is, wood its very self. Materias was the earlier form, and materias is of the same tribe as mater and thus meant the mother stuff! It was out of this mother stuff, then, that man became a maker, a shaper of things with the hands he had. Materials, as a significant for wood, subsequently became applied to an island, a mountain, a river and even a wine!

Material, from first meaning mother stuff, or easily manipulated wood, became linguistically extended to include all other substances, among them stone. Material was coextensive at last with substance. The students of material or substantial things, we know, materialised into materialists.

Tree and Stone

But, just as the word for this mother stuff, matter or material, came to apply to stone, which as we know was itself called Petra, and as Petra, or peter, is identical with pater, the twin word with mater, might not stone, therefore, in contradistinction to wood, or material, the mother stuff, be called petral, or father stuff? A combination of stone and tree was what was necessary to enable man to rise to his destiny though it was the more enduring edge of stone, that first transformed the shapeless stump, into temple, or tabernacle, into wain, or carriage, into ship or navy. It is evident, also, that the stone age was not the primitive age of man as of humanity. And the wood god was Sylvanus, that is the god of “savages” who were wood or forest livers in a real and primitive sense. The meaning of savage is tremendously significant to anyone who seeks a means of tracing his origin and early condition. The word “savage” proves man’s primitive, arboreal, life and helps materially to indicate that long previous to the well-established Stone Age, there must have been an earlier Wood Age a Sylvestrian or Sylvan that became ideal and idyllic. The Sylvestrian’s, or Sylvanian’s chief cult was in wood, the mother material – materias- and, though the name has been already appropriated for a lower anthropoid, he might properly be called homo sylvestris, or sylvaticus. The Wood Age, therefore, has never been scientifically differentiated. But notice is now given that it should be. While it has only been possible to give an inkling of the stupendous part wood, mother stuff, or material, has played in the world; what has been disclosed should enable the attentive reader to take some measure of the material background out of which our vaunted civilization has loomed so portentously. In doing so we may also realize the truth of our dependence on wood in the “material structures of civilisation” and this is equally true of society as well.

The Sharpening of Bits

This is an extract from the final copy of Issue 10. (Remember it’s free).

It might be assumed that every carpenter and cabinetmaker knows the right from the wrong ways of sharpening an auger bit; no doubt many do. But the auger bit is a little different from a good many other edge tools in that knowing the right way to sharpen really depends on knowing the idea on which the bit is constructed. The modern perfected bit represents a vast amount of experimenting with angles, cutting edges and screw threads which in the new bit are in exactly the right relation to each other. A little wrong use of a file easily destroys the correct planning of the manufacturer. For this reason, it may be profitable to many workers to summarise here some of the directions given from headquarters.

The first work of a bit is of course done by the screw on the tip. It is part of the business of this screw point to centre the hole, but even more is it required to lead the broader cutting edges – the lip and the spur -into the real work of boring. For ordinary uses, and for woods that are not excessively hard

or gummy, the worm (also known as the snail and lead screw) has a double thread, Fig. 1, of carefully calculated pitch. The so-called quick-boring bit, however, has a single-thread point,

Fig. 2, the thread having a steeper pitch than that of the double-thread point. Because of its more prominent and steeper single thread, the quick-boring point leads the bit effectively into the gummiest woods, or into the hardest, like lignum vitae. In softer woods this point insures very fast cutting. Bits of this type are therefore particularly well suited to an electrician’s work.

A third style, the square, or “diamond” point, Fig. 3, is sometimes provided for bits to be used on machines with forced feed.

The following directions for sharpening bits are gathered from the text of an essay on the subject just issued by the Russell Jennings Mfg. Co., Chester, Conn., maker of the well-known bits of that name, and which represents pioneer patents for the extension lip found in modern bits. Sharpening the point or worm is hardly advisable or even practicable except with the diamond point, though the skilful manipulator of a fine, three cornered file can do a good deal in the way of restoring a point that has got battered in a collision with a nail. But it is with the lips and spurs that most can be done in the way of sharpening, and it is important to sharpen these in a way that shall to the utmost maintain the efficiency of the brand-new bit.

The spurs of the bits should be sharpened with a flat, second-cut file used on the inside of the spur, never on the outside. The general shape of the spur should be maintained as in the new bit. In filing, it is not necessary to sharpen the back edge; simply thin the front edge until this edge is sharp, and file back far enough to keep the original shape. Filing only a small portion of the inside surface next to the dulled edge would leave a shoulder which would make the turning of the bit take up more force than would be required with proper sharpening and furthermore would reduce the cutting efficiency of the edge of the spur. For sharpening the lips, Fig. 4, the proper file is a half-round, second-cut. Use the flat side of this file on the side of the lip that is away from the screw point never on the side next to the point. The slope of the face of the lip that is next to the tip is essential to the proper action of the lip in diving into the wood and so must not be changed. In sharpening the edge of the lip, file away from the edge toward the shank of the bit. This leaves the edge clean and free from any feather edge.

For bits 5/8 inch and larger use a 6-inch file. Employ smaller files for bits of less than 5/8-inch diameter. A half- round file is necessary for the lip. The same file may be used for the spur provided care is taken not to let the edge of the file cut a furrow in the lip. Nothing but a really good file is of any use on a tempered bit.

Diaper Decoration of Furniture—Practical and Descriptive

Diaper decoration meaning literally, decoration dispersed evenly over a surface or groundwork from the French word diapre of a similar meaning is a form of inlaying which, like most of the decorative and inlaying arts, begun in obscure antiquity.

The early Egyptians practiced the latter as is evident from the biblical references Popular processes that date from a truly remote antiquity and that are in various countries employed with a great success.

In the Odyssey occurs the following passage of interest to all woodworkers. Echeneus says to Odysseus, “Now come, bid the stranger arise, and set him on a work of gold and of silver and of ivory.” Those classical references to furnishing and inlaying are most numerous and indicate the great importance attached to the handicrafts and arts of the period. It is to be feared that modern writers do not attach such importance to their furniture, for who has not read and laughed over the enthusiastic lady describing a drawing room, covered with Persian rugs, with Fig. 1. An Example from the Far East of Fine Craftsmanship in the Inlaying of a Cradle to the fittings of King Solomon’s temple.

The ancient Greeks were also experts, much of their finest literature being written around objects of good craftsmanship chair inlaid with silver,” and in Rook 23 we find Ulysses describing the bride’s bed to Penelope as ”Beginning from this head post I wrought at the bedstead until I had finished it and made it fair with inlaid Chippendale cabinets, Louis XIV pedestals, Queen Anne chairs and Elizabethan seats all combining to form an artistic ( ?) ensemble. Truly, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! From the valuable and rare examples extant of early inlaying, of which the chief arc Egyptian, we are enabled to see with what consummate skill this race fashioned its productions. The aesthetic value of these, when compared with modern ideas, are of no mean standard and they are really monumental when we consider the primitive tools with which those works were executed. Fret saws, it should here be stated, were unknown. The nearest approach to them were crude saws similar to our carving knives and pointing to the fact that nearly all their shaping must have been done with ordinary knives, a difficult method when working ivory or metals. The Cairo museum (Egypt) contains some fine specimens of early inlaying but to attempt to show the sequence of developments leading to present day work would of course demand a volume and therefore is quite beyond the limits of an article. There is but little doubt however that early inlaying was of a “diapered” type and actually inlaid, i. e, separate units cut from sheets of wood, ivory, and precious metals which were afterwards made into a solid groundwork. The richest examples of ancient inlaying are undoubtedly

Fig, 2, Flemish Cabinet Illustrating “Overlaid” Decoration

of Persian origin, evolved and influenced to a large degree by earlier Egyptian and Assyrian work. The unique charm and beauty of the cradle illustrated in Fig. 1 will be appreciated as an unusual specimen of Eastern craftsmanship and one that has proved the basis of much inlaying in the so-called modern or Arts and Crafts style of design. As is usual with most Eastern work, the pattern is similar to the effect produced by stencilling. The fine effect produced by the regular disposition of the pieces should be carefully noted. It gives an “even all over” tone that is a secret of good design and is especially characteristic of Eastern work whether it be Persian rugs, Indian pottery, or Arabian “mushrabi” work. The next example, Fig. 2, illustrates the second phase of inlaid work in which the units were glued down to the groundwork, piece by piece, in the same way that mosaic work of coloured stones is executed. Most elaborate pictorial effects were produced by this “overlaying’.’ process and of a similar character to the panels in the upper part of the example at Fig. 2. Temples, gardens and landscapes were at different periods rendered in this way. Although it is a process essentially ancient and medieval, it has not altered to any material extent since the examples I illustrate were first produced. From a commercial point of view, it is not desirable to adopt these processes, except in certain instances, for where four or six copies of a design are to be made. A marquetry cutter could execute the whole of the work in a much shorter time than it would take to inlay them. However, if only panel is required, the original way would be the more economical one. The cabinet illustrated is of Flemish origin and incidentally it may be mentioned that this type of work largely influenced Jacobean productions.


The next illustration,

Fig. 3. Commode Showing the Application of “Diaper” Decoration.

Fig. 3, leads us to a third phase, i. e., marquetry which was executed by pasting the pattern down to thin sheets of variously coloured veneers temporarily fastened together with pins, cutting the outline upon a special implement called a marquetry cutter’s “donkey.” The pieces are then interchanged and a design results which consists of a pattern in woods of various colours. This, in brief, is marquetry cutting. All the parts are carefully glued onto a sheet of paper and when dry the veneered side is lightly toothed over before gluing down to the proper groundwork with the papered side uppermost and which is afterwards removed by a toothing plane or the application of moisture which softens the glue and allows the paper to be easily scraped off. Some very choice effects can be obtained in this way, especially in French and Dutch work.

“Boule” Work

Reference must be made here to Andre Charles Boule who invented the system and achieved such fine results in brass, tortoiseshell, silver, ivory, etc. His main pattern, brass in tortoiseshell, was termed “Boule” work. The counter pattern of tortoiseshell into brass is called “Counter Boule.” Diaper decoration was curiously to be revived again in a period of French work and it is with this form that the present article more chiefly deals. For the enrichment of plain surfaces this process is particularly suited as will be apparent from an examination of the side drawers in the commode illustrated in Fig. 3. An enlarged detail is shown in Fig. 4. The method of executing same is as follows: A drawing must first be prepared the full size of the decoration. As other replicas of the drawing will be required, a quick and effective method is to pick out the outline with a sharp point. The paper can then be dealt with as a stencil. To obtain duplicate of any pattern, all that is required is to hold the pricked paper firmly onto another piece and dust powdered asphalt through the holes. This adheres to the paper, giving another dotted outline which can be permanently fixed by heating which causes the asphalt to melt and firmly adhere.

Transferring the Pattern

Marquetry cutters use a piece of cloth closely rolled up with asphalt powder between the cloth and when using it is only necessary to rub the pattern with the pad when sufficient powder will pass through the holes to mark them. A in the diagram, Fig. 4, shows the spacing of the pricked outline. Supposing six decorative rectangles are required to this pattern, one duplicate of the design is made and glued onto a sheet of veneer. Tulip wood is used in this instance. This is backed with five other veneers of similar size and the whole is temporarily pinned together. Holes are bored in the leaf shapes of sufficient size to admit of entering a fine fretsaw and when the veneers are held in the “grips” of the donkey the shapes can be cut inside the pricked outline. If the back veneers show a tendency to “burr,” a piece of softwood veneer backing should be added. It will be obvious that a large number of leaf shapes will be required two hundred and ten approximately. This cannot be cut accurately, more than six at a time. This part of the work is affected by spacing duplicates of the leaf shapes close together on a sheet of paper, which is afterwards fixed up as described above, and cut upon the outside of the outline. If this has been done correctly, all the veneers can be separated and the leaf shapes placed in the groundwork, glued all down to paper in order to keep them in position.

Fig. 5A. A Simple Design Executed in

Fig. 5B, Diaper of Contrasting Satinwood and Ebony Veneers

Corner Cabinet with Veneered Diaper Ornament Fig. 8

Mosaic Lines Inlaid

When the pattern is veneered and the paper toothed off, the mosaic lines can be inlaid to complete the work. Various devices are used for this purpose, the best of which is to fix a straightedge to the groundwork and then scratch two small grooves equalling in width the mosaic line and to the depth of the veneer. A warm file is then applied to the waste veneer which can then be easily removed with a chisel. Care must be taken when preparing the scratch so that the sides of the groove will bind the line. All that is then necessary is to fit and glue the pieces in. Another pleasing type of diaper work is the design shown in Fig. 5-A and A Fine Marquetry Diaper Pattern which is also in the style of Louis XVI. The groundwork is of West Indian, satin- wood and the diaper is made by cutting grooves in the veneer, afterwards gluing ebony lines in, and completing the design by boring a spot of ebony into each angle. It is capable of many adaptations and is suitable for the decoration of drawing room furniture which necessitates the use of refined and chaste detail, such as three tier tables, curio stands and trays. Fig. 5-B is a diaper which has to be built up separately, piece by piece, onto paper and is an effective one when executed in tulip wood. Its use can be seen in the curved side pieces of the corner cabinet illustrated in Fig. 6.

Detailed Specimens of Fine Work

Fig. 7-F is a diamond pattern, executed almost solely with a cutting gauge. This introduces principles which frequently occur in diapered work. The best plan is to prepare a number of strips of veneer by cutting them off a leaf in the direction shown in diagram G, the grains coinciding with the light and dark parts of diagram F.

When a sufficient number have been cut, preferably with a cutting gauge, they are glued down to paper, as is indicated in diagram H.

When quite dry one edge is planed parallel to the dotted lines shown and strips are gauged off which only need gluing down again onto another sheet of paper in order to complete the pattern. It will be noticed that each strip is pushed along the distance of one diamond in order to obtain the desired effect.

Fig. 8 illustrates a diaper detail executed in three differently coloured woods, viz., groundwork of mahogany, leaves of sycamore and bands of boxwood. The main part of the procedure has been explained and the only parts needing special attention are the bands in the pattern. These, it will be seen, are cut from the sheet of veneer to the desired shape and the lines at each side should be glued in with the band upon a paper backing. In fact, the whole pattern is cut separately and glued down. In the arrangement shown, it requires careful workmanship and is difficult to execute.

The diagram, Fig. 9-A, is executed with gouges and does not demand special attention.

Fig. 9-B is an elaborate one, necessitating the cutting of a lattice pattern in veneer and into which is glued the groundwork and the ebony and box lines as shown. The floral centre is of boxwood. As each leaf is cut separately to the detail illustrated, they can be shaded by the hot sand process prior to gluing which gives to these centres the necessary relief effect. In conclusion I may urge that we should note that all patterns which are for constructive reasons glued onto paper before veneering them should be glued to the groundwork with the papered side upper most, otherwise blisters and partial separation from the groundwork are almost sure to ensue.

A Fine Example of Modern Chair Construction

Borrowing ideas by the furniture designer and the result of such study, proportions of chair, and details of the work

The chair shown by the half- tone reproduced on this page was exhibited for some time in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and is described as being constructed of ash stained green, and having purple leather upholstering and ornaments, with polished brass nails where indicated.

It should perhaps be mentioned here that the details given are merely inspired by the original chair, and have not in this particular case been based on a study of the actual article. The chair substantially as carried out is explained, and various alternatives given for ’simplifying the work; but it should be clearly understood that the job is emphatically one only for the skilled craftsman and not for the beginner.

Requirements in Chair Construction

Making a chair of any sort is by no means child’s play, and this particular example, even in its modified form, requires good and careful craftsmanship, and therefore, assuming the competence of the reader who may undertake such a piece of work, it is proposed to cut down the usual amount of description of more or less elementary matters.

The front legs are out of 1 ¼ inch square stuff, 1 foot 5 1/2 inches long, with edges stop chamfered and the upper part sunk and carved in low relief (or merely sunk) as in Fig. 5. The back legs are 3 feet 3 inches long and out of 2 1/4 by 2 ¼ inch stuff, cut away in side elevation, as in Fig. 2, where the dotted line indicates the original piece, and cut out in front or back elevation, as in Fig. 3, either for the simpler or more elaborate version.

The same figure gives the distance at the top and bottom at which these back legs are kept by means of four upper rails tenoned in position, as shown by the dotted lines, and ornamented with various chamfers on the front edges, and a plain rail at the seat level (not shown), also tenoned into the back legs in order to receive the upholstery.

Similar bearers about 3 by 1 1/4 inches will be required on the three other sides between the legs, in order to produce a seat as in the plan in Fig. 4. Under each of these bearers either a plain fascia with a bead as at A (Fig. 1), or a pierced and simply carved piece, as in the halftone, is fixed. This piece should be all in one about 7/8; inch thick, and should repeat on three sides. The carved rosettes seen at the corresponding place in the halftone to B in Fig. 1 can be omitted. probably with advantage, and also those seen on the top rail of the back.

A sunk line of a segmental section as at C in Fig. 5 will be noticed just above the pierced ornament. The back rail D (Fig. 1) is shown in section in Fig. 6, and is cut to a splay at E in order to mitre with the adjoining small piece, which is about 5/8 inch thick, curved in outline and let into the side of the back leg, thereby improving the effect of the

Modern Hungarian Chair of Ash Designed by Edmund Farago chair considerably. The outline of this rail will probably be most easily gathered on reference to Fig. 3. The pierced and carved part under the seat can be repeated at the back, or kept quite plain or omitted entirely as in Fig. 3, according to the uses of the chair. Or, of course, the much simpler treatment given as an alternative A (Fig. 1) can be adopted on all sides. It is thought that any remaining points will be cleared up by a study of the illustrations, so that a few remarks may now be made on the leather work.

 Practical Details of Leatherwork

The three decorated straps to the back (shaded in Fig. l) are cut from soft leather to the contours in Fig. 6, and carefully tooled and embossed to the patterns there shown. They begin from about the level of D and E (Fig. 1), and are continued right up over the top rail and down to F (Fig. 3), each being secured with four large brass-headed nails where indicated, and tapering downward both in width and spacing.

The seat should be upholstered in the usual manner with leather or other material, and either finished in a simple manner as on the right-hand side of Fig. 1, or with a tooled pattern and scalloped edges as in the original (see Fig. 5), which also has a sort of qua trefoil leather ornament fixed to each exposed face of the front legs. These minor elaborations must be left to the discretion of the worker.

In the illustrations, Fig. 1 represents a front elevation showing the chair complete (left-hand side), and a simplified version (right-hand side). The latter has straight instead of curved rails to the back, plain under framing, and simple upholstery. Fig. 2 is a side view applicable to either version shown in Fig. l. The dotted line indicates piece from which – back leg is cut. This leg can be stop-chamfered at the bottom to match the front one, if desired. Fig. 3 is a back view showing straps brought over the top rail and plain backs to the horizontal rails. Fig. 4 is a plan of the seat; Fig. 5 an enlarged detail of the carving, ornamental leather work, etc., to the front legs, etc; and Fig. 6 is a detail of part of the straps and rails to the back.

Issue 10 OUT NOW and it’s FREE

I’m proud to say that Issue 10 is released, and it’s FREE. It’s our way of saying thanks for the support over the three years running that “The Lost Scrolls of handwork” has been serving you. It started off free and ran for many issues being free, and it finished for free.

The idea started back in 2017 for a community-based magazine that would have been run by the community for the betterment of our vast worldwide woodworking community, hobbyists and professionals alike where everybody would have had an input. This meant people would have had to donate their time to contribute towards this great idea, and in this age of information technology this knowledge would have reached every corner of the globe.

In the 18th century you would have been killed if they shared knowledge about the craft with anyone outside, they’re locality for fear of competition. However, in this day and age of mass-manufactured machine goods very few things are done by hand and this knowledge if not preserved and passed onto others would be lost forever. Are we still not scratching our heads about how the pyramids were built? Do we need to do the same for furniture, tool making, metal working etc.? Francis Young was of the same opinion which is why he started “HANDWORK” Jacque Roubo probably felt the same as he was the first chap to write an extensive book on woodworking which we still rely on today.

The need is there, but the desire to equal that need isn’t, so unfortunately for everyone this magazine has run its course and must come to an end.  

I want to thank my friend and editor from the United States Matt McGrane for being the first to stick up his hand to volunteer as an editor for the magazine. Without him, this magazine would have ended long ago. He was the pillar that kept the roof from collapsing. I’m the first to admit that I’m no writer. Matt would pick my articles apart until I thought blood would start coming out of my eyes. I remember sitting up till late hours into the night rewriting almost everything from scratch and then get up four hours later to go to work. He is a very patient man whom I admire very much as an editor, craftsman and friend. Matt, thank you on behalf of our readers and myself for your service to the woodworking community worldwide. Please check out his blog:

I also want to say thank you to the authors who donated their articles to us. We have greatly appreciated your contributions. These are:

I hope I haven’t missed anyone.

Finally, thank you to our readers for without you none of this would have been possible.

Please enjoy your free issue of the final issue of “The Lost Scrolls of handwork.”


Accuracy in the Identification of Wood


Did you ever think how hard it is to describe a variety or kind of wood without comparison, so that anyone reasonably familiar with the different woods would be able to recognize the kind you had in mind? While it is a fact that some different kinds of wood are so nearly alike as to be substituted successfully, still they have characteristic differences which make them easily distinguishable when the experienced sight, smell or taste put them to the test. But are they differences which can be described verbally?

Yellow Pine and Cypress

For instance, some certain pieces of yellow pine are so much like other certain pieces of cypress in appearance that but few men are expert enough to be guided by sight alone. Now these woods are not at all alike and, generally speaking, they do not look alike any more than it is a feature common to the two woods to show alternating hard and soft grain. In some soft specimens of cypress, this feature is almost entirely lacking, but in these there would be no room for doubt. In the matter of colouring there is always a characteristic difference between the pine and cypress although it may be very obscure. It consists of a peculiar blending of pink, grey and brown which does not occur in the hard pine. The odour of cypress is marked, especially when burning, while the hard pine does not smell so very much different from any other wood.

Besides cypress, the common woods which have the most pungent odours are black walnut, cedar, Douglas fir, and some of the lesser smellers are cotton wood, basswood, oak, ash, elm, and even hickory. These may all be determined by the odour, but this odour cannot be described by words so that it may become a determining feature of the kind of wood.

With the possible exception of bird’s eye maple, and quartered oak, there does not occur to me any common wood the description of which would not fit some other as well. I have before me a panel, the two face sides of which are made up respectively of rotary-cut white oak and white ash. There are barely two differing characteristics observable by one not versed in the cellular structure of the wood itself, and one of these regarding colour might easily be exchanged in another panel.

The main organic difference is in the fact of the oak having the hard streaks or medullary rays which show up in the quartered product, and in the rotary-cut show the narrow lines representing the

Difficulty in accurately describing varieties of wood structures, the peculiarities of surface, matter of odour, and other distinguishing qualities that count.

edges of the thin slices of harder wood. These do not show very plainly, but nevertheless can be readily seen when looked for. However, there are many other woods besides oak which show these rays, such as the maples, poplars, sycamores (these last being very beautiful in the quartered) and even that beautiful yellow wood commonly called hedge or Osage orange has the flakes in its quarter although they are even smaller than in maple.

To depend upon the colour of wood as its distinguishing mark is to invite error, unless a fresh cut is made deep enough to get under the effect of the persistent action of the sun’s rays. It is not necessary for a piece of lumber to lie directly in the sunshine the indirect rays will change its colour in time. The change in some woods is very slight, and amounts to little more than weathering, but in others the process is comparatively rapid and the results rather unexpected.

Take a piece of bright yellow poplar of a greenish tinge with an edge of white sap and lay it with surface exposed for three months or more. It will turn as brown as a cypress board and the white sap will be as brown as the darker heart. Mahogany will darken up wonderfully with exposure, while walnut will take on a decided brown.

Red Gum and Yellow Poplar

Red gum loses that lavender tinge which makes it so beautiful when first worked, and takes on a lustreless brown with time. This is the principal reason that it will never become popular as a cabinet wood in this country only as it is doctored up with some stain. So, it will appear that if a description of red gum should be given and the chief characteristics named as a mild purple, pink and brown, with modified streaks of black running through it in fantastic figure, one might say that it was figured red gum. But the same thing is met with in yellow poplar although much more rarely. However, he would be a novice indeed who would mistake a board of figured gum for one of poplar when looking at it. It is a fact, though, that one can find gum boards which have no figure but which are coloured very much the same as poplar which has been exposed to the light for a short time.

To attempt to tell the difference between tupelo gum, cottonwood, and basswood by verbal description would be hard enough, but to be able to write a description of any one of the three so that it might not be mistaken for either of the others is an accomplishment which seems hardly possible. A man who was given charge of quite a range of woodwork, once asked the writer how he could tell the difference between red and white oak. Of course, the only way was to procure some pieces and point out the characteristic differences, and even then, he was not made able to distinguish between the two varieties when the red was rather white and the white rather red. The texture and appearance of the grain, the open pores and the look of the end of the pieces often have more to do with determining the class than the colour alone.

Small Pieces Are Puzzles

One of the very difficult puzzles in wood craft is to classify very small pieces of wood, say pieces about 3 1/2-inch-thick, 1/4-inch-wide and 1 inch long. I remember having once cut a small piece from the red heart of a white pine knot and I had the wood- workers guessing what it might be. Everything they could think of from applewood to cherry, by way of cypress, birch and peach, was guessed, while the real thing was passed up on account of its colour and texture, but mostly on account of its colour. A little nibble would have told that it was a pine. It is altogether likely that a sharp nose would have done the same.

Take a small piece of the hard flake of oak and separate it from the more porous parts and many men of experience will not be able to identify it even though they cut into it; still, it may be readily placed by chewing it up into a tasty pulp, or by wetting it for a short time and then smelling of it. It is well and commonly known that oak has a very characteristic odour when it is wet or green, but has very little when well-seasoned. This accounts for some of the mistakes made by woodworkers taking oak out of the dry-kiln and testing its condition by the odour, thinking it is dry enough to work, when in reality there is but a portion of the outside parts dry, but which prevents the sap on the inside from reaching the nose of the workman. The only safe test for the centre of the piece is to cut into the board and smell of the middle of it.

It is evident to the experienced man that a correspondence course in wood craft must necessarily be of an abridged character; the latter-day idea is running largely to effects of natural beauty and much less to designs in the patterns of details. What wood can 1 use to best express the scheme of architecture I wish to employ? How match, blend, diversify, contrast or colour it so as to procure the greatest beauty and harmony? One may tell me to use quartered white oak, but if he is writing his advice from a distance he has told me in so many words all that he will be able to convey to my inexperienced mind and the next question as to its cost will receive an answer which the veriest ignoramus cannot fail to comprehend.

If he tells me to use that most beautiful wood known as cypress burl, his powers of description may well quail before the task of telling what may be brought out from under the rough sur- face of this lumber. Who can faithfully describe the golden mountain chains in miniature which thread through the boards at the middle of the crotch, which, when polished to the limit of 0000 sandpaper, seem to have the sun hiding behind them ready to burst forth into a blaze?

In these crotches, the grain of the tree sweeps up from each side in a stately parabolic curve meeting in the irregular row of hard growth patches. For a distance of 6 inches to a foot on each side of the middle, the beauty of the grain diminishes about as the square of the distance. But the plainer edges only serve to emphasize the exquisite figure colour and texture of the parts nearer the crotch.

Nature has been very lavish with her brush in some of these cypress burls, and mingled with the browns, yellows and greys will occur a delightful surprise of crimson. This is not like an applied stain but splashes and mingles with the other colours and the wood itself, sometimes predominating in minor streaks and sometimes showing but a rosy hint of red, but never dimming or diminishing the lustre of the yellows or the burnished gold of the high lights. Like all other rare things, the beauty of cypress burl comes out with excessive toil. The wood is naturally quite soft, so that while it levels down with comparative ease it is quite difficult to bring it to a high state of polish. Without this polish there can be nothing obtained to awake the enthusiasm of the connoisseur.

 So might one go on and on attempting to picture to the absent eyes of others the beauties of many rare woods, and after all what a pitiful attempt it is when we place ourselves in the position of the reader and try to follow our own words to the logical comprehension of what we know is meant by the descriptions.

No pen can describe, no brush nor pencil can picture, a true likeness of a beautiful’ wood, polished, lustrous, with the detail of grain and colour developed by the careful application of a trans- parent size of copal or shellac. It is true that individual taste has much to do with the admiration which any specimen is able to command, but it is also true that the most rarely beautiful woods are universally admired. As in the extreme case of the cypress burl the exquisite skill of the Master Painter has left nothing to do but to discover and uncover, unless the workman would spoil.

Handy Chart for Determining the Length of Stock

100 years ago the Americans developed a chart for determining the length of stock. They used this chart when ordering stock or in checking up to see if enough material was on hand. This method of determining the length of stock can still be used today.

The inner circle of figures shown in the illustration represents the length in inches of the piece required, while the figures on the outside give the number of linear feet of stock necessary to make 100 pieces. For example, if the length of a piece as per order is 2 7/8 inches, and there is an allowance for cutting off of 1/8 inch, the total length of the piece would be 3 inches. Referring to the chart the figure 3 in the inner circle is opposite the figure 25 in the outer circle, which is the required number of feet for making 100 pieces; having this, the amount of stock for any number of pieces can easily be determined.

Durability of Summer cut-Lumber

“There is a widely spread popular fallacy to the effect that lumber from trees cut in the spring or summer, when the sap is up, is less durable than winter-cut wood. The most careful laboratory tests have failed to measure such a difference. Theoretically, summer-cut wood because it has slightly more soluble content might be more liable to attack of fungus or insects in damp locations, but in practice this factor is too small to receive consideration.”

Our highest authorities are far from agreeing on this subject. Prof. S. I. Record says that the trouble with these plausible theories is that they are based on false premises and that there is generally more sap in a living tree in winter than there is in summer, and furthermore, that decay is not due to sap fermentation but to the action of living organisms of which fungi are the most important. During the winter practically no transpiration occurs in deciduous trees, as there are no leaves. The roots, however, do not cease their activity but continue to grow slowly and absorb water even in the cold weather. With no chance of escape through the leaves this water or sap accumulates, so that instead of there being less in a tree in winter than in summer there is really more.

This explanation sounds very reasonable, but to the layman it would appear. From the fact that the sap goes up in the spring, that the sap which may be accumulating during the winter. Instead of making more sap in the tree itself really accumulates in the roots and on account of the frozen condition of the tree remains there until the thawing out of the tree in the spring, when it immediately starts up into the tree, causing the starting of the buds and later the leaves.

Howard F. Weiss, another authority on the subject and who has conducted many experiments, states that the question is not one of how much sap there is in a tree in the winter, but that the question is whether wood cut in summer is more liable to decay than that cut in winter, and makes the following explanation which we believe is the correct one:

First, wood seasoned in the summer seasons faster, causing more checking than when seasoned in winter. This. of course, lays more of the timber open to the attack of destroying fungi.

Second, these fungi are more’ active in warm weather than in cold and are quick to take advantage of this exceptional checking and can make much better headway than on less checked timber.