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 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

If You Loved The Joiner and Cabinet Maker You Will...  


The Joiner And Cabinet Maker was written in 1839 and is a narrative account of the training of a joiner in the early 1800's before machines took over and the job became industrialized. In the process of collecting other books on the subject I came across this book "The Boy's Own Workshop; or, The Young Carpenters" by Jack Abbott. First published in 1868 (Scotland) I saw and lost a copy on Ebay. Ah Well. Fortunately the book is available to everyone on Google Books HERE. By the way there has been a lot of comments about how bad the google book scans are, which is largely true, but I have the Google book app on my ipad and I find scans that really are annoying on a laptop can be perfectly fine for reading on the ipad, and stuff like this is Free. I am slowly building up a library of google scanned books on woodworking which is far more convenient for quick research than finding the book in my crowded stacks.

Back to the book.

Unlike the Joiner and Cabinet maker which was a serious attempt at showing young people what is was like to be trained in the trade, the Boy's Own Workshop is far longer, far more saccharine, and really targeted to younger boys who were interested in woodworking but probably were never actually going to be apprenticed. By this time (1868) woodworking was taught in schools using methodology that is out of context of being a trainee in a real shop. Although there is some pretense of how a boy was trained in a shop the book doesn't ring true in that sense. It felt to me that I was reading a textbook on basic woodworking that was turned into a pretend narrative rather than a simplified version of an actual apprenticeship. It was also written at a time where being a woodworker had less status and was a less desirable job than it had even thirty years previously.
The book has lots of side stories about family life outside of the workshop, but as I said it's a saccharine portrayal in a very Victorian manner. Right now I'm mostly skimming it, but with any luck I will find some technical stuff worth knowing. Since it is free you might want to consider giving it a look see and who knows it might make fine summer reading.
Tags:Historical Subjects,Misc.
Comments: 5
07/12/2011Larry James 
Thanks Joel-
I've had my iPad for about a month. This is the first book I've down loaded from Google. I increased the font size -old eyes- and had no problem reading part of the book - like how to free oxen stuck in the snow. The dictionary function does not seem to work with the Google reader, but that is not a problem with this book. Most of the books I've down loaded are from project - included several related to WWorking.

Another feature I like about the iPad is PDF project files can be down loaded.

Always enjoy reading your blog, Larry
07/13/2011Gary Roberts
Joel: it's an interesting little book. I agree it's not by any means an accurate description of woodworking, more a morality tale designed to capture the attention of the young mid 19th C adolescent. I have two copies that were each given as awards to school children in Glasgow and Manchester. It was in print for at least 20 years, which says something for the possibility of moral turpitude amongst Victorian boys and the need to correct them?
07/13/2011Steve Kay 
I think pages ii and iii tell us something about Google's scanning methodology.
I loved this read. Like Gary says it is more of a morality lesson than the woodworking how to that Joinery and Cabinetmaker is, but it is still a fun read. The world needs more fictional woodworking stories.
I dropped that book on my Kindle as we headed out the door for our big vacation, and I'm glad I did. It's an easy read (although quite a bit thick on the Victorian Morality stuff), and I've learned a couple things already. I've also found some good inspirations in some of the messages.

I like the whole bit about Brad Awl, it's some of the better information I've seen on that subject, it's a bit scarce.

The bit about not focusing on the end, but rather on the task at hand is also a really good idea. I tend to rush myself, and I usually screw something up.
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