|"Campain Furniture", the new book by Christopher Schwarz, is one of the most important books on woodworking to appear in the last generation. The reason has nothing to do with the quality of instruction (which is excellent) or anything like that. |
Woodworking as a hobby is dying. For all everyone wants people to learn to work wood, and all woodworking, in any form, is a very satisfying thing to do, fewer and fewer young people are interested in it. There are many reasons, woodworking isn't taught in school as frequently as it used to, people have far less free time than they did, furniture is less of a status symbol, and furniture is less expensive than it was so there is less incentive to make it yourself to save money.
But the main reason, the overriding reason woodworking as a hobby is in decline is because of two things. The first is that most people aren't interested in filling their house with colonial style furniture and Shaker and Arts & crafts furniture has been so dumbed down at the mall that it doesn't excite the way it used to. The second reason is that people move a lot more than they did and moving furniture is a pain. Buying furniture in previous generations was about the momentous acknowledgement that you were setting up a household. These days, with a far more informal society, most furniture is just another purchase of a disposable household commodity.
The reason Chris' book is so important is that it's not just the first new style of furniture to be written about in the popular press since the Art's and Crafts craze, it's actually a style of furniture that can fit into our transient lifestyles.
I'm not going to repeat what I wrote in the product description, if you want to know more about the book click here. I do want to mention that the projects as a group seem to be at the same skill level as your average Shaker pieces, with the main difference being that the woods are fancier, and hardware is integral to the project.
Think about the whole genre this way: Your kid is finishing college and moving to a tiny apartment in a new city. Possibly with seventeen roommates. How useful would a campaign secretary desk be to them that comes apart into easily moveable sections for transport, and then reassembles into a solid desk. It might not be the baronial ship of executive state - but it's exactly the right size for someone who really wants a comfortable place to park their laptop and get stuff done.
Chris' book has a lot of interesting historical information and his designs are all reflective of the original construction methods. It wouldn't surprise me in the least, I even expect that in a year or so Chris or someone else will write another book on campaign furniture using more modern materials but keeping with the same concept of design - proper furniture for life on the go. This to me is where modern furniture needs to go and Chris gets full marks and applause on kicking off what I hope will be a revival of this genre. As I said at the start of this blog - this is one of the most important new books on woodworking in a long time.
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