An inspiring and instructive book that belongs in the library of every woodworker.
Some things produce a visceral reaction in us – that’s what I experienced when I first read this book. Somewhat akin, I think, to what I felt when I read Krenov’s ‘A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook’ some 40 years ago. Both focus on the deeper meaning of woodworking and the kind of attitude or discipline that leads to some level of self-fulfillment. How our work becomes, in some measure, a reflection of ourselves.
Pekovich is the creative director of Fine Woodworking magazine, and an accomplished woodworker with some 30 years of experience at the workbench. A number of his woodworking projects and skill building articles have been featured in the magazine, and they’ve always been enjoyable reads.
This book distills a lot of what he’s learned over those 30 or so years about both the nature of the craft and the techniques that are fundamental to it.
The book opens with the aptly titled “Make Shop Time Matter” where Pekovich shares his approach on making the best use of time spent at the workbench. His list of 10 shop rules comprises a set of well thought out principles for working efficiently – ‘make it a habit’, ‘do your thinking away from the shop’, ‘rethink perfect’ and so on. We’ve all probably heard some of these before, but Pekovich brings a host of them together in a coherent fashion.
The second chapter focuses on design – a cause of some anxiety for many of us. Pekovich’s 12 axioms provide a balm for the bruised psyche. I particularly liked his advise to “(learn) to trust your eye. The problem with following any formula is that it can make you less confident and less likely to listen to your own intuition”.
Pekovich moves on to the basic hand tools that are fundamental to hand work in the next chapter, ending with an excellent primer of cutting dovetails.
In the next 4 chapters he profiles 4 of his projects – cabinets, boxes and chests, casework, and tables. Included are detailed drawings of the projects along with practical milling and joinery advice. I think this section alone justifies buying the book.
The last chapter talks about finishing your projects with shellac and wiping varnish – two staples that I’ve relied on for years.
As practical as it is inspirational, I think that any woodworker will thoroughly enjoy “The Why and How of Woodworking”.
By the way, Pekovich has a new book coming our later in 2021 – “Foundations of Woodworking: Essential joinery techniques and building strategies” which should be a nice complement to this first book.