Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Village Carpenter

My blog title is named for a book by Walter Rose, called The Village Carpenter. It's a book that I wished would never end. The author writes about carpentry, working in his grandfather's shop in Victorian England, at a time when the carpenter was vital to the life of the village and whose duties encompassed a much broader range of skills and projects than what we think of as carpentry today. The village carpenter in the late 19th c. was responsible for building everything from windows & doors to coffins to fences & gates to furniture to buckets & washboards and more. He was a thread that tied the community together, often having to work on sight, gaining an intimate understanding of the villagers in whose homes he would work for weeks on end.

Walter Rose eloquently recounts stories about the men who worked in the shop, their tools, their projects, and their interaction with the villagers. Here is an excerpt from his book:

"It is in the workshop and at the bench that an insight into the soul of wood craftsmanship can be truly gained. There are tools, there is the wood—rude planks, ungarnished, their surface scored with the saw. Between them, and without which each is useless, must come the soul and spirit of the designer and craftsman; the deft hands prompted by an alert mind; the knowledge attained only through years of study and service; the creative instinct and ability that will, by the correct use of the tools, transform the mere plank into a thing of usefulness and beauty—possibly a joy for ever."

The entire book is filled with memorable passages and woodworking wisdom that has since been forgotten but is still relevant. He reflects on the personality of wood and the connection between the carpenter and his tools—a connection so absolute, that the same tool in another woodworker's hands would not respond the same.

It's a must-read for anyone who is passionate about woodworking or who would like to gain insight into the soul of a woodworker.

16 comments:

johnjoiner said...

Thanks for the book reference. I like historical stuff like that, so I'll have to check it out.

The Village Carpenter said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Wyldth1ng said...

I always wondered about your title. Awesome, indeed.

mrs. m said...

This is beautiful, and a great opportunity to tell you that I love reading your blog. The sensory details, the hands-on-edness of your work, it's just a delight to someone whose work is not very tangible. Thank you. I'm grateful.

The Village Carpenter said...

Thank you, Mrs. M. That's very kind. : )

Al Navas said...

I must locate this book - thanks for letting me discover it on your blog. I LOVE your blog!


Al

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks Al!

Al said...

BOOK ALERT!!!

I just bought the last (cheap) copy of the book at Amazon, for a little over $25. It is coming from the U.K.

So, look around - or better yet, wait until VC leaves the house :)...

The Village Carpenter said...

You'd have to sneak past my very frightening guard dogs first...

david said...

I have a friend who owns a small rectangular table they claim was made by Walters father or grandfather the chap with the strange thumbs, from a large oak tree at rose cottage it is certainly an old piece with wooden nails turned legs and what appear to be roses carved around the rim below the table top . Do you have any imformation that may enlighten us to the probability of this or its value if so. thanks David

The Village Carpenter said...

David, I had tried to find information about Walter Rose when I read the book and was unable to find anything on the internet. I'm not even sure what town he lived in. If I were you, I would try to contact resources in London, maybe national archives or their library system, to see if anyone can direct you to more information about him. You could also contact some antique dealers in London or near his hometown (if you are able to find it) to see if they can help you. Good luck!

Gye Greene said...

I just today received my copy in the mail -- paid for by an Amazon.com G/C from a friend for whom I did a favor.

Bought it based on your recommendation (and the exceprt) -- and totally sold by the "sneak peak" offered on Amazon.

Great stuff!!! :)

(Maybe it's a reprint, but they're now US$16 (paperback)...)

http://www.amazon.com/Village-Carpenter-Walter-Rose/dp/0854420657/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265714178&sr=1-1)


--GG

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks for the reminder about the price of the book, Gye. I had noticed a long time ago that it had come down in price and meant to remove that information.
Hope you like it! I've never found a book about woodworking that I've liked as well. The Joiner & Cabinet Maker comes closest, but still The Village Carpenter is #1.

Gye Greene said...

So far, it's great! :)

I collect quotes relevant to my hobbies (woodworking, songwriting, etc.). The Vill. Carp. book is chock fulla goodness. :)


--GG

Bill said...

I will have to find a copy of that book some where. A book that has made that much impact on your life is worth reading.

home construction conroe tx said...

A must to read book, Looking forward to read it.