Sharing Woodworking's Rich History

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This article is from Issue 90 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Woodworking may well be the oldest human craft. Not long after our ancestors climbed down from trees, they began utilizing them to make things. From these primitive beginnings, woodworking and humans evolved together. It’s a history rich in crafted objects of all sizes and shapes, for purposes that range from purely practical to total frivolity. But the story of woodworking isn’t only about what we make; it’s the knowledge we share and the many tools that get passed from one generation to another, accumulating their own special history along the way.

Long after their communities began to decline in the mid-1800s, the Shakers place in woodworking history continues to show its staying power, as evidenced by the candle stand on page 56. The Art of Seating (30) demonstrates how American chair design evolved over time. Each era developed its own brand, and different regions offered their take on how things were made—the style, ornamentation, symbolism, and significance.

As modern woodworkers, we carry on a tradition that never runs out of new ideas, even as we continue to improve basic skills with hand tools that have changed little over many generations. Today there are so many ways to learn—from a family member or friend, at a woodworking club or Woodcraft store, via online videos, or by reading a magazine like this one. For more positive thoughts on the future of craft, check out Rick Hanish’s writing on p. 72.

Every project we take on is an opportunity to make a little history in our shops. Our workbenches are birthing tables for much of what we create. Every ding and dent is a testament to the tales we tell. Building your own workbench is a rite of passage for many woodworkers. In this issue, you’ll find a fresh take on this age-old tradition, with guidance provided by professional woodworker Andy Rae and his friends at the Making Whole community shop in Asheville, NC (p. 34).

Get in your shop and make history with techniques for inventive pulls (44) or build a small box (24) for future generations to enjoy. No matter what you craft, if you do it well, you can give a tree another 100 or more years, and your story will be heard, and your lessons learned by the next generation of craftspeople.


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