Foundations of Better Woodworking by: Jeff Miller
I was just given an opportunity to read an advance copy of Jeff Miller’s newest book Foundations of Better Woodworking, How to use your body, tools and materials to do your best work. Of course I jumped on the chance to be one of the first folks to read it. Why? Jeff is a good friend of mine. And he’s taught me much of what I know today about woodworking, going back to February of 1996.
The table making class I took with Jeff that cold Chicago winter was what you’d expect, a class that gave you a finish-ready table at the conclusion. And that’s why I took the class to begin with. I remembered making a nightstand in high school shop class 6 years earlier, and the satisfaction I had with a finished piece of work made me want to try it again. Jeff’s class finished in 4 days, and the table was ready to oil. That experience ultimately lead to a 7 year part-time apprenticeship with him while I lived in Chicago.
I left Jeff’s class with more than just a finished table. What I received was the start of understanding the foundations of better woodworking. Jeff spent time covering the essentials around tools, sharpening and measuring. But he also emphasized body posture, balance, wood to body position, and my personal favorite: “the line”, all while helping us finish the project. And that is why I enjoyed Jeff as an instructor; he is thorough, considered and deliberate in the guidance he provides.
In fact, a discussion with Jeff around his definition of “the line” is as in-depth and considered as a lecture by Stephen Hawking on the fundamentals of string theory – just easier to understand. After all, isn’t a string just some form of a line? Or is it…Chapter 7 of the book is dedicated to this topic. Independent of Jeff’s chapter on “the line” helping uncover the fundamental description of nature, or how to reconcile quantum mechanics, it can help you become a better woodworker.
Basics like these are lacking in the published woodworking community, rather, they are taught by craftsmen who pass that knowledge down to their apprentice through careful observation and proper form. Jeff’s new book should help address, and hopefully fill a knowledge gap that a great deal of woodworkers lack, or tend to forget over time. Good to know the folks at Popular Woodworking recognize the value in work like this. I’m personally looking forward to putting some of these principles (many that I need a reminder on myself) into practice on my next project.
But first, I have to actually start reading the book. That’s what a long weekend is for.