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Learning From A Perfectionist,
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This review is from: The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking (Paperback)
James Krenov is one of woodworking's treasures - an acknowledged master craftsman who is open about both his aesthetics and his techniques. For many of us he is a role model who started out on a shoe string in Sweden and has gone on to create a whole style all his own. He is as devoted to teaching as he is to his work and has a gift for inspiration and straightforward exposition.
Unlike A Cabinet Maker's Notebook, The Fine Art of Cabinet Making spends most of its time talking about technique. The first 50 pages is a vast, rambling essay on wood and how to relate to it. His point, an important on, is that the process of selecting and using wood is every bit as important and any other creative process. If you pay attention you will get a deep dive into the way Krenov's designs come to be - a whole new level beyond buying some dimensioned lumber and whipping up a cabinet.
Then he introduces you to his workshop and tools. Krenov actually does use power tools, but sparingly. Many of us have been taught to value the clean, sharp edged work that a modern power woodshop can produce. Krenov is just the opposite, to him the marks of craftsmanship are part of the harmony of the work. Krenov makes his own planes, and spends a great deal of time explaining how to do the same yourself. I have to admit I'm quite happy with my Lie-Nielson's, but one has to admire the intensity of a man who wants everything 'just so.'
The remainder of the book covers details of Krenov's cabinetmaking, and it is here that you discover the extent of his quality. Whether it be dovetails, delicately curved doors, or cabinet backs, Krenov never settles for less than the best he can do. I admit to a few moments of extreme jealousy when he explains that he never clamps dovetail joints, but, as his discussion demonstrates, his attention to detail is such that he shouldn't have to use clamps. I just wonder how many years of practive it will take to accomplish the same thing.
For all that this is a technically focused book, it is also an inspiring one. A book that will have you eyeing potential lumber completely differently, and making yourself take the time to get things right.