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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw by Tony Konovaloff

This book can be summed up as another Cabinet Maker's Notebook.  Tony and James Krenov have history together so it is understandable that the author would want to follow in his mentor's footsteps.

I'll get the negative out of the way first.  Tony chose to self-publish the book.  In doing so he apparently forewent the professional services a seasoned publisher gives an author.  The prose, topic organization, and design are not quite where I think they should be.  The book still reads well and is chock full of good woodworking advice.  While reading, you soon understand how Tony's character and temperament drove his choice to self-publish Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw.

Tony works exclusively with hand tools.  The audience of Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw is the power, or blended tool woodworker that has some experience under his/her belt.  Tony talks a little bit about all aspects of a hand tool only workshop going back and forth between a high altitude view and the nitty gritty details like sawing, or using a chisel.  The idea is to give the reader a sense of the whole hand tool only experience, and instruct in the way Tony sees as his best way.  The author's own words say it best: "What I have tried to do with this book is tell you how I do things without leading you by the handtool".

The book is less than 150 pages yet contains a lot of information to digest.  Less than 70 pages separate how to use a chisel and a discussion on design.  Interspersed throughout the book are woodworking philosophical tidbits like sometimes the wood is best left in the tree, and re-sawing sucks; buy S2S lumber from the mill in the correct dimensions you need.  The book is roughly organized into three sections (defined by the reviewer, not the author):  How to use and sharpen the tools, joinery and construction of furniture basics, and the larger aspects of running a woodworking business.  I would post the table of contents, but I do not have (nor did I seek) permission to do so.

My two favorite features of the book are the gallery of some of Tony's work and the tools and toolbox discussion.  I guess that is actually three favorite features.  Chisel, Mallet, Plane and Saw is not the book that will take you from initial interest to New England Highboy, but it is one of the books you need to read if you ever want to take woodworking from building tables in your spare time to putting food on the table all the time.