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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Preview of By Hand & Eye

By Hand & Eye by George Walker and Jim Tolpin is a unique book in the world of modern woodworking literature.  The typical fare today consists of very straightforward how to do this or that woodworking projects.  By Hand & Eye addresses the 'why' of woodworking through the eyes of design.

Design is one of the ephemeral concepts that is different to each person.  I call BS.  Actually, George and Jim, call BS.  The foundations of all design are the same and come to us from antiquity.  By Hand & Eye is a short course on shattering the common belief that designing original projects is hard, or impossible.  Sure, aesthetics in design are as varied as people are, but this book teaches you to find those foundational geometric elements of a piece and the proportions that bind them together.

I still find it hard to describe the book and don't want to turn anyone away from the title because of my dimwitted ranting.  So, I have to state that there are ten woodworking projects detailed in the book.  Even if you never read the design chapters, you get your money's worth in projects alone.  Some woodworkers only ever want to build from someone else's plan and there is nothing wrong with that.  The vast majority of us are hobbyists and want the most satisfaction possible from our recreational pursuits.

I can't call this posting a review because I still haven't finished the book.  I have started over three times and still have not read the projects at the end of the book, though I did leaf through them a couple times.  By Hand & Eye is not the kind of book you run through in a few hours and throw on the shelf for your friends to admire.  The book is closer to a textbook than recreational pulp fiction.  OK, that last sentence was a softball.  The book IS a textbook.  There is a ton of information packed in the 200 or so short pages of By Hand & Eye.  You can literally spend hours making up exercises to convince yourself of the validity of the information.  Or you can ingest a broad overview to help you evaluate the work of others.  Don't forget about the projects at the end of the book.

Everything considered, By Hand & Eye has something for every woodworker in it.

I'm surprised nobody has created a bundle with the book, dividers, sketchbook, and quality mechanical pencils.

I'm spending so much time on this book because of the blog.  I feel I need to come up with original projects so I can get into more detail here.  When I build someone else's project, I'm limited by copyright laws as to the level of detail I can post.  There is also the question fair play; publishers spend money to generate original content so they can make more money.  The Pragmatic Woodworker blog is a labor of love and it is a supreme jerk move (aka King Richard) to devalue publisher's original content by posting it here for 'free'.  I'm sure there will be more from By Hand & Eye on the blog in the future.  For now, please accept this preview as an endorsement of the work.

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