Saturday, April 4, 2015

Recognized for Anachronistic Authenticity

I’m not sure that most people would be honored by being pointed out for dogged adherence to outmoded work habits but I take it as a compliment. This is because the primary motivation behind my furniture making is historical research. I want to reproduce the preindustrial work process as close as I can in order to gain insights inaccessible through documentary sources alone. By reverse engineering historic furniture I can recreate the process, which in turn, helps me understand why the artifact is the way it is.

I know that’s not the reason most people choose to pick up plane, saw, and chisel. Some may want to express artistic creativity, others want to experience the satisfaction of developing manual dexterity, and others still take up the pastime for the DIY economic advantage. None of this interests me whatsoever.

Yesterday evening, I opened my email after work to discover an email from Early American Life. In it, I discovered that I have been selected for their 2015 Directory of Traditional American Crafts. As their website explains, “The Directory of Traditional American Crafts is an honor bestowed on a handful of artisans who work in traditional media, styles, and crafts. In addition the Directory is also a buying guide. It presents to you a selection of the best historically informed handwork in America today. The Directory will help you select the best furniture, pottery, ironwork, decorative objects, and more for period-correct decorating, collecting, or movie-making.”

For my application, I selected three projects for evaluation: Eden’s tavern table, my cabinetmaker’s tool chest, and a mahogany looking glass (which will be featured in an article in Popular Woodworking this August). I provided pictures for the judges and described the process and materials used based on historical precedent. Being listed in the Directory has been one of the goals I have been working towards as it is one of the few recognitions for true period authenticity. I am humbled and honored to receive this acknowledgment and I hope to only improve in skill and knowledge of period cabinetmaking. I am keenly aware of the many ways my work can improve but I can honestly say I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with each project: I’ve been able to stand in the shoes of the artisan of 200 years ago to understand a little bit better their thought process and ultimately the artifacts they produced. This sleeves-rolled-up research is what I’m all about anyway. It’s the best way I know to learn about our cultural heritage.


  1. Congratulations Joshua! That's quite an honor.

  2. Congratulations! I have been an EAL subscriber for decades, and can attest to the quality of craftsmanship of those chosen for the directory. Also being a PW subscriber, I look forward to your article. You've been a busy man lately. Thanks for continuing to share with us via the blog.

    1. Dan, Thank you so much. I have been busy... more than you even know. I'll be talking more about that in the near future. Stay tuned.

  3. Congratulations.
    That tool chest is looking so good.
    Happy Easter

  4. Nice going, Joshua. Keep up the good work!