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    A cabinet makers notebook

    In interviews with contemporary woodworkers James Krenov’s first book ‘A Cabinetmaker Notebook’ is often cited as the book that changed the course of that person’s life and led to them pursuing a career with wood.
    The book is a meditation on Krenov’s approach to his work. It describes a sensitive and considered approach to the design and construction of several pieces with a friendly conversational tone.

    “ I stand at my workbench. Shavings curl from the plane in my hands, swish-and-slide, as I rock to the motion of work….a feeling of contentment. Nothing is wrong. Here am I, here is my work..”

    Many beautiful black and white photos illustrate the text and highlight Krenov’s attention to detail and vision for the overall effect a piece will have on those who view and use it.

    It is not a book that contains detailed instructions for making specific items, rather it seeks to instil in the reader an appreciation of working with sensitivity for the materials and the emergent design. He went on to write several more books that contained more detail of his methods and how to construct his signature wooden planes.

    All of his book are worth reading, as are those of some of his students including Peter Korn and David Finck.

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    The Anarchists Tool Chest

    Just finished reading the Anarchists Tool Chest by Christopher Schwartz.

    Its inspired me to build my own chest and stock with it quality tools made where possible by small firms and individuals who are keeping the tools needed for traditional woodworking alive. Chris has wicked sense of humour which, once I tuned into it, added a nice touch of levity to the material.

    The book is about what Chris describes as the essential set of tools needed to practise traditional hand tool woodworking. Its also about building a chest to house them. What really makes the book though is Chris's philosophy that permeates the text, this is what the use of 'Anarchist' in the title references.

    "The mere act of owing real tools and having the power to use them is a radical and rare idea that can help change the world around us and - if we are persistent - preserve the craft"

    The book is published by Lost Art Press who describe themselves as

     a small publishing company in Fort Mitchell, Ky., that seeks to help the modern woodworker learn traditional hand-tool skills.

    They have a collection of good stuff for those into the hand tool world. They don't ship internationally so I bought mine as a Kindle book. I also bought the DVD, Chris put this together as he had many requests to describe the tools he has in his own chest in more detail, going into brands and why he choose them. Its available from Lost Art (here) is well worth getting as an accompaniment to the book.

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    Permaculture ethics

    I have been interested in Permaculture since 1980 when I stumbled upon a copy of Permaculture 2 in our local bookshop (the same shop also introduced me to The One Straw Revolution and Ecotopia around the same time).

    Over the years I have experimented with various permaculture methods and been fortunate enough to meet Bill Mollison on a number of occasions. One of these was at the Tanelorn Music Festival held at Stroud in the Hunter Valley in 1981, not long after I had discovered the book. I clearly remember Bill wearing a skin of some sort as he ambled about the festival. I also remember the inspiring spirit of his Permaculture workshop which had a strong focus on Ethics.

    Maddy Harland, the editor of the Permaculture Journal has written a succinct introduction to the subject of Permaculture ethics which you can read here. You can download a free copy of the magazine from the same page.

    The Permaculture Research Institute has a dynamic web site with a large range of resources online.

    One Straw Revolution Link Ecotopoia Link

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    A very small farm

    When I considered which of my favourite books to write about for this blog, one of the first to come to mind was William Paul Winchester's wonderful memoir of life on his 20 acres - A Very Small Farm.

    This is a book to pick up over the years and read a few pages, just for the enjoyment of immersing yourself in the manifest simplicity of Winchester's life. Divided into chapters that are essentially diary entries, you are drawn into the joy he experiences from being engaged in the world around him. Many entries begin with details of the weather (particularly clouds) and then precede to illustrate his appreciation of the rhythms of life that flow through his farm.

    Winchester built his own house, barn, put in a garden and orchard, acquired a milk cow and took up beekeeping. Yet he describes his simple life with a humility that belies these substantial achievements, the size of which will be apparent to those who have taken on a piece of land and made it into their own sanctuary.

    This book fits into a cannon of naturalist writing that is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, and it is for me at least, a book that I turn to with the same anticipation of reward.

    It is not a how to book for the "back to the lander", however there is much in it that will appeal to those readers.

    It was published by Council Oak, however they no longer list it on their site, so it may be out of print. Amazon still have copies available.

    Another very good publisher of books relevant to this blog is Chelsea Green, I will be reviewing some of their books in future posts.

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    So long Fourth World Review

    I am a great fan of subversive media that seeks to tell truths that do not sit easily in the tomes of the major outlets, being dictated as they are by large advertising revenue and they need to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

    For several years now I have been sporadically receiving a small journal called the Fourth World Review. The wonderful polemic was the work of John Papworth a great eccentric of the type only Britain seems to produce. I mean that as a compliment, it is exactly his unique character, keen intelligence and insistence on telling people exactly how he see's the world that have made his beautifully written editorials a joy to read. The journal has consistently stood up for the importance of small scale, local initiatives whether it be farms, local politics and all types of communities. Papworth was a friend of EF Schumacher and has published many articles by Leopold Kohr who continues the vision outlined by Schumacher in his classic work Small is Beautiful.

    I met John Papworth some years ago when he visited Australia. He is small very energetic man who must has been in his late seventies at the time. His speech was littered with Shakespearean quotes and classical references. His oration skills were highly developed and he was very entertaining to listen to
    It seems that the journal is no longer being published, however several years worth of editions are available online at the Fourth World Review Archives and would be rewarding reading. John has written the following plea for others to take over aspects of the journal

    I have edited FourthWorld Review since I founded it in 1984. Now I am trying tohand over to a new team. Technology now makes it feasible to divide functions.Can you help? ... I am bowing out only because at 86 it istime. If this is not to be the last issue of FourthWorld Review what can you doto ensure its continuance? I will keep you posted on developments withoccasional newsletters.

    Note: I received a message that the journal is back in publication

    Recent writing by John Papworth can be found here at Transition Culture

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    Drowning in books to read

    I love books, i enjoy being given them at this time of the year and I enjoy buying them at any time. Unfortunately I sometimes fall behind with reading them.

    The to read pile has grown to the point where I decided I needed to create a list to keep track of them - Omnifocus to the rescue. Listing them like this should discourage me from acquiring any more until I have reduced this backlog.

    The Tufte and Alexander books were acquired as sets and are works I have been keen to have in my library for years. Christopher Alexanders' A Pattern Language is one of my favourite books. I'll take my time with these and expect to revisit them often.

    Dark Mountain and eaarth share themes of coming to terms with a changed world and looking to the future.

    The Adventures of Jack De Crow will appeal to anyone who has sailed dinghy's especially Mirror's. We built on of these in our garage during the 70's.

    And a smattering of IT books the most interesting of which is hopefully the Design of Design by Fred Brooks of Mythical Man Month fame. Still a relevant book although not everyone thinks so.

    Now all I need to do is polish up my speed reading skills…and then there are the numerous magazines...

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    Guitar zero

    I am reading a new book by Gary Marcus a scientist who in his professional life studies languages and cognitive science. In this book he explores the research behind the popular belief that its much more difficult for adults to learn a musical instrument compared to the ease with which children can pick it up. Gary had always harboured a desire to learn the guitar and the book follows his own journey to learn the guitar in his 40’s as he seeks to debunk the assumed wisdom that says its really to late for him to become competent.

    So far its an easy and engaging read although I would appreciate more weight given to his own experiences and a bit less focus on the research.

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