About the time you think you've read nearly everything there is about woodworking and hand tools, along comes something that just blows you away. Such it is with the latest release from Lost Art Press, the massive two-volume set of articles by the legendary Charles Hayward drawn from the pages of
. Totaling nearly 900 pages in all, these volumes contain an impressive number of articles—grouped by subject—that appeared during the period Hayward was editor.
The articles are all about hand tools and their use; no power tool discussions appear here. And their detail about the selection, restoration, care and use of each type of tool is simply breathtaking. The articles are accompanied by clear illustrations, most hand-drawn by Hayward himself, that amplify the text. The result is a compendium of information that has few, if any, equals.
If the volumes have a downside, it's that some subjects are treated by multiple articles written at different times during Hayward's editorship, resulting in some replication of material and changes in language over time. But this is of little importance. It's the deep knowledge they contain that matters most.
These are not volumes you are likely to read in sequential order, front to back. While they cover endlessly fascinating material, they are too massive for most of us to tackle that way, which would be like reading an encyclopedia from beginning to end. Most readers will choose to dip into this rich detail as they approach specific tasks or tools for the well-grounded advice Hayward offers.
If the volumes prove one thing, it is that there is truly nothing new in woodworking. The advice that Hayward gives is by no means dated and is not unlike that given by more recent authors. The difference is that here it is compiled into a single place and presented in clear and concise detail, rather than scattered over numerous publications. Take sharpening, for instance, rightfully positioned first in Volume 1. Hayward's articles add up to over 60 pages of commentary on the methods for sharpening the hand tool user's tools. Although you can find similar advice elsewhere, you will seldom find it all in a single place.
Some subjects are basic and will be especially valuable to newer woodworkers. An example is the section on layouts and marking gauges. Then there are extended sections on handplanes, saws, tools for boring (which are by no means, as Hayward calls them, "boring tools") and carving tools.
Other sections—including most of Volume 2—address techniques for accomplishing various aspects of woodworking and tips for achieving best results. A complete recitation of the contents here would be excessive (and exhausting!) but some of them are veneering and inlay; cutting grooves in a variety of surfaces; rabbets (rebates); drawer-making; beaded panels; door-making and hinges; table tops; chamfers; mouldings; tapered legs; cabriole legs; assembling, fitting and gluing; and, well, it goes on and on.
These volumes will be an excellent starting point for beginning woodworkers and hand tool users because they cover such things as designing a woodshop and, especially, acquiring and caring for tools. In addition, they offer basic advice on techniques and best practices and are well worth studying as a prelude to building projects and enhancing skills.
But seasoned woodworkers need not think that this book is beneath them. Hayward attends to advanced practices that will be helpful to those tackling more challenging projects. The sections on carving, door-making, compound shapes and working with curved surfaces stand out. None of us knows all there is to know, and we can each benefit from reference to the detailed instruction Hayward provides.
Even woodworkers who mainly use power tools will benefit from such sections as door- and drawer-making, layout and assembly and bending wood.
In sum, this is an amazing collection of work. To be sure, there's duplication across some of the articles and even some contradiction as ideas changed over time. But ignore all that. There's plenty of good advice here from which any woodworker will profit.
This set is recommended for all woodworkers who use, or aspire to use, hand tools, even if only occasionally. But power tool users should not ignore this set either, for much of the advice contained herein is universal. In my judgment, this is a set that belongs in the library of every serious woodworker—it's that good. Highly recommended.
The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of
Choosing and Using Handplanes
He can be reached by email at