"The introduction of the Craftsman style has practically revolutionized manual training in our public schools.... Before the introduction of Craftsman furniture, manual training in schools rested chiefly upon sloyd, which was confined to the making of small articles entirely for the sake of the hands.... Now the very necessary element of usefulness is added to the things they make ..."
Source: Gustav Stickley, Craftsman Homes 3rd Ed. New York: The Craftsman Publishing Company, 1909, pages 170-71, as cited by John freeman Crosby, Forgotten Rebel: Gustav Stickley and His Craftsman Mission Furniture Watkins Glen, New York: Century House, 1966, chapter 5.
Love was Head of Manual Arts Department, Stockton High School, Stockton, CA.
[As noted above] A few years ago shop projects were very easily chosen, as the predominant style was mission with designs very simple and easy to reproduce. However, times, customs and demands have changed and if we wish to keep pace with the latest and best commercially we will have to look to something besides mission furniture for an inspiration. Most of us continue in the mission work because we were raised on it and believe it to be much easier designed and made. Why pick the easiest for our work? Does mission furniture really have enough variety in design, detail and construction for us to use it and nothing else? To be sure, work in period styles requires a little more study and more close supervision, but it is worth it. You have an endless variety of designs and most any period style can be so modernized that a first-year high school boy can produce it.
There is a wonderful chance here to correlate your bench work and turning. You can see in the photographs that most of the pieces have some turned parts.
We have been doing period work here for four years and each year I see an added interest in it. We average one talk every two weeks on some particular style and the boys make reports on the different pieces shown in the display rooms of our furniture stores. The work is outlined to require a minimum amount of reading. Most of it is done from observation and reports made from these.
We try to proceed in the designing and construction of our work the same as they do commercially. The boy chooses the particular style or period that he thinks he wants, then talks it over with the teacher. They decide whether that particular style will fit in and harmonize with the other furnishings in the room in which it is to be placed. Here he is given some idea in regard to the relation between architecture, interior decoration, and furnishing.
After the style is chosen, if possible, a perspective is made. This cannot always be done as the student has not had the proper amount of freehand drawing. From the perspective a clearer idea in regard to the relation of dimensions is obtained and it helps greatly in the detailing. The next step is to decide whether a full-size detail rod or quarter-size drawing is required to work from. If it is a table, writing desk, book-case or any piece where it is possible, we always use a rod. In chairs or any piece where there is any curved work, we use a full-size detail.
After the rod or full-size detail has been made we next make our templates. These templates are made by placing the curved parts of the drawing that we wish to produce on a 4" redwood board and then every 4" on the drawing we pierce it with a very small brad awl. This reproduces the shape of the object on the board so that it can be sawed out on the band saw and shaped with a plane or spoke shave. When all the templates are made the stock is milled out in the rough. Then all the parts are milled to size and shaped and planed up by hand. We then bore out dowel holes and assemble the pieces temporarily, using a dowel a little smaller in diameter than we expect to use when gluing up. If all parts fit, the work is torn down, larger dowels are used and the work glued up..
The colonial table shown is about as easily made as one could wish. The curved work is not difficult and the veneering is very simple.
The round card table is of no particular style but might be called a modernized Sheraton. The rail is built up, veneered and inlaid with holly. The round top, the modeled edge, and the groove to receive the holly were all done on the lathe. Two strips of walnut and two of holly were glued up end grain and turned to 1" in diameter. Small pieces 1" thick were sawed from these and glued in the 1" holes in the top. All the legs were inlaid, the grooves being cut by hand with a good sharp scratch gauge. The most difficult job in the making is gluing it up. A good chain clamp is needed for this.
The table with eight legs is a modernized piece and might be called Hepplewhite. All the legs were routed out to make them appear paneled and the rails curved to form a continuous curve from the legs. All the rails have a paneled effect and the design is very pleasing after it is seen made up.
One of the most interesting tables that can be made is the old gate leg. Here we have a good chance to correlate bench work and turning. This particular style might be called Jacobean.
The hexagonal card table is another example of the correlation of bench work and turning. This is also a modernized piece but the general lines were taken from a photograph of an original Jacobean.
All the photographs and drawings are table examples and many more might be shown that are easy to make. We have just as much variety of work in chairs, dining sets and in nearly all kinds of furniture. If you have not tried working in the period styles, try it and just see what an added interest you will find in the work for both you and the student.