Friday, September 11, 2015

Good Reads: Jeff Taylor, Tools of the Trade. The Art and Craft of Carpentry

Published in 1996 by Chronicle Books, this book is a gem, one of the best I have read on the appreciation of tools.   He began working as a carpenter while putting himself through university, and had the great good fortune to work with some real masters in the trade.  If his carpentry skills are his good as his writing, I'd love to see examples of his work.  He writes with humility of the craftmanship of an era that was ending when he got into the trade, and with appreciation for the beauty of hand tools and the life lessons that they have taught him.  Each chapter features a different tool and his experiences with it. This book will never leave my library.

Jeff Taylor began writing in 1986 following a both a serious construction accident and a car accident.  At the time of the book's publication, he was writing a monthly "Toolbox" column in Harrowsmith Country Life, and in 1998 he was also writing a column for This Old House.  He lives in Blodgett, a small town in Oregon.

The book is illustrated with beautiful photographs taken by Rich Iwasaki, who has previously collaborated with Jeff Taylor in other print venues.

While researching the author, I also stumbled across another book I'm going to have to look for:  Mike Rose, The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker.  (Penguin, 2005).

As one reviewer wrote: 

As did the national bestseller Nickel and Dimed, Mike Rose’s revelatory book demolishes the long-held notion that people who work with their hands make up a less intelligent class. He shows us waitresses making lightning-fast calculations, carpenters handling complex spatial mathematics, and hairdressers, plumbers, and electricians with their aesthetic and diagnostic acumen.  Rose, an educator who is himself the son of a waitress, explores the intellectual repertory of everyday workers and the terrible social cost of undervaluing the work they do. Deftly combining research, interviews, and personal history, this is one of those rare books that has the capacity both to shape public policy and to illuminate general readers.


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