There are hundreds of books written about the Shakers and their furniture. I found 7 in my library with just a quick look. I’m sure I’ve got a few more but my shelves are a bit disorganized. Rather than do seven reviews I thought I’d just throw out my opinion on them in one blog series. I’ve provided links, when possible to these books on AbeBooks.com. ABE is a group of independent booksellers united together on the web – like Amazon without the evil, but you can find these books on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or even at your local library.
The first book, actually the first three, is Shop Drawings of Shaker Furniture & Woodenware by Ejner Handberg. The first book of this series was published in 1973. If you’re looking for historical background, detailed plans and instructions or glossy 8×10 color photos then these books aren’t for you. If you like to work from a basic idea, to start with one measurement and work your way out until the project is finished, then it’s a great set of books to own. Everthing from little (boxes, candle holders, coat hangers) to large (beds, chests, tables, wardrobes) is in here and all measurements are taken from authentic Shaker items in private or public collections. You won’t find any “Shaker inspired coffee table” trash here. I don’t have a scanner but I found a pic online of one of the drawings:
Next up is “American Style - Shaker, Mission & Country Projects” by Time Life Books. This one is a hardcover 8×10 spiralbound with color photos, detailed drawings and instructions and tips on techniques. Of course only 1/3 the book is devoted to Shaker. That 1/3 consists of a step-stool, hall table, rocking chair and a “shaker-style” footstool. Of course these are the four projects that have been done to death in every magazine printed for the last 30 years so unless you’re just into collecting Time-Life books I can’t recommend this one to anybody. Here’s a pic of the book for those of you who like a little color in your blog reading:
Edward Deming Andrews and Faith Andrews wrote the books ””Shaker Furniture, The Craftsmanship of an American Communal Sect” in 1937. My copy is an 8×10 Dover reprint with a 1964 copyright. I don’t know if they just renewed the copyright, or if there is significant difference between my version and the 1937 one. Woodworkers will find very little of interest in this book. There are no drawings or plans, no discussion of Shaker specific joinery or techniques. Aside from some black and white photos gathered together in the middle of the book there is absolutely zero illustration. The text of the book is devoted to a short history of the Shaker sect, living conditions, and religious beliefs with an attempt to tie it to the current (1937) social changes occuring in America. If you’re looking for historical background on the Shakers then this book might interest you, although all of the information contained is now readily available online for those who know how to google/bing/yahoo. I’m not giving it a total “thumbs-down” but I don’t recommend it for a woodworker who is only looking for information for the next project. And so you don’t fall asleep, here’s another picture:
I’ve saved the last two books in my mini Shaker collection for a follow-up blog. Those of you with some knowledge of the subject will notice a big name that is missing so far. I’ll get to him – don’t worry, although it might not be the rave review you are expecting to read. And if you’ve read this far you’re also thinking “Doesn’t Joe like anything?” And to that let me remind you that I did like the Measured Drawings series. And my favorite Shaker book is coming in Part 2.
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