THE LONDON SCHOOL OF FURNITURE MAKING: The How & Why of Woodworking - Michael Pekovich

Furniture making courses in London. We run woodwork classes, for adult learners. Our woodwork short course is suitable for experienced students who want to deepen their knowledge. A series of introductory cabinet making lessons build into a comprehensive set of carpentry skills. We teach you how to use joinery to create a coffee table or a make a Japanese coffee table. You can learn how to make boxes and we have a workbench class too. We offer a steam bending class.

The How & Why of Woodworking - Michael Pekovich

A Book Review

Last year, as an idle Australian in London on sabbatical, I decided to try my hand at something I'd never done.

A friend of mine recommended I enrol in some courses at the London School of Furniture Making. Why not? Thought I. It was a bit like closing your eyes and placing your finger on a map of the world and then booking a ticket to the destination you had blindly landed on. Without hesitation, I emailed the school and asked which courses I should choose.

Quick as a flash, by return, Helen replied with the full gamut the school had to offer and I blithely jumped in.

I took part in the core skills courses and Robert Wearing's The Essential Woodworker was the first book I bought. The Why and How of Woodworking was the second.

It was during the dovetailing course, when Helen, tearing her hair out at my innate inability to cut to my lines, pulled The Why and How of Woodworking off the bookshelf and opened up P 47. She then produced a roll of blue tape and proceeded to give me the Pekovich treatment. 

(By explanation, Michael Pekovich is the inventor of using painter's tape as a visual aid in dovetailing and mortising. He lays the tape down on the work before cutting and, after marking out, peels the waste away to show him exactly where to cut. Many students, including myself, have found this method very useful).

The book was published in 2018 by The Taunton Press. It has eight chapters which cover design, tools, skills and aspects of joinery. It proceeds to show how to make cabinets, boxes and chests and concludes with a final chapter dedicated to finishing.

Chapter 3 is entirely devoted to Hand Skills. And this is the chapter I turn to the most. It starts by suggesting THE BIG 12 - the twelve tools you will need when you head to your workbench. It then emphasises the crucial importance of keeping tools sharp and has a great section on sharpening chisels and planes. Correct chiselling, sawing and planing are given due attention. The chapter concludes with an optimistic eight pages of "putting it all together and cut a dovetail". Happy days!

The photography is gorgeous, crisp and clean - you can almost touch the tools, shavings and sawdust. The photographs are mostly Pekovich's, however, Bill Godfrey (photo editor for Fine Woodworking) is given credit in the acknowledgements for making "so-so photographs look good and good photographs look brilliant".

The tone of the text is accessible and reassuring. For example, following on from the "how to" section on cutting dovetails, Pekovich adds a soothing commentary, showing the reader that not even the experts are immune to moments of self doubt.

"Sometimes, if I'm a little stressed about the task at hand and the voices in my head get a little too loud, I'll tell myself to just shut up, relax, and watch the work get done. In doing so, I realise that the talky part of the brain, the part that always seems to be driving the bus, is actually counterproductive to getting the results I want."

This is a book I will keep close for the duration of my woodworking journey - whether it be long or short (to paraphrase HRH). It is inclusive and welcoming for amateur and expert alike.

In conclusion, I can highly recommend this book. For fledgeling or experienced woodworkers alike, Michael Pekovich has a great bedside manner. 

By Calamity Jane - amateur woodworker