Download an excerpt from this book here.
By Ants Viires; translation by Mart Aru
It’s one of Roy Underhill’s three favorite woodworking books, but you can’t buy a copy of it for love or money. Translated into English without the author’s permission in the late 1960s, “Woodworking in Estonia” has been a cult classic ever since it first surfaced.
It is, according to Underhill, “one of the best books on folk woodworking ever” and covers the entire woodworking history of this small Northern European nation from pre-historical times through occupation by the Germans and Soviets up through Estonian independence.
The author, Ants Viires, devoted his life to recording the hand-tool folkways of his country without a shred of romanticism. Viires combined personal interviews and direct observation of work habits with archaeological evidence and a thorough scoring of the literature in his country and surrounding nations.
If all this sounds like a dry treatise, it’s not. “Woodworking in Estonia” is an important piece of evidence in understanding how our ancestors worked wood and understood it more intimately than we do. Viires records in great detail everything from the superstitions surrounding the harvesting of wood (should you whistle in the forest?) to detailed descriptions of how the Estonians dried the wood, bent it, steamed it and even buried it in horse dung to shape it for their needs.
Viires covers, in detail, the hand tools used by the Estonian, including many that will be unfamiliar to moderns (a beehive turner?). He then discusses all the different products Estonians made for their own use and for sale in the markets, including bent-wood boxes, chairs, chests, tables, sleds, carriages, spinning wheels, spoons, tobacco pipes, bowls and beer tankards.
While not a book of plans, “Woodworking in Estonia” is a source of immense inspiration for any woodworker looking to forge a close relationship with wood and the things that can be made from it.
Lost Art Press spent more than two years bringing this book back to life. We contacted the author before his death in 2015 to secure rights for the first authorized English translation. Using the 1996 Estonian edition of the Estonian book, we commissioned a new English translation.
We also obtained the rights to the original photos and drawings. The 1969 unauthorized translation used poorly reproduced images, likely mimeographs, which were murky and dark. This edition contains more than 240 crisp, original photos and line drawings.
Like all Lost Art Press books, “Woodworking in Estonia” is produced entirely in the United States. The hardbound book is 304 pages on heavy paper stock. The pages are sewn and then glued with fiber tape to last lifetimes. And the cover is wrapped in cotton cloth with a foil diestamp.A Public Service
“Woodworking in Estonia” is one of the most specialized titles we’ve published in the last 10 years. We’re completely delighted with it, but we know that many customers will be scratching their heads when deciding if they should add it to their library.We are so enthusiastic about this book that we have decided to price this book as low as possible, without us losing money, as a public service to the woodworking community. While a book of this sort would normally be $39 to $43, we’re going to sell this book at $29 for as long as we can.