Mortise & Tenon Magazine

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Furniture restorers are woodworking’s equivalent of forensic scientists. Pulling structures apart in order to repair them they investigate the past.  In so doing there can be many discoveries and surprises.

Restoring furniture has proved to be a great training ground for many makers. For Joshua Klein, publisher and editor of Indie magazine Mortise & Tenon, that certainly proved to be the case and it also took him down another path. I spoke to Joshua in October last year, at Woodworking in America, a conference event organised by Popular Woodworking magazine in Northern Kentucky, USA.

Joshua explained how training in furniture conservation led him to examine and reevaluate the work practices of pre-industrial craftspeople which he was both impressed and intrigued by. In his former work as a luthier, Joshua became familiar with processes which depended on the high levels of machine led accuracy. He noticed that pre-industrial furniture didn’t reveal the same kind of values, in fact it was ‘radically different’. Looking closely at joinery constructions and residual tool marks he saw how shortcuts had been taken. And that led him to debunk another myth, that working with hand tools only was necessarily a slow process.

Joshua decided to run his own test trials by reproducing period furniture with hand tools alone to further examine those processes. Those experiences form the basis of the first issue of Mortise & Tenon magazine. Other articles were based on information gleaned from other scholars, from his own conservation insights and experience as a maker. ‘For me it’s about understanding hand tools and processes and what that ends up meaning is that to work efficiently you learn period tolerances rather than working to machine tolerances by hand,’ he said.

In order to fund the printing of the magazine Joshua adopted 21st century means to get his old world message out. Through social media he gained a network of followers and pre-orders which helped to finance the initial print run. He involved his followers in the birth of the publication while also enlisting sponsors rather than advertisers.

Mortise & Tenon magazine is beautifully designed and produced and a great source of information for those interested in the history of the practices of furniture making.

The second issue of the magazine is now available. See for more information. You can buy it locally from Carbatec, Henry Eckert Tools or Vesper Tools.

Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor

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