Chapter 4 1921 - 1930 4:6 Motivations for woodworking

Under construction: Here are some of what needs to be considered:
    a) home-ownership

    b) hours of work; leisure time

    c) disposable income

    d) what woodworking tools are available?


Between 1890 and 1940, less than half of U.S. households owned their homes. Home ownership declined during the Great Depression, to 43.6 percent in 1940. Since the 1950 census, when homeowners represented 55 percent of all householders, the rate of homeownership has increased steadily... click here for more backgroound on the impact of home-ownership on amateur woodworking

As a concept, scholars have prescribed leisure a special meaning.

click here for an extended discussion of the evolving concept of leisure

    Defining Leisure

    As a concept, Leisure is problematical. In conversation, for the most part, because of the context, the meanings of terms are clear. Most words present little difficulty when you use them. Not so with the word leisure.

    Evidently no one universally accepted definition exists for this, seemingly simple, term.

    In The Psychology of Leisure (2d ed. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1981 -- fulltext not online), John Neulinger, identifies fourteen definitions for the term. In general, definitions of fall into two broad categories: (1) quantitative and (2) qualitative. And other definitions combine both dimensions.

    Quantitative definitions attempt to define Leisure in terms of

    discretionary time

    or by

    activities engaged in during free time.

    For researchers investigating the concept, leisure, data that give the term quantitative dimensions are useful in studying the economics and sociology of leisure.

    However, when we view leisure as merely time or activity, we are drawn away from the personal nature of the experience of leisure -- leisure' most significant aspects -- and the less capable we become in understanding it.

    Qualitative definitions -- the second category of definitions -- address these deeper issues.

    Why? and as such can be thought of as qualitative because they tend to view leisure as a complex of emotions, attitudes, and personal values. Leisure, according to this view, is entirely subjective, a state of mind.

    Leisure and Home Ownership

    Leisure, too, factors into any discussions of topics associated with home ownership, including Time, Space, and Money.


    in relation to the historical reduction of the workweek.


    in relation to the expansion of the square footage of homes in America, owned by the residents.


    And for Money, the long upward trajectory of disposable income.

    Money historically, disposable income on upward trajectory Over the 40-year period between 1929 and 1967. a graph -- after a low in 1933 -- shows a steady growth rate in average hourly rate of pay click here for more background on the imapct of disposable income on amateur woodworking

Leisure, i.e., spare time used in a deliberative way, in other words, is time free from work, housekeeping, and other obligatory commitments. While some scholarship in the era of the Post-Industrial Revolution era exists on leisure as a concept, scholars attention was not seriously directed to it until the 1920s. (Smith 1990:181).

Increasingly, rather than time alone, leisure is seen as the nature and role of activities engaged in during free time (May and Petgen, 1928; Lynd and Lynd, 1929, 1937; Lundberg, 1934).

Not until the post WW II era did scholars begin looking critically at how leisure activities shape a person's identity and impact on social behavior.

Disposable Income

From the tone of the piece below, I think that we can safely conclude that while machine made furniture was affordable, for the discerning eye, the difference in quality between factory-made and hand-made pieces was not difficult to detect. At the same time, handmade pieces -- by the very nature of the time and skill needed to create them -- placed these pieces outside the expectation of a person with limited financial resources --

What to do? "Make it myself? With those new tools that Delta is selling,maybe I could really do it myself"!

Faced with this dilemma -- i.e., to consider making himself, the wannabe amateur woodworker still had many hurdles to overcome. Regardless, many evidently were able to do so.

An address delivered by Henry P. Macomber, Secretary of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, at the Thirteenth Annual Convention, the American Federation of Arts, Washington, D. C., May 16-20, 1922, gives us some perspective, but much more research needs to be conducted before this narrative can be fleshed out to give us a more appropriate understanding.

    "MODERN craftsmanship requires that the idea of patronage be superseded by that of reciprocal service and cooperation." This is one of the principles on which the first American Arts and Crafts Society was founded. On the one side, the public should cultivate an appreciation of beauty in objects of daily use and should be willing to pay a fair price for good handwork. On the other side, the craftsman should give the public the best work that is in him, which, by the way, will be better than anything that the machine can do. The hand is a tool which is superior to any that man has devised, because it is more versatile and directly controlled by the brain. From the earliest times, man has been inventing tools which will assist his hand in making the things he needs and enjoys. In this age of complicated machinery, we sometimes forget that the touch of the hand starts and guides the machine and the hand still remains supreme. The machine can only repeat, while the hand of the craftsman is always eager to make something still better and more interesting. The craftsman today, however, can hardly get away from the fact that what he produces in some measure has to compete with machine product. He cannot be as leisurely in his work as some of the craftsmen of the middle ages undoubtedly were, and there arc no longer patrons in the old sense of the word.

    The medieval monks did not have to depend for their bread and butter on the sale of the illuminated texts or the carvings on which they worked so patiently. Their work really was a by-product of their religious life.

    Under the apprentice system, the young craftsman was sure of his board and clothing during the three to seven years while be was learning his craft. This gave him time to gain a thorough knowledge of his craft. We would have more good craftsman today if it were not for the expense of taking sufficient time to learn a craft thoroughly.

    In the general impatience of our times, young craftsmen fail to see the importance of putting in several years studying design, as well as of the technique of their craft. This has been said so many times that it seems very trite, but nevertheless the truth of it fails to make an impression ahem it is most needed.

    In considering the most successful craftsmen in this country today, we are at once impressed by the large majority who received their training in Europe. Many of them, starting here in a modest way and depending for sales entirely on the excellence of their work and to upholding a high standard, have built up a country-wide reputation and brought in a comfortable income. In being their own masters, they have a freedom and independence which more than offsets the high wages paid to some factory workers. ...

    Source: H. P. MACOMBER, "THE CRAFTSMAN TODAY: HIS RELATION TO THE COMMUNITY" BY American Magazine of Art 13 (oct 1922): 331-333. For background on this organization and details about the work of Macomber and others who toiled in the handicraft goups, see also Chapters 2 and 17, "The Arts and Crafts Movement and Handicrafts Today", Allen H Eaton, Handicrafts of New England, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949.]

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