Woodworking author A.J. Hamler is, like most people, not solely defined by his woodworking: one of A.J.’s major hobbies is Civil War reenactment. In his new book, Civil War Woodworking, he’s found a way to combine the two interests.
Civil War Woodworking is both history and how-to. It combines insight into the type of woodworking practiced by Civil War soldiers with step-by-step plans for reproductions of the sorts of things they might have used. Such plans include a hardtack crate, a folding camp stool and folding camp table, portable bucksaw and more. A.J.’s also included historical photos of these wooden items in use in Civil War camps, a recipe for hardtack and an introduction into the levels of authenticity strived for among different groups of reenactors.
His own philosophy is that it’s impossible to create a completely authentic reproduction — after all, he points out, back in the 1860s, a pine 2x4 likely came from an old-growth forest and actually measured, well, 2" by 4"; whereas today, purchased pine has likely come from a managed new-growth forest and a “2 x 4” now actually measures 1-1⁄2" x 3-1⁄2". Wood was also locally harvested, with Northern soldiers more likely to build from white pine; Southern from yellow.
Still, A.J. offers tips for creating greater (or less, if you have other uses in mind than battlefield camping) authenticity in your own creations of his projects — what marks you should remove if you use modern tools, how to apply the rivets that were often used for Civil War-era joinery of two pieces of wood that pivoted against each other, and what finishes you should apply (if any: most pieces created by soldiers in the field were left raw).
He also notes that the bucksaw comes in handy not only for cutting up firewood in a reenactment camp, but also around your own shop and yard.
Civil War Woodworking is published by Linden Publishing; ISBN 978-1933502-28-1.