One of the greatest tools we woodworkers have at our disposal today is the Internet. Not because you can find scads of woodworking videos to teach you techniques, or because you can find the answer to almost any woodworking question. Besides, who knows if the person you’re watching or reading has the experience and knowledge to pass along. To me, the Internet is a key tool in finding ideas and projects, and stumbling upon something you never knew before. Plus, you can unearth the history of particular pieces.
Recently I was chasing a rabbet down a few different Internet holes when I came across a Stickley book rack. My first encounter was in a copy of The Craftsman that was posted online – a trusted resource – in which the rack is used to discuss dovetails and in “advocating the beauty of good craftsmanship.” The Craftsman, written by Gustav Stickley, was first published in October 1901. The small size, monthly magazine lasted until December 1916. (You can find the issues online at the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, or click here.)
The book rack, however, was nothing more than a pencil drawing when I first found it. As I continued to dig, I found numerous references to the rack in several issues of The Craftsman. All were drawings, the same drawing. It wasn’t until I found a Stickley catalog supplement (also online) showing the book rack for sale that I discovered that it was an actual product built by the company (Fig. 1). It was then that I got an idea of its size. The base was 12” square. And believe it or not, the sales price for the rack in 1905 was $4.00.