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Ants Viires’ Compendium of Woodworking Practices

After decades without compensation for his study and detailed description of Estonian woodworking, the most recent English translation of Ants Viires’ text Eesti rahvapärane puutööndus: ajalooline ülevaade has continued to sell copies.

Photo from lostartpress.com

Woodworking in Estonia: Historical Survey was translated into English by Mart Aru and was published by Lost Art Press in 2016. Viires passed away one year before, but he lived to see permission sought for the new edition of the book, evidence that his project will continue to inform those who carry forward the customs of building with wood.

It was a lengthy travail to get to the point where the author's family would see proper recognition for the book, though curiosity about it existed early on. The first section of the book is propelled by the comprehensive research of Suzanne Ellison, who unearthed the story behind what has become a staple of hand tool woodworkers worldwide, not just those in Estonia.

The prelude to Woodworking in Estonia's popularity starts in the post-graduate studies of the author. Viires was born in Tartu in 1918. At first a student of languages, he gravitated to ethnography during the Second World War, around the same time he was working at the Estonian National Museum. During the war, he was enlisted by the German military police as a translator, which made it difficult to get a job in his field after the war. Soon, he had to...

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