This book has intrigued me since it was published a year ago, largely because it deals with topics—woodworking, craftsmanship, the genius of hand-made things—that have fascinated me all my life. I bought a copy for my son, a violinmaker, last Christmas, and another for myself. If sales have been good, I’m partly responsible.

That said, when I finally opened Why We Make Things and Why it Matters a few weeks ago, I wasn’t riveted. The book turns out to be Peter Korn’s life story—interesting to be sure, but not the explanation I’d looked for when I first encountered the title. I read Korn’s story through and revisited parts of it, wondering what was missing.

Now, having thought (procrastinated?) more, I may know.

Korn is founder and executive director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, a well-regarded school in Rockport. His life work is furniture and the effort and care that can go into it; he designs, builds and teaches others how to build high-quality chairs, tables, bookcases and other pieces that make a home or office a beautiful and comfortable place. As a writer and furniture historian he’s aware of movements in design, particularly the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a craftsman himself he knows how to envision a chair or table, and how to bring it into being.

So what’s missing? For me at least, the heart of explaining Why We Make Things and Why It Matters should lie in tools and the skills one brings to them on the workbench. While I learned why Peter Korn decided to become a furniture builder, I didn’t learn how he actually did it. I learned a lot about the crises in Korn’s life and how they shaped him, but we didn’t get to the feel of the sanded grain, the angle of the chisel, the tightness of the joint, the way one judges roundness and even squareness by hand. In my opinion, these things are just as important as the Arts and Crafts movement.

A confession: I’m a woodworker too. Not a furniture maker most of the time, although I’ve built a few bookcases and tables. My heart is in wooden boats, which are as challenging a branch of craftsmanship as you’ll find anywhere—few square joints; lots of curves and compound angles. In boats, the joinery is all about tension and compression, about fit—and in the end it all has to float.

Of course, boat joinery is more tradition-bound than making furniture. Except for cold molding and the use of new materials like epoxies, wooden boatbuilding hasn’t lent itself to lots of experimentation. Furniture makers have more freedom to try things—a collapsing chair is less of a catastrophe than a sinking boat, after all.

Read Korn’s book by all means, but don’t expect a treatise on how to make things, or even to go that deep into why. You’ll learn why the author himself became the person he is, how he started his school. You’ll learn about handcrafted furniture’s place in the world of design, but you won’t quite reach the workbench and what goes on there. That’s another book.

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters:

The Education of a Craftsman

By Peter Korn

Boston, 2013: David R. Godine, Publisher/Hardcover, 179 pages 

David D. Platt is former editor of The Working Waterfront. The 17-foot wooden daysailer he’s currently rebuilding could be launched in the next month or so.