The Scale



In the Interim, 2014

April 20, 2014

It is now official. TSC has shifted to a downloadable format. No waiting, no postage, no handling, no unforeseen tariffs, no hassle. You can now buy any issue of TSC for $6.00 (less than the original cover price for the later issues of the original journal), download it to your computer, notebook, or i-pad, and be at your workbench or favorite easy chair in less time than it takes to brew a pot of coffee (keeping in mind that we are still using an ancient Mr. Coffee that takes a donkey's age to brew). Just go to, register, and off you go. If you are uncertain which issue to start with, there are copies of the TSC Index and the Table of Contents for all 20 years available as downloads. (mhd)

January 4, 2014

By the end of this month, Dorsett Publications and The Scale Cabinetmaker will take another technological step forward. Over the past eight years, we transferred TSC from a print format to cd-roms, retrieving twenty-years of material from mothballs. Now we are taking what we think is the next logical step, and making the individual issues available for immediate download. The price per issue remains the same ($6.00), but it will give folks a chance to buy the specific issues they want rather than the four issues included on each cd. No shipping, no waiting, and an enormous change from where we started. We expect the project to take three months to complete, but we will be adding new issues as we work through them.

"Technology" and "The Scale Cabinetmaker" have rarely been used in the same sentence. For the first few years of TSC's existence, the copy was typed on an ancient Selectra typewriter and then delivered to a firm in a neighboring town, who retyped the text onto long narrow strips of paper, which we picked up and took back to the production office (an office that had previously functioned as Jim and Helen's living room). The drawings were drawn by hand, using the same drafting tools that had been used to create the first Cabinetmaker's Guide the decade before (although we had upgraded to rapidigraphs from Helen's old lining pen. When the "typeset" articles arrived back, we pulling out the rubber cement, a wooden T-square that wasn't entirely square, some plastic triangles, the x-acto knives off the workbenches (housed in the spare bedroom), we stood at the drafting tables and laid out the latest issue.

While Jim hired a "graphics" firm after the first issue to handle the final layout for the printer and used outside firms for almost half of TSC's twenty-year life, the quarterly routine changed very little. The Selectra remained on Jim's desk until the journal moved to Christainsburg and Dorsett Publications finally purchased a AM Varityper to improve the typesetting. The Varityper was a wonder. It produce high quality type on photographic paper and allowed Jim to write his final articles directly into the machine. The drafts of the articles were stored on 8" floppy disks. Although we did upgrade the T-square and the triangles and French curves, and we switched from a drafting paper to mylar, very little in the overall routine changed.

Subscriptions and rock stacking were handled by hand for the first few years until Jim broke down and bought a Trash80 (model II), which was later replaced by a MacPlus with an add on disk. Beyond basic rock staking (and the original Lode Runner game), the computers sat on a desk in the mailroom.

The shift to computer layout in 1992 occurred because the typesetter died in the middle of an issue. Jim hated computers. A very large computer at the University of Missouri had consumed about half of his dissertation data nearly 20 years before, so he was reluctant to trust a computer to handle the requirements of TSC. The shift to the computer had a fairly dramatic impact on the print and layout quality of TSC. Computer type was still pretty ragged compared to the photo-crispness of the Varityper; however the print out didn't yellow or turn brown when left near a window and with age; correcting errors didn't require printing and processing photo paper, and the smell of photo chemicals disappeared from the company's offices.

The shift also allows us to broaden what we publish (and what we carry) and to bring out new books more quickly and without the constraints imposed by traditional approaches to document production. One final note however, while we are learning how to handle the new technology, the drawings are still created using the drafting equipment we purchased in 1976. There is, at least to a degree, some comfort in knowing that some things remain the same.


In the Interim, 2013

November 24, 2013

As of this weekend, we have now "officially" entered the 21st Century, although if you looked at our workshop, you might disagree. The Scale Cabinetmaker now has its own blog and Facebook page.

We have been debating the "blog" idea for a couple of years, but it was always shifted to the back burner in favor of other projects (not the least of which was converting everything to cd-rom). In some ways, Jim's quarterly "In the Interim" column, often the last thing he wrote before an issue went to the printer, was the precursor to blogging--an artform no doubt he would have enjoyed.


November 21, 2013

On principle, we do not put up Christmas decorations at the Cambria Depot (the home of Dorsett Publications) until the day after Thanksgiving. While we recognize that the business variation of Christmas starts the day after Labor Day and that "Jingle Bells" now defines the shopping experience well in advance of Columbus Day, there is something not quite right about erasing the fall holidays in favor of a few extra "ho, ho, hos."

This year marked a couple of notable red letter days. On October 15, 1963, Helen published the first of the Cabinetmaker's Guides. It was the first of its kind--a book geared towards the miniature scale modeler. Sure, there were plenty of books on model railroading and model shipbuilding, but nothing on miniatures. Miniatures had always been far more of a collector's hobby than a modeler's hobby, so the publication of The Cabinetmaker's Guide to Dollhouse Furniture: Country Furniture was a marked departure.

The first volume (and the subsequent series and, for that fact, The Scale Cabinetmaker) would not have existed if not for two entwined events. In 1962, at her mother's prodding, Helen took on a commission from Emma Poe, a doll collector in Peabody Kansas, to build a dollhouse for her doll collection. In the spring of 1963, with Emma's dollhosue near completion, Jim decided it was time to return to school for a PhD in Sociology. In order to qualify for a house loan (they had been living in Presbyterian manses for more than a decade), they created Dorsett Miniatures and spent most of the spring and summer putting together the first Cabinetmaker's Guide, which included plans and patterns from the Poe dollhouse.

The first Guide was published by Calico Press, a printshop in Wichita, Kansas best known for printing wallpaper for miniature rooms. The original books were 11" x 17," spiral bound, and slightly unwieldy. They didn't change the format of the Cabinetmaker's Guides until the mid-1970s when they started publishing The Scale Cabinetmaker. Neither Jim nor Helen expected the Cabinetmaker's Guide to do all that well, and in terms of the publishing industry, it was never much of a best seller, but it kept plodding along.

Over the past 50 years, Dorsett Publications published 9 more Cabinetmaker's Guides, all of which are still in print.



Nearly eight years in the making...

When we agreed to try to get all 20 years of The Scale Cabinetmaker back in print (a promise made to my father, Jim Dorsett), we had no idea 1) what we were doing; 2) exactly how long it was going to take to make one of his final wishes a reality; and 3) the range of skill sets we were going to have to either relearn or learn from scratch. Neither Carol or I had tackled such a venture before, but after eight years of work, a steep learning curve, andmore than a few failed attempts, we can now somewhat gleefully announce that for the first time ever, all 20 years of TSC (some 80 issues and nearly 800+ articles) are now in print.

One large project marked off the list. The next projects are also TSC -based. Jim had a list of nearly 40 "Best of TSC" books he wanted to release, including a Beginners' Workbench series geared specifically for the new modeler. We are hoping to have the first in the Beginner's Workbench series completed in time for Christmas. Watch for an announcement by the middle of December, along with two other titles: Mid-20th Century Furniture (Haywood Wakefield, Cushman, Sears, Wards, and others), and a book on lathes and lathework (turnings).

Back to the drawing board.

Meghan H. Dorsett

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Last Updated: 20 April, 2014
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