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They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. OK, I’ll go with that. The alternative is to get really upset.

As a Civil War reenactor I get lots of email from various living history groups. I got one yesterday promoting a new online business selling Civil War camp furniture. Having recently published “Civil War Woodworking,” I naturally checked it out. Some of the seller’s items looked a lot like projects from my book.

Now, since the projects in my book were all based on historical items and Library of Congress photos from the period, it’s perfectly logical for the items to be similar. However, one of his offerings – a 19th-century bucksaw – was also the same as the one from my book. Bucksaws share a common design, and I used an old one as my guide when doing that project. And while construction was based on my original, I created the curve and pattern for the handles myself. The pattern for this guy’s bucksaw is identical. Clearly, he got my book and copied my original pattern.

Curiosity piqued, some Googling turned up other items like those in my book, but again as historical items they should be similar. But one guy – in England, no less – had several. One was a soldier’s peg-based game with the game board the same pattern as mine. Still, that pattern was somewhat intuitive and could have been done independently. Ditto a folding camp table and a stool I’d based on Library of Congress photos – this guy could have done likewise. But the kicker was a Civil War ammo crate. Construction for the one in my book is based on easy-to-find original U.S. Army specs, but the stenciling on the box was another story. I created a stencil combining elements from a couple different original crates. The resultant stencil was authentic but unique, and yet there it was on this guy’s crate. Even the date was the same.

I should probably be outraged, but I’m not. A problem in the living history and reenacting hobbies is that so much of the stuff used is woefully inauthentic, mass-produced by folks who didn’t do proper research or just don’t care (or both). The whole point of my book was to combat that and create a means for living historians to make authentic items for themselves. So I’m taking the high road here, and have decided to be flattered that there are suppliers out there who care enough to use my thoroughly researched and authentic designs and patterns. For the good of the hobby, you know?

But, hey, some credit would be nice.

Till next time,

A.J.

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