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M&T Podcast 07 - “The Creation of Issue Four”

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 7:46pm


We recorded a new podcast episode this morning which can be listened to above. Because Mike and I just finished Issue Four, we dedicated this episode to discussing what it’s like to produce the magazine, what’s featured in this new issue, and what to expect in the coming weeks.

You can subscribe to our Podcast on iTunesStitcher, or Soundcloud.

Notable links from this podcast:
Categories: Hand Tools

5 Tips for Writing Well

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:09am

During each issue’s editorial process, Mike, Jim, Megan, and I go round and round discussing better ways to articulate the ideas in our and our authors’ heads. We love word craft and always feel a sense of accomplishment when we polish each piece to clearly reflect the author’s voice and vision.

Our authors come from many backgrounds and experiences. Many have been professional writers for years while others are just emerging onto the woodworking writer scene. Many of our newer authors develop their skills through blogging (as I did). There are a ton of great woodworking blogs out there (many of which you can find linked on our sidebar) but not everyone is as comfortable putting words onto paper or screen.

The same is true of photography. Most anyone can point a camera at a thing but it is only through deliberate informed practice that grows as an artist.

As an effort to encourage woodworkers to cultivate their wordsmithing and photographic skills, we plan to post some of the advice that has been most helpful to us over the years. First, we’ll tackle writing. Before wading through the ocean of how-to books, do yourself a favor and pick up copies of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. These two books are staples and have been instrumental to my growth as a writer over the years. I’ve still got a long way to go but each time I reread these two books, I absorb new understanding of the craft.


These two books brim with sage advice but here are the five tips that helped me the most on my journey:

  1. Know the Audience. Avoid unnecessary jargon or at least define it when used. As you write, keep in mind your target reader. For M&T, we intentionally write to both professionals in the field and the average Joe. We want people at all levels to be able to engage with the content. Think of your reader as an “intelligent non-specialist”.
  2. Write like you Speak. Don’t worry about trying to impress anyone with your command of the thesaurus because most readers prefer writing that sounds natural. If you do use five-dollar words in your everyday speech then, by all means, go for it. If your writing is not you, it will sound forced.
  3. Stay on Track. Always keep in mind the over-arching narrative (i.e. main point) of your article. Don’t diverge too far off topic. If you’re unsure if you’ve strayed, ask yourself, “How does this section serve to illustrate the main point?” Try creating an outline before you begin composing. This will give you a road map for telling your story.
  4. Read it Aloud. Reading aloud is the easiest way to determine if a sentence or paragraph has engaging flow and cadence. If it doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t read right either. Varying the length of your sentences gives the text movement.
  5. Have Others Critique it. Writing is communication. So, although it can be hard, it’s important to see what others think. No matter how much a writer may enjoy their own work, if the reader doesn’t understand what is meant, the writing must be clarified. We recommend that you have others read your work – but don’t prep them with explanations. Let them read it as the intended audience will read it: fresh off the street. Trust your editors – we believe writing is, in the end, a group effort.

- Joshua 

More to come. Questions about writing? Feel free to comment below.


Categories: Hand Tools

Upcoming: Advice for Aspiring Writers

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 9:59am

I moved slowly, advancing through the rough landscape in search of my elusive quarry. I could sense that I was close. A turn here, another there, and… Aha, found it! I uncapped my red pen with a satisfying pop and drew a red circle around the end of a sentence. Three words, linked together inseparably but missing that penultimate punctuation: The Oxford Comma. Another copy editing crisis averted.

The world of drop caps and compound modifiers hasn’t exactly been my professional stomping grounds in the past, but I find the editing process to be among the most satisfying tasks in the life of M&T. We like to think of this as a team sport, with Megan, Joshua, Jim, and me tossing the ball “around the horn” as we work on refining a given article or project. Some of us have greater strengths in certain areas – Megan, for instance, has more experience in editing copy than the rest of us combined, while Jim can spot a compelling narrative a mile away. Joshua is able to maintain the big-picture vision of the magazine, cutting out the fat from a piece while leaving the vital parts stronger. I thoroughly enjoy circling incorrect punctuation with a red pen, and love precise details.

As Issue Four moves ever closer to completion, we are planning to share some thoughts and advice here on the blog for aspiring writers, bloggers, and photographers. Part of our mission at M&T is to form each issue to be thoughtful, compelling, and beautiful, and we’d like to share some of our methods with those folks who might be interested in documenting their own work. Even though we don’t take submissions from readers for articles, we see a great value in having many voices sharing in the conversation. There is a revival going on in the world of hand-tool woodworking, and having the ability to clearly articulate discoveries, explorations, and projects finished will benefit all of us.

So sharpen your pencils, pull out your notebook and camera, and start that blog to chronicle your journey. And don’t forget the Oxford Comma – it is literally worth its weight in gold.

~Mike Updegraff


Categories: Hand Tools

Mortise & Tenon 2018 Schedule

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 8:50am

The following is the list of events we will be participating in this year.

Issue Four Packing Party – March 23rd - 24th

This time around we have another bunch of people joining us for the big packing party for Issue Four. Slots all filled by now but we recommend you get on the waiting list if you have genuine interest in joining us (you never know what may come up). This will be the first party in our new timber frame workshop. We will be wrapping mags, filling ourselves with delicious food, and communing over craftsmanship. Read about the previous packing parties here.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking – April 23rd - 27th: “Table From Rough Boards”

I will be teaching a five-day class as an introduction pre-industrial (hand-tool-only) table making. We will be building a taper-legged table with a breadboard top and a drawer. Last I heard there were only a few spots left. You can sign up for the class here.  

Lie-Nielsen Workshop - June 16th - 17th Workshop: “Build a Table with Hand Tools”

This is a hand tools meat-and-potatoes kind of class - an introduction to the hand-tool-only approach to building a table. I’ll bring period originals along for students to examine to help inform their working tolerances. The goal is to show how to work with pre-industrial efficiency. Sign-up for the workshop here.

Lie-Nielsen Open House – July 13th - 14th

Always a highlight of the year. Come hang out with like-minded hand tool fanatics. No cover charge. Also, join us for the Saturday evening lobster dinner. Maine, hand tools, lobster, and beer... What more could you ask for? More info here.

Pre-orders for Issue Five Open! – August 1st 

Stay tuned for more info.

Issue Five Packing Party – End of September (Date TBD)

Stay tuned for more info.

Leonard’s Mills Living History Days Event – Early October

Every year my family interprets 1790s rural Maine life. I will have my portable Nicholson bench and a full chest of tools to demonstrate 18th-century cabinetmaking all weekend. More info here.

- Joshua


Categories: Hand Tools

New M&T Shirt & Sticker: “Cutting Edge Technology”

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 9:06am

For those of you that have been despairingly watching our dwindling shirt inventory, we have good news: our new shirts just arrived from the printer yesterday.

For this new design, we commissioned an illustration from Jessica Roux, the same artist that drew Jonathan Fisher at work in his workshop for my upcoming book. Mike and I had Jessica draw the irons and wedges from my three bench planes in her whimsical folksy style. Jessica’s mentioned more than once that she loves drawing these old tools, working out the textures and layers of color.

Besides “MORTISE & TENON magazine”, the front of the shirt has “FORE” “TRYING” and “SMOOTHING” labeled beneath the irons. The shirt’s back says, “Cutting Edge Technology” with the M&T pyramidal logo beneath.

To print something this detailed, we turned to Triple Stamp Press in Atlanta, Georgia. Triple Stamp does incredibly fine water-based screen printing that captures the fine details of Jessica’s drawings.


These indigo-colored shirts are of the same premium 100% combed cotton jersey we’ve always used. We love these shirts and often get compliments on their soft, vintage feel.

You can purchase one of these shirts here. We do not print second runs of our shirts. If you know you want one, I would recommend getting one now.

We also have stickers with the fore plane iron and its wedge for $3 each. The stickers can be purchased here.

- Joshua


Categories: Hand Tools

The Issue Four Packing Party

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 9:51am

The arrival of Issue Four is right around the corner – and with each new issue of M&T comes the fine, established tradition of the Mortise & Tenon Packing Party! Now that we’re publishing twice per year, we’re doubling up on these tremendously fun events. We’ve had folks travel from all over to help wrap each new issue in brown paper, affix a special trade card with wax seal, and place it in a mailer with a handful of pine plane shavings.

Everyone shares good food (wood-fired pizza, home-baked goodies, and more), locally-roasted coffee, excellent conversation, and an overall fantastic time. We don’t send anyone home empty-handed - we've got plenty of M&T goodies to go around. The “show and tell” opportunity is my favorite part, as everyone pulls recent projects, old tools, and books out of trunks and backseats to get passed around and discussed.

The dates for our Issue Four Packing Party are March 23-24, Friday and Saturday, in Blue Hill, Maine. We’re looking again to rent a house for those who will need accommodations, so please let us know if that is important to you!

If you are interested in signing up to join us, please send us an email right away at info@mortiseandtenonmag.com. We can’t guarantee anyone a slot just yet, but we will be operating on a first come, first served basis. Our Issue Three party was a blast, and we look forward to seeing new faces and old friends again as we launch Issue Four!

- Mike


Categories: Hand Tools

Setting Up a Hand-Tool Workshop – M&T Podcast 06

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 2:05pm
Listen to our new episode above.
We had lots to talk about today. On the magazine front, pre-orders for Issue Four opened yesterday, and we’ve been releasing the Table of Contents for the past two weeks leading up to the big event. We talk about our soon-to-be-released t-shirt design, commissioned from artist Jessica Roux. In our discussion, we go over the ins and outs of setting up a workshop specifically based around the use of hand tools. We consider decisions to be made around lighting, heat, and tool storage, along with details from period shops that might inform the way we approach this task today.


Notable Links from this Podcast:


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four Now Open For Pre-Orders!

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 5:00am
The moment has finally come: Issue Four is available for pre-order!

As always, all subscription and pre-order copies ordered in our store will be wrapped in brown kraft paper affixed with the official Issue Four wax-sealed trade card (which just arrived from the printer today) and will be packed into mailers accompanied by pine plane shavings. 

The pre-order window will be open through March 21st. After that window closes, the trade cards and wrapping will no longer be available.

Issue Four ships out March 23rd and 24th. (Stay tuned for packing party details very soon.)

This issue is full of incredible authors: Jim Tolpin, Vic Tesolin, Charles Hummel, Jarrod Dahl, Will Lisak, Peter Follansbee, as well as several of the M&T crew: Mike, Jim, and Joshua. You can read a blog post about each of these upcoming articles here.

Thank you again for your support! We’re ecstatic to bring you this newest issue!


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – “In Pursuit of the Handmade Aesthetic” by Michael Updegraff

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 1:20pm

This is the last article of the Issue Four table of contents to be announced. Every weekday until the February 1st at 8 a.m. Eastern time (tomorrow!) opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we've been announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

We all know there’s something special about handmade furniture. But how can we put it into words? To try to find an answer, Joshua Klein and I set out to study and measure a wide assortment of period pieces, made both by hand (pre-industrial) and by machine (Victorian), in the hopes of better understanding what makes them distinct from one another.

Handmade furniture is often characterized by a variety of textures and irregularities, which were completely determined by period sensibilities. In this article, I attempt to unpack the tolerances acceptable in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I examine the factors that might have affected the precision achieved by the furniture maker, why the ideas of “flat” and “smooth” have changed over time, and how the Industrial Revolution brought about greater exactness in furniture tolerances than ever before, but led to the near-demise of the handcraft signature of the individual maker.

This article took on a life of its own during our research. What seemed at first to be a simple compilation of facts and numbers, seeking trends and looking for averages, evolved into a challenging digression into what constitutes such abstract ideas as “grace” and “beauty” in handmade furniture. From learning how to better understand the pre-industrial artisan’s thought process, to being awed by the precise level of detail that a skilled craftsman can perceive by hand and eye, putting this piece together was a mind-blowing endeavor.


- Mike Updegraff


Editor’s Note: Pre-orders for Issue Four open tomorrow at 8 a.m. Eastern Time. If you’ve already signed up as an M&T subscriber, you don’t need to do a thing – you are all set to receive the new issue when it ships! If you’re not a subscriber, tomorrow is the time to place your order to receive Issue Four (with free U.S. shipping). Late March, we’ll be sending out all pre-order and subscription copies wrapped in brown paper, affixed with a special trade card and wax seal, and placed in a mailer with a handful of pine plane shavings. After pre-orders close on March 21st, the special wrapping for Issue Four will no longer be available. Don’t miss out! You can sign up for a subscription here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – “Entrusted to Our Care: An Interview with Furniture Conservator Christine Thomson”

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 2:53pm

Tomorrow the last article of the Issue Four table of contents will be announced. Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we've been announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

In producing Issue Four, we were privileged to sit down with furniture conservator Christine Thomson to discuss how conservation theory intersects with her daily shop practice. Christine has been involved in the conservation of historic furniture since her days in college. Her background working for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Now Historic New England) and Robert Mussey Associates, Inc. prepared her open her own private practice conservation studio in Salem, Mass. Today, Christine and her assistant, Wenda, focus on finish treatments for historically significant objects and collaborate with woodworkers, upholsterers, and metals specialists to offer comprehensive conservation treatments.

Christine’s also very involved in research into period craft methodology. Her fascination with American “japanned” decoration led her to analyze, document, and catalogue every single known surviving example of “japanned” work made in Boston.


In this in-depth interview, Christine discusses some of the ins and outs of conservation principals such as “reversibility” and “minimally invasive treatment”. It is fascinating to see how these lofty ideals play out in the real world of her private practice studio work. In her microscopic analysis of historic surfaces over the years, Christine has discovered original layers of wax finishes, surprisingly brilliant pigments, and early natural resin varnishes. These findings have led her to experiment with wild period varnish recipes – so wild, in fact, that they are too dangerous to mix indoors.

Christine is one fascinating lady. Her winsome articulations of the conservation profession are well worth hearing out.

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Vic Tesolin – “Axes in the Workshop”

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 1:14pm

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

Axes are often thought of as tools for firewood but I can assure you that they're not just for rough splitting. In my shop, I have three axes that get used often for shaping and material prep. The key to understanding these tools is to have a grasp on how to sharpen and maintain them. Couple this with some simple techniques and a chunk of tree to work on and you will be surprised with the level of work that can be done.

It only takes a few swipes of a jack plane to straighten out the axe work and bring the board to final size. Choosing to use this tool boils down to efficiency. Whether you are carving spoons or making furniture, I think every shop should have an axe or two. Axes may seem mysterious if you have little experience with them, but they’re nothing to be afraid of. Once you have your axes good and sharp I promise you will look at them differently.

- Vic Tesolin

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Charles F. Hummel “The Business of Woodworking: 1700 to 1840”

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:56pm

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

In this issue, we are honored to publish an article written by Charles F. Hummel, one of the premiere furniture scholars in America. This piece, originally published in 1979 in an exhibition book, traces “The Business of Woodworking” in pre-industrial America. Here, Hummel relies on countless primary sources that reveal how craftsmen sourced their lumber and tools, how they interacted with clients, and even how much time they recorded spending on given projects.

We are so excited to publish this essay because, frankly, we’ve never read anything quite like it. The amount of details Hummel has unearthed from countless archives of documents gives three-dimensionality to these long-gone artists. He even provides vivid anecdotes like this one from a clock case:

“A sketch of cabinetmaker George Adam Gosler wielding an axe on a tall clockcase includes a notation that in the 1770s one of Gosler’s customers had “scrupled” about the price, claiming that it was too high. They argued, and Gosler, claiming that his work was good and that he would not let it go from his shop under his price, “took his hatchet and cut the Case all in Splinters.” This outburst of pride, a telling incident about the kinds of pressures to which many woodworkers were subject, was indirectly the subject of part of an essay by Felix Dominy in 1825. Among his observations of the things that he liked to see were "A Carpenter keep his saw in good order & not stand out too often for higher wages.”

The way that Hummel connects these personal (and very real) tidbits about the craftsmen with the work they accomplished is compelling and worth paying close attention to. We think you will love this essay.

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Peter Follansbee Recommends “The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay”

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:46am

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

We at M&T have found that, although there are many new books that cover the topic of historic craftsmanship, there is a nearly inexhaustible and often untapped well of knowledge to be found in older titles. We want to reopen these pages for our readers and bring this information back into the light so that it can become a part of the conversation again and inform us more deeply about the handcraft heritage we are passionate about. As such, rather than regularly reviewing only new books, this space will now be used to recommend works both new and old that our contributors believe are worth another look.

Peter Follansbee got his start in traditional woodworking in the 1970s. Starting with ladderback chairs, coopering, and basket making, he found himself inexorably drawn to the world of timber framing. In those days, handcraft resources and information could be hard to come by, but Follansbee pieced together everything that he could find in his study of this trade. Eventually, his hunt led to the discovery of The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625-1725 by Abbot Lowell Cummings, first published in 1979. Such a geographically-specific title may lead a reader to question the practicality of this book, but Follansbee was immediately drawn in. Broken into 10 chapters and organized much like a house-building project, the book lays out a thorough historical context before diving into plans, tools, and raising timbers. The chapter on “Interior Finish”, Follansbee notes, contains the most information directly useful for the furniture maker: baluster turnings, molding edges on timbers, even painted decoration. The images and diagrams throughout are large and full of detail.

Follansbee writes, “The author’s multi-disciplinary approach, studying the artifacts (the houses) and the documents pertaining to them, fleshes out what could be a dry study [but] Cummings shows us the life of old houses.”

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Examination of an English Walnut Kneehole Desk

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 2:25pm

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

Every issue we are committed to providing a thorough close-up insider view into a piece of pre-industrial furniture. These photo essays focus on showing tool marks and construction evidence because we believe seeing typical hand tool surfaces is one the most valuable ways we can learn about period craftsmanship.

We’re excited to share this English walnut kneehole desk with you readers in Issue Four because it is so unbelievably rife with the artisan’s fingerprints. While it has an elegant face, the interior reveals that this piece was made with practicality at foremost importance. Did you ever hear anyone say that English cabinetwork was more refined than American work? While there may be truth in that statement, this piece disagrees. But don’t take my word for it… look for yourself.


You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – “The Artisan’s Guide to Pre-industrial Table Construction”

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:49am

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

It has become clear to me that the greatest inefficiency in our furniture making has nothing to do with the machines vs. hand tools discussion and everything to do with ill-considered workflow. Because this has proved to be such a valuable insight to my own shop practice, I decided to tackle this topic head on in Issue Four. In this article, I expand on the “Tables” video by breaking table construction down into a logical, systematic order.

Consider this a pocket guide intended to give readers a holistic view of making tables using only hand tools. The backbone of this piece is showing how essential reference faces are to work efficiently. I cover rough stock prep, drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery, tapering legs, assembly, table tops, breadboard ends, and leveling the feet.

You don’t have time to piddle and neither do I. When our daily responsibilities are done and we retreat to our workshops to put in another hour on that end table, we want to make the most of our time. I hope this article proves to be an inspiration, making your shop time more efficient and therefore more enjoyable. 

- Joshua Klein 

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Will Lisak’s “Carpentry Without Borders: An Exploration of Traditional Timber Framing in Romania”

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:18pm


Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

Last fall, I was fortunate to spend some time with Charpentiers Sans Frontières in Romania, hand hewing a roof system from local ash and oak. I found that there are some corners of this nation where one can still experience a cultural landscape mostly unaltered from what much of Europe must have looked like for centuries.  Hillsides patchworked with subsistence farming, folks scythe-mowing hay in the high pastures, the knell of the woodcutter’s axe in the woods, the sounds of horses and working animals. I can’t imagine a richer setting to explore the intricacies of scribed and hewn joinery, and I am excited to share this story in Issue Four.

There is something captivating to so many woodworkers about the primary processing of materials with the old tools: taking up the froe, drawknife, fore plane, or hewing hatchet. Many and various are the roots of this fascination - it can come from a preservation or conservation perspective, or from social or environmental ideology. Sometimes it grows from a focus on cultural heritage, and sometimes from an interest in techniques - the development and use of materials and tools. As often as not it's simply a primal connection, a love for the feel of expending human energy.  Many of us just want to richly experience the visceral textures found in the building of our environment, a practice so basic to human culture for millennia. No matter where these inclinations arise, the call is hard to resist.

Will Lisak

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Jarrod Dahl’s “The Quest for Mastery Through Production Work”

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 2:06pm

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.


My article titled 'The Quest for Mastery Through Production Work' highlights some of the major events, teachers, and experiences that shaped me during my career as a woodworker and maker/designer of utilitarian objects. I share my ideas of mastery and how it can be cultivated through incorporating 'production work' into the workflow.

I hope that sharing my stories about this approach will turn people on to the idea that it’s ok to make lots of things back to back. In fact, there are many insights and opportunities to learn from it that can take our work to the next level. I also hope that my article will inspire anyone who is searching for ways to increase their skill level, efficiency or focus to set themselves up with a production run in the future. 

Jarrod Dahl 

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. – Jim McConnell on the Swisegood Steam-bent Drawers

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:31pm

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

From time to time, wonderful anomalies turn up in the furniture record and the corner cupboards from the Swisegood School of cabinetmaking (early 19th c. North Carolina) are no exception. These cabinets are renowned for their peculiar drawer construction, each employing a single board steam bent at oblique angles to form both the sides and back.

While kerfed steam bending was ubiquitous among coffin makers of that time, it seems to be unparalleled in cabinetmaking which left me scratching my head a bit. Where did this technique come from? Why don’t any other cabinetmakers employ this solution? How hard would it be to replicate?

These were the questions swirling around in my head as I trekked out to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, NC to see this furniture first hand and later as I stood at my workbench trying to replicate the process. It wasn't all smooth sailing, but each "failure" along the way taught me something valuable about the process, and I feel as if I ended up re-discovering something unique and potentially worthwhile. This article is a chronicle of my journey into the world of the Swisegood School of cabinetmaking, and an open invitation to try this distinctive technique in your own workshop. 

- Jim McConnell 

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C.  – Jim Tolpin’s “The Straight Truth”

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 11:40am

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.

Soon after I proposed an article to Mortise & Tenon about making and using a straightedge I got a mild to middling case of cold feet. How, exactly, was I going to come up with enough material to fill more than a paragraph about this subject? After all, I’m just talking here about an implement than need do nothing more than find the shortest distance between two points! You don’t even need a straightedge to do that: Ancient Roman artisans simply “stringere linea fibra” (stretched a linen fiber) to accomplish that task.

A string line, however, severely lacks the convenience of the straight edge. The trick, though, is to make the latter properly. After all, a straightedge isn’t just a straight stick - it's a precision layout instrument.  It didn’t take me long to realize how much unpacking I’d have to do to deal with the ins and outs of making this deceptively simple tool out of wood. Not only would I be addressing why a trued line is important to our design and layout work in the first place, but I would need to explain how to make it so it would reliably tell that truth.


Suddenly I’m immersed in telling how to select appropriate species; which way to orient the stock’s grain direction; why certain shapes are better than others; and what kind of finish is best. And I haven’t even got to talking about how to actually make the thing and true it up. Now I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to give me enough room in the magazine!

Jim Tolpin


Editor’s Note: We absolutely did have room and the whole article is excellent! Can’t wait to share this with you readers!

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


Categories: Hand Tools

Issue Four T.O.C. - Restoring Wooden Bench Planes

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 5:21pm

Pre-orders for Issue Four open on February 1st. If you’ve already signed up for a yearly subscription, you’re all set. If you haven’t yet subscribed and prefer to purchase each issue individually, remember that the free shipping offer is for pre-orders only. Also, when the Issue Four pre-order window closes after Wednesday, April 4th, the pre-order brown paper wrapping with tradecard will no longer be available. If you want to make sure to never miss this special wrapping, the best way is to sign up for a yearly subscription and select “Auto-renewing Subscription”.

Every weekday beginning today, we will announce one article from the Issue Four table of contents here on the blog. Stay tuned. There’s quite a mix of articles this time!

Without further ado, the first article we’re announcing is the one I put together about restoring wooden bench planes...

In 1937, Walter Rose wrote, “I do not think the tools such as were used in the days of my youth can be surpassed. Even admitting the excellence of the modern tools that are used by hand, the old joiner’s affection remains for the old style of tools. He feels a spirit of affinity in a plane made of warm beech that does not seem to exist for him in cold hard steel.”

If you’ve been paying close attention the past few years, you know I am a wooden plane convert. Even though I was trained on high-quality metal-bodied handplanes, I decided to switch over to old wooden planes a few years back. What started as a curious exploration, turned into a revelation. There are many reasons that I wouldn’t trade my wooden planes for any others and, although I discuss many of these in the article, my main focus is on selecting, restoring, and using these planes. This article is about as practical as they come because my goal is to empower you to dig up one of those crusty old planes in an antique store and tune them back into glorious use again.

In my view, it’s a shame that people seem to be intimidated by these simple blocks of wood with an iron. It’s like they think that there’s magic involved with tuning them but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In this article, I lay out the simple restoration steps that anyone can follow. I cover a handful of the most common adjustment problems and how I solve them quickly and easily.

Tuning an old wooden plane rarely takes me more than an hour. This is something you can do and so I hope this article inspires you to dive in. If you are intrigued by the idea of hand-tool-only woodworking but only have hefty, metal planes to slug around, you should hear me out. Wooden planes (especially fore planes) are game-changing.

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here. Stay tuned for the second article announcement tomorrow…

- Joshua


Categories: Hand Tools