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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz
I was in elementary school when my father hurt his back so badly while working on the farm that his doctor confined him to bed.
My bedroom was immediately down the hall from my parents’, and after school one day I heard disturbing noises – violent banging and rasping – coming from their room. The door was open a crack, and as I gently pushed my way in, I was surprised, relieved and completely enlightened about my own nature.
My father was lying flat in bed, as per the doctor’s orders. And he was building a small side table in this odd position, without a workbench or his machinery. (In fact, during this convalescence, he completely finished the table, which I still own. He painted a flower on each end and varnished the entire thing. All while on his back.)
Likewise, I’ve never been able to sit still. My dad once offered to give me $5 if I could sit motionless for five minutes. I have never collected on that bet. But after seeing him build a table in bed, at least I know – genetically – where I get my peculiar work habits.
My father’s urge to create was unstoppable. He transformed our house in Fort Smith, Ark., into a delightful English/Japanese garden, learning masonry, fence-building and landscaping on the way. He built a goldfish pond, tended a bamboo garden and installed dramatic lighting. All of this fueled by a remarkable eye for design and unspeakable energy.
When our house in town was perfect, he bought 84 acres outside Hackett, Ark., and proceeded to transform that with his hand and a vision. He bought a drafting table, read a bunch of books and took a class at the Shelter Institute in Maine with my mom. And then bang, we were building the first of two houses without the help of electricity or running water.
He plowed the bottomland and planted strawberries. Then he constructed a second house of his own design that was about 4,000 square feet. We were going to move there as soon as it was complete. I was promised a herd of goats. (Which I have never collected on.) And chickens.
I left for college in 1986, my parents divorced in 1989 and my dad lost heart in the farm.
This man who shaped an Arkansas wilderness of turkeys, rocky soil and armadillos was confined to a tiny apartment in one of those complexes that has a “singles nights” and keno. I thought my dad was done for and was broken in spirit. But I was wrong.
He bought a run-down farmhouse in town and transformed it into another gorgeous estate with a lap pool, workshop and guest cottage. No detail in his house was too small – he hand carved the heating registers with a geometric design I’ve never seen before. He built garden furniture that was so cunningly simple and beautiful that I blatantly ripped it off as a furniture maker. His kitchen was like something in Architectural Digest.
Meanwhile the farm sat dormant and unfinished. We’d go down there to fix walls or hang a new gate, but every visit was depressing.
During one visit, my father told me that the urge to create things every day had vanished. In some ways it seemed a relief to him. He didn’t have to judge himself on his daily labor. He began to take a deeper interest in music and singing (and piano and later cello).
Again, I thought he had reached the end of his creative life. Again I was wrong.
He sold the farm and bought an old house in the historic district of Charleston, S.C. And again, he set to work rebuilding the garage, workshop and guest cottage. He transformed the interior of the house, and once more he created a perfect human terrarium where he was surrounded by beautiful objects he had collected or made during his entire life, from his time during the Vietnam war to multiple trips to Europe and Mexico.
And here he lies tonight. Flat on his back and dying from cancer he was diagnosed with in 2003. He’s leaving us far too early.
This time, he doesn’t have the parts or tools to build another side table. This time I’m sure we’re at the end.
Or are we?
Without my father’s example, his unstoppable work ethic and his eye for beautiful objects, I’d be a sorry woodworker. Luckily, I grew up in a house where we unapologetically made things. And when dad found beautiful objects made by others, he bought them. He sat them next to his own work and saw how his measured up. Or if it didn’t. And when the next day came, he kept building.
That’s where I come from. I might tell people I come from Arkansas (where I grew up) or Missouri (where I was born). But I really came from a home where our job is to make the world a little more beautiful each day.
And when he leaves us, which could be any minute now, the world is going to be a little less beautiful without him.
— Christopher Schwarz
Several customers have asked why they are receiving emails from our store notifying them that there is an updated pdf of “Ingenious Mechanics” ready for download.
Is this a scam? A mailserver error? Did chipmunks chew a CAT5 cable?
No. There’s a new pdf available for you to download.
When we make updates to the pdfs that we sell on our site, we ask our software to notify all existing customers that a new version is available. There have been two updates to the pdfs this week.
The first update was to increase the resolution of the photos (we doubled it).
The second change was to add the cover to the beginning of the pdf.
We’ll probably have another update or two in the coming months as readers point out corrections or typos.
— Christopher Schwarz
After the death of Nancy Cogger of Londonderry Brasses, Horton Brasses acquired the company’s stock and is selling many existing pieces at 50 percent off.
Orion Henderson estimated there are more than 23,000 pieces of Londonderry hardware now for sale on the Horton site.
If this is all the information you need, get your credit card out and load up. Here’s the link.
I swooped in and bought about 50 pieces of campaign hardware for future commissions and a follow-up to “Campaign Furniture.” I was shocked at how much money I saved. Here’s the link to the campaign hardware section.
Londonderry is fantastic stuff, made using a lost wax casting process to copy original pieces. The good news is that the hardware looks bang-on original. The bad news is that it usually requires more finessing to install than modern hardware that is completely consistent in every single way.
Orion says that Horton will continue to carry some of the Londonderry pieces and bring them in as a special order. But you’ll never see these prices again.
If you aren’t familiar with Horton, it’s time to fix that situation. I’ve been a happy customer since 1997.
— Christopher Schwarz
A few weekends ago, I traveled up the Mendocino Coast in Northern California to see The Krenov School’s midwinter show in Fort Bragg, Calif. I suppose I’ve been vocal enough about my status as an alumnus of the school (when it was the College of the Redwoods), so I’ll just say that I like to get back when I can, visit the wonderful people of the area and check out the work in the show. The midwinter show, not the year-end show, has become the alumni event that brings dozens and dozens of us alumni back to the school.
One person I look forward to seeing when I visit is David Welter. David retired in 2016 from his long-time role as shop steward and jack of all trades at the school. David worked alongside James Krenov for 20 years, and he stayed on another decade and a half past the old master’s retirement from the school. David has shepherded and photographed every student piece that’s passed through the school, and he is a font of knowledge on the craft and community.
When Krenov retired from woodworking and his shop in April of 2009, he called David over to clean the place out. By this time, “Old Jim” (as he took to signing in his later years) had almost completely lost his eyesight and had retired from cabinetmaking to make his signature handplanes (which was as much a way to keep busy in the shop as it was a business venture, it seems). When David cleaned out the shop, he brought home a few of Krenov’s machines, hand tools and his workbench.
David just finished building his own small workshop this past year behind his house, a beautiful small shop split into a machine and bench room, with a small guest apartment. The machine room has all of the features of a good Krenovian shop – a nice band saw or two, a boring machine and stacks of wood too good to pass by. But in the relatively spare bench room, only two features catch the eye. One, David’s collection of egg-beater drills hangs above eye-level and is a joy to behold. The other, resting comfortably below eye-level on the same wall, is “Old Jim’s” bench, now fittingly David’s – and it is a joy to peer over, under and around.
The bench itself was built in the 1950s by Målilla Hyvelbänkar, a small family-run company that still makes traditional Swedish workbenches in Rosenfors, Sweden (a southern town with a population of 281). Three brothers (pictured above) started the factory, and it was Yngve Karlsson who built Krenov’s bench just after the World War II.
The bench will be familiar to those who have seen other Scandinavian benches from the 20th century – a large wooden tail vise and accompanying square dog holes, a shoulder vise and a shallow tool tray, with a beech benchtop. This style of bench has a particularly novel stance, with a much wider set of trestles on the shoulder vise end, to accommodate the vise’s protrusion. The tail vise is a classic construction, with the large wooden thread tucked into the dovetailed end cap, plus a guide rail that keeps the vise from sagging and racking.
The shoulder vise, however, is a bit peculiar. The sliding chop, which runs in an odd channel, has been beaten up significantly. Krenov preferred this style of vise for its capacity – without a thread in the middle of the vise’s depth, it could hold much larger parts (all the way down to the floor), such as full carcases or long drawers. Ejler Hjorth-Westh owns a much later bench from the same maker. On his, he requested a more standard vise – and encouraged the bench maker to pursue a more standard vise layout, should they want to sell more benches in the States!
Krenov made a number of simple modifications to the bench (and made them when it was relatively new, judging by the cover shot from the 1986 Prentice Hall edition of “The Impractical Cabinetmaker” which shows the bench back in Sweden with all of the modifications). He added two plywood shelves above and below the bench’s rails, inside of which he stored small pieces of lumber. He also added a simple rasp and file rack to the front of the rail.
On the back of the benchtop, he attached a number of blocks for holding his work light and several small foam knife blocks, into which he often stuck his carving knives. Under the bench is another simple modification – a side-hung drawer. The drawer is tucked under the top a bit, making it hard to reach – but this positioning keeps it away from the bench dogs, which might otherwise be difficult to pop up into service.
The bench is laden with marks from more than a half-century. At the tail vise, a particular angle was sawn so often (roughly 22º) that its kerfs are deeply marked into the top. The small knife blocks bear hundreds of small knife points, which show the variety and small size of the knives Krenov made and used (no slöjd knives here, despite his long residence in Sweden).
Krenov worked for several decades with this bench in his home in Bromma (a suburb of Stockholm), Sweden, and when he moved west to establish the school in Fort Bragg in 1981, he brought it with him. It lived in his corner of the bench room at the school for another two decades, eventually moving to the back room where he escaped from students. Finally, when he left the school in 2002, it followed him home to the shop where David picked it up in 2009.
Visiting this bench, the school and visiting with David and the rest of the teachers always brings about a particular flavor of nostalgia – it isn’t just a yearning for the old, but rather, a desire to get back to work having remembered the monastic time I spent at the school and the philosophy of its founding teacher. There is a quiet energy, not an excitement or enthusiasm, that always comes to me after a visit to Fort Bragg. Maybe, more than anything, it’s just a desire to be at the bench, working with a slow inertia toward fine work.
— Brendan Gaffney
This is an excerpt from “Grandpa’s Workshop” by Maurice Pommier.
Pépère watched me with a strange expression. He ran his fingers through my hair, and he said, in the softest voice :
— That’s the story…
— But I woke up just afterward! Tell me, nobody ever tried to make a new handle for the hammer?
— Ah, you know little rabbit, I don’t think so. That DAMMED HAMMER has always skulked around in the tool chest of some member of our family. But understand, really, that it is the men who decide how tools are to be used. And always remember, that drunkenness and anger never give birth to good things
— But you, Pépère, how did you know what happened to Abel?
— When I was a little boy, I asked Pépé Clothaire why this hammer’s handle had never been replaced.
— And you, did you also ask Pépé Clothaire how he knew the story?
— Pépé Clothaire told me that the elves in his shop taught him the story. So the hammer stayed in Pépé Clothaire’s tool chest, and after he died, nobody used his tools, except for the American carpenter’s big saw. It was your mother’s brother who used these tools.
— It wasn’t Uncle Gaspard, he has all modern tools in his joinery shop. What was his name , my uncle you never want to talk about?
— Étienne… He was our first boy. We had three children, Gaspard and your mother were his brother and sister. He had a tragic accident. He was a carpenter, and fell from the top of a church while rebuilding the roof beams . He braced his foot on the ANGEL’S HEAD in the chest. The piece broke out from under him, an angel that didn’t do his job . Since the accident, his chest has never been opened. Tools sleep and die if nobody uses them. You have woken them up a little.
Pépère told me that story without looking at me
Tomorrow it is back to school. I am going to see my friends again, but I will not see Pépère as much. I have to hurry. I need to finish my BOAT before vacation ends.
— You are well on the way to becoming a boatbuilder!
— No, Pépère, later, I want to be a joiner, like you, and I will work with your tools!
— Rabbit, I am really happy to hear you tell me that. If you want to become a joiner, I will show you how to use the tools little by little. But you also have to learn to work with the MACHINES like those in your Uncle Gaspard’s shop. You will not work alone, like us, and not in the same way.
In the meantime, tomorrow, there is school, and that is also very important to become a good woodworker.
— Meghan Bates
Coming up with a title for “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding” was a challenge. This new book started as an expansion of “Roman Workbenches,” a small letterpress edition we published last year. But the more research that Suzanne Ellison and I did, the more we realized that the “Roman” part wasn’t quite right.
I came up with 10 alternative titles, including such losers as “A Workbench Atlas” (too broad), “Workbenches: The First 1,500 Years” (yawn) and “Slabs, Legs & Wedges” (what *are* you smoking, Schwarz?).
In the end, we settled on “Ingenious Mechanicks” because it hit the right note. Both Suzanne and I were continually floored by the simple workholding solutions used on these benches. We chose to use the antiquated spelling of “Mechanicks” as a tip of the hat to Joseph Moxon, who wrote the first English book on woodworking and used the old word in the title of his book, “Mechanick Exercises.”
So for those of you who are still scratching your head about this book – is it a book on fixing old cars? – here is a brief description of the contents. First: Some of you have asked if “Ingenious Mechanicks” contains all the content from “Roman Workbenches.” The answer is yes. Some of it has been rewritten a tad to match the tone of the remainder of “Ingenious Mechanicks.” But it’s all there.
Chapter 1: Why Early Workbenches?
Even if you have a modern workbench with all the latest hardware, there is a lot to be learned from early workbenches. These benches can solve workholding tasks in surprisingly simple ways. And knowing these tricks can allow you to convert almost any surface (such as a picnic table) into a workbench.
Chapter 2: Workbenches Old & Modern
A brief discussion of the three major phases of workbench design: simple low benches that used stops and holdfasts; “middle” benches that introduced benches with fixed screws and dogs; and modern benches with the full array of vises, dogs and sharks with lasers. Plus, there is a discussion of the ideal dimensions for both tall and low benches and – my favorite part – a poem about workbench building.
Chapter 3: The Pleasures & Problems with Paintings
The core of our research into early benches was sifting through about 10,000 paintings from all over the world and 2,000 years of history to find ones that depicted workbenches in use. We discarded many outliers that ignored gravity and the three-dimensional universe and seized on the patterns we found. This chapter contains dozens of paintings – most of which have never been published before – that show early workbenches in use. And we discuss their surprising diversity of workholding solutions.
Chapter 4: Workbenches: Where, When & Why
Suzanne wrote this interesting chapter, which seeks to explain the benches in the paintings through the lens of history. She shows how the benches we found line up with the Roman road system, the borders of the Roman Empire and the changes in the church’s attitude toward St. Joseph, the father of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 5: Early Workholding Devices
In many ways, this long chapter is the heart of the book. Using the paintings, I built the jigs, fixtures and workholding devices we found and put them to use. While we show dozens of techniques, we include measured drawings for the two more complex devices: A shavehorse you can add to a low workbench and a French shaving setup called the “belly” that can be added to any workbench. Plus we investigate some paintings that we just couldn’t figure out.
Chapter 6: Herculaneum Workbench
Plans and construction information for the eight-legged bench shown in the Herculaneum fresco (circa 79 A.D.). This bench (and the one from Pompeii) is the earliest image we know of that depicts a workbench in use.
Chapter 7: Saalburg Workbench
The oldest surviving workbench (so far) is from a Roman fort in Saalburg, Germany. I visited the fort and was permitted to examine the bench and take measurements. This chapter details how to construct the bench (circa 187 A.D.). This is probably my favorite bench of the bunch (just because of the way it looks; they all function well).
Chapter 8: ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to Your Dollars
My favorite chapter. It’s about the extreme measures we took to dig up information on the first drawing of a “modern” workbench from a 1505 codex. It was so much work and involved people all over the world. The result: We got a recipe for stew and failed to translate the recipe for a love potion. Oh, and there was a kidnapping and a stabbing.
Chapter 9: Holy Roman Workbench
Using the 1505 codex, I built a copy of the first “modern” workbench we know of – it’s a tall workbench with a twin-screw face vise and a fascinating (and highly effective) tail vise.
Chapter 10: ‘Experto Crede’
The final chapter is personal (feel free to skip it). Why is it important to continue to investigate these old benches? And what you can do to continue the research if you are as bonkers as I.
Most of you know I’m not an academic writer. While I love the research tools (and the resources) of the academic, I decline to write like one. This will upset those of you who are serious about your… everything. Apologies. Instead, my goal was to harness years of research and bench trials and funnel that into something that is fun to read, beautiful to look at and useful in your shop.
“Ingenious Mechanicks” is available for $39 in our store.
— Christopher Schwarz
I just completed a pair of side tables copied from one I measured at Hancock Shaker Village last year. The top of the original table, dating to around 1840, was attached with pocket screws. The first thing that comes to mind when the words pocket screw are thought of is the modern Kreg Jig. Pocket screws are actually quite old; they existed long before Craig Sommerfeld came up with an apparatus to bore them in 1986.
The early pocket screws pockets are chopped out with a gouge instead of bored. The majority of the old ones always look pretty much the same: a gauge mark at the bottom and a coarsely chopped pocket. In most of the vintage ones I have measured, the bottom of the pocket is 3/4″ to 1″ from the top edge of the skirt.
These are quite easy and fast to cut. About the only special tool needed is an incannel gouge. No need to be particularly neat either – the old ones aren’t. They are also nice because there is no other hardware needed besides screws. I can cut the pockets faster (about three minuets per pocket) and less time spent doing laying than using Z clips, figure-8s or buttons.
To lay out the pocket, start by laying a screw the length you will be mounting the top with on the edge of the table skirt. Let the screw overhang the skirt the amount you want it to penetrate the top you will be mounting. In my case here, I had a 5/8″-thick top, so the screw projects past the edge of the skirt 1/2″. When the screw is positioned, mark the location of the screw head. This will be the location of the bottom of the pocket.
Set a marking gauge to the pencil line and gauge a line at each location you need a screw.
Next, using a gouge, start cutting down to the gauge mark, taking light cuts until the bottom of the pocket is slightly wider and deeper than the diameter of the screw head. The gouge I am using here is about 1/2″ wide. A more narrow or wider gouge will work, too. If the sweep is too wide cut from ether side of the pocket this will make the back of the screw pocket a bit V-shaped, but it works just fine. A more narrow one just requires a few more licks.
Once the pockets are cut bore thru for the screw and then cut the countersink for the screw head.
Last, align the table base on the top and bore the pilot holes thru the pockets into the top. To allow for expansion an contraction of the top, elongate the screw holes a bit where they exit the skirts. Screw on the top.
Give them a try sometime, the work great!
— Will Myers
Below are a few photos of vintage tables using pocket screws.
You can now place a pre-publication order for “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding” in our store. The price is $39, which includes domestic shipping. All customers who place a pre-publication order will receive a free download of the book in pdf format at checkout.
The book is scheduled to ship in early April 2018. We don’t know which retailers will opt to carry the book (we hope all of them will). But we will update you here when we have more information.
What’s it About?
Workbenches with screw-driven vises are a fairly modern invention (likely the 14th century). For many hundreds of years, woodworkers built complex and beautiful pieces of furniture using simpler benches that relied on pegs, wedges and the human body to grip the work. While it’s easy to dismiss these ancient benches as obsolete, they are – at most – misunderstood.
For the last three years, I’ve been building these ancient workbenches and putting them to work to build all manner of furniture – chairs, casework and carpentry stuff. Absent any surviving ancient instruction manuals for these benches, I looked to historical paintings of these benches for clues as to how they worked. Then I built the devices and tried the techniques shown in the paintings.
This book is about this journey into the past and takes the reader from Pompeii, which features the oldest image of a Western bench, to a Roman fort in Germany to inspect the oldest surviving workbench and finally to my shop in Kentucky, where I recreated three historical workbenches and dozens of early jigs.
These early benches have many advantages:
- They are less expensive to build
- They can be built in a couple days
- They require less material
- You can sit down to use them
- They take up less space than a modern bench and can even serve as seating in your house
- In some cases they perform better than modern vises or shavehorses.
Even if you have no plans to build an early workbench, “Ingenious Mechanicks” is filled with ideas you can put to work on your modern bench. You can make an incredibly versatile shaving station for your bench using four small pieces of wood. You can create a hard-gripping face vise with a notch in the benchtop and some softwood wedges. You can make the best planing stop ever with a stick of oak and some rusty nails.
Oh, one final note about what this book is not. It’s not a condemnation of modern benches. It is, instead, a way to expand the methods of holding your work. To make some operations simpler. And to allow you to more at your bench without adding complex vises.
And it features a poem I wrote.
“Ingenious Mechanics” is 8-1/2” x 11”, 160 pages and printed in full color on beautiful coated paper. The binding is sewn to last for generations. The pages are surrounded by heavy hardbound boards that are covered in cotton cloth. And the whole book is wrapped in a heavy matte-coated dust jacket. Like all Lost Art Press books, “Ingenious Mechanicks” is produced and printed entirely in the United States.
— Christopher Schwarz
When I wrote “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I didn’t think a single person would actually build the chest shown in the book. That’s why I greatly condensed my construction instructions, and I eliminated chapters for a traveling version and a Dutch chest.
Six years later, building these tool chests comprises a significant portion of my income. This is both surprising and heartening. Yes, wall-hung tool cabinets and racks are great – no argument. But there is something about a tool chest that appeals to certain woodworkers.
I have been working out of a tool chest since 1997 and – after using racks and cabinets – am deeply satisfied with my choice.
This week I have launched into building two full-size chests for special customers. Both chests will have a full suite of hardware from blacksmith Peter Ross. Plus lots of details I’ve been itching to try, and some new ideas from the customers that I’m quite excited about.
I’ll document their construction here – not so much to generate additional business (I have 14 commissions lined up for 2018), but to make up for the lightweight instructions in the book.
First up: Choosing lumber and gluing up the panels. Look for it soon.
— Christopher Schwarz
You can now place a pre-production order for our chore coat via this link. The coat is $185, which includes domestic shipping.
Before you order a coat, please follow these simple instructions for determining the best size for you. We have enough material for about 300 coats and will place our order with the manufacturer based on the orders we receive. Stitching is supposed to begin in March, and we will ship out the coats as soon as they arrive in our warehouse.
Offering these chore coats is a significant gamble. The profit margins are low because we wanted this coat to be as affordable as possible. And we strove to make our coat a classic – nicely tailored and as well made as our books.
We understand book manufacturing, which is dang tricky. But we’re still learning a lot about clothing manufacturing, which seems even trickier.
So we might completely fail here. But at least John and I will get some nice coats, and we’ll have lots of gorgeous cotton fabric we can use as animal bedding.
— Christopher Schwarz
I was by Lesley Caudle’s sawmill last week and observed his latest Alaskan sawmill setup in action.
Lesley was our source for the workbench kit Chris and I used in Roubo Workbench: by Hand & Power. He is also the source for the materials for the Moravian workbench classes I teach. Lesley sells Roubo workbench kits and will ship them as well (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lesley processes a lot of big logs that most mills can’t handle; the better ones become workbench tops and parts. The lesser quality logs will be sawn into railroad ties and pallet lumber. Some are live sawn into slabs for customers.
Lesley uses a band saw mill that does most of the work but for the really big logs to fit on the band mill he has to first saw them in half with an Alaskan mill powered by two chainsaws. This ain’t a kiddy set up either, the two power heads are Stihl MS 880’s, the largest saws Stihl makes (9 hp each). A 66″ double end saw bar connects the two.
I shot this short video of mill in action on a 48″ white oak, it’s quite a trick.
— Will Myers
There is a point with every new house when it finally feels like home. Today is that day at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky.
Thanks to the help of countless friends, our storefront is officially a nice place to work. The clamps hang on the walls (thanks Brendan). The garage out back holds our few machines (thanks 347 people who helped with this project). And we have a coffee maker (thanks Nespresso).
On Saturday morning, we are launching the first woodworking class here at our storefront. We are vehemently not a school – we don’t have a name for it or a formal organization. This is just one of the many small things that we hope to do to give back to the woodworking community and Covington.
Interestingly, the tipping point that made the storefront feel like home had nothing to do with restoring the building, adding electrical service or draining my savings for two new roofs. Instead, it was the arrival of Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney as everyday co-workers.
In general, group shops can be tricky. There’s always a turd or 10 who ruin it for everyone else. Someone who clogs the dust collector and walks away. Someone who tilts the table saw blade 2° and walks away. Someone who dulls all your chisels. Or puts a cold drink on your finished project parts. Or…. I could go on.
I’ve been working with Megan for about 20 years. She’s a slob, but a thoughtful, empathetic rule-following slob. And so she is easy to work with in the shop. I’ve only been working with Brendan for about six months, and he’s an energetic woodworker who is – like Megan – simply a totally decent person.
Each of us has different way of making a living. I publish books and make furniture and tools. Megan is doing a lot of editing (for me and others), teaching and furniture making. Brendan is making furniture, tools and is working for Lost Art Press, helping with maps and technical illustrations.
In six months, this could all be different, but that’s OK. What I can say is that there will definitely be woodworking going on here, much to the bemusement of the 9th Street streetwalkers and the delight of the elementary kids who watch us everyday after school.
We’re also glad that our readers are part of this, whether they take a class, visit us on our open days (the second Saturday of every month) or commission a piece of furniture. Though furniture making is usually a solitary pursuit these days, it doesn’t have to be.
You just need the right people.
— Christopher Schwarz
We’ll start taking orders for the Lost Art Press chore coat at noon (Eastern time) on Monday, Feb. 19. There are lots of important things to know about our chore coat, so we want to give you detailed information so that you can decide if this jacket is for you.
- We have ordered enough fabric for about 300 jackets. The price will be $185 delivered in the United States. For this first run, we are going to ship only to the United States so we can exterminate all the bugs in our system. I promise there are bugs.
- The price of $185 might seem high to some of you. Actually, it’s ridiculously low for this jacket. And this is the lowest price we’ll ever offer it. The fabric is soft and strong. The craftsmanship and the stitching is superb (from Portland, Ore.). And the design is 100-percent Tom Bonamici. Tom is a woodworker and designer who loves this coat form as much as I do. You’ll never find a better-tailored example.
- We are not a clothing company. We are making this coat the way we make furniture. Custom buttons. Custom embroidered label. Lots of handwork. So we want to discourage the unfortunate activity of customers who use clothing companies like a virtual dressing room. We will accept returns on the coat for 30 days. After that, we will accept returns only for a defect in the making.
- The jackets will be stitched in March 2018. We are ordering each jacket based on what you order. This is short-run, custom stuff.
- As a result, we can only afford to offer a limited number of sizes. If this run is a success, we might be able to expand the sizes we offer in the future.
- This is important: Before you order, you need to measure one of your favorite garments and compare it with our chart below to figure out what size is right for you. These jackets run a little lean, but they aren’t “mustache wax hipster lean.” I usually wear a size large, and I easily fit into a size medium for the photos for this jacket.
I know we cannot please everyone with this jacket. I also know that I do not want to run a clothing empire. As a result, we’re going to offer the sizes we can with the quality that makes us happy. I have said many times that I want to be buried with my Lie-Nielsen No. 8. Know that I’ll be wearing this jacket as I clutch my jointer plane.
So let’s get started. This is going to be fun.
Grab Your Favorite Garment
Don’t be intimidated. As a woodworker, you are eminently qualified to take a few measurements. It’s critical to measure a garment that you already own before you order your work coat. Take a heavy overshirt or light jacket (unlined, please), button or zip it up, lay it down flat on a flat surface and take the four measurements below.
SLEEVE: Measure from the shoulder seam to the end of the cuff.
SHOULDER-SHOULDER: Measure from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.
PIT-PIT: Measure from the armpit to the armpit. Don’t inhale.
LENGTH: Measure from the collar seam to the bottom back hem.
Now, think critically. Do you like how your garment fits? How do you layer other clothes with it, and how do you think you’ll wear your work coat? Chris likes to fit a sweater under his work coat, while Tom usually wears it with only a light shirt underneath and layers over the top. Compare your results to the chart (below) showing the measurements of our work coat, and make an educated decision.
A Note on Fit
Garments have to have a base pattern of “something-or-another.” We chose a “regular” fit, akin to a pair of Levi 501s – not too tight, not too loose. If you usually buy your clothes at Walmart, this is going to feel slimmer than normal. If you usually buy from Zara, then this will feel like a circus tent. The lesson? Measure and compare! Our base pattern was taken from a vintage 1960s-era French chore coat, and we tweaked it until we liked it.
A Note on Extended Sizes
If, after measuring and comparing as described above, you learn that you’re too big or small to fit this coat, please don’t order one anyway and hope that it will magically work out. If you’re tempted to email and ask why we’re not producing a XXXL Extra Short, or a Super Tall Super Skinny size, just know that we’re a tiny company with limited bandwidth.
Any time another size is added to a garment run, it adds a disproportionate amount of cost and complexity. So we’re starting with five sizes that are in the middle of the usual spectrum. And honestly, it’s unlikely we’ll get to doing “tall” sizes or “short” sizes anytime soon – the cost of pattern adjustments and inventorying unusual sizes is just beyond our means.
— Christopher Schwarz & Tom Bonamici
I met Chris in person during the Young Anarchist class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in 2015. Most of the week was spent in sharpening donated tools, hammering cut nails and trying not to drink too many of the Old Rasputins that a fellow student kept buying by the case. But at some point, Chris and I walked into the shop wearing matching blue French chore coats. After the requisite double-take, we geeked out for a while about the utility of these garments.
This guy liked to kill snakes.
Chris and I like chore coats for a few reasons. They’re simple, affordable, comfortable and practical. It’s a light jacket or a heavy shirt, making it great for wearing in all but the hottest weather. They’re made in sturdy, straightforward natural materials. They look about the same they did 100 years ago. All this adds up to the clothing equivalent of the Furniture of Necessity.
This kind of coat has been found throughout Europe for the past 200 years, with lots of tweaks and variation in different times and places. But the basics are the same: square hem, three outside patch pockets, one inside pocket with a logo, a point collar and heavy fabric. The color means a great deal: A French compagnon friend told me that painters and masons wore white, farmers and general laborers (and Bill Cunningham) wore blue, and carpenters – after becoming journeymen – wore black. Yes, I’m sure that there were lots of variations on that, but it seems like the woodworkers always wore black.
When Chris mentioned interest in making a Lost Art Press version, I just about fell over. Hell yeah! I wanted to keep it simple, avoiding the pitfall of “new twists on a classic,” which usually means taking a classic and making it dated. I wasn’t about to add an iPhone pocket, a hammer loop, or make the whole thing out of Cordura – nothing against those features, but you can get that stuff elsewhere. We needed good fabric more than anything else, and so I called my source for the best Japanese fabrics. She found a gorgeous double-woven cotton sateen from a mill in Osaka, and comparing it to the old French stuff, I think ours comes out on top. It’s thick, sturdy and comfortable, and it’ll contour to its wearer over the long years of its life.
The only other tweak I made was to add a double layer of fabric to the bottom of the front pockets – that’ll help reinforce against the handfuls of Clouterie Rivierre nails that get tossed in there. You see this on some of the nicer vintage jackets, but it’s not common. Similar reinforcements used to be put on the back pockets of blue jeans, which is the origin of the decorative stitch lines on the back of your 501s.
We’re proud to be working with Dehen Jacket, a garment factory in Portland, Ore. They’ve been around for almost 100 years, and have their own line of incredible outwear (as well as a roaring business in cheerleading uniforms). They’re not cheap, but the quality is impeccable and their sewers are paid well. To get a lower sewing price in the USA, we’d have to cut worker pay or garment quality. Not gonna happen.
There’s the background. The fabric has made it to the U.S. from Japan. The tags are done. The buttons are on their way. We’ll have a pre-sale going up soon. Complaints about pricing and sizing can be directed to our customer service line.
This is an excerpt from “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” by André-Jacob Roubo; translation by Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue.
If a perfect knowledge of the different colors of wood is essential to a cabinetmaker, he must also distinguish these same woods by means of their nuances, or better said, by the different shapes that the tints of the fibers represent, in order not to use them without choice nor knowledge of their character.
Woods, with regards to the conformation of tints of their fibers, can be considered as making four distinct species, one from the other. They are: those of which the concentric layers are alternately tinted in diverse colors but of a large and irregular manner, as you can see in Figs. 1, 2 and 3. The first one represents a piece of wood of which the concentric layers are tinted at unequal distances, which produces similar stripes on the grain line, Fig. 2, split according to the direction of the stripes of the tree. If on the contrary, one splits them parallel to the concentric layers, like in Fig. 3, this wood is only a single color more or less dark, according to which the split is made in a vein more or less light, which makes these sorts of wood not normally used except on the quarter-round cut, as in Fig. 2, or cut diagonally, as indicated with line A–B, same figure.
The second type of wood, with regard to their grain patterns, are those of which the concentric layers, although distinguished by color at the end grain, like in Fig. 4, produce no stripes along the grain, but simply singed veins or spots, like those in Figs. 5 and 6. These sorts of woods are very nice when they are well chosen and used with discernment, by reason of the size they will occupy and a comparison being made with that of their nuances or their spots, which are always more abundant on the radial cut than on the concentric layer.
The third type of wood is those of which the end is veined irregularly in all ways, like Fig. 7. These species of woods are most likely being used on end grain or diagonally, as I observed in Figs. 8 and 9. As to the grain line, it is hardly an effect except on the quartersawn, where the colors must be vivid, which is quite rare in these sorts of wood.
The fourth type of wood is that where the concentric layers are regular and alternating in various colors, like that of Fig. 10. These sorts of wood are those where one uses with the best advantage, because not only are they beautiful on end grain, but also along the grain line, whether they are split parallel to the concentric layers, as in Fig. 11, or according to the direction of the rays, like in Fig. 12. In the first case, they present a wavy surface, where the spots or singes [area of lightness or of disorder, representing a flame] are more or less large according to the split being made closer to the circumference of the tree. In the second case, that is to say, when the split is made on grain, as in Fig. 12, the wood presents stripes almost regular, which are more or less perfect according to the split being directly made when in the center of the tree.
These four types of differences, which concern the tints of the wood, are those that are the most striking, because there is an infinite number that are but variations between those which they resemble in some areas.
— Meghan Bates
When I post photos of my work, a frequent comment is about how my shop is clean. “Sterile,” some might say. “Unrealistic,” others have said. But a few people like it that way, I guess.
The implication is that I don’t do any real work. Or that I stage photos like a magazine art director – arranging the few shavings and dust on the floor with artistry.
A real shop is supposed to be chaotic and messy. A beehive of activity with projects, parts, clamps and tools everywhere. Messy people are the people who do real work.
I’ve worked in messy shops, and I’ve worked in tidy shops. Both have their own twisted logic that works. I cannot fathom the mindset of the person who runs a cluttered shop. I might as well try to imagine what it’s like to be a single-celled organism. It’s just not in my nature.
Every place I’ve worked since age 11 has had strict rules that prevented bad consequences.
The Anal Slog (Can I Say That?)
At This Can’t Be Yogurt (TCBY), we had hygiene protocols so customers didn’t get sick and we didn’t get shut down. Every machine had to be broken down, scrubbed and lubricated nightly. Temperatures had to be monitored. Floors had to be scrubbed. Leaving a cleaning supply in the wrong area of the shop could get you dinged by the health department.
At the Great San Francisco Seafood Co. (where I worked for four years), we had even stricter rules. Fish loves to go bad. Selling your customer a dead oyster or mussel will make her very sick. And washing your hands 20 times in a shift was typical.
As a production assistant at a publishing company (for four years), health and safety wasn’t an issue – time was. That publishing shop was like a submarine. Every object had a place. When you needed 2-point. tape at 2 a.m. to get a newspaper to the printer, you could find it – even if the lights were out.
I worked a series of factory furniture jobs. At one table-making company, everything was chaos. Even after working there a week I didn’t know who was in charge or what my job was. Table parts came flying out. You put them together. Lots of yelling.
At a door factory, things were different. Every operation had a procedure to follow. The stain sat for this long. You rubbed it with this rag. You monitored humidity ever 30 minutes. And on and on.
By the time I was 21, I knew what kind of worker I was. And I have fought chaos ever since.
You might say that I’m a neat-nick or anal retentive. I don’t care. All I know is that I know where every tool is. I know where all the hardware is. And it’s arranged by size. When I need a hammer or a 1/2” chisel I don’t even need to look in my tool chest to get it.
And when I take a moment to ponder my next step in a project, I do it with a broom in my hand. I pick up shavings on the ground when I pass through the bench room. I impulsively put away tools, even if I know I’ll need them in the next day or so.
This level of organization allows me to work like a demon without any pauses. I don’t need to think about where I left a part or a tool. They are where they are supposed to be. All I have to do is put things back where they belong and I can move on to the next task.
I do not encourage you to do this in your own shop. I have precisely zero emotions whatsoever about other people’s workshops. I just care about my own.
— Christopher Schwarz
The text and images below are excerpted from Christian Becksvoort’s forthcoming book…for which we don’t yet have a title. So for now, I’m thinking of it as “Becksvoort’s Builds, Business & Inspiration” – until something catchier comes to mind. Consider this an amuse-bouche; the main meal will arrive probably in the late spring/early summer.
— Megan Fitzpatrick
There are several options when it comes to stopping drawers. If you’re making lipped drawers, your problem is solved. The lips (usually only on three sides – the bottom will have the moulding profile, but no lip) not only stop the drawer, but also cover the small gap on the sides and the somewhat larger gap on top.
Flush drawers, sans lips, are another story. My favorite method is the front underside stop. It keeps the drawer front flush with the cabinet, no matter how the cabinet side moves. In order for the drawer bottom not to get hung up on any part of the web frame, there is usually about 1/4″ to 5/16″ (6.4 to 7.9 mm) clearance below the underside of the drawer bottom. Obviously, that wood under the groove is what supports the drawer bottom. That space allows for 1/4″ (6.4 mm) stops to be routed and glued into the divider (one for small drawers and two stops for wider drawers). I usually rout a groove into the divider, close to both sides, but with enough clearance to allow the drawer side to pass. The groove is a bit more than the thickness of the drawer front away from the front of the divider. Once the stop is glued into the groove, I like to add a finishing touch. On all my flush drawers and doors, I add a leather bumper to quiet the sound of the drawer or door closing. That’s the sound of quality.
If, instead of using web frames, you’re making side-hung drawers, the slot on which the drawer rides acts as a stop. Here, too, you can add a bit of leather or even a self-adhesive rubber or silicone bumper.
Another, more traditional, method is to let the drawer bottom protrude beyond the drawer back. This works best if your primary and secondary wood is of the same species. Because solid-wood drawer bottoms have the grain running side to side, the drawer bottom will move in conjunction with the cabinet side. The drawer stays close to flush year-round. Obviously this doesn’t work with a plywood bottom.
What about drawers in a frame-and-panel cabinet? Because those cabinets don’t change in depth, that’s pretty easy and straightforward. The drawer can butt right up against the back. However, when I make frame-and-panel cabinets, I like to make the drawers a bit shorter than the inside front-to-back opening. That allows me to add a small block or a thick bumper to the back of the drawer for a perfectly flush front, as well as a quiet closing drawer.
On a few antiques, I’ve seen flathead screws driven into the drawer back as adjustable stops. Not all that classy, but it works.
— Christian Becksvoort
Thanks/no thanks to the turmoil in the world of woodworking publishing, we have acquired another editor to work on our books, blogs, videos and other projects.
This announcement should be no surprise.
All of you know Megan Fitzpatrick, the former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine. During the last 11 years, she’s always been happy to help Lost Art Press with editing, which she did on the side whenever she could spare the time.
Today, Megan joins Lost Art Press as a managing editor. Like Kara Gebhart Uhl, Megan will work on all of our titles on a daily basis. This addition to our staff will have profound implications for you, the reader.
Here’s why. Kara and Megan can already read my mind, and they were both an important part of creating the ethos that guides Lost Art Press: 1) Treat everyone with the same respect. 2) Give away as much content as possible.
With both of them on board, I can step away from doing every single task involved with publishing our books. Kara and Megan will manage the day-to-day tasks of book publishing. This frees me to research and write more books for Lost Art Press. This has always been my greatest (and perhaps only) strength.
Please don’t think that this means that I am stepping away from Lost Art Press. I work seven days a week (by choice and by joy), and Lost Art Press is my baby. Bringing Megan on as a regular ensures that I can continue to explore the unknown, while she and Kara ensure our books are of the highest editorial quality.
Don’t believe me? Just wait.
— Christopher Schwarz
Jögge Sundqvist’s “Slöjd in Wood” is in the final editing/design stages, and will be off to Suzanne Ellison in the next day or two for the index, and to Kara Uhl for a copy edit. In other words, it’s just a couple weeks away from going to the printer. (Look for another post when it does.)
As I was editing the translation, I was charmed by almost every project – but what I find most intriguing about slöjd is its bedrock foundation in self-sufficiency and using the materials at hand.
But Jogge says it much better than can I, so I’ve shared part of his introduction below. The images at the top and bottom here are the end papers of the sumptuously photographed and illustrated book, and show the tools and supplies he uses throughout.
There are many different ways of working and joining wood. In this book I will tell you how to work wood using hand tools. I’m dedicated to slöjd because of the tool marks and carved bevels, the worn colors, the idiosyncratic design and the self-confidence of the unschooled folk art expression.
Slöjd is part of the self-sufficient household, how people survived before industrialization. Slöjd is the work method farmers used when they made tools for house building, farming and fishing, and objects for their household needs. For thousands of years, the knowledge of the material has deepened, and the use of the tools has evolved along with the understanding of how function, composition and form combine to make objects strong and useful.
The word slöjd derives from the word stem slog, which dates to the 9th century. Slög means ingenious, clever and artful. It reflects the farmers’ struggle for survival and how it made them skilled in using the natural materials surrounding the farm: wood, flax, hide, fur, horn and metal. I have picked up a dialect expression from my home county, Västerbotten, that has become a personal motto. We say Int’ oslög, “not uncrafty,” about a person who is handy and practical.
In slöjd, choice of material and work methods are deeply connected to quality and expression. To get strong, durable objects, the material must be carefully chosen so the fiber direction follows the form. This traditional knowledge makes it easy to split and work the wood with edge tools. Slöjd also gives you the satisfaction of making functional objects with simple tools. When a wooden spoon you made yourself feels smooth in your mouth, you have completed the circle of being both producer and consumer.
My intention with this book is to give an inspiring and instructive introduction to working with wood the slöjd way: using a simple set of tools without electricity. There are many advantages to this. You can make the most wonderful slöjd in the kitchen, on the train or in your summer cottage. Simple hand tools make you flexible, free and versatile. And the financial investment compared to power tools is very low!
Traditional slöjd knowledge is vast, and requires many years of experience before you can easily make your ideas come to life. It also takes time to master the knife grips, essentials of sharpening and specific working knowledge of individual wood species.
As you work with slöjd, the learning enters your body. Through repetition, you will gain muscle memory for different tool grips. The ergonomic relationship between your body and the power needed for efficient use emerges over time. “Making is thinking,” said Richard Sennet, professor of sociology. In slöjd, the process never ends.
Because slöjd is inherently sustainable, it feels genuine and authentic. In an increasingly complex and global society, it is important for an individual to experience an integrated work process from raw material to finished product.
People from all walks of life benefit from the interaction between mind and hand. Slöjd affects us by satisfying the body and in turn, the soul. There is a kind of practical contemplation where there is time for thought – a certain focused calm, which is an antidote to today’s media-centered society.
I think we can use the knowledge of slöjd to find that brilliant combination of a small-scale approach to a sustainable society that doesn’t exclude the necessities of modern technology. Traditional slöjd is a survival kit for the future.
— Jögge Sundqvist, August 2017
You can now register for the “Build a Traditionally Styled Fore Plane” class via this link.
Note: Registering for the class or the waiting list is free – they won’t ask you for a credit card to register. After the dust settles, Jim McConnell will invoice the six attendees.
If the six slots are filled, please consider signing up for the waiting list. That way, if someone is unable to make it, Jim will have a list of other interested parties – and we’ll know that if the wait list is robust, it might be good to offer the same class again at a later date.
— Megan Fitzpatrick