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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 3 hours 29 min ago

A Lesson in Sharpening

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 7:46am


Editor’s Note: Richard Jones, the author of an upcoming book on timber technology, takes us back to the 1970s when he learned a valuable lesson in sharpening while in training.

A perennial subject in woodworking magazines and forums is that of sharpening techniques. No other furniture-making topic seems to generate so much tedious verbose nit-picking and circular bickering in woodworking forums, along with the publication of innumerable “sure-fire” and “infallible” methods in blogs, YouTube videos and magazine articles. For somer reason, most of these espoused methods for achieving a sharp edge on a tool seem to take an inordinate amount of time and require a large array of bits and bobs to do the job. I sometimes wonder if the process of sharpening is the main objective of the exercise for the people who describe them rather than the means to working wood effectively.

Naturally, the subject is of interest because blunt tools aren’t much use. Preamble to many of these articles often causes a wry smile for they bring back memories of my initiation into the “dark” art. Many authors make points about those who struggle at it and possess a workshop full of dull tools. Conversely, it is sometimes said that those who can do the job tend to be fanatical about grits, slurries and bevel angles.

My experience is that there are really only two types of people when it comes to sharpening:

• Those who can’t.

• Those who can.

In the first group, those who can’t, you’ll sometimes see every sharpening system known to man arrayed around their workshop gathering dust. They have fancy grinders, oilstones, water stones, ceramic stones, diamond stones, guides, pieces of sandpaper, jigs, etc. And yet, just about every edge tool they own is chipped, dull and mostly useless.

In the second group, those who can, I haven’t observed much fanaticism about slurries, grits and bevel angles. In all the workshops I’ve worked in the only concern is to get the job done. It’s a case of, “Plane’s blunt – better sharpen it.” Dig out the stone, sharpen the blade, shove it back in the plane and use it. The equipment is minimal: a grinder, a stone of some sort and lubricant, a few slips for gouges and the like, and, perhaps, a piece of oiled leather charged with a bit of fine-powered abrasive for final stropping.

Going back to the 1970s, when I trained, learning how to sharpen tools was undertaken within the first few days. I don’t now recall precisely the order of my instruction, but it went something like this: I was handed a plane by the cabinetmaker I was assigned to and told, “Get that piece o’ wood square.” I’d done a bit of woodworking at school so I had a vague idea of what to do. I fooled around with that lump of wood for 20 or so minutes and got it something like square – all this under the watchful eye of the crusty old guy and his ever-present roll-up hanging out of the corner of his mouth.

“OK, I’ve done that,” I said. “Now what do you want me to do?”

I was told to hang about for a minute whilst he picked up his square and straightedge and proceeded to scrutinise my handiwork. This was followed by a non-committal grunt and some desultory foot sweeping of the plentiful shavings on the floor – the wood was probably only about 90 percent or so of its original volume.

“Now sonny, let’s do the next job,” he announced. “Pull that jack plane ye’ve bin usin’ apairt and let’s have a look at the iron.”

I did.

“Hold the iron up so’s ye can see the cuttin’ edge,” he instructed. (He was a Scot.) Again, I did as I was told.

“Now, can ye see it? Can ye see the line-o’-light at the shairp end there?” He wheezed as he tapped a line of ash onto the floor and stood on it. He was referring to the shiny reflection visible when cutting edges are dull.

“Aye,” I said, after a little eye squinting and other pretence of intelligence.

“How shairp does it look to you boy?” he enquired.

I thought about this for a moment or two, seeking the right response to my tormentor – for I hadn’t really got a clue what he was talking about. I finally replied rather hopefully and a bit brightly: “Pretty shairp, I’d say.”

He laughed out loud, and hacked a bit. “Dinnae be the daft bloody laddie wi’ me son. If ye can see it, it’s blunt. I could ride that bloody iron yer holdin’ bare-arsed to London and back and no cut ma’sel’. Get o’er here an’ I’ll show ye something.”

You can probably guess. Out came the oilstone from his toolbox and quick as a flash the iron was whisking up and down the stone, flipped over, the wire edge removed, and finally it was stropped backwards and forwards on the calloused palm of his hand. You could shave with it. I know, because he demonstrated how sharp it was by slicing a few hairs off his forearm. On went the cap iron and the assembly was dropped back in the plane. This was followed by a bit of squinting along the sole from the front whilst the lever and knob were fiddled with and that was it. He took a few shavings off a piece of wood and it went back in his toolbox. It took, oh, a few minutes.

“Now son, that’s a shairp plane. It’s nae bloody use to me blunt. Ye may as well sling a soddin’ blunt yin in the bucket fer all the use it is to me,” he explained with great refinement. “I’ve plenty mair o’ them in that box, an’ they’re all blunt. Ah’ve bin savin’ ’em for ye. There’s a bunch a chisels, too. Let’s get ye started.”

For what felt like forever I sharpened his tools for the one and only time I was allowed to under his rheumy-eyed and critical stare, and things gradually got better. After a while he stopped telling me what a “completely daft stupit wee bastud” I was, and a bit later he started offering grudging approval. I had to sharpen some tools more than once because he kept on using and dulling them. When I’d done the lot we stopped and surveyed the day’s work.

“Aye, nae too bad fer a daft laddie’s fust effort,” he commented darkly, sucking hard on his smoke. “I think ye’ve goat whit it takes. Time’ll tell, sonnie. Remember, ye’ll never be a bloody cabinetmaker if ye cannae even shairpen yer frickin’ tools. Lesson over. Dinnae ferget it.”

I haven’t.

— Richard Jones

Categories: Hand Tools

Chinese/Roman Workbench/Router Table – and a Palm!

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 3:50am


Brendan Gaffney sent me this incredible video – likely from Vietnam – where woodworkers are building stair components using a low workbench as a router table.

The low bench is exactly what you’d see in an ancient Roman or Chinese workshop. Most intriguing to me is the V-shaped bench stop at the end of the bench. It is exactly like the Chinese “palm,” a workholding device that Suzanne Ellison dug up and helped me research for the upcoming book “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding.”

Seeing it in use as a router table is amazing.

The entire video is interesting. The music, however, will make you batty.

Please do not leave a comment on the lack of “workshop safety” in this video. I will delete them. In showing you this video I refuse to open the door for criticism of their work, tradition or culture. You might think that you’re a more evolved being, but that’s really just your Superman Underoos talking.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Ingenious Mechanicks, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Moxon’s Jointer Plane

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 3:30am

Moxon’s jointer plane. Ever wonder why the handles look so odd on the plane? I don’t think they’re particularly British. These illustrations were borrowed from the French.

This is an excerpt from “The Art of Joinery” by Joseph Moxon; commentary by Christopher Schwarz. 

The jointer is made somewhat longer than the fore plane and has its sole perfectly straight from end to end. Its office is to follow the fore plane and to shoot an edge perfectly straight, and not only an edge, but also a board of any thickness; especially when a joint is to be shet [shot]. Therefore the hand must be carried along the whole length with an equal bearing weight, and [al]so exactly even and upright to the edges of the board, [so] that neither side of the plane inclines either inward or outwards, but that the whole breadth be exactly square on both its sides. Supposing its sides straight, [then] so will two edges of two boards, when thus shot, lie so exactly flat and square upon one another that light will not be discerned between them. It is counted a piece of good workmanship in a joiner to have the craft of bearing his hand so curiously [in this way], even the whole length of a long board. And yet it is but a sleight [task] to those [where] practice hath accustomed the hand to [it]. The jointer is also used to try tabletops with {large or small}, or other such broad work. And then joiners work as well upon the traverse with it, as with the grain of the wood, and also angularly or corner-wise, that they may be more assured of the flatness of their work.

Its iron must be set very fine, so fine, that when you wink with [close] one eye, and [look at the iron with your open] eye, there appears a little above a hairs breadth of the edge above the surfaces of the sole of the plane, and the length of the edge must lie perfectly straight with the flat breadth of the sole of the plane. [With] the iron being then well wedged up and you working with the plane thus set, [you] have the greater assurance that the iron cannot run too deep into the stuff; and consequently you have the less danger that the joint is wrought out of straight.


Proper edge jointing. Whether you use a straight or curved iron, this is the proper way to joint an edge. The fingers of your off-hand serve as the fence against the work.

In Moxon, the primary job of the jointer plane seems to be working edges to make them straight and true. Not only to make them pretty but to glue them up into panels.

Now here is one area where Moxon vexes me. Moxon calls for the jointer plane to have an iron that is sharpened perfectly straight across, like a chisel. And the way you correct an edge is through skill – Moxon says it looks hard to the layman but is easy for joiners.

As one who has practiced freehand edge-planing with a jointer plane that has a straight-sharpened iron, I object. I think it’s easier to correct an edge with an iron with a slight curve. You can remove material from localized spots by positioning the iron to take more meat off one area.

This jointing technique with a curved iron appears in British workshop practice throughout the 20th century. It is today a fight as fierce as tails-first or pins-first in dovetailing. So give both jointing techniques a try and take your side. And just be glad Moxon doesn’t write a word about dovetailing.

One note here on long-grain shooting boards. Moxon doesn’t mention them, though they are frequently mentioned and employed starting in the 18th century. When you use a jointer plane with a shooting board to true an edge of a board, the iron of the jointer plane can be either curved or straight.

Both approaches work.

Several of my contemporary hand-tool woodworkers have suggested that perhaps Moxon simply could not see that the jointer plane’s iron is slightly curved. And indeed, the curve used on the edge of a jointer plane’s iron looks straight if you don’t show it to a second piece of straight material. However, I prefer to simply take Moxon at his word here. The joiners he observed use jointers with straight irons.


Criss-cross. Working corner to corner is a powerful technique for flattening a board. You can work both ways, though you’ll get more tear-out one way than the other.

Other jointer techniques in Moxon are quite helpful. He says you can traverse with a jointer and that you can work diagonally (corner to corner) across the grain with wide stock. Both of these techniques help flatten your boards because the jointer’s sole is removing high spots at the corners, which is commonly known as “twist” or “wind.” Note that Moxon says joiners use this for tabletops or other boards that are quite broad.

Other period accounts discuss other long planes. Richard Neve’s “The City and Country Purchaser” (1703) calls out two long planes: “The Long Plane,” which is about 24″ long, for faces of boards; and the jointer plane, which is about 30″ long, for edge joints.

Moxon’s instructions for setting a jointer plane can be interpreted as follows: Turn the plane over and sight down the sole. Close one eye. Peer down the sole and adjust the iron until you see it as a fine black line (about the thickness of a hair) that is even all across the width of the sole. That’s a good description of what it looks like. To my (one) eye, a hair’s breadth usually gets me a shaving that’s about .004″ to .006″ thick.

Meghan Bates

Filed under: The Art of Joinery
Categories: Hand Tools

My Convoluted Route To Lost Art Press

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 11:49am
Richard Jones - 208-Chlorociboria-MKuo

Chlorociboria fungus, which causes green stain in wood. Photo courtesy of Michael Kuo.

Editor’s Note: As Richard states below, his tome on timber technology is, indeed, nearing the finish line.

For some people it appears it’s easy to release a book. Publishers occasionally give the impression of falling over themselves to offer improbably favourable deals to those such as C-list celebrities for their as-yet-non-existent but soon-to-be-ghost-written vacuous blathering.

I don’t fit that category, but by 2014 my behemoth was near completion – nearly 180,000 words and more than 400 figures.

How to publish it?

Self-publish? Nope. I lacked the skills. It had to be a real publisher.

I didn’t expect finding a publisher would be especially challenging. My optimism, perhaps, came from earlier publishing experience. My woodworking articles had appeared in magazines since the 1990s. A first submission sold quickly at first attempt and success continued. All but one or two articles sold easily, sometimes twice – once in the U.K. and again in the U.S.

How hard could it be to sell a book? I was about to find out. There were possibly 10 unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher, a frustratingly slow process. It’s perhaps unwritten, but I’m convinced there is an ‘unofficial’ code of conduct between an aspiring author and a publisher. You send sample text to one and they sit on it for months, then they reject it. You move to the next publisher and do it all again. Try sending your manuscript to multiple publishers simultaneously – remember the ‘code of conduct’ – and word seems to get around the small world of craft publishers swiftly, and you’re blackballed by them all.

Eventually, a publisher bought the publishing rights, paid the advance and then … dissembled and prevaricated. A year later they changed their mind and relinquished the publishing rights. I was back on the dispiriting merry-go-round of publisher hunting and rejections somewhat softened by comments such as, “Great manuscript, but, er, not for us.”

Finally, a stroke of luck, or perhaps destiny – I don’t know. A couple or so years ago I asked Lost Art Press to review my manuscript. They expressed interest, but at that time were overwhelmed with ongoing projects. They felt it would be unfair to me to hold my manuscript for probably years until they could turn their attention to it, so they said I should try other publishers. Come spring of 2017, I’d unsuccessfully tried more publishers, and then contacted Lost Art Press again, explained the situation and, well, what was the worst that could happen? Another rejection maybe? I was taken aback: Their response was rapid and positive. And here we are, barely six months later, seemingly very near print ready.

— Richard Jones

Filed under: Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Storefront Open This Saturday (Without Me)

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 11:01am

Brendan helps install original copperplate engravings from “The Anarchist’s Design” book in our bench room.

Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney will staff the Lost Art Press storefront this Saturday so I can have a weekend with my wife (it’s our 25th anniversary).

There have been lots of changes at the storefront, 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky., since last month. The Electric Horse Garage will be up and running (the new roof goes on starting Tuesday). Plus, we are setting up the bench room for classes that Brendan, Megan and Will Myers will be teaching there this year.

We now have nine (!) different workbenches at the storefront for you to examine.

  • My French oak Roubo bench
  • The Holtzapffel workbench
  • A Nicholson bench with angled legs
  • Megan Fitzpatrick’s “Glue-bo” bench made with laminated beams
  • A nice commercial Ulmia
  • A cherry and cottonwood Roubo bench
  • The Loffelholz 1505 workbench
  • The Saalburg Roman bench
  • The Herculaneum eight-legged bench

So if you are in the market for a workbench design, our storefront might be a good place to investigate.

As per usual, we will be selling our full line of Lost Art Press books, plus T-shirts. We are, however, quite low on blemished books right now.

The storefront is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Directions and a map are here. Our next open day will be Feb. 10 (I’ll be there!).

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Shop safety: This tip could save your life

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 3:19pm

… or “I never said I wanted to go surfing.”

Every so often something reminds you that serious injury is only a heartbeat away.

I had one of those experiences yesterday in the shop. The culprit: a scrap of plywood — well, that and a moment’s inattention as I walked across the floor after answering a phone call.

I’d been using the plywood scrap, an offcut of the prefinished maple I use for kitchen cabinet carcases, as a spacer to hold drawer slides at the requisite height while I screwed them in place. I had my camera and tripod set up nearby, to document the process for the book about kitchens that I’m working on for Lost Art Press. After installing the slides, I took the spacer out of the cabinet and set it on the floor without another thought.


The offending piece of scrap (here with finished side up), with Joey for scale.

As I crossed the floor to return to work I inadvertently stepped on the piece of plywood, which happened to be lying with the finished side down. I might as well have stepped onto a sheet of ice. It was one of those slow-motion moments as my mind assessed the likely result: “My head is probably going to hit this concrete floor.” Fortunately, while my mind was analyzing the situation my body was taking action. I felt my torso jerk up and around,  saving me from the fall.

But ouch: a sharp stab from left hip to right shoulder. No concussion, thankfully, but hello, my old friend Muscle Spasm. It’s off to the chiropractor Monday morning.

Lesson learned: Never leave prefinished plywood on the floor, especially with the shiny side down.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

My Willow Phase

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:13am


The unpleasant funny thing about visiting your family during the holidays is encountering your former woodworking self.

I’m in Charleston, S.C., with my dad this week and encountered my Late Willow Phase, a time during the 1990s when I was obsessed with rustic furniture. I had honestly forgotten about this phase (unlike my leather trousers phase).

For a couple years I drove around in my Volvo 240DL station wagon cutting willow switches out of ditches on the Westside of Cincinnati. I stored all these sticks in buckets in my shop, giving it an arboreal look. Using a drill and a tenon cutter, I made dozens of chairs, trellises, frames, anything you could fashion with sticks and tenons. It was my first pleasant encounter with bending green wood.

One Christmas we planned to visit my father in Arkansas. Lucy and I were broke, and my dad already owns everything he needs. So I took an afternoon to make this little footstool for him from a scrap of white pine and discarded willow switches from a chair project.

And here it sits today (I took it out on his porch for a photo). And for something that I threw together in a day, it’s not half-bad.

Phases can fade away or end abruptly. This one had its throat slit. One day I got a letter from a family that makes willow furniture with a bunch of photos of their beautiful pieces. The letter said: “We’ve seen your stuff. It sucks. This is what willow stuff should look like. Please quit.”

I did.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized, Yellow Pine Journalism
Categories: Hand Tools

What is a ‘Loose Tenon?’

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 6:28pm

Loose tenon disassembled

Some readers seemed confused by my description of assembling a benchtop with the help of a “loose tenon.”

The expression doesn’t mean that the tenon rattles loose in the mortise. Rather it means that the tenon is not integral to either piece being joined. It is like a Domino or a biscuit. It enters mortises in both pieces.

I drew up two illustrations to show how this works. The drawing at the top illustrates the joint when it is apart. The loose tenon is shown floating between the two components of the benchtop.

Loose tenon ASSEMBLED

The second illustration is an “X-ray” view of the assembled joint with 1/2”-diameter pegs piercing the benchtop pieces and the loose tenon.

“Loose tenons” have many other names, including “slip tenons” or “floating tenons.” All these terms are accepted in woodworking journalism.

Hope this helps.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Loose Tenons & Workbench Tops

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:36am


We think of loose tenons as a modern joint, but it is far from it. Early Greek and Roman boats were made with loose tenons that were pegged to keep the hulls together.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that Richard Maguire also used this same technology to glue up his benchtops (read all about that here). I’ll be honest, I’ve always relied on glue alone (when I didn’t have a monumental one-piece slab top).

But my view changed a couple years ago when we got a bad batch of epoxy and several benchtops delaminated. If I ever have to glue up a slab benchtop again, I’m adding loose tenons.

Interestingly, Maguire doesn’t drawbore the loose tenons in his tops. He states: “a draw bored peg here would have been much weaker than this straight through approach.” I do believe I will be experimenting with this joint – both drawbored and not – to see for myself.=

Maguire wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of loose tenons in a benchtop (though I heard it from him first). Recently I got to inspect an early 20th-century French workbench from La Forge Royale that used the technology.


This commercial workbench was surprisingly rough in manufacture. Joints were deliberately overcut throughout to make the bench easy to assemble. The “breadboard” ends were merely nailed or screwed on. No tongue. I could go on and on. It’s still a great workbench (and still standing after 100 years), so I’m not knocking it. But I was surprised.

Despite the rough construction, the builders took the extra time to add loose tenons in the benchtop’s joint. That fact says a lot to me as to how important a detail they thought it was.

So it’s worth a thought for your next workbench.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

The (Almost) Final Step with the Horse Garage

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:14am


I have never been so happy to hear from a roofer.

After 10 weeks of waiting for my number to come up, Brian the Roofer called to say his crew will begin the job Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Barring rain or a visit from the Angel of Death, I’ll have a new roof by the end of the week and will then set up my machines. That should take a day at most. I don’t have a lot of machines, and they (with one exception) are easy to move.

The only thing left to do is install the mini-split to control the climate in the workshop. The wiring for it is ready – so it’s a one-day job. (And until the mini-split gets installed, I’ll simply freeze my butt off when I work.)

Ever since moving my workbench to the storefront almost two years ago, I’ve been slowed down by having two shops. Though I don’t do a lot of machine work, there were times that I had to drive home to use the drill press for a very particular hole and then had to drive right back to the storefront to continue working.

Though I don’t live far from the storefront (4.2 miles), the route always has a chance of jackknifed semis or cornholed motorists on the stretch that locals call “Death Hill.”

When I was planning out my new shop, I half-considered writing a series of articles about the process. Then I realized that I think most people make it a lot more difficult than necessary. And by putting a lot of effort into the shop, they actually make it more of a pain to use in the long-term.

If you’d like to read my brief thoughts on setting up shop, check out my entry at my other blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Here’s the link. (Side note: I’d like to offer a huge thank-you to all the people who read my blog there – the monthly pay I receive is an important part of our family budget. And according to the traffic numbers, 2017 was a good one for my blog there.)

Now back to dreaming of my membrane roof.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Highlights and Lowlights of Writing About Trees and Wood

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 9:12am

Editor’s Note: Richard Jones’s book on timber technology is designed, and Chris, Richard and I are working on final edits. The book will be available early this year.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

In almost every project one can find good elements and bad elements in the process.

I’ll get the lowlights of working on this book out of the way first. I found there were times I struggled to put words on the page. Many things can hamper creativity, for that’s what writing is, even with factual subjects. Trying to get information across in a readable form requires finding the right words allied to illustrations so, yes, creativity matters.

It’s frustrating to complete a piece of text and ‘red pen’ it – literally printing the page, marking all the bloopers, jotting corrections (in red) and then going back to the word processing. I can’t properly proofread on a computer monitor, so printing it is. ‘Red penning’ helps me find the repetitions, awkward phrasing, spelling mistakes and bits so badly composed I need to start again. It’s frustrating, time consuming and wastes paper because on average I print and proofread five times before I’m happy, and even then I miss errors.

Other things that frustrate the writing flow include too many work commitments in my full-time job, illness in the family, and just becoming fed up with the whole thing. Why am I doing this? I don’t even have any idea if it’ll get published, and it could all just sit in big stored digital files no-one except me will ever see.

Ah, but the highlights outweigh all the frustrations. The kindness and generosity of people throughout the UK and overseas: Kiln operators, timber (lumber) yard owners, entomologists, mycologists, engineers, wood scientists, meteorologists, woodworking forum participants and so on all came up trumps with suggestions, guidance, photographs, participated in discussions face-to-face, by email and phone, and were willing to peer review sections I’d written suggesting improvements and approval when I’d got it right.

Two things surprised me. First, apart from the essential wood knowledge I chose to cover, I found the secondary information the most fun to write: tree history, ancient deforestation, forests and climate, balanoculture, the special place of oaks in the role of human development and The Baltic Problem from the point of view of the UK. The second surprise was the discovery that the supply of wood from the world’s forests currently teeters on the balance of just about enough at our level of usage – it could go either way, probably depending on future human ingenuity, or, perhaps, our greed and stupidity.

— Richard Jones

Filed under: Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Shaker Table Class with Will Myers at Our Storefront

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 4:32pm


Build an accurate reproduction of an icon of American furniture with Will Myers during an Oct. 6-7, 2018, class at our Covington, Ky., storefront.

Will has spent years researching Shaker design by measuring the actual pieces in the Shaker communities. His careful work has resulted in measured drawings for this table that result in a true reproduction. (Will was shocked to discover that none of the published plans available were exact reproductions.)

During this intense two-day class, you’ll build a reproduction of this beautiful table and learn:

  • History and details of the three original candle stands of this style that I have examined.
  • Why this table is not as simple as it first appears, and how many small details contribute to look of the table as a whole.
  • Layout and cutting of sliding dovetails on a cylinder, to join the legs to the spindle.
  • Shaping the legs, using spokeshaves and card scrapers.
  • Turning the spindle to final shape.
  • Shaping the top support with planes and spokeshaves.
  • Shaping and smoothing the edges and faces of the round top.
  • Why you need a metal “spider” (and how to make one) to reinforce the leg-to-spindle joinery.

Registration for the class is free. Registrants will be invoiced for the $300 class fee and additional materials fee (which will likely be around $100). Attendees at this class should have some woodworking experience. While no turning experience is required, it will be helpful.


These classes are are limited to six students led by Will (plus me as an assistant). That’s why we can tackle such ambitious projects.

Register for the class here. After you register, you will receive an invoice for the class plus a tool list. Any student looking for a place to stay or eat near our storefront can get full details here.

As I’ve mentioned before, these classes do not benefit me or Lost Art Press. All proceeds go to the instructor. If you’ve ever met Will (or seen any of his videos) then you know he is a skilled woodworker and excellent instructor. We are thrilled to have him teach here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized, Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

Vintage kitchen splendor

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 11:10am

To start the new year off with a bang, feast your eyes on this gobsmackingly gorgeous kitchen.

Joe Oliver 1

I don’t even remember how Joe Oliver and I became acquainted, but I’m so glad we did. Joe operates Retro Stove & Gas Works based in Chicago and shares my love of old kitchens. Two days ago he sent some snapshots from a recent repair job in a kitchen that’s a treasure trove of original detail. I’m hoping Joe’s customers will allow me to include their kitchen in the book I’m writing for Lost Art Press. In the meantime, here are a few photos provided by the homeowner to whet your appetite.

Joe Oliver 3

Although the range hood, island and microwave are not original, the Sellers cabinets are. Check out that tiled arch over the window. My heart! I am mad for this kitchen. Joe points out that the yellow tiles are not ceramic, but a sheet material such as linoleum.

Joe Oliver 4

Joe identifies this as a pre-World War II Roper. Those control knobs have me swooning.

You can read more about this kitchen and Joe’s approach to repair work at his blog. My favorite quote:

Not all 7 1/2 hour service calls take the same amount of time to prepare for, thank God.  Most take between 30 to 60 minutes.  Occasionally, however, the needs of a vintage stove push your friendly service technicians to extremes.  So when you require help for that 3/4-century old stove which hasn’t required a dime for repairs all the years that you’ve owned it, please grant us some understanding when we charge a service fee to show up at your door.  We have probably earned it.


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

New Year’s Eve

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 9:21am

“Fig. 1 An Archer In Action” from “Making a Long-Bow,” The Woodworker magazine, January 1953

“There is always something solemn about the passing of the Old Year. When we were young and the years were very, very long, each New Year’s Eve was an event, the more enthralling for its rarity, and the year ahead still so closely wrapped in the mists of time was full of enticing mystery, something to be explored, one more step forward in the exciting and rather bewildering process of growing up. Breathlessly we listened to the bells, feeling suddenly a little sad as they tolled out the last moments of the dying year, awed into silence in the hush that followed and all the world seemed to wait. Then the lovely, changing peals ushering in the New, and how they rang, those bells of our youth! Is it fancy or have they lost something of their clamorous zest, or is it we who have changed, we who no longer greet them with the old bright-eyed eagerness? Yet there are few men who will not feel a ghost of the old thrill still knocking at their hearts, that here is once more a new beginning, one more opportunity to be seized, as our ever shortening, speeding years are warning us, and turned to account.

“‘Life wastes itself whilst we are preparing to live,’ Emerson once wrote. To live we have to jerk ourselves into action and convert our pleasant pipe dreams into sober realities. The man who has a creative urge to make things, with the vague feeling that he could if once he got down to it, has determinedly to set his hand to a job. So has the man who can make and mend in a plain, competent fashion, but has a hankering for something more, some finer, more ambitious work. If we set ourselves to do the thing, then the power and ability will grow with the doing. If we only keep on vaguely wishing then life will slide away from us and we shall have lost something that might have given us infinite satisfaction. The plain fact which sometimes we are chary of facing is that no atom of good or satisfaction can come to us than by the work we put into this job of making ourselves. Here we are, men with creative instincts, hidden or only dimly realised potentialities, and until we put ourselves to the task of developing them they will remain for ever dormant. No one but ourselves knows what we can do and we ourselves do not know until we have tried. Often, indeed, we scare ourselves off by over timidity. The only way is to start. Tell ourselves we are no worse than the next man: what he can do we can do, and so we can. For steadily and surely those submerged instincts turn into practical ability as we learn by doing.

“It is extraordinary how opportunities come our way for learning once we have started. There seems to be some hidden law governing it, making us aware of new possibilities, new avenues of interest to be explored while we are pegging away at the job of turning ourselves into first-rate craftsmen. It may be only our new awareness, making us see and seize the opportunities, and yet it seems more than that. As if, like the man in the parable, when a man buried his talent he loses even the little he has but, using it, not only is it increased a hundredfold by his own enterprise but more is added unto him, sometimes much more.

“In my time I have made many good resolutions on New Year’s Eve and broken them all. Now, after the passage of the years, there is only one I would make, and that is more a prayer than a resolution. It is for the gift of perseverance. Whatever kind of job of creative living to which we have each put our hands, as good craftsmen, homemakers, as men of integrity and faith and good hopes let us persevere in it, putting our best into it, keeping our interest and enthusiasm alive by the study of good work whenever we can find it and setting our standards by that alone. There are so many things which conspire to turn us aside from the path we want to follow, fascinating things, distracting things, like television, the importunities of our friends, and our own moods and difficulties. We are each of us assailed from this side and that with ever possible temptation to take the easy way and to content ourselves with the minimum necessary effort. But there is not much satisfaction to be got in the long run out of living like that. ‘A man,’ says Emerson, ‘is relieved and gay when has put his heart into his work and done his best: but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver.’ Haven’t we all experienced it? The nagging uneasiness which follows an imperfect or hastily finished job, the blemish which will always catch our own eye if others do not notice, on the other hand the glow of satisfaction when we know our work is good. Those are the moments which are worth living for – the moments which pave the way to solid achievement.”

– Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, January, 1953

Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Another Early Chair (Without Antlers!)

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 6:46am


With the dugout chair complete and installed in the Lost Art Press Mechanical Library, I can move onto the next item on my long list of things I need to build before I die.

Next up is a Klismos chair, an elegant form of seating that emerged in Greece in the fifth century B.C.E. Its popularity as a form has waxed and waned as Classicism and Gothic have grappled through the centuries.

gilded DP144105

At times it has been interpreted as a study in form. It also has been carved, gilded and padded so as to be almost unrecognizable. The curve of its saber legs have been flattened to add stability. The backrest has been made smaller to make it easier to mass-produce. In fact, the only indignity it hasn’t suffered is to have been injection molded and sold at a Walmart.

My approach will be similar to that of Nicolai Abildgaard (1743-1809), the Danish painter, professor and sculptor who designed the chair shown at the top of this blog entry.

Researcher Suzanne Ellison and I went through a heavy “Klismos and Curule” phase together several years ago. That’s because my early drafts for “The Anarchist’s Design Book” had a large section that explored classical forms such as the Klismos and Curule and wove those forms into the long history of high and low styles. Then I realized I wanted to finish that book before my hair grew all the way down to my hinder. So I nixed that section (which could be a book in itself).

I’m returning to the Klismos because of one simple change in the world: I now have a reliable supply of cold-bend hardwood from Pure Timber. This stuff allows me to make extreme bends with a high level of accuracy and resulting strength.

But first I’ve got to get “Ingenious Mechanicks” to the printer (plus three other books that are almost complete). Oh, and some commission work so as to stave off ramen.

But it will happen in 2018.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

Filed under: Ingenious Mechanicks, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Mary May Now Offering Video Lessons and Resin Study Casts

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 5:48pm


Can there ever be too many ways of learning to carve acanthus leaves?

My new book, “Carving the Acanthus Leaf,” has full and complete step-by-step instructions on how to carve a variety of different historical acanthus leaves using hundreds of detailed photos and drawings. However, as we all have different styles of learning, sometimes written instruction is not enough to fully comprehend the carving process. So in addition to the book, I am now offering full HD video lessons and resin study casts that go with Chapters 4 through 16 of my book.

All videos

If you are familiar with my Online School of Traditional Woodcarving, the video lessons are similar in teaching structure style, showing real-time video with close-up details and tool identification throughout the lesson. Also, if you are a Premium Member of my school, you will receive a 15 percent loyalty discount to these video lessons.

The resin study casts are direct replicas made from the original wood-carved leaves from these chapters. Having something that you can view, hold in your hands, and study the details can greatly help in the learning process. (Or … you can use these as decorative details in your home.)

One way or another, you will learn to carve acanthus leaves!

– Mary May

Filed under: Carve the Acanthus with Mary May, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Spiling Batten

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 5:14am


This is an excerpt from “From Truths to Tools” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin; Illustrated by Andrea Love. 

Just out of curiosity, let’s see what happens when we draw a circle, then switch the dividers’ legs around. Being sure to keep the same setting (i.e. the radius of the first circle), we set the point anywhere on the rim and swing the other leg around to construct a second circle.


We now have before us two circles of the same size, which yields the birth of “symmetria” (symmetry) – one of the most useful and foundational principles in geometry (not to mention keeping the universe itself intact).


The intersection of the symmetrical circles at each other’s focal points is the geometric truth underlying a powerful layout tool called a spiling batten. To see how this wool works, follow the steps in the drawing.

1.) Swing an arc (about one-third of a circle) from a focal point.

2.) Keeping the same radius. swing back a little arc from any place on the first arc.

3.) Swing back another arc from a second point on the first arc. The intersection of these two small arcs is the location of the original focal point.

Be aware that you need to be careful to maintain the same setting for all these arcs.

A common application of spiling in boatbuilding is in the fitting of a boat plank perfectly between two other previously installed planks. We begin by tacking in place a thin piece of wood (the spiling batten) in the opening between the planks. Next, from station points we’ve made on the upper and lower planks (usually at the centerline of frame locations) we swing an arc onto the batten.

To avoid errors due to a change in the divider setting, we will record the divider span somewhere on the the batten to provide a double-check.

When we are done making arcs from all the station points, we remove the batten and lay it on the stock to be cut to shape. Then we swing two arcs from each arc drawn on the batten.

The intersection of these arcs will be the location of the original station point. Finally, we’ll use a bendable length of wood to connect the transferred station points onto the stock. Cut to the line and we are rewarded with a ready-to-plane-to-perfect fit.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: From Truths to Tools
Categories: Hand Tools

Booked for the Year

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 9:30am


One of the biggest fears when you work for yourself is that the work will dry up. You will suddenly go from eating ricotta to ramen. And then you will call Mike Siemsen to get his recipe for “wiener water soup.”

As the last few days of 2017 drop off the calendar, I’m taking stock of the commission work I have booked for the coming year. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of work I have in the works.

Most of the pieces are what you would expect: a couple Welsh chairs, a tool chest, a Shaker cabinet, some sawbenches, a Roorkee chair and a campaign secretary. But I also received a commission that is a gift for me as a designer.

A young customer asked me to build a chair that would further my work from “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” For the last 12 months I’ve struggled (and failed) to design a staked armchair that I’m happy with for the revised edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” This commission will allow me to take a good three weeks of time to nail down a design that has remained slightly out of my grasp.

So it’s also a gift for anyone interested in staked furniture.

I know there will be lean years ahead. It’s the natural cycle of things. But I plan to fully enjoy every bit of 2018 and make the most of the salad days.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese?

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 1:05pm


When you grow in Arkansas with even a hint of a swarthy complexion, you’re going to get bullied and harassed.

When I entered fifth grade at Woods Elementary, my teacher asked me in front of the class if I was Chinese. When I replied, “I don’t think so,” Mr. Williams shrugged his shoulders.

“Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin and good at math,” he said. “Seems like Chinese.”

The conversation at dinner that night was memorable.

When I made it to Chaffin Junior High School, I had my first brush with anti-Semitism. I’d get clipped in hallways with the wood “heeb” muttered under their breath. I had to honestly look up the word in the library.

There was only one Jewish family in our town, the Wilsons. I was bewildered by the abuse. We were Presbyterian.

At my second job, one of the senior editors kept pressing me on my ethnicity. One day, she declared: “Look, you’re Jewish. So I’m just going to treat you that way.”

So she began wishing me “Happy Hanukkah” and ascribing stereotypical (and racist) personality traits to my behavior. When I’d offer to split the check at lunch, she’d say: “Ha – cheap – just like a Jew.”

That also was the year I began growing a beard, which apparently made things worse. The editor of the magazine asked me to shave it off saying: “You look like an Arab terrorist.”

So to settle these sorts of questions (which also occasionally dog my daughters) I took the Ancestry DNA test earlier this year. All tests have their limits, but until they develop an instant pee test for Jewish, Arab or Chinese, this is what we’ve got.

Here are the results:

Great Britain: 43%
Europe West: 18%
Europe East: 17%
Ireland/Scotland/Wales: 6%
Iberian Peninsula: 7%
Scandinavia: 3%
Europe South: 2%
Caucasus: 1%
European Jewish: < 1%
Middle East: < 1%
Finland/Northwest Russia: < 1%

So you can pretty much insult me using almost any slur (except Chinese) and be correct. This also gives me carte blanche to use both English and Continental woodworking tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

This Way Sinners

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 11:56am


Memory is a damn funny thing. It can be as impossible to hold onto as a handful of water. And yet you can drown in a cup of it.

Today I went to pick up a load of sugar pine for an upcoming tool chest I’m building for a customer and got whacked upside the head by a pointed 19-year-old memory.

Since the closing of Midwest Woodworking a few years ago, I’ve run dangerously low on my stock of sugar pine and didn’t have enough to do the job. Enter Kevin McQueeney, an Indianapolis woodworker who offered to help me purchase a load through his local supplier.

After some back-and-forth, it became obvious that the sugar pine was going to come from Shiels Lumber here in Cincinnati. It’s an old place in the neglected industrial lowlands of the city, about a half mile from the foundry that makes our holdfasts.

Hearing the name Shiels was like waking up from a deep dream. How had I forgotten about this place?

When I started at Popular Woodworking magazine, the first significant project I was permitted to build was an interpretation of Benjamin Seaton’s tool chest. My boss made me change a lot of details so it would be accepted by the magazine’s readership – the corners were assembled with finger joints instead of dovetails, and the interior till had to be simplified.

But despite these compromises, it was a major piece and the first cover project of my career.


The first hurdle with the project was finding white pine that was thick enough for the job. One of the associate editors took me to Shiels, a wholesale yard that is off-limits to retail customers. We loaded up a truck with the pine, and I remember looking up at a weird sign painted on a building that towers over the yard that reads: “This Way Sinners.”

I wondered about the sign 19 years ago. And I had the same sense of wonderment as I loaded my pine today and looked up at the same sign. Thanks to the Internet, I dug up a history of the sign behind the guy who had it painted in 1896. You can read it here. It involves a trip to the Holy Land, a misplaced photograph and hieroglyphics. And the story ends with: “Most salads require a little pinch of salt.”

And the pinch of salt in this story: After 19 years I’m back to building tool chests, buying pine at Shiels and wondering which way this sinner should go.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools