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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz
I’ll have to check my shop notes, but I think this trestle took as long to draw as it did to build in wood. The precision of CAD does not lend itself easily to curved, compound shapes. My head hurts so much that I want to build a birdhouse in CAD to decompress. That’s sick.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Some of you have noted that I am canceling classes this year. The reason is that I need to stay home to help take care of some important family members, and this trend could continue for a few years.
I have tried to hold on to a few classes this year, which has required some extraordinary measures and help from friends. One of the classes I am happy to report I can teach is a special Anarchist’s Tool Chest class at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts June 22-28, 2015.
This tool chest class is particularly special for two reasons: It will be at Phil Lowe’s school. Phil is one of the people I admire most in the craft for his skills, teaching ability and wonderful demeanor. I have always wanted the opportunity to work with Phil.
The second reason the class is special is it will run for seven days instead of five. These extra days will allow us to get a crack at working on the inside bits of the chest.
So if you want to build the best tool-storage system I’ve encountered, this class is ideal. And I don’t have any more floor chest classes on my schedule.
You can read more about the school here. The class will be small – nine students max. And Phil said yesterday there are still three spots left.
In the coming weeks I’ll announce the few other classes I’ll be able to teach this year. So stay tuned. For those students who enrolled in classes I had to cancel, I apologize and look forward to resuming a regular teaching schedule in the years ahead.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Woodworking Classes
Two hours measuring and sketching. Three hours drafting. And those legs aren’t supposed to meet like that.
Now I’m looking around for a glass of Stone Old Guardian, which will make me forget this ever happened.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
The always-industrious Mary May has set up a special website where you can get updates on her forthcoming book, “The Acanthus Leaf: A Rite of Passage for the Classical Carver.”
Simply go to acanthusbook.com and you can sign up for the e-mail updates.
Mary has turned in a completed sample chapter with illustrations and photos and things are looking very good. We’re not exactly sure when this book will be released, but we’ll let you know as soon as we have news.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Carve the Acanthus with Mary May
The writer of a popular tree book once stated that the white pine of our northeaster States was destined to disappear except for ornamental purposes. There are many reasons to believe that that time will never come, yet the nature and habits of the tree and the shortsightedness of the people make the statement more than a mere suspicion.
Not a great many years ago within the white pine region, there were magnificent stands of old growth pine. Every old inhabitant today will tell you how they stood on his father’s farm when he was a boy, their clear, straight trunks and gnarled flat tops high above everything else. Many an old house back in the country has floor boards and cupboard doors that are more than three feet wide which were made from such trees.
These old monarchs of the northern forests are gone now, except for the isolated trees or clumps scattered widely over the region. A woodlot owner recently guided me several miles back into the hills in order to point out three magnificent pines which have been standing probably for more than 250 years. One could never mistake them from others of a later generation.
Before the advent of the portable sawmill it was unprofitable to cut and haul logs any great distance to market. The trees were felled, rolled together, and burned when new lands were cleared. “Log rolling” days are still pleasant memories to New England’s oldest inhabitants.
Those were the days of the large farms with great herds of cattle and many oxen. Sheep roamed the hills in far greater numbers than they ever do today. Immense areas were required for pasturage, and extensive fields supplied the hay and grain for the winter feed. Ox pastures are not known today, yet they were common in the days gone by.
Today, farming has moved westward, and large farms in the hills have been reduced or abandoned entirely. It is true, of course, that men have learned to cultivate small areas often as profitably as their fathers did larger tracts of land. Every industrious farmer went over his pastures each year and removed every chance pine that had seeded from some adjacent tree. Now every wise farmer leaves the young pines to grow.
It may not be very strange to know then that today there are more acres actually growing trees than there were 50 or 60 years ago. There is not more timber, of course, for much of the valuable forests have been removed within the last fifty years. Such land is now covered with a poor quality of hardwoods. The valuable forests today are the old fields and pastures which have grown up to pine.
Everybody knows that broadleaf trees, such as birch, maple and oak, usually take the place of pine when it is cut. The pines do not sprout as a rule, and when a pine forest has been cut over without leaving any trees for seed there is no chance for young pines to again occupy the land. Worthless birch and maple, with their light seeds, usually take possession of the cut-over lands.
This type becomes known as sprout growth and is of little value to mankind. White pine, deprived of its right to the cut-over lands is, however, the predominating tree of the abandoned fields. The owners no longer cut down the young pines, but encourage their growth. In a suitable soil, with sufficient light and with occasional mature trees to provide the seeds, the abandoned fields alone are providing for our future commercial timber.
A southern New Hampshire lumberman recently stated that if he had left a few sturdy pines for seed trees on the woodlots he has lumbered during the last thirty years the present value of the young growth would be worth more than all the timber he has cut during his lifetime. There are thousands of acres of land, once growing pine, which are now producing nothing better than gray birch and maple.
Often fires have been allowed to burn over the ground until the only growth remaining is scrubby and worthless. But fires are not the menace they used to be. Farmers are learning the value of young pine growth and the starting of fires to clear land is not common. Fires set along railroads and by careless boys are now the most serious ones.
With increased safety to forest growth, planting becomes more and more a desirable investment. Every acre of land should be producing something of value to its owners is the general opinion of every land owner in this era of progress. The planting of white pine is often the only means of getting an income from some lands. All the vacant land and pastures cannot seed themselves, and the cost of planting them will soon be paid for by the increased value of the land.
But many people say: “It will never do me any good. I will never live long enough to realize anything from my labor and expense.” Experience of hundreds has shown that this is a grave mistake. One does not have to wait until their planted lands have grown merchantable timber. Everywhere people are seeking to invest their money in young timber, and they are willing to pay good prices for it.
Many farmers are planting all their vacant and worthless land with pine and chestnut and are buying similar land of other people for the same purpose. Where the expense of the operation is ten or twelve dollars per acre, in a few years the land will be worth forty or fifty dollars. Such investments easily bring 5 to 7 per cent interest to the owner on his money invested.
It is little realized that growing trees on the rough New England hillsides can with a little care be made to accumulate a cord of wood per acre annually. Such is the case, however, and it is needless to say that one does not have to invest his earnings in copper or other doubtful stock from which he may never see any returns.
There are many ways by which an owner may seed up his waste land with pine. Some people have met with fair success by gathering the cones early in the fall before they open, drying them out, and scattering the seeds during the winter or early spring. It is better still to drop the seeds, a few together, in spots previously cleared of grass or turf and then press them into the soil with the foot.
Successful planting of wild seedings is often down by transplanting little trees growing in thick bunches or in the shade where they can never mature. The most successful planting is done with trees—two or three years old—bought from nursery men and set out five or six feet apart each way. This should be done in the early spring before the growth starts. Chestnuts should be kept in moist sand over winter and planted in the spring. They grow rapidly.
The advance in prices of lumber and the extensive box and cooperage mills throughout the northwest have made sad inroads in our timberlands. Not only is the old growth timber largely gone, but lumbermen even find a profit in trees that are scarcely six inches in diameter. The time is past when trees can be allowed to grow to immense size. It is figured that pine yields the greatest returns for the money invested between the ages of 40 and 60 years. Chestnut requires even less time.
Those who have studied the matter say that the time is at hand when the forests are to be considered as crops to be planted, thinned and harvested like other crops. When this practice becomes more universal and people learn more clearly the value of growing timber, there will not be thousands of acres of unproductive land in every State, a constant eyesore to the people, and yielding no returns to the owners.
The United States Forest Service at Washington furnishes free of charge pamphlets and other information on the methods of planting desirable species, and where the seeds and young plants may be obtained, together with a range of prices.
The Herald and News – June 23, 1908
Filed under: Historical Images
The woman who indulges in carpenter-work seldom does much harm. She contents herself with trying to drive nails into the wall, and with experiments with mucilage. She drives her nails with great caution, and when she has loosened an inch or two of plaster she becomes alarmed, and resolves to let her husband assume the responsibility of inflicting further injury on the wall.
She has a profound faith in the value of mucilage as a substitute for glue, and hopefully attempts to mend china and furniture with it; but mucilage is as harmless as it is inefficient, and it is only on the rare occasions when it is used to mend the wheels of the clock that it does any permanent injury to anything.
It is doubtless the timidity of woman which restrains her mending instincts. She dreads the saw and the chisel as treacherous tools that inevitably inflict wounds on the user, and she dislikes hot glue owing to its proneness to burn unwary fingers. Moreover, she can never grasp the difference between a nail and a screw, and regards the latter as an absurd variety of nail which can not be driven with a hammer unless the wielder of the hammer has the muscles of a man.
Thus, for one reason or another, carpenter-work as practiced by woman is harmless and inexpensive, and she knows nothing of the remorse to which the man who owns an amateur tool chest and is not wholly hardened is a prey. Nothing more surely devastating than a man with a fondness for amateur carpentry is ever found in a respectable household. The reckless inebriate who throws all the furniture out of the window does perhaps an equal amount of injury, but he can not be said to be a feature of respectable households.
There is an old proverb that is often repeated on the 1st of May to the effect that three movings are equal to one fire in point of destructiveness. It might be expanded by the addition of the great truth that one amateur carpenter is equal to two movings, and even then the destructiveness of home carpentry would be underrated.
The husband of whom the infatuated wife is fond of remarking, “He is so handy with his tools that he can do almost anything,” destroys an average amount of seventy-five dollars’ worth of furniture annually, as estimated by our most intelligent furniture dealers; and so well is this understood among the latter class that some enterprising furniture dealers sell amateur tool chests at half their cost to their regular customers, feeling sure that their business will thereby be immensely benefited.
The amateur carpenter always has perfect confidence in himself, and instead of learning humility from his many failures, he grows bolder and more reckless. He may be too busy or too tired to accede to the ordinary requests of his wife, but when she asks him if he won’t just mend the rocking-chair or put up a shelf in the kitchen, he will even lay aside his after-dinner cigar in his zeal to wield the hammer and saw.
He rarely finishes what he undertakes to do. If there is what ladies call “a squeak” somewhere in the rocking-chair, he begins the work of banishing the squeak by pulling the chair apart, and when, after an hour or two of hard work, involving great destruction of veneering and hopeless laceration of the joints of the chair, he succeeds in disconnecting the rockers, he announces that he is too tired to do anything more, and must put off the work of reconstruction until the next day.
In some cases he does resume work, and succeeds in putting the chair together again after a fashion, but it is then so scarred and maimed that he acknowledges that, it will have to go to the cabinet-makers to be “done over,” and in his pride at having removed the squeak he never seems to perceive that the last state of that chair is decidedly worse than the first.
The partial or permanent ruin of the object which the amateur carpenter undertakes to mend is by no means the full extent of the damage which he inflicts upon the furniture. If he uses the saw, he invariably places the article to be sawed on a chair, and contrives to inflict a deep cut on the chair by the zealous and incautious use of his weapon.
If he wishes to nail one piece of wood to another, he places them both on the floor, and drives his nails through the carpet and deep into the planks beneath. When he uses the glue-pot, he either lays the wet brush down upon the damask table cover, or he upsets the glue upon the carpet.
One of his most characteristic feats is that of shortening one leg of a table. Being told that the leg is too long, he saws it off so as to make it of the same length as the other legs. Invariably he finds that he has made it too short, and he then tries to shorten the other legs. There is yet to be found a single instance of a successful shortening of table legs by a man with an amateur tool chest, although several exasperated and persevering men have sawed an entire set of four legs into small pieces in the vain hope of bringing them into uniformity.
It is probable that more far-reaching injury is done by the amateur carpenter who makes articles of furniture than by the man who simply repairs them. The book-cases and single bedsteads made by the head of the family who is handy with his saw can not be thrown out-of-doors, but must remain to vex the souls of the intelligent members of the family, and fill the minds of visitors with amazement.
What is imperatively needed is a strict prohibitory law forbidding the sale of carpenters’ tools to any man who can not prove that he is a professional carpenter. Until this is done there will always be men who will buy tools, and enter upon a career of destruction of household furniture which must cause any angel with a taste for housekeeping to weep bitter though useless tears.
Harper’s Bazar – February 24, 1883
Filed under: Historical Images
“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.”
— Charlie Parker
“We believed punk rock existed through people like ATV and Mark Perry. He said, ‘Here’s a chord. Here’s another chord. Form a group.’ And we believed in the things that were being said. So, it became true.”
— Billy Childish, guitarist and vocalist for Thee Headcoats
During a recent trip to Seattle, my family and I spent a day at the Experience Music Project to see the exhibit on the band Nirvana and to take in the permanent and fantastic exhibit on the history of the electric guitar.
As my daughter Katy and I made our way through the Nirvana exhibit I was blown away by the T-shirts, posters, album covers and instruments that had been made by the musicians themselves in the Pacific Northwest’s punk scene. It reinforced something that I have long thought but have never expressed: Making furniture and making music is similar.
You can be establishment. You can be punk. Or you can be anywhere in between.
Me, I’m a more of a punk furniture maker. I have little interest in high-style pieces that were made for the ultra-rich – things that are elaborate and require immense technical skill. Yeah, I respect the hands and the training needed to carve a Newport shell or create a hunting scene in marquetry. But it has no connection to the way I live or my taste in objects.
I like three three chords. I like simple lines. I like music that was made without any hope of selling it to the masses. I like furniture that was made by unknown amateurs who made what they could with materials at hand and sometimes struck gold. I like music that was written, recorded, printed and distributed by the players. I like furniture that was designed, built, finished and used by its makers.
I like music that cannot be pegged to particular moment in pop history. I like furniture that could have been made in the 17th century or the 21st.
Where is this sort of furniture? It’s everywhere (outside of museums), and it’s invisible to most furniture historians.
Where do you find the plans for this furniture? You don’t. There really aren’t plans. This stuff is so basic and so animalistic that plans aren’t needed. But there are three chords. Three joints. A few basic tools. A few progressions.
After that it’s up to you.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
I wish to enter a protest—“a kick,” as we say in the shop. I bought a magazine the other day, one of the dignified kind supposed to give a busy man a glimpse of some of the important things happening in the world, and to give it in a fair, open, unbiased way. In it I found an article at which I here kick.
It was one calling attention to a revival of certain kinds of skilled hand work whereby some people, with a good degree of skill and originality. are able to make wares that command a relatively large price because of the fact that they are made in small quantities and cannot be duplicated at the nearest store, the trade mark of the maker being the chief item of value as showing that the article is unique.
So far I have no reason to object, believing as I do that it is good business to work at that which brings in the best returns for the effort expended. What I do object to—and that most vigorously—is the insinuation that the every-day worker is below these in honesty and usefulness.
Allow me to quote from the article: “Machine-made things we must have and always will have, and it is fortunate indeed that machinery can and does supply many human wants at such low cost. With it all there remains a survival of the old mediæval love of the honest, hand-made thing.”
The insinuation in this quotation that the ordinary product of the shops and factories is not honest; that those working in such places are on a lower plane, personally and as to usefulness, than the world at large, is what I object to. Such writings, while seemingly insignificant in themselves. assist in creating a lasting impression To just such things do we owe some of the feeling that is all too common, even in this country, that to be a doctor or a lawyer, a preacher or a banker is more honorable than to be a mechanic.
Take away the mechanics. and the advancement caused by the low costs made possible by the very machinery here so slightingly spoken of, and the world’s progress is stopped and we are at best in a state of semi-civilization.
As a machinist I want to take my stand as belonging to a class second to none in importance to the world. There are other callings in the same rank with us, and they are the other trades: the molders, blacksmiths, steel makers, iron workers and others intimately allied.
To insinuate that a few workers, however excellent their product, whose chief aim is to get large prices for things the greatest values of which lie in the fact that they are possessed by but few, and who have it not in their power to make life easier or more pleasant are in a class by themselves, is an unjustice to every honest toiler in the land. We as individuals should promptly resent these things that tend to create a false impression as to our importance to the world.
This may seem like a small matter to many, but, friends, look around you and see how many young people prefer to follow vocations where they can be pseudo-genteel at starvation wages rather than throw their energy into shop work.
Just as a few drunken mechanics can create an impression in a community that they are fair samples of all good mechanics, so such ill-considered writings can create an undercurrent of feeling that shop work is lowering, and that to engage in making anything made in large quantity by the aid of machinery one must give up a certain measure of manhood or womanhood. Whatever other differences we may have we should be as a unit in upholding the honesty and dignity of labor in general and of our own calling in particular.
“He came from poor but honest parents.” Who has never noticed such a sentence in describing someone who has acquired wealth or distinction? How would this look: “He came from rich but honest parents”? It would be resented by every rich man that read it, but isn’t it just as false when said of the poor?
More than once have I been asked by parties in the trade as well as by parties not in it, “Why is it that most of the best machinists are intemperate men?” To this I can reply that in my own experience they are not. The man who gets drunk is usually far from modest in telling of his ability, especially when drinking, and a great many people seem to take him at his own valuation.
The really valuable mechanic has very little time to “blow his own horn,” and so his work is often not appreciated, except by those who come in closest contact with him. A good man may become addicted to the use of intoxicants, but his value is never increased thereby, neither is it safe to reason: “Good mechanics get drunk, therefore if I get drunk I will be a good mechanic,” although I regret to say that I have known a number of young men who seemed to follow such a line of reasoning.
I do not wish to trespass on the patience of my fellow-craftsmen, but it does seem to me that a little effort spent in producing a proper understanding of ourselves by the community at large will bring just as good returns as getting out a formula for the flow of water. We should all labor to produce an “atmosphere” (as the artist would call it) of respect and admiration for our calling.
In some callings a man is looked on as a gentleman because of his calling, while in others it is considered that if he is one it is in spite of his calling, and we should see to it that our calling is not looked on in the latter way for the lack of information.
American Machinist – July 24, 1902
Filed under: Historical Images
In New England a good workman is described as a “Master-hand at his trade.” Within the past few years a new and superior workman has appeared who is his own designer, skilled worker and dealer—in brief, his own employer. There are women also who are designers and workers and are their own saleswomen.
The upper West-side apartment district of New York may not appear to be the best place to find the shop of a Master-hand. A few steps from prosaic Columbus Avenue, on One hundred and Fourth Street, lead to a small brick dwelling. There is a high stoop and a large basement window and a few stone steps lead down to a lofty basement room having a fine north light.
Here at a table sits a young woman clad in a long check apron and busy with skilful fingers upon a mass of New Jersey clay. Slowly, inch by inch, the mass grows up into the form of a beautiful vase. She has the usual sculptor’s tools, nothing more—not even a potter’s wheel. She has had a sculptor’s training, is an art student and practical designer and potter.
About the room on shelves are black terra-cotta vases of every form and size from little flower bowls up to great garden vases. All are of her own design and workmanship. Everything is her own handiwork except the firing, the smaller vases being fired at a Harlem pottery, and the larger vases fired at Perth Amboy.
Every vase is for sale and many more have been sold and distributed. At intervals cards are sent out for a studio reception sale and the little room is crowded for hours and empty when the last guest carries off the last vase. The young woman’s mother assists in the little shop and this-makes the whole plant, a basement room, two Master-hands and some Jersey clay.
East Twenty-Third Street is never lovely and it comes with a sort of pleasant surprise to take an elevator to the top floor and escape from the dreary street into the silence and reposeful peace of a charming little studio-home. A young woman welcomes, in soft Southern speech, to her home and her workshop. She begs to be excused from mere social forms. She can talk and work, and sits before a great wooden chest and takes up her wood-carving tools, and while she talks the beautiful foliage seems to grow under her skilful fingers.
With enthusiasm she discourses upon the wood and the design of the chest. The design is her own and the only thing she did not do was the actual putting together of the chest. Why should she waste her valuable time on work any carpenter can do? All else, design, carving, fire etching, coloring, ornaments, handles, hinges and locks are her own work except the heavy forging of the handles and clasps.
She is the Master-hand of the whole job and when finished it will be a beautiful chest, fit for the outfit of a bride. In the next room another girl is at work upon another beautiful chest. On the walls are mats and other useful things in leather, colored, tooled and fire-etched. The place is a shop and it is also salesroom and the home of the Master-hands.
Not far away, on East Twentieth Street, is another still larger shop. Here two women, Master-hands in copper, design and make copper vessels and utensils for parlor and kitchen. Strong, well made and beautiful, the things give a new dignity to the art of the coppersmith. On the walls are fine fabrics stenciled in colors in novel and attractive designs. On the tables are mats and useful things for the desk in tooled and colored leather. The Master-hands do everything from the designing to the making of the finished products and the studio workshops are combined workrooms and salesrooms.
The top floor of a first-class apartment house overlooking Riverside Drive is not the place where we might expect to find a first-rate Master-hand busy with pencil and tools. She sits by a window giving a splendid view of the Hudson, at work developing her own designs upon leather, using novel tools invented in her own shop, and talking with honest pride of her work and her success as a Master-hand.
If these new working women, Master-hands in their trades, were alone they might merely pass as dreadful examples of the danger of trying to be eccentric. If there were no other shops but these four to be found they would certainly not be worthy of any special mention. They are here described because they are types of many shops scattered all over the country and because they are in convenient reach of any one in New York interested in a new phase of industry and labor.
The Master-hands have opened shop in at least twelve of our cities and towns. They now design, make and sell furniture, ironwork, copper and brass, lace, rugs, carpets, violins, tiles, pottery, fine chinaware, leather work, chests, jewelry, silverware, buckles, clasps and other enameled ornaments, baskets, woodenware, terra-cotta vases and architectural ornaments. Some of the shops print and bind books and others design and make stained-glass windows.
It is very difficult to say exactly how many men and women are thus employed in their own shops or are at work at home, either the whole or a part of the time. Good authorities place the number of regular shops where the makers are self-employed at about fifty, but as new shops are opened every month, particularly in small towns, it is safe to say that at least one hundred Master-hands are now earning a living in their own shops. Besides those who give the whole of their time to the work there must be at least two hundred other skilled workers who give a part of their time to these various handicrafts.
In nearly all the shops the Master-hands are also their own salesmen, but it did not take long for far-sighted dealers to see that the Master-hands were creating a new business. So we find in some of our larger cities stores more or less devoted to the exhibition and sale of the products of these new shops. There is one store of this kind in Boston and a most attractive store has been recently opened in New York for the sale of the beautiful products of these new shops. The Master-hands very quickly discovered that the studio is not the best place in which to sell the goods and sent their goods to the stores, greatly to their advantage, though all continue to exhibit and take orders in their little shops.
It is not easy to say how this new and promising business sprang into such sudden success. That it is successful is beyond question and, best of all, the demand for the goods thus made rapidly increases from month to month. In a certain way the business is the natural outcome of the work of the Exchange for Women’s Work. There are now eighty of these exchanges for the sale of work done by women. These exchanges began as places where embroidery, lace, cake bread, pickles, and other home-made things could be offered for sale. They give employment to many hundreds of women and distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars among the home workers every year, the New York Exchange distributing in 1900 $55,000.
A portion of these workers have become Master-hands, but the majority of the Master-hands sell their work through the dozen or more Arts and Crafts Societies, now established throughout the country. A few of the Master-hands sell only at their own shops and advertise their goods through the press. In one or two instances a number of workers have united and do their work in one shop and have one salesman for all their products. In several instances the shops are a part of larger plants making other things, a furniture shop and forge being attached to a printing and bookbinding concern.
In every instance the Master-hand, whether man or woman, is his or her own designer and makes the finished product wholly or in large part with hand tools only. All are highly trained designers and artisans and all must have more or less art education. The whole business is based upon hand work and it must be skilful, honest and inspired with real love of the work.
There can be no eight-hours-a-day business, for the worker, fired with a real love of the work, is greedy of every minute of daylight. He has no time for the folly of the saloon. He never watches the clock or slows up just before whistle time. There is no whistle on the new shop, no shop rules, no foreman, no time-keeper. The workman is boss and the boss is the worker. There are no wages, but profits. There is no employer, liable to fail or to die and throw the worker upon the streets; for the worker deals, either directly or through a store or society, with the public and the public is the universal paymaster and can never die or fail.
The buying public has evidently discovered the Master-hand. The useful, the practical and the cheap must be the products of the mill and factory. Machine-made things we must have and always will have, and it is fortunate indeed that machinery can and does supply many human wants at such low cost. With it all there remains a survival of the old mediæval love of the honest, hand-made thing.
We like to have and use the real hand-made, the thing that is wrought by skilled hands, inspired by a love of work and touched with the tool marks of the Master-hand. It is this love of the hand-made that has developed and sustained the new shops. The buyer will pay well for the unique thing, the one thing bearing the Master’s sign manual stamped upon the thing itself.
The public patronizes the Arts and Crafts Societies, because it believes that the things upon their shelves are the real things. It learns the value of personal trade-marks and it buys by the trade-mark rather than by the advice of the shopkeeper to whom the “just as good” is the only trick of his trade he knows. For the superior workman tired of the shop and factory, for the man who wants to work for the love of good work, the Master-hands are an example and an inspiration.
The World’s Work – July, 1902
Filed under: Historical Images
Several Lost Art Press authors will be available at Handworks to sign your books.
If you want to get Don Williams and Narayan Nayar to sign “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley,” they have set up three times during the weekend for signings. The signings will be in nearby Cedar Rapids at the Scottish Rite Temple where the cabinet and workbench will be displayed. Directions here. Yes, there are tickets still available – details here.
Don is obligated to stay with the exhibit the entire time, so don’t look for him at Handworks. You’ll find only other bearded, suspendered men.
Here are the times for the three “Virtuoso” signings:
Friday at 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday at noon to 1 p.m.
“Virtuoso” will be available for sale both at Handworks and at the exhibit.
Roy Underhill and ‘Calvin Cobb – Radio Woodworker!’
Roy Underhill will be at Handworks this year to deliver the keynote address at 10 a.m. Saturday and will be floating about the show at other times spreading mayhem.
We plan to corral him for a book-signing at 11 a.m. Friday morning in the Lost Art Press booth in the Festhalle. Bring your copy of “Calvin Cobb – Radio Woodworker!” or pick one up at the booth.
Other Lost Art Press Authors
Peter Galbert has a booth at Handworks, so you can get your copy of “Chairmaker’s Notebook” signed there. George Walker, one of the authors of “By Hand & Eye,” will be at the show and is always happy to sign books. Matt Bickford, the author of “Mouldings in Practice,” has a booth in the Festhalle. Mike Siemsen, the host of “The Naked Woodworker,” is happy to sign your DVDs (pro tip: not on the silvery side). Joel Moskowitz of Tools for Working Wood and co-author of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” should also be at Handworks.
And, of course, I’ll be there and happy to sign anything – babies, bare chests and books especially.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: By Hand & Eye, Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaker's Notebook, Mouldings in Practice, The Joiner & Cabinet Maker, The Naked Woodworker DVD, Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley
Within a few years, scroll or fret-saws have been brought to a great perfection, and the use of them, is to some a profitable employment, while to others it affords an attractive and pleasing pastime.
The products of the scroll-saw are becoming frequent in household conveniences, and in the decorations of the parlor and drawing room. The windows of store-keepers who deal in these goods, present finely, and frequently elaborately wrought designs on exhibition, which are truly works of art.
In the accompanying engravings, two specimens of scroll-work are given.—those that workmen of average skill could make in a short time. The design in figure 1, is for a carved frame for a cabinet photograph, some small painting, or other picture, the whole to rest on an easel, wrought from the same kind of wood.
Figure 2 shows an easel of an elaborate design, with the picture itself in scroll-work. The number of designs, of which those given are but samples, is limited only by the skill of the artist, and that of the workman at the saw.
The dealers in scroll-saws, have a very large assortment of suggestive designs, which they distribute freely in the form of sheets and catalogues—and of themselves make a very pretty collection. The use to which scroll-work can be put in the household, are various; wall pockets, thermometer frames, brackets, card baskets, lamp mats, toilet cases, card holders, etc., etc., are but a few of the many.
Those designs that are purely for ornament, can be used to decorate the windows by suspending these near the glass by a fine thread, where they show off to good advantage, both from within and without. But in order to get the very best effect, the scroll-work should be of the whitest of wood, and then provided with a black back-ground.
Merchants have in many cases availed themselves of the attractive and pleasing contrast thus produced, by putting their names, or those of their goods, in white-wood scroll-work, and then providing it with a black back-ground, in their shop windows, or show cases.
In household decoration, nothing seems more appropriate than black velvet, but any other rich cloth of the same color would answer. Ornamental work like that shown in the engravings, may be of any size, but for ordinary mantels, a background of a square foot in area, is the most acceptable. The whole, when completed, can be placed upon an easel. The low price of scroll saws puts them and their products within the reach of all.
American Agriculturist – April, 1880
Filed under: Historical Images
The Baltimore News says:
“Really skillful mechanics are becoming more and more scarce and trades are only half learned. Old-time workmen were proud of their work and a man would consider himself guilty of a piece of flagrant dishonesty to leave a bad job behind him. The artisan had as much pride in anything he touched as was to be found in the literary creator. But there seems to be no such feeling now. Men are only half educated at their trades and about the only thing that gives real concern is the question of pay.”
The breaking up of the old apprentice system is the cause of this evil, and its restoration will be the only cure. The Gazette was informed some time ago by one of the most reputable and respected employing mechanics in this city, that it was a hard matter for him to get good native journeymen, and that the best skilled workmen he got now-a-days were foreigners.
There was a time, not so very long ago either, when a mechanic took as much pride in his handiwork as a writer does in the product of his mind, and would have been as much hurt by sneers at his job as the latter is by adverse criticism of his article. But that time is now a thing of the past.
Judging from appearances, the fact that it has become so has improved neither the moral nor the material condition of the class referred to. This country must have good mechanics, and if it can not get them at home it will, as it has done, send abroad for them, and thus is increased the competition between American labor and the cheaper labor of Europe.
But for all this, the labor unions still restrict the number of boys permitted to learn trades. The evil effect of this compulsory idleness upon the excluded boys is patent in every town and city of the entire country.
Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser – July 1, 1887
—Jeff BurksDaguerreotype portrait c. 1850 – Daguerreian Society, Leonard A. Walle Collection
Filed under: Historical Images
When you research how early furniture was built, one of the laments is the lack of construction drawings in the written record.
Did they draw their plans on scrap wood that was later burned? Did they just communicate plans for furniture forms differently than we do today? Were furniture plans a “trade secret,” like the “arts and mysteries” that were noted in the contract between apprentice and master?
Or were the plans just lost?
I vote for the last statement, sort of. There are plans out there, but they don’t look like the plans we are accustomed to seeing in books and magazines. While researching English campaign furniture several years ago I accidentally stumbled on the book “Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800” by Lindsay Boynton (The Bloomfield Press, 1995).
The firm Gillows of Lancaster and London is one of the somewhat-unheralded firms of the 18th and 19th centuries, perhaps because the company never issued a pattern book. Instead of developing and publishing designs, Gillows craftsmen simply made them.
Luckily, there is an incredible archive of Gillows – everything from construction drawings to a daily record of the company’s accounting. It really is a largely untapped source of historical information on woodworking, design and the lumber trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.
(Side note: I hope to enlist Suzanne Ellison, a contributing editor to Lost Art Press, to plumb the depths of the Gillows archive in Westminster for a future book.)
Back to the point, “Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800” blew my mind. It is simply a record of some of the drawings in the company’s archive. Some of the drawings were intended for the craftsmen with dimensions and notes. Some were intended for customers and are colored.
Naturally, I am drawn to the construction drawings. They did not need much to make some pretty incredible stuff – just a few dimensions and a sketch of the overall form. When I first saw this approach, I gave myself permission to back away from developing sheets and sheets of drawings before cutting wood. It was liberating – worth the cost of the book.
I don’t expect you to see the same thing that I do when looking at these drawings. Perhaps you’ll see something else. Even if you don’t care for the furniture itself, there is a lot to be learned from these sketches.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
I like SketchUp – not as a tool for designing furniture, but as a way to communicate complex ideas across vast spaces.
Instead of sending someone endless sheets of drawings, I can send an electronic model that the recipient can take apart and modify with ease. That’s the beauty of the program.
For most design chores in my shop, however, SketchUp is too slow. Paper, pencil and my imagination are far more efficient when I need to communicate my ideas only to myself. And when I do use SketchUp to model something for myself, I don’t draw any standard joinery – that’s a waste of time.
I can hear some woodworkers out there fashioning a hangman’s noose from a mouse cord.
So let me say this: If you enjoy drawing dovetails in SketchUp, by all means draw them. If you are facing a tricky joint with lots of intersecting elements, by all means draw the joint. If your hobby is drawing furniture in SketchUp while pretending to work as an insurance claims adjuster, then by all means draw the pee out of that joinery.
But if you just want to see what the object looks like in the round, you can skip drawing the joinery. Your drawers can be rectangles drawn on a box (yes, I’ve done this). You can draw the square parts of a project in SketchUp, print it out and then draw the curvy details on the printout. Yes, I’ve done this as well.
When else should you draw the joinery? When you are trying to explain it to someone else who might not know squat about joinery, such as when you write an article for a magazine. I draw all the joinery, mouldings and interior bits when I submit a SketchUp model to a magazine. That helps me develop a good cutting list for the article. And it helps me double-check my writing so that the illustration, cutlist and story all agree.
But when my ideas go from my head to my hands, SketchUp is rarely involved.
The illustrations with this article demonstrate my working sketches for the recent backstool that I built and then modified. They are crude compared to SketchUp, but they work.
This, I can tell you, is exactly how some craftsmen worked in the 18th and 19th centuries. And that is what I’ll discuss tomorrow.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
We received the first samples of our latest T-shirt from the printer and are quite happy with the logo and the crisp way it printed on the short-sleeve shirts.
The shirts are $25 and are available worldwide (shipping is quite reasonable). They are printed on 100-percent cotton on an American Apparel fine-gauge T-shirt.
Because these shirts are cut slim and will shrink in the wash, we recommend you order one size larger than usual. After years of wearing these shirts ourselves, we think you’ll be happy with the way they break in and last – they are the softest shirt we have found.
The logo on these shirts was designed by Ohio artist Joshua Minnich and features a skep – an old-school beehive – which has long been the symbol of the industrious joiner and carpenter.
The shirts are available in seven colors and the full range of sizes from XS to 3XL. All our shirts are made, sewn and printed in the United States.
You can order your shirt from our store here.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Products We Sell
Artists and craftsmen too should deal
With good faith and with honest zeal;
Let each of them the other aid
With work well done and things well made,
And as he would be served, thus serve.
— Hans Sachs, “The Book of Trades (Standebuch)” (Frankfurt, 1568)
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity, Personal Favorites
We earnestly recommend to the attention of our readers a small pamphlet, price 6d., which has just made its appearance, entitled, “Advice to Journeymen Mechanics and others going to France.” To which is added, “A Brief Account of Paris, the Price of Provisions, Rent, Clothing, Rate of Wages to Mechanics, &c. &c. By C. Best.”
The work is the result of the author’s own personal experience, and has therefore peculiar claims to the attention of his fellow tradesmen. His advice is, that our mechanics should by all means stay at home; but he gives, at the same time, such directions as may enable any of them who may choose to make the experiment of crossing the channel,—either for pleasure, or with a view to settling in France,—to make the trip in the cheapest and most expeditious way, to obtain an asylum among their own countrymen when they arrive there, and to satisfy themselves completely on every point relating to rates of wages, and expence of living.
The author states, we believe most truly, that most of the particulars contained in his pamphlet are “entirely new, and not to be found in any work hitherto published.” We shall extract, as the specimen we like best, some of his reasons for staying at home:—
“If the mechanic leaves England under the idea that he shall obtain constant employ in France, or better wages, he will be deceived—he will not meet with either. I have known numbers of experienced good workmen unable to get work, unless they would take less wages than they could have obtained, and would have refused with disdain, in their own country, and shall hereafter prove, that when in employ, and receiving the highest wages, they fall short of the wages given in England.”
“The very evil the mechanic, by leaving England, endeavours to avoid, he has to contend with in France—not a want of work, but too many hands to execute the business to be done. The consequence is, that having arrived in Paris with little or no money, he is compelled to work for low wages, or submit to a subscription being made by his countrymen to enable him to return to his native country, disappointed and degraded.”
“My Fellow Countrymen! let me advise you to disregard any promises of great wages, three or five years constant employ, artful assurances of the cheapness of living, and other such trash—you who accept such offers, and bind yourselves by agreement, are worse off than those who go on mere speculation. You will find yourselves little better than apprentices, and in the power of unprincipled masters, with this difference, that you will have to instruct a parcel of Frenchmen (at least to work before them, which is nearly the same thing), who will very soon do the work as well as yourselves, and for one quarter of the money. These are facts which cannot be denied.”
“With regard to provisions, there is little difference between London and Paris, if we look at the quality—of French bread for instance, you have more for money, but it is not so satisfying; however, as there are several kinds of bread, you will be able to choose that which suits yon best. If you wish to have bread, and many other articles, equal to what you have in London, you must pay at least as much for them. The following list will give a pretty general idea, as it does not comprise the best articles:
“Vegetables are much the same as in London, but fruit is prodigiously cheap.”
“Good beer is only to be had at the English public houses, which will be named hereafter.—Draught, per pot, 4d., in bottle 5d. The pots of Paris are of earthenware, and smaller than the pots of London, so that this article may be considered dearer than at the latter place: it is likewise, though pleasant, not so good.”
“Brandy may be had very good at thirty sous, or 2s. 6d. the bottle; gin the same; rum is dear, but may be obtained pretty good at five francs, 4s. 2d. the bottle; wine fifteen sous, and upwards.”
“Rent of course varies, as in London, according to the situation. A single man may get a lodging at three francs per week, or I should rather say a bed, for in a cheap lodging-house they generally have two or three beds in a room; if not, he must pay five francs per week at least. A man with a family would find it difficult to get a furnished room under seven francs per week, and then have to purchase almost every thing for his use, there seldom being more than a bed, two or three chairs, and a table, in what the French people call furnished apartments.”
“Ladies’ wearing apparel, now that silks may be purchased in England as cheap, if not cheaper than in Paris, may be considered dear. Cottons run high. A common cotton pocket-handkerchief, which in England might be purchased for sixpence, and of a better quality, would cost fifteen or twenty pence. Leghorn bonnets are much worn by the English ladies: they may be had as low as ten francs, and as high as one hundred francs.”
“Wages.—The price of labour, in many cases, depends upon the agreement made between the employer and the employed; I shall, however, present my reader with a list of those trades which employ English journeymen; if, therefore, his trade is not in the list, he may take it for granted he would not meet with employ.”
“There are a few other trades, such as the Watchmaker, Engraver, Tailor, &c, carried on by little masters, but they do very indifferently, owing to the very low wages given to French journeymen, enabling their masters to undersell the English tradesmen.”
“In stating the prices of provisions, rent, and clothing, I have studied the comfort of the traveller, as, for instance, a lodging may be had for a franc, 10d. per week; a complete suit of clothes for twenty francs, 16s. 8d.; and a single man may exist upon ten sous, 5d. per day; at least he may provision himself (in the French way) for that sum; but I am addressing myself to Englishmen, and I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that such a mode of living as that alluded to, would not suit them, although it may the gay inhabitants of the empire of the lilies!”
“With regard to the rate of journeymen’s wages, I can assure the reader I have overrated rather than underrated them, and a better proof cannot be given that they are low than this, that during ten months I never knew an instance of a mechanic remaining; (who came to Paris on speculation) if he possessed the means of returning to England.”
“In short, France, for those who can afford to go on pleasure, is well worth a visit; but it is a mistaken notion to suppose we can live cheaper there than in England, if we live in the same way; besides, a man who has been accustomed to enjoy that freedom which an Englishman enjoys in his own country, should pause and consider seriously of what he is going to do, before he quits his native land.”
“Then, reader, as we cannot in reality better our condition by going to France, let us endeavour to rest contented at home. Let us not desert poor old England because she has weakened her resources by a long and arduous struggle to rescue a fickle and ungrateful nation from tyranny and oppression; for, although poor, she is still richer than her neighbours, still envied by them, and long may she remain so.
“ENGLAND! WITH ALL THY FAULTS, I LOVE THEE STILL.”
Mechanics Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, & Gazette – April 3, 1824
—Jeff BurksThe Carpenters Workshop by Léon Augustin Lhermitte – 1884
Filed under: Historical Images