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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 45 min 58 sec ago

I Don’t Use These as a Rule

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:47pm

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Well that’s not entirely true, of course. I do use them when I need to make up a cut list from a full-scale drawing or story stick to tell a machine in numerical code (be it metric, Imperial or shaku) where to make the cuts. The cut list is, however, rarely necessary in the hand-tool approach to construction. So in typical layout work, I go with pin-point perfect real placements of cut or location lines.

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For example, if I need to lay out the location of slats in a bed’s headboard, I simply stack the slats together against the post (or its location on a story stick) and find the intervening gaps by stepping out the number of gaps needed between the slats (number of slats + one). Layout follows as shown in the next drawing. The accuracy of the layout will be a function of however sharp I make the points of my dividers.

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Of course, you can use algebra to generate dimensions with numbers:

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As for me, I don’t want to spend the time doing it and then having to deal with reading tiny numbers on some ruler and coping with rounding errors!

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As another example of rulers not always ruling: Say you want to locate placement buttons (the ebony plugs in the set shown here) on a pair of winding sticks so you can quickly locate the sticks on the edge of a board. In this case, the location is not a number at all (at least not until after the fact). You could, of course, measure the length of the sticks and divide by two to get a numerical center point.  Or, to avoid rounding error, you could step off an even number of intervals to locate the middle division line and then enjoy the accuracy of a pin prick. But both would miss the point so to speak. What we are really looking for here is not the center of the stick, but its center of gravity. How do we find that? We just balance the stick on a sharp knife blade!

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com and one of the authors of “From Truths to Tools


Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Saalburg Workbench: The First Cut

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:39pm

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When a woodworker threw two workbenches down well No. 49 at the Roman fort at Saalburg 1,800 years ago, he (or she) likely anticipated retrieving the benches once the Germanic tribes attacking the fort (or attacking the nearby limes) were defeated or retreated.

That didn’t happen, and so in 1901, and the workbenches were retrieved during massive excavations and reconstructions at the fort at Saalburg, resulting in thousands of surviving artifacts in wood, leather and metal.

During my visit to Saalburg in June, I was allowed to measure the workbench to a make a reproduction for my upcoming book, “Roman Workbenches.” During the last few months, I’ve been getting ready to build this bench. This is one of those cases where preparing for the project will take much longer than building it.

The bench itself if simple: A slab with five to seven sticks driven into it. Placing those sticks and selecting the right material is what has vexed me since June.

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The primary problem has been what 1,800 years in a well will do to a slab of wood. Rüdiger Schwarz at Saalburg explained the problem perfectly this summer when he showed us a wooden yoke that had been pulled from one of the wells. The wooden yoke was shriveled and distorted, like someone had made a Shrinky Dink of a yoke and left it in the oven too long.

Next to the yoke was a casting that had been made of the yoke right after it has been rescued from the well. It looked like a brand new farm implement. Schwarz explained that wooden objects, such as the workbench and the yoke, had distorted noticeably after they dried.

So the workbench was likely much less twisted than it is today.

Also: The bench’s legs are not original. They were added shortly after the bench was recovered so the bench could be shown. As the “new” legs were wedged in place from below, there is no way to know how the mortises are angled. In other words: Who knows what its rake and splay are really like?

So the last couple weeks has been all about laying out the joinery on my benchtop, performing trigonometry equations to determine some sample rakes and splays and them comparing the results to my photos. Oh, and lots of wondering and thinking and imagining. (I know this doesn’t sound scientific at all.)

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In the end, my numbers were driven by several factors aside from the photos of the Saalburg bench, including other low workbenches I have used and their working characteristics.

Today I bored out the waste inside the square mortises. There is no going back now.

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


Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

A Better Shop Knife

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 11:55am

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I lost my shop knife while we were unpacking at Handworks this spring, and I have been on a quest since then to find its replacement. (The company that made my now-lost knife no longer exists.)

I am dang picky about knives. I’ve carried one every day since elementary school. So it is no small thing when I say this: I am glad I lost my favorite knife at Handworks because now I have a Kershaw Link drop-point knife in gray aluminum blackwash.

Here’s what I need in a knife:

  • One-handed operation – I need to be able to quickly close and open the knife with zero fuss.
  • The blade has to lock in the open position for safety.
  • It has to be lightweight and compact.
  • It has to have a belt clip.
  • All the components need to be incredibly rugged. I hate flimsy knives.
  • Oh, I also dislike flashy materials or things that look like a Klingon’s wet dream.

That is a tall order, and I rejected a lot of knives until I found the Kershaw Link. What makes the knife even more extraordinary is it is made in the U.S. and can be found for about $40 retail. (I bought mine on sale for $31.)

The blade is stainless steel, but it takes a good edge and is plenty durable when cutting wood, wire and whatever shop material is asking for a stabbing or a slashing. Totally recommended.

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

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. We don’t believe in that crap and buy all our products at  retail.


Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Storefront Open Day, Oct. 14, Should be a Doozie

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:44am

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We have lots going on at the storefront now, so if you wanted to pick a good weekend for a visit, Oct. 14 would be ideal. Here’s a short list of stuff to see:

  1. I’m building my reproduction of the Saalburg workbench right now. It should be complete (or nearly complete). Come check out the workholding and let us know what you think about our experimental archaeology project.
  2. I’m also making a crazy dugout chair – a style of chair that was popular in the British Isles in the 18th and 19th centuries (and maybe earlier). It should also be complete by then and will have some unusual details involving roadkill.
  3. We’ll have copies of the deluxe “Roubo on Furniture Making” and will be supplying commemorative bibs to keep your drool off them (just kidding about the bibs). If you want to see a book that exceeds all our others, this is your chance.
  4. Demolition has begun on the “Horse Garage” behind the storefront, which will become the machine room for my shop. Come see barren walls and debris!
  5. We’ll have a large load of Crucible dividers that are seconds. The have tiny cosmetic flaws and are $90 cash. And Raney has threatened to hang out and show off our next tool from Crucible.
  6. Finally, as always, we’re happy to answer questions about tools or techniques – or even give you a sharpening lesson.

Our storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every second Saturday of the month.

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


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

The Silent Witness

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 9:12am
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From “A New Library of Poetry and Song,” by William Cullen Bryant, The Baker Taylor Co., 1903

“Young people are often amazed at the tenacity with which older folk cling to their old furniture. They will take it with them from one house to another; usually to smaller houses, to bungalows or to a room ·or two as the family grows up and goes away and old age and infirmity increases.· With each move the furniture grows more unsuited to its surroundings, too big and clumsy by far, and the young people think how odd to prefer these things to the modern stuff so much more suited to their surroundings. Then the young ones go off, themselves acquire homes and start along the same well-worn path. And the old folk, left alone with the familiar things, find something in them far more precious than anyone could know; memories of children and friends, of old joys and sorrows, every line and scar with a story behind it, every fine polished surface the record of their own youthful vigour. For Time, the artist, is at work again, and this is perhaps his last, best gift to them.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1936


Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Arts and Crafts classics at The Wilson

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 5:45am

Making Things Work

Please note: The following images are snapshots I took during my visit to The Wilson. They are used here with explicit permission, which required a lot of work and a fee, as described in a previous post. I respectfully request that you avoid gaily copying and using them for your own purposes.

The research for my book on English Arts and Crafts furniture (scheduled for publication by Popular Woodworking in May 2018) entailed a visit to England last winter. Aside from immersing myself anew in the architecture and scenery of the beautiful land that produced the Arts and Crafts movement, I needed to take measurements from a chair designed by C.F.A. Voysey in 1898.

While waiting for my appointment with the chair, I took myself on a tour of the museum’s other furniture offerings, which are many and awe-inspiring. I was especially interested in seeing details of how these classic…

View original post 140 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Block Planes

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 1:00pm
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A modern favorite. Block planes get a bad rap from the hand-tool purists, but they are the proletariat’s favorite plane. They are simple to set up and use. And they are inexpensive.


This is an excerpt from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Christopher Schwarz.

You can build furniture without a block plane. But why should you? The block plane is one of the greatest hand-tool inventions of the Industrial Revolution, in my opinion. With a block plane and a little skill you can accomplish almost any task. These tools trim end grain, face grain and whatever else you ask of them – and they do it even if the iron is a mite dull (thanks to their lower pitch). They are the most flexible plane ever manufactured. You can change the pitch of the tool with great ease and close or open the mouth with no special tools. And they are simple to set up.

Woodworking purists scoff at the tool, but I think that this is only because it doesn’t fit into their narrow tool list. If block planes had been invented in the 18th century, you can dang well bet that every re-enactor would be spouting off about how the block plane was the savior of the age.

In fact, I have to say that the block plane is one of my favorite planes because it was the first hand tool I ever used with great success.

When making my very first piece of handmade furniture, a sitting bench, I realized that I needed a way to trim the bench’s front and back pieces to the seat of the bench. I didn’t have an electric sander – much to my chagrin – so I decided to go to Walmart and buy a block plane. I don’t know where I got this idea; probably from my grandfather.

They had one block plane. It was a “Popular Mechanics” brand and was cheap and blue. I bought it, took it home and put it to work. It was not sharp. I did not sharpen it. It cut the pine surprisingly well. I can remember being amazed at the curly shavings that emerged from the mouth. I knew at that moment how powerful hand tools could be, even if wielded by a moron.

If you look at the history of block planes, you should be prepared for some enormous diversity and confusion. It seems that toolmakers made more kinds of block planes than any other kind of tool. I’m going to try to boil down the major features here for you, but be aware that I cannot cover every kind of block plane ever made.

Low Angle or Standard?
Block planes come in two flavors: low-angle or standard-angle. Low-angle tools have the iron bedded on a ramp that is 12° off of the sole. Standard planes have a 20° bed. Low-angle planes make it easier to achieve lower planing angles, which are nice for end grain. Standard-angle planes make it easier to achieve higher planing angles, which are nice for reducing tear-out.

The reason I always use a low-angle block plane is two-fold.

1. The lower angle makes for a more compact tool that fits better in my hand. Your mileage may vary here.

2. With the low-angle plane you have a wider variety of planing angles available to you. You can achieve angles as low as 37°. Standard-angle planes can only go as low as 45°, if you want the edge to last more than a few strokes. Both planes can achieve high-planing angles. So the low-angle tools are more versatile.

So I see no reason to even own a standard-angle block plane. And I don’t.

Adjustable Mouth or Not?
Low-rent block planes generally have a fixed mouth, though there are some nice small block planes with fixed mouths. I prefer an adjustable mouth. Why? When I am using a block plane to true end grain, I don’t want the leading corner of the work diving into the mouth aperture. When I work in tricky grain, I will use every weapon available to me to attempt to reduce tearing – including an adjustable mouth.

And when I need to hog off material, I simply open the mouth as wide as it will go. Easy. If you have only one block plane, I recommend a low-angle tool with an adjustable mouth.

Lateral Adjustment or Not?
All block planes have lateral adjustment – you can tap the blade left or right to tweak the position of the cutting edge in the mouth. The question here is whether you need a lateral-adjustment mechanism, which can be as simple as a plate that shifts left or right to move the blade left or right, all the way up to a Norris-style adjuster that will control both the depth of cut and the lateral adjustment.

I find that all lateral-adjustment mechanisms that are supplied on a plane generally offer only coarse adjustments. The fine adjustments come from tapping the plane’s iron with a hammer. So to me, it doesn’t really matter if the plane offers some sort of formal lateral-adjustment mechanism. That’s because of the way I adjust a block plane:

• Sight down the sole and extend the iron until it appears as a black line against the shiny sole.

• Use your fingers to shift the iron left or right until the black line protrudes consistently from the mouth.

• Retract the iron to take up the screw-feed mechanism’s backlash. Then extend the iron a bit and use a small hammer to tap the iron left or right into its final position.

So do what you want to here. You don’t have to have a lateral-adjust mechanism. But it won’t hurt your efforts either.

Meghan Bates


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

Other Anarchist Designers

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 9:48am

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When I wrote “The Anarchist’s Design Book” during a five-year period, my hope was that my explanations of staked and boarded furniture forms would inspire other woodworkers to take up the tools and produce their own variations.

Lots of woodworkers have built the staked sawbench, backstool, chair and worktable. And, in the boarded category, I’ve seen a lot of bookcases, tool chests and six-board chests during the last two years.

My favorite response to the book, however, has been among those who took the designs in the book and pushed them further. I truly think that staked and boarded forms have few limits. You can make almost anything you need for your house with these techniques. And (here’s the best part) these techniques are extraordinarily fast – rivaling the pocket screw and Domino in the speed department.

If you’d like to see how others are approaching these pieces, here are some links.

Brendan Gaffney, the new managing editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine, has been churning out staked projects for his new apartment in Covington, Ky. Check out this entry that discusses his pieces. I like how he modified the chairs with a lower crest, clipped the corners on the worktable and added a splash of color to the set.

Greg Merritt at Hillbilly Daiku has been turning out some fascinating variations, including his sewing table, his version of the staked stool and a side table with an underhung drawer. Greg pushed the aesthetic of these designs with his pyrography, color and additions of rope.

Jason Thigpen at Texas Heritage Woodworks is currently working on a staked armchair (so am I). We are taking totally different tacks, and I can’t wait to see how his comes out. You can see a lot more examples of these forms on Instagram by following the #stakedfurniture hashtag.

Also exciting to see: People teaching classes based on these designs and their adaptations.

If you have links to other people who have adapted these designs, post them in the comments below. Your link might just inspire someone else to pick up the tools.

Final note: I like to mention every now and again that my designs are “open source.” Use them however you please. Make copies or change them. Sell your work. The only “no-no” is reproducing the book and selling it….

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

P.S. There will be a third book in the “anarchist” series. But it’s too soon to discuss it (no it’s not “The Anarchist’s Birdhouse”).


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Hand, the Hound or the Truth?

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 9:00am

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Editor’s note: Sorry, this post is not about “Game of Thrones.”

George and I often get asked which book should be read first, and we don’t have a quick answer. Because our research has been a quest, we didn’t write them necessarily in the order a beginner should take them up. We both agree, though, that our most recent “From Truth to Tools” would probably be the one we’d suggest reading first. It will go a long way to help you visualize space with practical knowledge of how our tools fit into the picture.

The second pick depends on how you like to learn. Read “By Hand & Eye” if you like to know the “why” as well as the “how” behind design and proportions. Otherwise, we suggest starting with “By Hound & Eye” if you tend to learn more by doing, and you just want to get down to it. Whichever way you begin this journey, we are confident you’ll come out seeing the world – and your craft – in a whole new way.

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com


Filed under: By Hand & Eye, By Hound and Eye, From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Now in Store: ‘From Truths to Tools’

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 5:53am

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You can now order a pre-publication copy of “From Truths to Tools” in the Lost Art Press store. The book will ship in early or mid-November 2017. The book is $25, which includes free shipping to customers in the United States and Canada. All customers who order the book before Nov. 7 will receive a free and immediate pdf download of the entire book.

You can download an excerpt of the book via this link:

T2T_sample

Here’s what the book is about:

Good books give you a glimpse of small truths – about workbenches, joinery or sharpening, for example. Great books, on the other hand, stitch together seemingly disparate ideas to present a new way of looking at the world as a whole, from your marking awl, to your hand or to the line of the horizon.

“From Truths to Tools” by Jim Tolpin and George Walker is a hand-illustrated work that masquerades as a children’s book. There are funny drawings. There aren’t a lot of words. You can read the entire 208-page book in one sitting.

But “From Truths to Tools” somehow explains the craft, the entire physical world, our language and geometry in a way that makes you feel like the authors have revealed a huge secret to you. One that has been sitting in front of you your entire life.

The book begins with an explanation of a circle and a single point and show how those simple ideas can be used to create an entire set of layout tools – a try square, a straightedge, dividers etc. that allow you to build furniture.

Once you understand the language behind your tools, very complicated things become easy to understand. Compound joinery. Fitting odd miters. Making curves that taper.

And once you get those ideas in your head, it’s a short hop to how those same ideas can be applied to building anything of any shape imaginable – skyscrapers, boats, bridges. When you can calculate if a tree will hit you when you fell it in the forest you’ll be able to calculate the circumference of the earth.

“From Truths to Tools” is the third book from the geometry-loving team of Jim Tolpin and George Walker. Their first book “By Hand & Eye” makes the case that simple whole-number ratios are the underpinning to the built world and our furniture. The second book, “By Hound & Eye” gives you the exercises that open your eyes to the way geometry and ratios govern our world. And the third, “From Truths to Tools,” shows how geometry creates our tools and, once understood, leads to a deeper grasp of the things we build, the world around us and even our language.

“From Truths to Tools” is printed in the United States to exacting standards. The pages are sewn and glued so the book will last a long time and can rest flat on your bench. The pages are protected by heavy paper-covered boards. The book is designed to last several generations.

As always, we hope our retailers in North America and elsewhere will carry the book, but the decision is up to them. So as of today, we don’t know which retailers will stock it.

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


Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Inside ‘From Truths to Tools’

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 5:30pm

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Proverb: Give a woodworker a try square and it works (at least till it gets knocked off the bench). Teach a woodworker artisan geometry and he or she can build a try square, cathedral or a damn fine boat.

Why do dividers appear in countless old paintings and engravings? They show up in the hands of winged cherubs, scientists, stone masons, boat builders and artisans of every stripe. Yes, dividers were the tool that spanned almost every art and craft. But there is much more to it, something deeper, more profound and basic. Dividers were also a symbol of the entry into the world of artisan geometry. This world is a big place, as big as the universe, yet captured in a circle scribed with a pair of a dividers. This world of artisan geometry is just a collection of abstract discoveries, yet the truths of geometry are more true and solid than the Rocky Mountains.

Our ancestors understood that learning the truths of artisan geometry was fundamental to reaching our human potential. On a practical level, it allows us to imagine, design and build almost anything. They also understood that this world of artisan geometry can transform our thinking and train the mind to follow logic and truth wherever it takes us. For that reason it was a key part of the classical curriculum for centuries.

Jim Tolpin and I are on a quest to explore this artisan geometry and we’d like to invite you to join us. This isn’t about memorizing theorems. Instead it’s about exploring truths with a pair of dividers and a straight stick. The lone requirement is you must bring your curiosity.

In our own case, it’s taken us to a wide-open space filled with ideas and possibilities. It’s also given us deeper insight into every tool found in our woodworking tool kit. For each of these tools is the embodiment of a geometric truth. On one level you can know how to use a try square to mark off a line for a saw. On a much deeper level it’s possible to grasp the immutable truth underlying the square and then apply that knowledge across much more than a chunk of lumber.

Our soon-to-be-released book, “Truths to Tools,” is an introduction to artisan geometry. It just might change the way you see your tools and open your eyes to the timeless world of artisan geometry.

— George R. Walker, by handandeye.com

 


Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Taking Refuge in Geometry

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 4:41am

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Over the recent season of political and social angst I’ve been finding solace in research and development work with my co-author George Walker. While our fellow countrymen argue the gray areas of morality and policy, George and I have immersed ourselves in the immutable truths that underlie the first principles of geometry.  While there might be some gray areas in a few of the tradesmens’ layout shortcuts (which we explore at length along with the fundamentals in our forthcoming book “From Truths to Tools”), the core geometric constructions of reality that flow from the intersection of line and circle not only represent perfection – they are perfection.

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For example, two intersecting circles that share a common radius will present us with two rim intersection points to which we can connect a line that automatically – and unequivocally – “bi secare” (cuts in two) the shared radius line.

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The intersection of the lines at the bisection point form a “rectus” (right) angle with the radius line. We know it’s a right angle because the other angles are “co-rectus” with one another and any two of them form a straight line.

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A further “proof” of the correctness of the four angles can be had by using dividers to “demetiri” (measure-out) between one circle’s focal point and a rim intersection point. This dimension will be exactly, precisely, perfectly the same at each of the other three point spans. This immutable truth provides us with the geometric construction we need to make a try square as well as the key to testing the tool for true. We now have in hand the ability to accurately lay out everything from a cradle to a coffer to a cathedral with little more than a bunch of sticks.

— Jim Tolpin, ByHandandEye.com


Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Down the rabbit hole

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 3:21pm

or…watch Nancy Hiller morph into Basil Fawlty

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A peaceful view over the hills from the garden at Standen, just the kind of thing you need when you’re ready to tear your hair out

I take copyright and permissions protocols seriously. It’s a simple matter of the Golden Rule: I write and design stuff, and if someone’s going to use my words or designs, I’d like my part in the process to be acknowledged. I have no right to expect this consideration from others if I’m not willing to give it myself.

So I paid attention to what the museum staff told me when I visited the marvelous Wilson Museum in Cheltenham last winter to measure one of their Voysey chairs. I signed a bunch of forms agreeing to their terms, which require written permission to publish photographs of their holdings, even in a blog post.

In early July, as I neared completion of my manuscript for a book on English Arts and Crafts furniture*, I thought readers might be interested in seeing some of the details I found while peering under aprons, stretchers, and such in the course of my research – you know, stuff like through tenons, decorative gouging, and artfully chamfered rails…but also the occasional cupped table top, gap at a tenon shoulder, or split stile. It’s tempting to attribute perfection to our craftsperson-heroes, but one of the things I love most about furniture is its decidedly human imperfection; I’m intrigued by the question of what we’re willing (or not) to live with.

So I dutifully wrote to my museum contact, requesting the necessary permission.

“Dear Nancy,” he wrote back. “Thank you for your email. Permission would need to come from our decorative arts curator, however she is currently away from the office until [a date ten days later], so I will be unable to get a response to you before then. I shall pass your message on to [her] and bring it to her attention when she returns. I hope that this helps.

Best wishes,
B.”

Ten days later I received another missive. “Hi Nancy,” he wrote. “Thank you for your patience whilst the decorative arts curator was away. For using images of our collections in blog posts there is a small charge of £16.70 per article/blog post. We also request that you would send us a link to the blog post so we can have a record of how the collections are being used.

Please let me know if you are still interested in proceeding. If you are interested in proceeding please let me know and I will send the relevant forms and arrange payment.

I hope that this helps.
Best wishes,
B.”

I wrote back immediately. Of course I was happy to pay to use the images. Museums — especially those, such as The Wilson, which don’t charge visitors an entrance fee — depend on this kind of revenue. A few days later I received the form by email, which I completed and signed. A week went by. Then:

“Dear Nancy,

Apologies for not getting back to you… We are currently experiencing issues with our payment facilities so we cannot accept payment just yet. How soon do you need to use the images?

Many thanks for your patience whilst we are working on resolving the payment issues.

B.”

I told him that I wouldn’t need to use the images for at least the next three weeks. “Hopefully we shall have this rectified before 31st August,” he wrote back. I hated to think of a museum not being able to take credit card payments over the phone in this day when plastic is the coin of the realm.

A month later B wrote back. The problems were ongoing. “We can accept cheques if all else [should] fail, although I understand the postage from America would inflate the real price at your end.” It wasn’t the postage that troubled me, but the fee a bank would charge for any form of payment other than a credit card. I’d already called my bank. They no longer issue checks in foreign currency but said they could wire the money for a $50 fee. Screw that.

The next week the ever-charming (truly) B wrote again.

“Dear Nancy,

The cost…was £16.70 plus VAT so that would be £20.04 overall [about $27]. I have been talking to the finance department and they believe[] they have resolved the issue, they are checking one final thing and have assured me that we should be able to take card payment over the phone by Monday. I shall email you again on Monday with the hopefully happy news. Again, please accept my apologies for the ongoing delays.

Best wishes,
B.”

Just to be on the safe side I gave it a few more days. On Thursday morning I was ready to call. The landline seemed a better bet than a cell phone. I dialed the number but got a sound that clearly signified a problem. I repeated the process several times, omitting various prefix digits in case they were unnecessary. Still no joy. I called the phone company again.

“All calls to international numbers are blocked at present,” the clerk informed me. Can this really be happening? I wondered. It seems that fraudsters overseas have been calling US households and threatening the vulnerable among us with harm to their relatives if they don’t return the call and fork over thousands of dollars. “So you’re blocking ALL international calls because a few people have fallen for this kind of scam?” I asked. Apparently so. “Is this just you, or all phone companies? Because this seems like serious overkill. I am just trying to make a business call to England.” She couldn’t say whether our phone company was alone in taking this paternalistic tack.

“You can bypass the call block by using this code,” said the clerk, reading out a symbol and three numbers. I thanked her and tried the call again, this time with the code. The call dropped as soon as I dialed. I tried again. Same thing.

I called the phone company back. Another clerk this time; he said I’d have to make some kind of different arrangement, aside from the code, to call overseas. “I am trying really hard not to pepper your eardrum with expletives,” I answered, taking a deep breath. “I just want to make a simple business call to England. England! Not Nigeria. Not Myanmar. I just need to make a credit card payment to a museum. In the past, all I had to do was dial the number. I’m not willing to go through yet more steps. I’ll use my cell phone.”

So I dialed the museum’s number on my cell. The call was answered by a woman whose first language was clearly not English. “I need your name,” she said after the usual pleasantries. I stated my first name and she proceeded to type, reading the letters back – incorrectly. I corrected her, knowing that the charge would be declined by the credit company, were the merest detail garbled. Then we got to the address. Between the spotty quality of the audio (even with Wi Fi calling) and our linguistic disjunct, it was taking forever. We got through the four digits of the street address, but the word “South” caused a problem. “Was that ‘ah‘?” she checked. “No, SOUTH,” I said. At this point I was not prepared to attempt the Himalayan peak of the next word, “Garrison.”

“Can I just email you this information, then call back?” I asked.

“Sure. That would be good. Thank you.”

So I sent the email, and she replied that she was ready to take my credit card information in a second call. I called her back at once. The phone was answered by a machine informing me that no one was available but I could leave a message if I would like.

I checked the time. 4 p.m. GMT. Perhaps they had just closed? I wrote back to her straight away, dreading the prospect of having to repeat the process with someone new the next day. But lo! Five minutes later I got a reply. The long-suffering staff person had been busy with a visitor, and so, unable to take my call. I called back.

Miraculously, we get the job done. I have the receipt to prove it:

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The receipt really does say JOY. Perhaps the name of a current exhibition?

All of which is to request that you refrain from blithely copying and reusing the images you will find in my post about the museum visit, which will arrive in your inbox a few days from now.

Please note: Although this post concerns one particular institution, I have enjoyed remarkably similar experiences with several others. I am a huge fan of The Wilson and highly recommend a visit. 

*scheduled for publication by Popular Woodworking in May 2018. In the meantime, you can read Making Things Work


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Update: ‘Roubo on Furniture Making’

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 3:31pm

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Our warehouse has almost finished packing up all the domestic pre-publication orders for the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.” The packaged books should be picked up and head out to their final destinations in the United States tomorrow.

For international customers, you should have received an email that indicates the extra amount of money we require in order to ship your book. This book weighs 17 lbs. – two healthy infants. Once you pay the invoice, we’ll ship your book to you.

The book is extraordinary. I have my copy exactly 6” away from me and marvel at its beauty, heft and readability. I hope you will be pleased.

I expect this will be our last deluxe edition until we dig up Noah’s treatise on ark-building. The press run for this deluxe book cost more than $170,000. So this is going to be a lean year for us as we work to rebuild our bank account.

Of course, I’m not supposed to talk about things like this – it makes us seem weak. But so be it. We are two guys with laptops running a publishing company. So this stuff is going to happen sometimes.

But even if we take a bath on this book in the end – even if we end up stuffing pages from it in our sweatshirts under the highway overpass – it was worth it. Roubo is bloody awesome. His books were a labor of love and they deserve this sort of insane risk.

So a toast to you, M. Roubo.

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


Filed under: Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

Carpenter’s Tools of the 17th Century

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 2:28pm
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“CHRIST IN THE CARPENTER’S SHOP,” BY A. CARRACCI This picture appears in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 17th century European art, and is of special interest to woodworkers in showing the sort of tools used by carpenters in the time of Carracci. Photograph: Topical Press


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume I” published by Lost Art Press.

One sometimes gets in an indirect sort of way, a remarkable light on the things that people used to make and use. A man may explore all the usual channels in an endeavour to investigate a subject with little result, and then tumble across a piece of information entirely by accident.

The writer recently experienced something of the sort when visiting the Royal Academy Exhibition of 17th century art still on view at Burlington House. One of the pictures is the famous “Christ in the Carpenter’s shop,’’ by Carracci, and it shows Christ as a boy watching Joseph at work at his bench.

The point of interest is that Carracci painted in his picture the sort of bench and tools with which he himself was familiar in his age. In other words, the tools shown are the sort that carpenters used during the 17th century in Italy.

Some of them are extraordinarily like the tools we have in use at the present time. There is a frame saw identical with the kind still used by German woodworkers to-day. It is rather like a large bowsaw, but has a much wider blade. It is used for much the same purpose as the handsaw with which we are familiar. Then there is a claw hammer that might have been bought at a modem tool store, except that the head is square instead of rounded; also the handle. Passing through the bench is a holdfast, similar in principle to the modern type but without the screw arrangement. The carpenter placed the end over the wood to be held, and struck the pillar passing through the bench, so that it wedged itself in. A sort of small adze intended for use with one hand is interesting. It is rather like a small axe, but with the blade turned at right angles with the shaft. The latter is curved, and finishes with a curved scroll which would prevent it from flying out of the hand. Joseph himself is engaged in marking out a board, and is using a chalked line to mark a straight line.

Most interesting of all, however, is a trying plane which lies propped up on a box beneath the bench. It would be about 22 ins. long with a cutter of, say, 2-1∕ 2 ins. Its depth appears to be certainly no more than 2-1∕4 ins. Probably it may have been deeper originally, and became thinner from having been planed true many times.

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SKETCH OF PLANE SHOWING DETAIL ENLARGED This shows how the detail in question may be either a handle forming part of the wedge, or a shaving.

One feature that immediately arrests the attention is the pitch of the cutter. It is extremely high; so much so that its action must have been almost that of a scraper. Yet there are scrolled shavings lying on the ground such as one might expect to take off with a plane of normal pitch. It is, of course, possible that the artist has gone astray in this respect, and that the cutter was set lower, but, as shown, it is not more than 15 degrees out of the vertical. It must have been extremely hard work using such a plane, and the shaving can only have been thin.

There is just this in it; planes in those days had no back irons, and the tendency would be to make the pitch as high as would be practical to minimise any tendency to tear out. So high an angle, however, seems an exaggeration.

There is one point which has puzzled us a good deal; that is the rounded piece immediately in front of the cutter. When, in the first place, we saw a black and white photograph of the picture, we immediately assumed it to be a shaving. On examining the actual picture, however, there were several things to suggest that this was not the case, but that it was in reality a handle formed out of the wedge. The detail is admittedly not clear, but whereas all the shavings on the floor are light, the detail in question is of the same colour as the rest of the plane. Many old trying planes had handles at the front, though in front of the escapement. One would imagine that a handle just in front of the wedge would be liable to cause the shavings to choke, but, there it is. Readers may like to consider the matter for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Meghan Bates

 


Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker
Categories: Hand Tools

Now With Even More Artwork

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 9:30am

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One of the best parts of this job is answering angry emails from disgruntled people. Hahaha. Just kidding. One of best parts of this job is working with independent artisans and artists to do stuff that would make my former corporate overlords crap their Brooks Brothers suits.

This month we’ve been working with the supremely talented and creative Andrea Love, a Port Townsend, Wash., artist who specializes in stop-motion animation. You might remember her from this fantastic short for Hand-tool Heaven, or her work from “By Hound & Eye.”

As we were finishing up the latest book by Jim Tolpin and George Walker, titled “From Truths to Tools,” Jim proposed using some sort of adaptation of William Blake’s “The Ancient of Days” on the cover. It’s a fantastic image, but getting it to work on the odd-sized book cover was going to be a challenge.

Then Andrea, who illustrated and lettered “From Truths to Tools,” volunteered to make a watercolor adapted from the Blake painting that would fit the cover – and wrap around the back of the cover, creating a gorgeous package. And she did it in just a few days.

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If I had suggested commissioning a painting for a book cover at any of my former jobs, I would have been labeled as a mentally defective, half-witted and spendthrift loon (to be fair, I am a loon).

We hope to get this book off to the printer on Friday and start taking pre-publication orders this weekend (details and pricing soon).

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


Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Let’s Make Finger Sandwiches!

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 5:48pm

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Last month we hosted Nancy Hiller, the author of “Making Things Work,” for an evening of literary readings, children’s games that got the local prostitutes worked up, and a beating of the “biscuit joiner that refused to die.”

Here are the details of the evening:

This was our first real literary event in our 11 years of doing business. I have found that typically, reading step-by-step instructions out loud from a woodworking book will not get women to throw their bras on stage. So why bother with readings?

Nancy’s book, however, is one of those special books that simply begs to be heard from the tongue of the author, like a David Sedaris book.

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So we fed the audience beer and wine (no, we didn’t make cucumber finger sandwiches) and Nancy read selections from her book and answered questions from the audience.

If this were a typical literary event, this is when everyone would stumble home to cuddle with Proust, or cover their naked bodies with pages ripped from Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park.”

Nancy had other ideas.

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She concocted a game of “pin the tail on the dove.” Blindfolded participants had to pin a tail on a large-scale drawing of a dove. During the game, some of the local prostitutes watched us play the game through the window like it was surely a scene from “Eyes Wide Shut.” And as I blindfolded yet another middle-aged man and gently guided him to the back of the room by his shoulders, I got a big thumbs-up from the working women outside.

The finale was a pinata of a biscuit joiner that Nancy had made – filled with tiny plastic bottles of booze and little bits of ephemera that related to “Making Things Work.” Destroying the biscuit joiner took about 30 minutes of effort (and switching to a bigger stick).

And yay – this time the cops didn’t come.

Thanks so much to Nancy for being such a good sport and putting on a great evening. I hope we can publish a book some day that is worthy of another reading.

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


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Calling B&^^%@*t on Lost Art Press

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:54am

LAP_logo2_940Alternative headline: Is it too early to start drinking?

Comment from a reader: I have to express my displeasure with your book sales process. For someone in search of increasing his/her knowledge of the craft, you miss a key point that I knew over my four decades as a teacher; books are meant to be used and consumed. Schools at all levels have a misguided policy of buying and reselling books, or renting books and fining students for any “damage” they imparted on the physical item. Books, in order to be truly useful to a learner, should be marked, highlighted, bent, etc. A book is meant to be used up.

For a woodworker hoping to apply knowledge in the shop, it does no good to have a collectable book, with cloth bindings and heavy weight paper.  While I can appreciate that for some pieces of literature, instructional books that cost $40+ dollars are like creating an amazing workshop, then keeping it in pristine condition; no dust, no dents, no signs of use in fear of diminishing its original, valued condition.

The cheaper version of a PDF leaves one with the option of running back and forth between computer and shop, or printing out perhaps hundreds of pages to be transported and marked for reference.  Neither is really a viable option in an instructional setting.

Making a more affordable paperback version would meet the needs of many, if not most woodworkers.  If you were truly committed to educating those who wish to take up and preserve the craft, why would you not offer that option?

Response: Not sure what the point is you are making. I think what you are saying is that a book that costs $40+ dollars is by default a collectable and not used, dented and show signs of wear. We at Lost Art Press want everyone to use our books. All of my books show wear. We are not collectors, nor are we trying to create a market for collectors.

The books cost what they cost. We do the best we can with materials to produce a book that will last as long as the information contained in it. We also want the best information we can produce so given these two criteria the books come out at the prices we list.

We don’t build furniture with cheap plywood and MDF… we build everything we do with the best quality we can. I will grant you that both Deluxe Roubo books we put out could be collectibles, but that is why we do trade editions.

Lastly we are a business. If we don’t make money we stop producing books. We are not working so that everyone in the woodworking world can have the information we produce on the cheap. Our books are a bargain at the prices we charge.

And Back at Us: You either missed the point completely, or, more likely, the issue is about profit.  “Books cost what they cost…” profound! My point is that it would be appreciated by many who seek instruction to have options somewhere between a PDF and instruction “printed on heavy #80-pound matte coated paper. The book is casebound and sewn so it lasts a long time. The hardback boards are covered in cotton cloth with a black matte stamp.”  

The point is that masters of woodworking make their instructional materials available in paperback form for a reasonable profit. Why? For the preservation of the craft! For those who want to learn from someone as accomplished as Jim Tolpin, #80-pound matte paper doesn’t matter.  It’s his revelations about the craft and its design that he hoped to pass along to others, not to have his work preserved in a cotton cloth hardboard cover. LAP’s 1st priority seems to be the profit to be made from selling a high item.

I don’t expect you to lower the price of these items; I’m just calling bullshit on what you’re attempting to do. Educators make knowledge more readily affordable.


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Let’s get medieval

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 4:00am
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Workshop_of_the_Master_of_James_IV_of_Scotland_(Flemish,_before_1465_-_about_1541)_-_Farm_Animals,_Milking,_and_Buttermaking;_Zodiacal_Sign_of_Taurus_detail.jpg

Workshop of the Master of James IV of Scotland (Flemish, before 1465 – about 1541).           Wikimedia Commons

*first posted at Making Things Work

Research for English Arts and Crafts Furniture: Projects and Techniques for the Modern Maker* has entailed some spirited conversations with scholars of medieval literature and art. My readings on medieval European life without the benefit of Ruskin’s rose-tinted specs have touched on such seemingly unrelated subjects as church-based charity and prostitution in Paris.

So when I saw that St.John Starkie had posted a video on The Quiet Workshop about building a medieval pole lathe, I was intrigued. At a whopping 22 minutes and 41 seconds, it’s longer than your typical video in this day of Instagram hyperlapse, and (please don’t tell me you expected “but”) well worth watching. I found it visually mesmerizing as well as informative.

Minor mea culpa: However instructive the video component may be, my special guilty pleasure is the audio, which I find downright intoxicating. There’s something about the sounds of hand-tool woodworking when recorded through a mic that transports me into an alternate realm. It’s akin to lying in bed during a storm in someone else’s house: You can pull the covers up around you and sleep even more soundly than usual, comforted by your warm, safe situation. I’ve always found the equivalent storm experience far from soothing in my own house, where I worry that the roof might leak or be damaged by the wind. No wonder people who’ve never picked up a tool themselves wax romantic on the subject of making furniture for a living.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

*working title; the book is scheduled for publication by Popular Woodworking in May 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbenches & the Trail of Artworks

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 1:22pm

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I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in the research for the book on Roman workbenches, it became a text that would feel at home in the “art history” section of a bookstore.

Researcher Suzanne Ellison, who has a deep love of art, and I spent months poring over texts that discussed Roman and early German tools and woodworking for the letterpress edition of “Roman Workbenches.” After we completed that book, I switched gears to finish up work on other authors’ books (and some furniture commissions).

Suzanne, however, expanded the scope of her research and began finding paintings, drawings and mosaics that dealt with the low-style workbench that I had never seen. And not only were they from Europe, but they also came from the New World, especially South America.

I could barely keep up with the pace of her research. Before I could fully digest a series of paintings to sort through their interesting bits, she had already dumped another load in my inbox. This crazy pace has continued for the last nine months.

After discussing hundreds of paintings, we narrowed our scope to ones that were truly representative of a long-term pattern. Or ones that showed methods of workholding that were, quite frankly, shocking to me.

As a result, this book – an expanded edition of “Roman Workbenches” – has become something far greater. It is a survey of early workholding methods that were used on simple and low workbenches for almost 2,000 years. Many of these workholding devices are incredibly simple – like the doe’s foot – but also incredibly effective. If you’re reading this blog, you probably agree with the statement that early artisans were incredibly clever and resourceful.

And this book has gotten much bigger. So big, that I wonder if I should even call it “Roman Workbenches” anymore.

During the coming months I’m going to share some of the gold that Suzanne dug up, along with some of the dead ends. The painting at the top of this entry was right up the road from me in Indianapolis and almost made me wet myself.

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


Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

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