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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 32 min 27 sec ago

‘Virtuoso’ Now Available for Pre-publication Ordering

3 hours 3 min ago

Studley-cover-2(3)You can now order “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Don Williams from the Lost Art Press store. The book is $49 and will ship in mid-May.

Orders received before May 13, 2015, will receive free domestic shipping. The first 1,000 orders will receive a nice commemorative postcard featuring a beautiful shot of the open tool cabinet shot by Narayan Nayar.

When you order, you will have the option to pick up your copy at Handworks in Amana, Iowa., on May 15-16, or have the book shipped to you. All shipping will occur after Handworks.

Retailers for ‘Virtuoso’
While we are certain that many of our retailers will stock “Virtuoso,” we do not know which ones yet will opt to carry it. When we have that information in the next couple weeks, I will definitely post it here.

Why No Digital Version?
There will not be a digital version of “Virtuoso” at this time. We have experienced a significant amount of pirate distribution of our titles, so we have decided that for this book, the pirates will have to manually scan and assemble the book if they want to rip us off. Our apologies to our law-abiding customers for this difficult decision.

Other Studley Products
We will have more news on other Studley-related products in the coming weeks, including posters, a feature-length DVD and toilet-seat covers (oh wait, no, those are for “The History of Wood”).

Thanks for all your patience during the last four years since we announced this project at Woodworking in America. A team of people has poured thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars into the research and production of this book. I think that effort will show in the book, and I hope you will be pleased.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

The History of Wood, Part 48

11 hours 3 min ago


Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Pre-publication Orders for ‘Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley’

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 9:51am


At 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, April 1, we will begin taking pre-publication orders for the long-awaited book “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Don Williams with photographs by Narayan Nayar.

The book will be $49 with free shipping for domestic customers if ordered before May 13, 2015. That is the day the book will be released and shipped.

Also, the first 1,000 orders will receive a commemorative full-color postcard that’s perfect for pinning up in your shop. The front of the postcard will show the tool chest in all its glory; the rear face will have a short biography of Studley and note that you were one of the first 1,000 people to purchase “Virtuoso.”

The book is being released at the same time as the opening of the exhibit of the Studley tool cabinet and workbench in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on May 15-17. Information and tickets are available here.

Those who order the book before its release date will have the option of either getting it shipped to them (arriving after Handworks) or picking it up at Handworks, which runs May 15-16 in Amana, Iowa. If you plan to pick up your book at Handworks, please read the following paragraph with care. It is important.

You will need to pick up your book at the Lost Art Press booth in the Festhalle Barn in Amana, Iowa. While we will be selling copies of “Virtuoso” at the exhibit, the sales staff there will not have access to the list of people who pre-ordered the book. So to repeat (using slightly different words): You will pick up your pre-ordered book at Handworks.

So we recommend you come to Handworks first, pick up your book and then take it to the exhibit where you can get it signed by the people involved in the project.

Pre-ordering the book and picking it up in Amana will guarantee that you get your book there. We can bring only so many books to Handworks.

So spread the word to your woodworking friends: Studley is coming.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

The ‘Calvin Cobb’ Chapter-Spot Contest Winners Are…

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 7:42pm

CC-stamp_IMG_9440Thanks to everyone who entered the “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker” chapter-spot contest. Some of your (wrong) answers were really funny – so I had a lot of fun going through the responses.

Two photos, numbers 7 and 24, flummoxed everyone. A few of you were close on 24 with “chisel” … but not close enough (I’m a tough grader – just ask any of my former students). No one really came close on 7, a vacuum-tube tester.



The correct answer on 24 is “carving gouge.”

It was a close finish for first place and second place…particularly because the first-place winner declined to answer 36, 37 and 38. But it didn’t hurt him in the end.

Even with skipping three of them, Stumpy Nubs had the most correct answers (30).

Congratulations, James! You win an autographed copy of Roy Underhill’s “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker (A Novel with Measured Drawings),” a Lost Art Press Logo T-shirt in your choice of color and size (from available stock) and an autographed Roubo Bookstand in Walnut, made by Roy Underhill.

The second-place finisher (28 correct) is Sawdustandwoodchips, who wins an autographed copy of “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker (A Novel with Measured Drawings)” and a Lost Art Press Logo T-shirt in his (I think “his” … but I don’t actually know) choice of color and size (from available stock).

For third place, there was a tie. So I resorted to giving “pluses” for hyper-correct answers to each of the entrants with 23 correct responses. Matt Rae got five pluses; lblack2x4 got four pluses…but lost one for “Rabone folding rule…because it’s a Zig-Zag.) So, Matt Rae gets an autographed copy of “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker (A Novel with Measured Drawings),” and lblack2x4 gets a Lost Art Press Logo T-shirt (choice of color and size from available stock).

CC01I have no doubt you will disagree with my grading methods – students always did. (But I beg you: Don’t have your parents call me to complain.)

If one (or more) person gave the exact correct response, answers that were vague did not get full marks (e.g. No. 1 is the exposure counter on a Robot 1 camera, which several people identified correctly, so “camera dial” alone did not make the grade).

Winners, please send your mailing address and T-shirt choice (where applicable) to: meganfitzpatrick@fuse.net. I’ll get them off to Roy and Christopher Schwarz immediately.

And remember: You’re all winners, just for playing (do you think kids really believe that?).

Below, you’ll find the key to all 38 of the chapter spots images, as provided by Roy:

1 Exposure Counter, Robot 1 camera
2 IBM Punch Card,
3 Audel’s Carpenters and Builders Guide, vol 3,
4 RCA console Radio, ca 1939
5 Shutter Speed Dial, Robot 1 camera
6 Stanley #6 Bench Plane
7 Vacuum Tube Tester, ca 1948
8 Bell Systems Pay Telephone Dial
9 Steel Zig-Zag Rule
10 Toledo Scale (drugstore model)
11 Exposure Guide, Robot 1 camera
12 Focus Ring, Robot 1 camera
13 Folding Rule
14 Exposure Counter, Robot 1 camera
15 Wurlitzer Juke Box, 1946
16 Wurlitzer Juke Box, 1941
17 Auger Bit, 17/16 inch
18 Try Square
19 Zig-Zag Rule
20 Tuning Dial, Atwater Kent Radio, ca. 1921
21 Adding Machine
22 Wurlitzer Juke Box, 1946
23 Adding Machine, Remington
24 Carving Gouge
25 Coin Slot, Bell Systems Pay Phone
26 Gearing Tables, Barnes #3 ? Screw Cutting Lathe
27 Steel Folding Rule
28 F-Stop (Iris diaphragm) Setting, Robot 1 Camera
29 Stanley Rule & Level # 29 Transitional Plane
30 Langdon Patent, Millers Falls Miter Box
31 Zig-Zag Rule
32 Post Office Box Window
33 Stamp Vending Machine
34 Two Plow Plane Irons
35 Stanley Rule & Level # 35 Transitional Plane
36 Adding Machine, Remington
37 Stanley Rule & Level # 37 Transitional Plane
38 Two Steel Number Stamps

Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Chairmaker’s Notebook’ Ships Tuesday

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 3:19pm


About 10 pallets of Peter Galbert’s “Chairmaker’s Notebook” arrived in our Indiana warehouse this afternoon and will ship out tomorrow.

If you ordered the book from us, you probably received an e-mail notification today that the book shipped. Our store software automatically sends that e-mail when we print your shipping label. Once the book hits the mail stream (probably tomorrow), it should take three to seven business days to arrive, depending where you live (Hawaii and Alaska might take longer).

I drove to our warehouse today and picked up some copies of the book for me, Peter and the other people involved in the project, including copy editor Megan Fitzpatrick, designer Linda Watts and indexer Suzanne Ellison.

The printer did an outstanding job on all aspects of this book, from the binding to the dust jacket. I think you will be pleased.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Chairmaker's Notebook
Categories: Hand Tools

A Noble Fortitude

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 1:04am


It is easy to labor so long as we are encouraged by cheers and waving of hats, but to toil on and on, with only the silent approval of one’s own heart, requires a noble fortitude which the hero alone possesses.

George Houghton

The Hub – November 1, 1875

Photo: Carpenters’ Union Float for 1948 Armistice Day Parade – Porterville, CA.

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

The Apprentice and His Tools

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 12:27am


Now I have the glue on these boards and am ready to drive some brads in and can’t find my hammer. “John, have you got my hammer? I do wish you would try and get some tools of your own; I don’t mind lending mine, but it is such a nuisance and inconvenience to me and takes up a lot of my time.”

“You first started by asking my permission to take them, now you say nothing but come and help yourself; you take them and never think of returning them unless I ask for them, and when I do get them they are in bad order: You borrow my planes, wood bits, chisels, oilstone, and even my pencil. Can’t you scrape up a pencil some place? What are you doing with my inch chisel? You have one of your own; why don’t you use that?”

“I tried to use it, Mr. Martin, but it is too dull and I knew yours would be sharp.”

“John, if you want to learn the trade you must learn to keep your tools in order. You can’t do work without tools, and you can’t do it with dull tools. If you are going to learn this trade you’d better start in at once and buy some. Get a few at a time, what you need most, and be sure and get nothing but the best.”

“Didn’t you tell me you took a piece of calico to a hop last Saturday night and it cost you three bucks? If you had put those three dollars in tools, don’t you think they would do more good and leave you something to show for it? Some fine morning you will wake up and find you are obliged to look for work in another shop; then you will wish you had given more of your attention to your trade and tools, and not so much of your time to calico and money for hops.”

“Journeymen are not obliged to, and do not care to, lend tools to any person, and less so to apprentices because they do not understand how to take proper care of them. When I was an apprentice, I took great pleasure in new tools when I knew they were my own, and they gave me a kind of ambition to care and work with them.”

“Try and keep yourself and your bench tidy. You have had that old, dirty, torn apron on until it can stand up alone. A clean apron don’t cost much, and your bench looks like a pawnshop window. When you lay anything on it you have to get a search warrant to find it; learn to be neat. Don’t forget what I said about saving your money and getting a few tools.”

Mr. Martin

American Machinist – October 2, 1902

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

The $2 Steambox

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:38am


One of my goals of the “Furniture of Necessity” is to encourage people to build things that look complex but are actually simple once you know the trick. Think: compound joinery without a single numeral or calculation. Or, in today’s case, make curved parts using raw materials from the grocery store.

Steam-bending wood is fun and easy. And I own a steambox, a steam generator and all the clamps and forms that make it a snap. But that’s a lot of money and effort if you want to make one steamed part, such as a simple crest rail for a chair or backstool.

When I first learned to make Shaker boxes from John Wilson more than a decade ago, we boiled the parts in a steel planter box that was heated by a hot plate. That works pretty well, though you have to monitor the temperature to keep it boiling.


Another way to bend wood without fussing over the temperature is to use my mother’s recipe for beef brisket.

She would seal the brisket in a roasting pan covered in foil and cook it in the oven until the meat fell apart on your fork.

So I went to the grocery on Friday and picked up a bundle of firewood ($3.99) and a roasting pan ($2). The firewood is all split stuff that is 14” to 16” long and air-dried. My bundle of wood had oak, ash, poplar and sappy walnut. All the stock was about 30 percent moisture content – plenty dry enough to use for this operation.


I managed to get three crest rails from a split of oak and planed them all four-square. I  preheated the oven to 450° F. Then I filled my aluminum roasting pan with hot water, put the oak in and sealed the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. I cut a small 1/2” slit in the top and roasted the oak in the oven for 75 minutes. Then I took it to my bending form.


My bending form is made from a stack of 3/4” MDF that’s glued together. The easiest way to bend a 3/4” crest rail is using the help of a bench vise. I clamped half the form to the jaw of my vise and the other half to the bench.


I dropped the oak between the two parts of the form and cranked the vise closed. Simple. I then put two bar clamps across the form and removed it from the vise. In two days I’ll take the clamps off and I’ll have another crest rail for my next chair.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Categories: Hand Tools

You are Like a Dog that Pees on the Rug

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 5:06pm


The following is not a petition for affirmation. It is merely a reminder to myself not to order so many books at press time.

Though I loved journalism school, it didn’t love me. During my first two years, both my academic adviser and news writing instructor recommended I transfer to a school that was better suited to my odd writing style.

“You are like a big puppy that pees on the rug all the time,” said David Nelson, my newswriting instructor. “I don’t know what to do with you.”

The vice principal at my high school would have agreed with Nelson.

“You have got to stop wearing that bathrobe to school,” he told me one spring day.

So today I am officially tempering my enthusiasm for my next book, “Furniture of Necessity.” I have about half the projects built for the book, and they are slowly being integrated into our daily lives on Greenbriar Avenue.

Three-legged backstools sit at the ends of our dining table, and I steer every guest in our house to sit on them (we’re up to about 20 pair of buttocks now). Some visitors are clearly fearful that it is a trick.

My first 14th-century trestle table has become a portable work table and has been out in the yard, in the sunroom and set up in the living room for a number of dinners. But a couple visitors have asked why the table is missing legs. Or why it has too many legs. Or they have just asked what the heck it is.

I love these pieces, perhaps more than any other pieces I’ve built in recent memory. But the outside world isn’t sure. The three-legged chairs and table trestles are particularly off-putting. As one woodworker recently told me: “It looks like you’re just trying to save a little wood by having one less leg.”


I seek out and appreciate this sort of honest response. It shapes the way I will explain these pieces in the book and, more importantly, tells me I need to show you more examples here on the blog. The problem is that in the last five years I have looked at hundreds of images of aumbries, trestle tables, backstools, medieval worktables and staked pieces of all sorts. They don’t look weird to me anymore.

But deep down, I know they’re difficult pieces. Just like I knew it was strange to write about stabbings at adult bookstores (suggested headline: “Ouch! Wrong Hole!”). Plus, terrycloth bathrobes are odd attire at high school pep rallies.

So write a birdhouse book, you idiot.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Categories: Hand Tools

Divided We Live

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 5:23am


It’s always good to work with people who are smarter than you. It’s even better if you can marry them.

While John and I do most of the day-to-day grunt work at Lost Art Press, I’d be lost if I didn’t have my wife, Lucy May, to guide me and keep my head on straight. She’s a busy full-time journalist in her own right at WCPO-TV, but she still makes time every day to listen to a recitation of our operations and help us plan pricing, strategy and the editorial direction of this company.

Plus, while other people thought (and said) I was nuts when I stepped down as editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine in 2011, she had faith that we’d still eat and I wouldn’t end up writing marginalia for Waste Age magazine.

For a couple years I’ve been trying to think of a way to thank her that also serves as a reminder of the important role she plays in Lost Art Press. Eventually, it came to me: Ask Marco Terenzi to create a pair of working dividers – our logo – that she could wear around her neck.


Marco is the super-talented woodworker and metalworker who specializes in miniature tools, benches, tool chests and the like. You might remember this amazing miniature copy he made of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest last year. He also makes miniature working tools for sale; follow his Instagram feed if you want to be blown away.

On Thursday the dividers arrived. They are stunning and Lucy loves them (she wore them on TV yesterday). They look exactly like the dividers from Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises” – no matter how closely you examine them. And they work. If I have to lay out some miniature dovetails, I’m going to hit up my wife’s jewelry box.

Marco is considering making a run of these that will be cast. So if you’d like a pair, be sure to follow his work.

Apologies for the personal note. Now back to woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

Dividersprocess-3 Dividersprocess-2 Dividersprocess-1 Dividers-3 Dividers-2 Dividers-1
Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

How Big (or Little) is Your Chest?

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 4:44pm

New Anarchist Tool Chest 2015

A common bit of advice on building tool chests goes like this: “You should build the chest to fit your tools.”

I’d like to amend that melba-toast statement to this: “You should build the chest to fit our tools.”

Woodworking tools come in standard sizes, and the standard tool kit hasn’t changed much since Joseph Moxon laid it out in “Mechanick Exercises” in 1678. So if you are in the craft to build furniture, your tool kit probably looks a lot like mine. If you are in it for type studies and patented tools, ignore the rest of this blog entry.

When I started studying tool chests (several years before writing “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”), I noticed that they were built in some fairly standard sizes. Most of the outliers were actually for other trades or specialists. In truth, there are more than three basic sizes of chests, but I’d like to discuss three sizes I have found most compelling.


The Floor Chest
This is the massive tool chest I built for “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and have subsequently built more than 20 times for classes and customers. It is the Denali of tool chests. It’s bigger than it has to be, but it’s still not big enough.

It is roughly 24” x 24” x 40”. And if you can’t fit a tool in this chest, then you don’t need it. This chest will swallow full-size handsaws, over-sized jointer planes, 18th-century tenon saws, straightedges, a full set of hollows and rounds and all the other tools you need to build furniture.

The standard model usually has three sliding trays, though I have seen them with as many as eight.

During the five years since I built this chest I have modified small sections of it, but it is still basically the same design as when I drew it out in 2010.

What’s the downside to this chest? It is a floor hog, taking up as much square footage as a table saw. If you have a small shop, this chest might be too much for you. But after working out of a chest this size since 1997, I decline to downsize.


The Traveling Tool Chest
If you need to move your chest frequently, the full-size chest is a heavy burden. Moving that monster by yourself is difficult but doable – if you first remove the trays and heavy tools. If you need to be mobile for work or to attend classes, a scaled-down chest might be the answer.

I just finished building one of these chests for the August issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. I built the carcase and Jameel Abraham built the marquetry panel for the lid. This chest’s design is based on the length of a panel saw, one of the longer tools in a furniture-maker’s tool kit.

While full-size handsaws are more than 30” long from toe to tote, a panel saw takes up less space – 26” give or take. That’s not much longer than a standard jointer plane. This chest can be 20” x 20” x 30”. That might not seem much smaller than the full-size chest above, but I can tell you that the slightly smaller dimensions allow you to move the chest easily by yourself.

The downside? You can still pack a standard toolkit in the chest if you omit the moulding planes. (OK, that’s not entirely true; you can build a removable tray that holds moulders thereby squeezing every cubic inch of storage out of the chest. It’s just not convenient to work out of.)

These chests typically had two sliding trays for the small tools. And the tool well below held all the bench planes, saws and joinery planes.

The other advantage to this chest is it will fit in the back seat of most passenger cars. The full-size chest will not (unless you first remove the door).


The Tallboy
The other curious chest I’ve been toying with is a mix of the full-size chest and the traveling chest. While I’m sure this chest was made all over the Western world, I’ve encountered most examples of it in North America.

It is generally a nailed-together carcase that is designed to hold full-size handsaws, a full set of bench planes, joinery planes and lots and lots of smaller tools. Like the traveling chest, moulding planes are rarely provided dedicated storage space in this variant. But they still can hold a handful of moulders if need be.

So the defining characteristics of these chests are they are long, shallow and tall. The one I’m building now for a series of classes in 2015 is 15” x 17” x 34”. This chest will easily fit into the back seat of a car. It will accommodate the (less expensive) full-size handsaws and is super simple to build. It’s all rabbets and nails.

All three forms have their charms. But their dimensions depend more on how you live than on what sort of stuff you build.


Disobey Me
If you want to design your own chest from scratch and ignore the historical patterns, here’s how to do it:

  1. Measure your longest saw. That (plus 2”) is the interior length of your carcase.
  2. Group your bench and joinery planes together into a tight formation that is the same length as your longest saw. Measure the depth of that pile. That is the interior depth of your chest.
  3. If you have moulding planes, add 5” to that depth.
  4. Take the interior depth of your chest and make that the interior height. Most tool chests are square in profile view.

My guess is you will end up with one of the three sizes above.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest, The Art of Joinery, Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

The Making of a Cabinetmaker – Part II

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 10:25pm


My actual experience at the bench as an embryo cabinetmaker began when I was fourteen years of age. I had been at school all the winter and spring, but was with my father in the shop a great deal before and after school hours. At this time my father was working on piece work in the town of C, and in every odd moment I helped him all I could. He made a great many extension tables at so much a foot. They were 8, to and 12-foot tables, some were of black walnut but most were ash.

There was only one thing I could help him about on these tables and that was, after he had planed and scraped the tops I would sandpaper them. He had a cork block around which he folded the sandpaper, and after admonishing me to sandpaper only with the grain I would go at it. I took kindly to the work and he let me tinker a good deal for myself, and I became greatly interested in making a toy bureau. I made the frame, glued it together and get out the drawers, fitting them as well as I could. The first bureau was rather crude but I was proud of it.

I was given some practical lessons in shoving a plane. Like all beginners, I was awkward. Though I had seen my father use a plane from earliest recollection, when I attempted to use one in planing a hardwood board level, or to make a “rub” glue joint, what looked so easy as my father did it was a hard enough job when I tried it myself.

But the planing was easy as compared to learning to sharpen a plane as my father wanted me to. He had a way of holding the iron peculiar to himself. He would seize it with his right hand first, with the palm downward, placing the iron on the stone at just the angle it was ground; then he would place his left hand on the iron over the right, with the fingers and thumbs placed in such a way that in moving it backward and forward over the stone in the process of sharpening there would not be the slightest rocking to the motion.

His plane iron was never rounding, and as he seldom ground his plane iron it would last a great while. He insisted on my holding the iron just his way—every finger had to be just so. It was awkward for me at first but it became quite natural in time. Much good steel is wasted by careless ways in sharpening a plane iron and there is much unnecessary grinding in consequence.

I was proud of my father as a mechanic. He loved to do good work. He had a large tool-case which hung on the wall. It was nearly full of little drawers, all dovetailed nicely by hand. How many of the woodworkers in any of the trades can do a neat job of dovetailing? In his tool-case, which was made of rosewood and mahogany, were panels beautifully inlaid with white holly. Some of the work was put in at such angles that it appeared to stand out from the surface, and often I would run my hand over it, not believing it could be all level.

This inlaid work fascinated me, so I wanted to do some inlaid work myself. Father laid out a checker board on a piece of real white basswood. I guess he thought that would do for a starter. So I got a mallet and chisel and started in to dig out the squares. After this was done I fitted into the spaces black walnut blocks, gluing the blocks well and driving them in hard. I could hardly wait until it was dry before smoothing it off. When I did, I thought it was a wonderful piece of work; but father, while he praised me some, showed me the bad points, which were numerous and which greatly mar inlaid work. But all the time I was learning the use of tools, an indispensable thing in learning any trade.

Another tool that cabinetmakers use much on hard wood is the scraper. I took many lessons on the science of sharpening this tool also, but I confess that to this day I cannot get such a smooth-cutting edge on it as father could. The scraper he used was about the width of an ordinary hand-saw near the point, and a little longer than it was wide. He used a certain small gouge to sharpen his scraper. When it was dull he would lay it down near the edge of his bench, and holding it firmly would rub the back of that gouge over it with great rapidity. He would then turn it over and treat the other side of the scraper in the same way.

Of course you know that a steel scraper will only cut when the edge is turned back at a right angle with the side. When dull, this edge must be rubbed all down. Father did this with a gouge, as just described. Then the smooth back of the gouge was used to re-turn the edge. This he did by holding the scraper firmly with one end resting on the bench, while he drew the back of the gouge quickly, but hard pressed, along the corner of the edge he was sharpening. He did this with all four corners of the two cutting edges, then he would use it on places in the stand or table top where the grain was rough, and it was quite wonderful to me to see what shavings he would cut from the roughest places with that scraper, rendering it as smooth as glass.

We often speak of the knack of doing things. Well, he had the knack of sharpening a scraper that, with all his instruction, I have not been able to quite equal. I remember distinctly the pains that my father took with me in teaching these simple yet important things, for I was not a very apt apprentice, but I liked the work, and I am glad I learned that trade; and if I had a boy who showed any mechanical tendencies at all, I would teach him or have him taught a trade. I think every boy who has natural qualifications for it should learn a trade, and if he had the chance to become president of the United States afterwards, the trade would not hurt him any and he would have it to fall back upon when he had done with the other job.

I do not remember of meeting but one man who had learned a trade who said he was sorry for it, and he was I believe an excellent workman too. He was a machinery patternmaker, and judging from the salary he received I think he had no kick coming, but he was pessimistic. Yet I enjoyed visiting him and hearing him tell of his exploits when a young man, and after he had grown older. He told me that his father, owing to his heroic treatment of a neighbor’s valuable bulldog, gave him the choice of learning a trade or going to the reformatory, and he declared to me that he was always sorry he did not go to the reformatory instead of learning a trade.

The bulldog seemed to be the turning point in his career. It happened in this wise: When he was about sixteen years of age, according to his own testimony, his conduct bordered on wildness, and one day while on his way to hunt rabbits with a loaded, double-barreled shotgun he met a couple of neighbor’s boys, and they had with them their father’s bulldog. The dog made for the hunter, and the boys told the young fellow to point the gun at the dog and he would run away.

To use his own language, “I did point the gun at the dog with both hammers raised, and the dog came right on until he seized the muzzle of the gun in his mouth, and when he did so I pulled both triggers and the bulldog vanished in the air.” The neighbor made his father pay for the dog, and the father made him learn a trade, and he seemed to think that the end of that dog was the beginning of all his troubles.

But there was no coercion about my learning the cabinetmaker’s trade. I fell into it quite naturally, and those things that I learned to do as above described came to me in sort of homeopathic doses. That is to say, I was taught these things at odd spells and a little at a time, while I was going to school. But when the summer vacation arrived I began work in real earnest and was at it every day.

My father was very particular about his glue. He had three rules which he observed: The glue must be fresh, thin and hot. In making extension tables there is much gluing to be done. The bed of the table and the leaves were glued. Of course selection was made of pieces matching the grain as nicely as possible. Cabinet work, if good, implies good glue and a knowledge of how to use it. Glue that is as brown and crumbles like rosin should never be employed in making furniture, or for any other work that depends solely upon its strength.

My father gave me short lectures on all these fundamental things pertaining to the trade. I did not appreciate them then as I do now. However, I gave heed enough so that I was not so green about the use of glue as one apprentice I heard of who, on being asked to glue two blocks together with handscrews, did so, but a moment later was seen taking the hand-screws off, and when asked what he was doing that for replied, “Well, they are squeezing all the glue out.”

Father scolded me some, and no doubt I deserved more than I got. But as before stated, I was fourteen years of age, and rapidly approaching that period in a boy’s life when he knows, or at least thinks he knows, more than his father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandfather and the whole world besides.

Every boy has to go over “Fool’s Hill.” Some are a little longer reaching the summit than others, but from fourteen years of age on their heads grow and swell at a great rate until they are past sixteen; then it gradually diminishes until they are about twenty-five, and unless “swelled head” has become chronic, at the age of twenty-five it becomes normal and less like a pumpkin.

Once while speaking to a Southern gentleman about boys, and girls too, knowing so much more at sixteen than their parents he said to me, “Do you know how we express these peculiar conditions existing between the young people and the old ones down here? Well, we say to the young people, ‘Young people think that the old people are fools, but the old people know that the young people are.'”

I told him I would remember that, and as soon as my boy began to get lofty I would spring it on him. If he is anything like his father was, I will not have long to wait. I knew a whole lot more when I was sixteen than I do now, and it was lucky for me that I learned the trade under my father’s instruction instead of under the instruction of some men I have known since, for he had mercy when I deserved to have been half killed.

As before stated, my father was making furniture at this place by piece work. All the machine work was done for him by men employed for the purpose, and the material piled up near our benches, a dozen extension tables, or dressers, or bureaus, as the case might be, at a time. He got a dozen cheap bureaus to make, which was fun for me, as I had a chance to put the drawers together.

These were not dovetailed, but the drawer part at each end was halved with a groove about ½ inch from the lower edge to receive the bottom pieces. I used glue and finishing nails, nailing the drawer end to the front, where it was halved first, and then to the back, and lastly the other end was secured to both back and front. Then it was ready for the bottom, but before I put the bottom in I had to see that the drawer frame was square.

In order to make sure, for no one can tell what an apprentice may do to get a thing wrong, father nailed two strips just the length of the drawers at right angles with the front of my bench, and by putting the drawer frame with the front of the drawer even with the edge of the bench between the strips, it had to come square.

So in this position I slipped the thin pieces of basswood of which the bottom material was made into the grooves made in the ends and front, and by nailing it along the back edge the drawer was done, except fitting to the frames so it would slide in easily without too much play. This was a job for a more advanced cabinetmaker, but I could make the drawers, and as I always liked to pound and hammer and make noise, the job just suited me.

My first knowledge of cabinetmaking, which consisted of object lessons merely, when I was very small, was in a shop where there was no machinery. In this shop there was considerable machinery for making furniture, but this machinery cannot be compared to the machinery of the present time, and as I pore over the pages of Wood Craft and examine the machinery displayed so far in advance of thirty years ago, I wonder what the next thirty years will develop in the way of improved woodworking machinery. It now seems as if the limit of perfection had been reached.

I remember an old-fashioned planer that was used in the factory for dressing lumber “out of wind” where I began to learn my trade. Instead of pushing the board to be jointed over a perfectly true and easily adjusted iron table sustaining knives that cut as smoothly as a hand-plane and as true as anything can be made, in this old machine the board was run in edgewise against knives fastened in a wheel resembling a face-plate, which knives sort of chewed and twisted the shavings off, leaving the flat side of the board fairly “out of wind” but about as rough as a circular saw would leave it.

The shaper that was used in this shop for running moldings on table tops and short legs and the like, consisted of two heads which held the knives, one running one way and the other the reverse. It was a very dangerous machine to run and two men usually operated it, I suppose so that if one got killed, or his arm or head cut off, there would be one left to report it and get the ambulance or the coroner, as the case might be.

Years afterwards I ran a carver and molder with single reversible heads, did all the work that was done upon it in a very large factory for two years and escaped with scarcely a scar. At the best these machines are extra hazardous owing to the fact that the work must be held against the knives with the hands, without the aid of feed rolls.

Another quite crude machine, which father and I used together some, was a sandpapering wheel, which consisted of a cylinder about the diameter of a barrel head and about as long as an ordinary flour barrel. The sandpaper was glued on to this cylinder and left to dry over night. It was used by holding the stand top or table leaf on to it while revolving and by moving the work from end to end it was sandpapered.

The mortising machine was also a crude affair and pounded so vigorously on heavy work as to fairly cause the building to rock upon its foundation and the chips were driven into the mortises so hard that they were with great difficulty dislodged. I know this well enough, for I had much of this dislodging to do—a job I did not like. But I was like many another apprentice, the work that I wanted to do as a rule I was not able to do and the work I was able to do I did not want to do.

There was one great advantage I had over many apprentices, I had access to all the tools I needed and it was fairly driven into my head to keep my tools sharp. How many, many boys I have known since who were trying to learn a trade with scarcely any tools and very little knowledge of how to take care of the few tools they had; trying to plane something straight and smooth with a dull plane, or trying to “beat” a mortise with a blunt chisel, or do a little carving, and sometimes the boy would not know why he could not do good work, and becoming discouraged was ready to give up as a failure when there was nothing in the world the matter except too few and too dull tools.

Even under the most favorable conditions an apprentice must be expected to spoil some work. It was so in my case, and I had the best opportunities to learn the trade. The work was by the piece and I was responsible to no one but my father. I was put right on to the bench, was not sent on any errands and therefore my time was not wasted chasing around outside, wearing away shoe leather and learning nothing, as too often is the case with boys “put out” to learn a trade.

I have known of apprentices who, by being kept doing a whole lot of odd jobs that did not pertain at all to the trade they were seeking to learn, wasted at least two out of their four years’ service. The boss would have them up at his house a good share of the time, doing anything from cleaning out a stable or currying a horse to sweeping the sidewalk, shoveling snow or drowning a troublesome old cat.

I think such treatment of an apprentice is contemptible, and a man who will do it is mean enough to steal. It is more than stealing. It is robbing a poor boy of the best opportunities of his life. I am a thousand times thankful that I had a “good show,” as we sometimes say, and I have always felt sorry indeed when I have seen boys even more apt to learn than I was compelled to do anything and everything but the steady application to those duties which involve the learning of a trade. Whether he be a young and aspiring cabinetmaker or a young woodworker of any kind, give him a chance.

Chris Weeks

Wood Craft – January, 1906

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Noah’s Arks

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 9:31pm


In Kew Gardens is a seldom-visited collection of all the kinds of wood which we have ever heard of, accompanied by specimens of various articles customarily made of those woods in the countries of their growth. Tools, implements, small articles of furniture, musical instruments, sabots and wooden shoes, boot-trees and shoe-lasts, bows and arrows, planes, saw-handles—all are here, and thousands of other things which it would take a very long summer day indeed even to glance at.

The fine display of colonial woods, which were built up into fanciful trophies at the International Exhibition of eighteen hundred and sixty-two, has been transferred to one of these museums; and a noble collection it makes.

We know comparatively little in England of the minor uses of wood. We use wood enough in building houses and railway structures; our carriage-builders and wheelwrights cut up and fashion a great deal more; and our cabinet-makers know how to stock our rooms with furniture, from three-legged stools up to costly cabinets; but implements and minor articles are less extensively made of wood in England than in foreign countries —partly because our forests are becoming thinned, and partly because iron and iron-work are so abundant and cheap.

In America, matters are very different. There are thousands of square miles of forest which belong to no one in particular, and the wood of which may be claimed by those who are at the trouble of felling the trees. Nay, a backwoodsman would be very glad to effect a clearing on such terms as these, seeing that the trees encumber the ground on which he wishes to grow corn-crops. The wood, when the trees have been felled and converted into boards and planks, is applied to almost countless purposes of use. Of use, we say; for the Americans are too bustling a people to devote much time to the fabricating of ornaments: they prefer to buy these ready made from Britishers and other Europeans.

Pails, bowls, washing-machines, wringing-machines, knife-cleaning boards, neat light vehicles, neat light furniture, dairy vessels, kitchen utensils, all are made by the Americans of clean tidy-looking wood, and are sold at very low prices. Machinery is used to a large extent in this turnery and woodware; the manufacturers not having the fear of strikes before their eyes, use machines just where they think this kind of aid is likely to be most serviceable. The way in which they get a little bowl out of a big bowl, and this out of a bigger, and this out of a bigger still, is a notable example of economy in workmanship.

On the continent of Europe the woodworkers are mostly handicraftsmen, who niggle away at their little bits of wood without much aid from machinery. Witness the briar-root pipes of St. Claude. Smart young fellows who sport this kind of smoking-bowl in England, neither know nor care for the fact that it comes from a secluded spot in the Jura Mountains. Men and women, boys and girls, earn from threepence to four shillings a day in various little bits of carved and turned work; but the crack wages are paid to the briar-root pipe-makers.

England imports many more than she smokes, and sends off the rest to America. M. Audiganne says that “in those monster armies which have sprung up so suddenly on the soil of the great republic, there is scarcely a soldier but has a St. Claude briar-root pipe in his pocket.” The truth is, that, unlike cutties and meerschaums, and other clay or earthen pipes, these briar-root productions are very strong, and will bear a great deal of knocking about.

The same French writer says that when his countrymen came here to see our International Exhibition, some of them bought and carried home specimens of these pipes as English curiosities: not aware that the little French town of St. Claude was the place of their production.
In Germany the wood-work, so far as English importers know anything of it, is mostly in the form of small trinkets and toys for children. The production of these is immense. In the Tyrol, and near the Thuringian Forest, in the middle states of the ill-organised confederacy, and wherever forests abound, there the peasants spend much of their time in making toys.

In the Tyrol, for example, there is a valley called the Grödnerthal, about twenty miles long, in which the rough climate and barren soil will not suffice to grow corn for the inhabitants, who are rather numerous. Shut out from the agricultural labour customary in other districts, the people earn their bread chiefly by wood carving.

They make toys of numberless kinds (in which Noah’s Ark animals are very predominant) of the soft wood of the Siberian pine—known to the Germans as ziebel-nusskiefer. The tree is of slow growth, found on the higher slopes of the valley, but now becoming scarce, owing to the improvidence of the peasants in cutting down the forests without saving or planting others to succeed them.

For a hundred years and more the peasants have been carvers. Nearly every cottage is a workshop. All the occupants, male and female, down to very young children, seat themselves round a table, and fashion their little bits of wood. They use twenty or thirty different kinds of tools, under the magic of which the wood is transformed into a dog, a lion, a man, or what not. Agents represent these carvers in various cities of Europe, to dispose of the wares; but they nearly all find their way back again to their native valleys, to spend their earnings in peace.

Many of the specimens shown at the Kew museums are more elaborate than those which could be produced wholly by hand. A turning-lathe of some power must have been needed. Indeed, the manner in which these zoological productions are fabricated is exceedingly curious, and is little likely to be anticipated by ordinary observers.

Who, for instance, would imagine for a moment that a wooden horse, elephant, or tiger, or any other member of the Noah’s Ark family, could be turned in a lathe, like a ball, bowl, or bedpost? How could the turner’s cutting tool, while the piece of wood is rotating in the lathe, make the head stick out in the front, and the ears at the top, and the tail in the rear, and the legs underneath?

And how could the animal be made longer than he is high, and higher than he is broad? And how could all the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the swellings and sinkings, be produced by a manipulation which only seems suitable for circular objects? These questions are all fair ones, and deserve a fair answer.

The articles, then, are not fully made in the lathe; they are brought to the state of flat pieces, the outline or contour of which bears an approximate resemblance to the profile of an animal. These flat pieces are in themselves a puzzle; for it is difficult to see how the lathe can have had anything to do with their production. The truth is, the wood is first turned into rings.

Say that a horse three inches long is to be fabricated. A block of soft pine-wood is prepared, and cut into a slab three inches thick, by perhaps fifteen inches in diameter: the grain running in the direction of the thickness. Out of this circular slab a circular piece is cut from the centre, possibly six inches in diameter, leaving the slab in the form of a ring, like an extra thick india-rubber elastic band.

While this ring is in the lathe, the turner applies his chisels and gouges to it in every part, on the outer edge, on the inner edge, and on both sides. All sorts of curves are made, now deep, now shallow; now convex, now concave; now with single curvature, now with double.

A looker-on could hardly by any possibility guess what these curvings and twistings have to do with each other, for the ring is still a ring and nothing else; but the cunning workman has got it all in his mind’s eye. When the turning is finished, the ring is bisected or cut across, not into two slices, but into two segments or semicircular pieces. Looking at either end of either piece, lo! there is the profile of a horse—without a tail, certainly, but a respectably good horse in other respects.

The secret is now divulged. The turner, while the ring or annulus is in the lathe—a Saturn’s ring without a Saturn—turns the outer edge into the profile of the top of the head and the back of a horse, the one flat surface into the profile of the chest and the fore legs, the other flat surface into the profile of the hind quarters and hind legs, and the inner edge of the ring into the profile of the belly and the deep recess between the fore and hind legs. The curvatures are really very well done, for the workmen have good models to copy from, and long practice gives them accuracy of hand and eye.

An endless ring of tailless horses has been produced, doubtless the most important part of the affair; but there is much ingenuity yet to be shown in developing from this abstract ring a certain number of single, concrete, individual, proper Noah’s Ark horses, with proper Noah’s Ark tails.

The ring is chopped or sawn up into a great many pieces. Each piece is thicker at one end than the other, because the outer diameter of the ring was necessarily greater than the inner; but with this allowance, each piece may be considered flat. The thick end is the head of the horse, the thin end the hind quarter; one projecting piece represents the position and profile of the fore legs, but they are not separated; and similarly of the hind legs.

Now is the time for the carver to set to work. He takes the piece of wood in hand, equalises the thickness where needful, and pares off the sharp edges; he separates into two ears the little projecting piece which juts out from the head, separates into two pairs of legs the two projecting pieces which jut out from the body, and makes a respectable pair of eyes, with nostrils and mouth of proper thorough-bred character; he jags the back of the neck in the proper way to form a mane, and makes, not a tail, but a little recess to which a tail may comfortably be glued.

The tail is a separate affair. An endless ring of horses’ tails is first turned in a lathe. A much smaller slab, smaller in diameter and in thickness than the other, is cut into an annulus or ring; and this ring is turned by tools on both edges and both sides. When bisected, each end of each half of the ring exhibits the profile of a horse’s tail; and when cut up into small bits, each bit has the wherewithal in it for fashioning one tail.

After the carver has done his work, each horse receives its proper tail; and they are all proper long tails too, such as nature may be supposed to have made, and not the clipped and cropped affairs which farriers and grooms produce.

This continuous ring system is carried faithfully through the whole Noah’s Ark family. One big slab is for an endless ring of elephants; another of appropriate size for camels; others for lions, leopards, wolves, foxes, dogs, donkeys, ducks, and all the rest. Sometimes the ears are so shaped as not very conveniently to be produced in the same ring as the other part of the animal; in this case an endless ring of ears is made, and chopped up into twice as many ears as there are animals.

Elephants’ trunks stick out in a way that would perplex the turner somewhat; he therefore makes an endless ring of trunks, chops it up, and hands over the pieces to the carver to be fashioned into as many trunks as there are elephants. In some instances, where the animal is rather a bullet-headed sort of an individual, the head is turned in a lathe separately, and glued on to the headless body.

If a carnivorous animal has a tail very much like that of one of the graminivorous sort, the carver says nothing about it, but makes the same endless ring of tails serve both; or they may belong to the same order but different families—as, for instance, the camel and the cow, which are presented by these Noah’s Ark people with tails cut from the same endless ring.

Other toys are made in the same way. Those eternal soldiers which German boys are always supposed to love so much, as if there were no end of Schleswig-Holsteins for them to conquer, are—if made of wood—(for tin soldiers are also immensely in request) turned separately in a lathe, so far as their martial frames admit of this mode of shaping; but their muskets, and some other portions, are made on the endless ring system.

All this may be seen very well at Kew; for there are the blocks of soft pine, the slabs cut from them (with the grain of the wood in the direction of the thickness), the rings turned from the slabs, the turnings and curvatures of the rings, the profile of an animal seen at each end, the slices cut from each ring, the animal fashioned from each slice, the ring of tails, the separate tails from each ring, the animal properly tailed in all its glory, and a painted specimen or two to show the finished form in which the loving couples go into the Ark—pigs not so much smaller than elephants as they ought to be, but piggishly shaped nevertheless.

All the English toymakers agree, with one accord, that we cannot for an instant compete with the Germans and Tyrolese in the fabrication of such articles, price for price. We have not made it a large and important branch of handicraft; and our workmen have not studied natural history with sufficient assiduity to give the proper distinctive forms to the animals.

The more elaborate productions—such as the baby-dolls which can say “mamma,” and make their chests heave like any sentimental damsels—are of French, rather than German manufacture, and are not so much wooden productions as combinations of many different materials. Papier mâché, moulded into form, is becoming very useful in the doll and animal trade; while india-rubber and gutta-percha are doing wonders.

The real Noah’s Ark work, however, is thoroughly German, and is specially connected with wood-working. Some of the more delicate and elaborate specimens of carving—such as the groups for chimney-piece ornaments, honoured by the protection of glass shades—are made of lime-tree or linden-wood, by the peasants of Oberammergan, in the mountain parts of Bavaria.

There were specimens of these kinds of work at our two Exhibitions which could not have been produced in England at thrice the price; our good carvers are few, and their services are in request at good wages for mediæval church-work.

We should be curious to know what an English carver would require to be paid for a half guinea Bavarian group, now before us—a Tyrolese mountaineer seated on a rock, his rifle resting on his arm, the studded nails in his climbing shoes, a dead chamois at his feet, his wife leaning her hand lightly on his shoulder, his thumb pointing over his shoulder to denote the quarter where he had shot the chamois, his wooden bowl of porridge held on his left knee, the easy fit and flow of the garments of both man and woman—all artistically grouped and nicely cut, and looking clean and white in linden-wood.

No English carver would dream of such a thing at such a price. However, these are not the most important of the productions of the peasant carvers, commercially speaking; like as our Mintons and Copelands make more money by every-day crockery than by beautiful Parian statuettes, so do the German toymakers look to the Noah’s Ark class of productions as their main stay in the market, rather than to more elegant and artistic works.

Charles Dickens (Editor)

All the Year Round – April 8, 1865

Illustrations from:
The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette – March 27, 1869

Links for further study:

Johannes Geyer – Reifendreher

Die Sendung mit der Maus

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Truth of the Day: Plastic Finishes

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 3:42pm

sawbench_finish.jpgI don’t write much about finishing because Bob Flexner has done that for us. “Understanding Wood Finishing” is one of the core books that should be in every woodworker’s library. Read it once through and then refer back to it when you wander into uncharted territory.

Bob has a reputation as an iconoclast, a rebel or a curmudgeon, depending on who you talk to. As someone who edited his column in Popular Woodworking Magazine for many years I can say this: He has no tolerance for BS, marketing, marketing BS or romantic naming conventions for finishing products. And unlike other authors who write about finishing, Bob does not sell his own finishing products.

We are constantly bamboozled by finish manufacturers who push “tung oil,” “Danish oil” or whatever on us without telling us what actually is in the can. Finishing is not complex. There are only a few ways that finishes cure. And once you understand the differences, then finishing becomes as straightforward a skill as flattening a board.

During the weekend I had to look something up about fixing orange peel in a film finish and stumbled on a remarkable fact in his book. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

“Myth: You often hear polyurethane disparaged as a ‘plastic’ finish.

“Fact: All film finishes, except possibly shellac, are plastic! Solid lacquer, called celluloid, was the first plastic. It was used as early as the 1870s to make collars, combs, knife handles, spectacle frames, toothbrushes, and later, movie film. Phenolic resin, called Bakelite, was used to make the first plastic radio cases. Amino resins (catalyzed finishes) are used to make plastic laminate. Acrylic resin (water base) is used to make Plexiglas.”

Flexner then goes into detail about how modern varnishes were developed.

Sweet mother of mystery, this book is only $15 at ShopWoodworking. Buy it and read it.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Finishing
Categories: Hand Tools

Update: ‘Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley’

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 1:11pm


If you’ve wondered why I’m losing my hair, it not entirely genetics. It also has to do with our upcoming title, “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Donald C. Williams and Narayan Nayar.

The good news is that the book is in capable hands. We have Wesley Tanner (of “To Make as Perfectly Possible” fame) designing the book. And it is beautiful. We have photographer Narayan Nayar processing all the photos and dialing in the color for the press we are using. Plus I, Don Williams, Megan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Burks and others have been fine-tuning the text to make it as clean as we can.

What’s making me crazy, however, is the deadline. We have to get the book to the printer by midnight Thursday to ensure that it will be delivered in time for Handworks and the exhibit of the Studley tool cabinet and workbench in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

It will be a squeaker.

We plan to open pre-publication ordering for the book on Monday. The title will be full-color, 8-1/2” x 11”, 216 pages, and printed on beautiful and heavy matte paper with a stunning dust jacket. The price will be $49. We hope to offer free shipping for domestic customers who order before the press date, but we’re still running those numbers. Our kids have to eat, and I need to buy a 50-gallon vat of Rogaine.

We also plan to offer an option where you can order the book now and pick it up at Handworks – that will be the first place the book will be released to the public. More details on the ordering process over the weekend.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

Update: ‘Chairmaker’s Notebook’

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:54pm

CN_cover_web2So where is Peter Galbert’s book “Chairmaker’s Notebook” that was supposed to ship from the printer on March 20? The book is supposed to leave the Tennessee printer today and arrive in our warehouse either tomorrow or Friday.

Then our fulfillment service is creating a special assembly line to process all of the orders (more than 1,100) immediately.

In other news about the book, we are preparing to publish a set of full-size plans for the two chairs in the book. These plans were hand-drawn by Peter and include the full-size seats with all the angles, all the turning profiles (both baluster and bobbin), plus the details on the bending form for the fan-back.

I’m currently scanning the plans and will have details on price and availability soon. These plans will not be bundled with the book and will be actually be produced and shipped by a third party. So no one is going to miss out on a deal or discount.

I’m driving up to our warehouse on Friday and should have photos of the finished product soon.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Chairmaker's Notebook
Categories: Hand Tools

Update: Hand Tool Immersion Class

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:43pm


I’d like to say “thank you” to all the woodworkers who have donated tools, money and offers of assistance for the Hand Tool Immersion class for new woodworkers being held at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking this fall.

The class filled up in 45 minutes. Marc encouraged me to hold a second one, but I’m afraid I am too tied up with <insert insane list of items here> to even consider it. The good news is that we are already planning additional deeply discount classes for new woodworkers for 2016. Details to come when they are available.


As to the tools y’all have sent, we now have an official imperial crapload of them in my sunroom. In fact, I think we’ll have all 18 students covered. We just have to first figure out exactly what each student needs to complete his or her toolkit.

By the way, if you are a student in this class, you should receive instructions in May on getting your toolkit sorted. So stay tuned on that front.

As to offers of food, teaching assistance and cheerleading, I want to say “yes” to all of the generous offers. I just need to talk over what is possible with Marc next month while I’m at the school. It’s his school, his facility and his insurance. So it’s really his call as to whether you can bring your flea circus to help flatten chisel backs.

The other update for this class (and the similar one in England) is that I’ve started building the tool chest we’ll all be building during these classes. I’ll be shooting photos and will have a manual for the students with drawings etc. This manual will allow me to take naps during the class, perhaps even to skip a couple days of the class to hit the Oaken Barrel for a bender. Who knows?

The wood for the chest is some sweet 4/4 white pine I recently scored. The stuff almost planes itself.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

The History of Wood, Part 47

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 6:00am


Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Contest: Photo Fun with Calvin Cobb

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:00am

CalvinCobb_Jacket6If you’ve read “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill perhaps you’ve noticed the numbered “chapter spots” – the little images at the beginning of each chapter.

(If you haven’t yet read it, well, you should! It’s variously funny, poignant, thought-provoking and, of course, quintessentially Underhill-ian.)

Here’s the back story on those chapter spots: Christopher Schwarz and I were in Pittsboro, N.C., at The Woodwright’s School when Roy started hunting down vintage things with numbers on them, camera in hand. I tried to keep up with him, jotting down everything at which he pointed the lens. But who can keep up with Roy?! Not me.

Saturday, though, I got a list from Roy of all the items – so we thought we’d have a fun little contest with them.

In the comments, in order from 1-38, post your best guesses as to what each item is in the chapter spots (pictured in order below). The contest runs through 11:59 p.m., March 28 (this Saturday). That way, I have the weekend to go through them.

Whomever gets the most correct (or is the first to get them all correct) wins an autographed copy of “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!”, a Lost Art Press T-shirt (your choice of available offerings and sizes) and an autographed Roubo bookstand from Roy.

The person with the second most correct wins an autographed copy of “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” and a Lost Art Press T-shirt.

Third prize is your choice of an autographed book or a Lost Art Press T-shirt.

And if there’s a tie for win, place or show, I can probably shake another set of applicable prizes out of the powers that be.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!
Categories: Hand Tools

Ants Viires (1918-2015)

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 3:42pm


Ants Viires, the pioneering Estonian ethnographer and author of “Woodworking in Estonia,” died on March 18, according to friends and family.

At the time of his death, Lost Art Press was actively preparing an all-new translation of the landmark “Woodworking in Estonia,” which Roy Underhill listed in 2011 as one of his three favorite woodworking books. The surviving family fully supports our translation effort, and we expect to release the book by the end of 2015.

“Woodworking in Estonia” is one of the most detailed studies ever written about an active hand-tool culture. It really is like stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. Viires dedicated his life to recording this vanishing Baltic culture and recording their tools, processes and products.=

Oddly, “Woodworking in Estonia” was first translated into English in the 1960s by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations and – even odder – was published by the U.S. Science Foundation as a typewritten text with low-quality images.

Viires disavowed this edition, saying it was unauthorized.

Nevertheless, this weird little book is how most of us encountered “Woodworking in Estonia” and became fans of it. About two years ago, we encountered an Estonian woodworking in Toronto who put us in touch with the Viires family and we all agreed to embark on a completely new translation.


Since that first 1960s edition, Viires had updated the text in “Woodworking in Estonia.” And the Estonian publisher, Kirjastus Ilo, reissued the book with gorgeous and crisp drawings and photos.

We hired a translator who was familiar with Viires’s work to handle the new edition, and he turned in his final translation about the same day that Viires died. The book is now in the hands of Peter Follansbee, who will comb through the text to ensure it is technically correct. And then we will design it to look very much like Viires’s 2006 edition of the book, with all the sharp drawings and photos – and with the full support of the Viires family and the Estonian publisher.

In other words, this will be the first authorized English translation of this book, its sales will support the Viires family and English-speaking woodworkers will finally be able to fully experience this amazing woodworking book.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Woodworking in Estonia
Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut