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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 2 hours 30 min ago

The Last Hardware Swap (I Hope)

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 4:50pm


With the finish drying on my knockdown Nicholson workbench, I began working on a removable shelf to go below the bench. (Forgive me. I am so stuck in the 18th century when it comes to wanting a shelf below my bench.)


Then our postal carrier made an unscheduled stop at our front door. In his hands was a box filled with hardware bits I had resolved to try at the recommendations of readers.

Most of the bits were no better than the steel tee-nuts I had installed on the bench. But one of the bags in the box was heavy. Real heavy. This bag of 14 malleable iron mounting plates (McMaster-Carr 11445T1) was impressive. The plates were sand-cast, thick and heavy.

So I put aside the planks for the shelf and began removing all the tee-nuts to install the iron mounting plates.

I could be wrong, but I think I’m now done.


I tried to destroy the threads of one of these mounting plates and I failed. The wood between the plate and the bolt’s washer just popped and crushed instead. I’m sure I could ruin the mounting plate, but the bolt and wood would also be ruined in the process.

So I installed all the mounting plates and reassembled the bench. I was going to shoot a video of the assembly process, but that will have to be tomorrow. I’ve got 63 pending e-mails to deal with tonight.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

‘I Don’t See that Going Anywhere’

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 1:21pm

Roger and his partner Dan Richfield.

If you frequent Lie-Nielsen Toolworks events you may have run into Roger Benton. He is one of the show crew that demonstrates Lie-Nielsen tools and lifts large crates of tools at the end of the show. When we travel to do shows we get to catch up with people like Roger whom we haven’t seen since the last show. It’s sort of a Carney thing. One of the many things Roger does to make ends meet is roam the borough’s of New York City harvesting lumber from trees. As you can imagine, dealing with large tress is like dealing with large animals. The “fun” is in direct proportion to size. Roger has lots of stories, like the one involving his uncle getting an injured hand permanently mended into a half closed position so he could work the clutch on his Harley.  Sadly this story doesn’t involve uncles and Harleys….

— John Hoffman

‘I Don’t See that Going Anywhere.’

“Nah, that’s probably fine,” I said.

Kyle had just brought up the possibility of adding another ratchet strap to the load of mulberry slabs that were causing the truck’s bumper to hang so close to the ground.

“There’s another strap behind the seat,” he offered, hopefully.

I made a show of vigorously attempting to rock the stack of slabs side to side, demonstrating the absolute soundness of the load. Then I confidently dropped the clincher: “I don’t see that going anywhere.”

Kyle managed to emote the phrase “It’s your funeral” without actually speaking as he went for the rest of the gear.

The preceding batch of hours had been spent doing the work of many men so we were pretty shot. The mulberry tree was massive, the biggest I’ve seen, and working quarters were tight. The tiny Brooklyn backyard this beast lived in was barely 25 feet square with tall brick buildings on three sides. Chainsaws are loud, and I’ll tell you that you haven’t really heard a ported Husqvarna 395xp sing until you’ve run it wide open for a few hours within such tight concrete confines. Running this saw in that space is to your sterocilia as Mt. Saint Helens’ explosion was to the surrounding fir forest: utter devastation. I love that saw, I have feelings for that saw that would scare people, but I have to admit that on this occasion I’d had quite enough of it, thanks much. The mulberry cut really well when we found the rare stretch of metal-free wood, but stretches of metal-free wood would prove to be in short supply that day. We hit an even dozen nails on the first cut. Ten mangled chains later we had ringing ears and nine slabs to show for it, the slabs around 2-3/4” thick, 10 feet long and 20″-34” wide.

Mulberry nails

The slabs were gorgeous and heavy, and had to go through a “small alley,” then up a short flight of stairs and into the truck. The homeowner had warned us about the “small alley,” and we thought we were prepared. We were not, for at some point in the past someone had seen fit to erect a small storage shed in the alley. This looked to have been around 800 years ago. The dilapidated shed was crumbing into the building on one side and left a gap around 20″ wide on the other. So the “small alley” was further condensed into a dirty gap one could squeeze through if one wanted to abrade oneself against a filthy brick-and-stucco building on one side while contracting tetanus from the jagged tin ruin on the other. We each gave it a dry run before committing to the feat with slabs in hand. This was when we confirmed that the small alley doubled as a urinal for the homeless.

Mulberry slabs

A few scrapes and bruises later and we had all the slabs in the truck with no signs of lockjaw.

That’s when Kyle tried to be reasonable, I uttered what is now a fun phrase for my friends to throw back at me and we hopped in the truck and drove off.

We made it about six blocks.

Kyle said, while looking through the rear window, “Um, dude….”

Before he could finish, the truck bed bounced up sharply as if suddenly relieved of its burden. That was because the truck bed had been suddenly relieved of its burden. The slabs, splayed across Kingston Avenue, quickly grew smaller in the rear-view mirror. I could hear tires screeching as the cars behind us slammed on their brakes. It was like in a spy movie where you press a button on the steering wheel to deploy the road block. “They’ll never catch us now!”

Kyle: “We lost the….”

Me: “Yes, I see.”

While the street kids from the bodega on the corner laughed and made insensitive remarks, we loaded the truck a second time. We  blocked the street for about 15 minutes, 20 at the most, the car horn crescendo drawing heads from upper-story windows. I smiled and waved cheerfully. Kyle, bless him, quietly fetched two extra ratchet straps from behind the seat.

We were on our way again in short order. Back at the shop the story was told, embellishments were made. Laughter was had at my expense. “Let the troops have a laugh,” I’ve heard. It’s good for morale.

“I don’t see that going anywhere” is now one of my standard catch phrases for exceedingly precarious situations, and it gets used with scary frequency.

 — Roger Benton

For more information on Roger, his furniture and wood business see





Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

French Oak Roubo Project in 2015

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 9:31am


The Brothers Abraham have announced – finally – the second French Oak Roubo project Nov. 8-14, 2015, in Georgia. Check out the announcement here.

If you missed out on the one last year and you want an awesome French bench, don’t miss this one. Eventually all our backs will give out.

The event will be in the same place with the same assistants (me, included) and the same incredible machinery. Registration opens Sept. 2, 2014.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Reminder: Midwest Wood Sale this Weekend

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 6:31pm


Come to Cincinnati this weekend to scarf up the wood that is left at Midwest Woodworking at a significant discount – 25 percent off the already-low prices for solid wood and 40 percent off veneer.

Midwest is located at 4019 Montgomery Road in Cincinnati, and the sale will go from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring cash or check – no plastic.

I’ll be there to scrounge up some pine, mahogany and sapele for some future commissions. If there are enough people who are interested, we might organize an expedition to the nearby Madtree Brewing taproom, which is less than three miles away and has good beer and brings in some good food.

If you see me there, let me know if you’re in or not for Madtree.

See you there!

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

The History of Wood, Part 16

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 6:00am


Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Back to a Slightly Flawed, Six-pronged Friend

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 8:00pm


I have concluded that the surface-mounted tee-nuts (item 94122A200 from McMaster-Carr) are difficult to break, but they do break at the collar if you tighten their mating bolts too much.

So I removed these 14 tee-nuts from my knockdown Nicholson bench. When it comes to a workbench, nothing should be light- or medium-duty. I replaced them with an old standby for me: the six-prong steel tee-nut for wood, also from McMaster-Carr (90975A163).

These are less expensive – $13.72 for a pack of 50 – and can be tightened with prejudice. You’ll crush the wood before you strip or break these tee-nuts. The downside? They will sometimes fall out when your parts are disassembled.

And here ends the great surface-mounted tee-nut experiment of 2014.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up this workbench – flatten the benchtop and install the crochet. I’ll also shoot a video of how the bench knocks down for travel. I am pleased with the way it goes together.

Then I’ll get back on a pair of Roorkee chair commissions.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Knockdown Bench: Good News and Bad

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 6:39pm
The knockdown bench right before I drilled the holdfast holes in the benchtop.

The knockdown bench right before I drilled the holdfast holes in the benchtop.

Here’s the good news: The bench is assembled and works well. I’ll explain the construction details in the coming days.


And the bad: I destroyed one of the knockdown fasteners tonight. I tightened one of the 3/8” hex-head bolts that fastens the top, and the head of the bolt began to spin freely. Nuts on the tee-nut. The collar of the tee-nut had ripped free from its mounting plate. The broken metal looks porous and weak. I am not happy.

I am going to torture-test a few of these tee-nut fasteners from McMaster-Carr and see if they all break or if that one is an outlier.

Stay tuned.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Lost Art Press Hats, Now in Black

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 11:12am


After many customer requests, we have made a run of our Bayside hats in black with khaki piping and khaki embroidery of our logo.

These hats are unstructured, cotton, made in the United States and adjustable with a steel clasp. They are $17 and are available in our store here.

Dark hats such as these are ideal for hiding sweat stains (eww). Of course, they also absorb heat and make some people sweat a bit more – so they are great for the fall and winter. (Boy, I really know how to sell stuff don’t I?)

Anyway: New hats! I like them!

— Christopher Schwarz

LAP_black_hat_detail_IMG_8885 LAP_black_hat_rear_IMG_8884 LAP_black_hat1_IMG_8881
Filed under: Products We Sell
Categories: Hand Tools

Updates on Lost Art Press Products for 2014

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 5:38am


I know it looks like John Hoffman and I have been lazy publishers this year. Here it is August and we’ve released only two products in 2014 – “Campaign Furniture” and “The Naked Woodworker.”

Are we drunk? Well, yes, but that’s not what is hampering productivity. We have been working on projects that have a long gestation period. Longer than a constipated elephant, apparently. Here is a quick update on stuff that is on the immediate horizon – before the end of the year.

1. “l’Art du Menuisier: The Book of Plates.” We haven’t discussed this project publicly, and I’ll write about it more in the next couple weeks. “The Book of Plates” contains all 383 plates from all of Andre Roubo’s masterwork printed full-size and on super-sexy #100 Mohawk Superfine paper, hardbound and beautiful. This huge book has been a technical challenge because we want it to have a $100 retail price and still be American-made and extremely high-quality. We have succeeded. Details to come. This book is in the capable design hands of Wesley Tanner (“To Make as Perfectly as Possible” deluxe and standard) right now.

2. “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! A Novel with Measured Drawings” by Roy Underhill. The book is complete and being designed by Linda Watts (“By Hand & Eye” and “The Art of Joinery”) right now. Look for this book in November and somewhere in the $27 price range.

3. “Windsor Fundamentals” (working title) by Peter Galbert. The text is complete. Pete is finishing up some drawings and photos. This book will go to the designer in about five weeks. We are going to try to get this out before the end of the year.

4. “The Woodworker – The Charles Hayward Years.” Work on this book began in 2007 and is finally coming to the end. This will be an enormous compilation of the writings and drawings of Charles Hayward, the single-best woodworking author of the 20th century. Much of this material was collected into his classic books (“Woodwork Joints,” “Cabinet Making for Beginners”). A lot of this work hasn’t been seen since the 1930s. We are scanning a few missing articles and then this book will go into design. We don’t have a release date.

There are lots of other books we are working on actively every day, from the second volume of Roubo, the book on H.O. Studley to “The Furniture of Necessity.” But the above titles are the next four in the pipeline.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaking by Peter Galbert, Furniture of Necessity, Products We Sell
Categories: Hand Tools

‘The Naked Woodworker’ Now Available

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 5:47pm

NW_wrap4_1024x1024The Naked Woodworker” DVD and downloadable video are now available in the Lost Art Press store.

The video, hosted by Mike Siemsen, is an introduction to the world of hand-tool woodworking that begins with a tool kit comprised of only a 5-gallon bucket. It ends with completing a workbench that will allow you to start building serious furniture.

While that might sound like a long journey, it’s not. Siemsen, a life-long professional woodworker, has distilled the process of purchasing, setting up and using a basic set of hand tools down its most important essence. And he doesn’t waste a second of time or a penny of money in the process.

Here’s an overview of the 247-minute video:

1. Buy the tools. We followed Siemsen to a regional meeting of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association where we picked through piles of tools all morning to separate the good user tools from the stuff that should be left to rust. Armed with a wad of $200 in small bills, Siemsen negotiated with the dealers to assemble a useable set of tools, everything from the saws and planes, to the files and saw vise needed to sharpen them up.

These principles can be used to buy tools online or at an antique mall.

2. Fix the tools. If you buy the right tools, they don’t require too much repair. But every old tool needs a little setting up. Using home-center equipment (a grinder, belt-sander paper and carpet tape), Mike fixed up and sharpened all the tools. He set up the planes. He sharpened the saws (and repaired their totes). And he got all the Auger bits in good order.

3. Build a sawbench. Before you can build a bench, you need a pair of sawbenches. So Siemens shows how to build a sawbench using nothing more than the basic tools, construction lumber and a couple of buckets.

4. Build a workbench. With the sawbenches complete, Siemsen builds a full-size Nicholson-style workbench using more construction lumber and the same set of tools. You don’t a single machine to make this bench, just Siemsen’s clever ideas and the tools you’ve fixed up.

The bench is designed to do all the tasks required in modern workshop, and it doesn’t take a month of Sundays to build. Siemsen built the entire bench – start to finish – in a single day. It might take you a few weekends.

The biggest surprise of the entire “Naked Woodworker” project is how affordable everything is. Siemsen spent a little more than $571 for everything, from the tools to the wood to the glue and screws. But he’s a good negotiator. We estimate almost anyone could do the same thing for no more than $760.


In addition to the two videos, “The Naked Woodworker” includes a detailed SketchUp drawing of the bench and a spreadsheet that details every tool, screw and stick of lumber purchased for the project.

This product is available in two formats: A two-DVD set that ships from our warehouse in Indiana for $22, or in digital format for $20. Customers who purchase the DVD will be able to download SketchUp drawing of the bench, a pdf of all the tools and materials used in the video after checkout.

Customers who purchase the digital product will download three documents: a SketchUp drawing of the bench, a pdf of all the tools and materials used in the video and login credentials to be able to watch the video on any device and download it onto any device – all in HD.

You can order “The Naked Woodworker” in our store.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD
Categories: Hand Tools

Knockdown Nicholson Workbench, Day .625

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 6:33pm


I had only 90 minutes in the shop today as we spent most of our daylight getting my daughter packed for college and taking her out for a rib dinner.

But during those 90 minutes I assembled the ends and added the stretchers. Everything went swimmingly until I fit the final stretcher. I planed the stretcher’s edge a stroke too many and so that one lap joint isn’t museum-quality.


The end assembly right before the final fitting of the stretcher. It is a little long here.

However, the joint is at the back of the bench and by the floor, so I guess I have more luck than brains today.

Tomorrow it’s off to college, and I’ll brood about that joint’s gap all the way home.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. “The Naked Woodworker” will be live in the store tomorrow evening.


Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Knockdown Nicholson Workbench, Day 1/2

Sat, 08/16/2014 - 3:40pm


The only thing difficult about building this workbench in two days is not building the whole thing in only one day.

I had only about four or five hours of shop time today because we’re packing up our oldest daughter to head off to college on Monday. Despite this, and going to three record stores and a pizza dinner (A Tavola, my favorite), I had to restrain myself from just building the whole workbench start to finish today.



This morning I broke down all the stock with a circular saw, jointed all the boards’ edges with a jointer plane and glued up the top. Then I ate a jelly doughnut.

I clipped the corners of the front and back aprons with a handsaw and then glued a 1×10 spacer to the inside of each apron. This spacer, which is an idea I swiped directly from “The Naked Woodworker,” is one of Mike Siemsen’s moments of pure genius on the DVD. The spacers add rigidity and set the location of the legs.


Then I removed the machine marks from the legs and drilled all the holes for the knockdown hardware. The surface-mounted tee-nuts are a snap to install. They press into a 31/64” pilot hole; prongs stop them from rotating. Then No. 6 x 1-1/4” screws make sure the tee-nuts never fall out when the wood shrinks. I was impressed by how easy these metal bits were to install.


And when I cinched up the legs to the aprons with 3/8” x 3” hex-head bolts and 3/8” x 1” washers, the assemblies were rock solid.

Note that the order of assembly here doesn’t appear logical at first. But I have a good reason for it. More on that tomorrow.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Knowing Your Onions

Sat, 08/16/2014 - 12:47pm


Part 3 of a British Introduction to Japanese Planes

This is the third in a short series on Japanese planes. I am doing this to get to the bottom of an interesting, very simple but highly developed tool for creating polished surfaces.

My son plays rugby with Harry Hood. Harry’s parents have this exquisite oak drop-leaf dining table. The surface of which is highly polished but has never seen abrasive paper. As the evening sun comes in low through the window you see the plane strokes across the tabletop. Wide, smooth, with no tear-out, straight-ish. You can see someone who “knows his onions” who really knows how to do this, has made that tabletop, fast and well.

This is what we are looking for. The answer will be partly in the timber, air-dried and mild, partly in the setup of the plane and partly in the hand that wields it. I can get 90 percent there now, it’s this last bit that drives me nuts. Europeans have used metal planes for only the past 120 years; I wonder if the old sharpened steel wedge in a block of wood can do a better job?

I am typing this with lacerated thumbs gained from careless handling of Japanese plane irons. I thought that 35 years experience of sharpening would have protected me, but no. WATCH OUT. We are now onto Sharpening, a subject that has had more wordy nonsense written about it than almost anything I can recall.

Let’s begin with definition. A really sharp edge is the junction of two polished surfaces brought together in such a way that LIGHT FROM A SEARCHING RAY OF SUNSHINE WILL NOT LAND UPON THAT EDGE. The light in this situation will pass either side; the edge is just too sharp to allow light to land there. You test your edge with your eyes – looking hard, searching for that glimmer of light on the edge that betrays it. Turn the blade this way and that, find the light, examine the edge. If you see NOTHING on that edge, hooray. IT’S SHARP. A fine dusting of sparkles tells you it’s not sharp. Or not sharp enough for me.

We Europeans sharpen differently to the Japanese. We create a polished back like they do; they make this easier by hollowing out the back of plane irons and chisels so all you are flattening is the outer edges. The front bevel we grind, then hone a micro-bevel at the cutting edge. We do this to save time. The Japanese hone the whole bevel and they proudly display the laminated steel exposed by their honing.


Laminations are partly to make honing easier again. The hard cutting edge is forge-welded to a softer iron.They like to use pre-World War II anchor chains for this as it has a different, softer, quick-sharpening structure compared to modern steel. Look out for a steel with small black flecks in it. It’s very highly prized in Japan, but not here.

To hone these blades I went “their way” and worked the whole bevel. The bevel should be pretty flat to sit well on the stones. But some of them were not. I have now bought a small collection of planes and irons some 40 years old as well as couple of “new old stock” planes which have been in a store but unsold for up to 30 years. The old stock have some evidence of minor rust damage and light degrade, but if you choose the right one it seems to be the way to go. I have enjoyed having tools set up by skilled makers much my senior. They each tell me part of the story of how to do this, but there are a few small problems.

A “new old” blade takes me a few minutes of well-practiced work to set up, an old one may have come from a skilled and much-revered grandfather. Or, and you don’t really know what you are getting on eBay till it’s too late, from a less-than-careful sake-sodden owner whose careless workmanship leaves you with a tool needing a full half a day to get sharp.

Honing demanded a careful sensitive touch. No place here for those dreadful honing guides. You hold it in your hands and work it on the stone. First, get the stone flat, really flat. We use a granite slab with #180-grit wet/dry paper. Put some water on the paper, then rub the stone on the wet/dry paper. You know it’s flat when the surface is an even colour.

Holding the blade with the bevel flat on the stone and working back and forth without rocking and changing the angle takes care, a light touch and lots of slurry. Use the Nagura stone that comes with some high-end stones to help clean the stone and create a polishing paste.

This “going through the grits” is essentially polishing. We start with #1,000 grit to turn a burr, but go through #3,000, then #6,000 and on to #10,000. General sharpening might skip #3,000 and #10,000, but we are being careful here. We are a Japanese waterstone workshop; most of our stones are manufactured by King or Ice Bear. We have stayed with this method because it is fast efficient and relatively inexpensive.

This last qualification is changing now as we are now starting to use natural mineral stones imported from Japan. They are very, very interesting, and I will talk about these another time.

Watch your thumbs. Mine were cut quite badly not once but twice when wiping the blade clean, something I have done routinely every day but probably not with edges like this.

David Savage, http://www.finefurnituremaker.com

Filed under: Handplanes, Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Dilated 10 cm but Not Completely Naked

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 1:46pm


Last night I processed image files until the wee hours as I waited for word that Mike Siemsen’s new DVD “The Naked Woodworker” was ready in our warehouse. We’re still working out a few little bugs, but it will go up for sale in the store no later than Monday.

Meanwhile, I woke up this morning with crossed eyes – I couldn’t bear to look at a computer screen. So I got a jump on the knockdown Nicholson I’m building this weekend. It’s based loosely on Mike’s design in “The Naked Woodworker,” but it incorporates some knockdown bolts that are both super-easy to install and robust.

Judging from the comments on an earlier post about this bench, there is some confusion about how these work. They aren’t like threaded inserts. I’ll have more details tomorrow or Sunday when I get to that part of the project. I think you’ll see why these tee-nuts are superior to other solutions out there.

I’m not doing everything like Mike does on his DVD, as you can see in the photo above. Mike assembles the legs with screws so you don’t have to have clamps. I have clamps, so I put those to use this afternoon.

So I’m not fully naked. To the great relief of my neighbors.

More tomorrow.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Crap Wood for Good Workbenches

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 10:19am


A common bench-builder’s lament: “My home center stocks terrible dimensional wood. I went to every store in a 20-mile radius and didn’t find a single board.”

This blog entry is my retort to that complaint. I’ve bought dimensional stock in every region in the United States for workbenches, sawbenches or other workshop equipment. I have never walked away empty-handed. Here are my strategies.

1. 2x4s are for suckers. I buy the widest, longest stock my vehicle can carry. Not only is it clearer, as a rule, but it is cheaper per board foot. The last time I bought a 2×4, Ron Reagan was in the White House. Go for the 2x12s or 2x10s – rip out the pieces you need.

2. Know how the store stacks the wood. The front of the pile is always – always – junk. I’ve watched home center employees carefully stock the dirtiest, knottiest, splittiest, warped junk at the front of the pile. Their strategy: To snare a sucker who is in a hurry, doesn’t care or doesn’t know the difference.

I will unpack the entire pile if need be. (And I will stack it back neater than it was when I walked in.) Near the bottom of that pile is gold that has been pressed flat by the bad sticks above it as it dried and waited for a woodworker.


See how the pith is tangent to the face of the board? I like this.

See how the pith is tangent to the face of the board? I like this.

Here is the face of that same board. Nice.

Here is the face of that same board. Nice.

3. Look for the pith. Many people will avoid boards that contain the woody sapling in the middle of the board. The pith can cause the board to split, after all. I love these boards that are near or contain the pith. If a small amount of the pith is in the board, the board is going to be quartered or rift-sawn. If you find a clear board with the pith fully enclosed in it (sometimes called a “boxed heart”), grab it and rip the pith out.

Look for tight growth rings. These boards will be denser and more durable.

Look for tight growth rings. These boards will be denser and more durable.

4. Watch the end grain. I look for slow-growing trees where the bands of earlywood and latewood are close together. These boards will be dense and incredibly strong – even if the boards have a few knots.

The wide bands of dark latewood are a sure sign that this board will weigh a lot more than its neighbors.

The wide bands of dark latewood are a sure sign that this board will weigh a lot more than its neighbors.

My favorite boards have wide bands of the hard latewood and narrow bands of the soft earlywood. These boards are like iron.

5. Grab what’s good. I always have a shopping list for how many linear feet of wood I need to buy, but I always over-buy, especially when I hit a nice vein of clear wood. Earlier this year I was at an Indiana Menard’s with a group of students and we found a bunk of the clearest, straightest, driest yellow pine I’d ever seen at a home center. I said only three words: “Buy it all.”

They did.

Today I bought four 2x12x12’ boards, five 2x10x8’ boards and one 1×10 to make a knockdown Nicholson bench this weekend. I also bought all the bolts, washers and screws I necessary for the project. I have enough material for an 8’ bench and spent $130.

Saturday morning is almost here. Very excite!

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Welcome to the Team, DZ-015

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 7:36pm


I avoid dealing with large organizations whenever possible, and that is because I am not Chinese.

Somewhere, somehow, some nutjob in the Cincinnati medical community put a note in my file years ago that my preferred language is “Chinese (Mandarin).” While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s a never-ending source of inanity when I go in for a medical test and they hand me forms so they can hire a Chinese translator to be present during the procedure.

This has been going on for years. No matter how many times they delete the reference to Chinese, it keeps resurfacing, even after we switched health insurers.

Exhibit 2: A certain percentage of the times that I fly, I am questioned about why my name on my passport doesn’t match the name on the passenger manifest.

Here’s why the names don’t match: Some computers only allow you to enter 10 characters for your first name. “Christopher” is 11 characters. “Christophe” is 10 letters and is the French version of my given name. Que the cavity search.

So I’m French. Or Chinese.

After many years as passing for an English speaker, I ran into the Chinese problem again today while scheduling a medical test. After going through the whole “you don’t sound Chinese” conversation, she asked me if this test was related to a worker’s compensation claim.

“Yup,” I said. “I was in a rickshaw accident.”

I’ve filed this entry under “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

— Christopher Schwarz

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

For 2015 (and this Weekend): The Knockdown Workbench

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 4:54pm

KD Nicholson Workbench

I’ve built a lot of knockdown workbenches in the last 15 years, but I’ve never been 100-percent happy with my knockdown mechanisms.

The problem: barrel nuts, bedbolts or whatever you want to call the cross-locking nut.

KD Nicholson Workbench_apart

When installed, these things work OK. But installing them so they work smoothly is a lesson in precision down to the gnat’s angstrom. This summer I’ve been noodling a bench design that is inspired by three things.

  1. Mike Siemsen’s Nicholson workbench that he built for “The Naked Woodworker” DVD (coming very soon!) and has been taking to woodworking shows.

2. Planemaker Caleb James’s knockdown version of Mike’s bench, which used hardware found in woodworking jigs. I saw this bench at a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Charleston, S.C.

3. McMaster-Carr part 94122A200.


It was No. 3 that pushed me over the edge. I have vowed to build a 6’ version of this bench this weekend using the surface-mount inserts and 3/8” hex-head bolts. Why are these inserts special? They can be screwed to the wood. Most tee-nuts use simple prongs that grip the wood. And these prongs have all the holding force of a fetal squid.

But these surface-mount inserts should stay put.

I’ll be documenting the build in my driveway and will post photos, a shopping list and several animal similes. And if you live in England, I’ll be teaching a class in building a bench like this for The New English Workshop next July. Peter Follansbee also will be teaching there at the same time (yup, read it here). And other yet-to-be-named people whom I like.

— Christopher Schwarz

KD Nicholson Workbench_underside

Filed under: Woodworking Classes, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

The History of Wood, Part 15

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 6:00am


Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Why Our Books are Sewn and Casebound

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 7:03am


In one word: Charlie.

We will let furniture maker Christopher Scott explain:

“This was the work of my workshop dog Charlie, a curly retriever x lab. I have to admit this book not only got read by Charlie, but it may have been thrown across the backyard toward him I after I found it sans cover. Not a page loose.”

— Christopher Schwarz

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

A British Introduction to Japanese Planes, Part 2

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 5:30am


Japanese planes and the surface they promised to give. That is the goal. The shimmering hand-wrought surface that only a cutting iron in a handplane can give. I am hanging on for this, as it fits my need to put clear blue water between my furniture and the robot-driven, manufactured surface. That routine, intimidating perfection of industry that surrounds us. I wanted a human, imperfect surface, a surface that reminded us of the skilled hand struggling for perfection and failing. I wanted failure.

So I have bought this impressive piece of Japanese steel, but I have also in the process acquired an eBay habit that is disturbing my wife and children.

“Dad, why are you on the laptop during dinner?”

“You tell us to put the mobile phones away at the table.”

“And what is a snipe bid?”

I bought not only the old handmade plane iron and accompanying back iron, but also a couple of other planes. The more I got into this, the more I found I did not know about these planes.

When the blade arrived wit as beautifully wrapped and presented as the Japanese do with all their things. But it needed some work as rust and time had taken its toll. So I set to work on the back of the blade first.

I started with a #230-grit diamond plate. This is a coarse surface and, combined with Trend Lapping Fluid, is an effective way of removing a lot of metal fast. The other benefit is the metal plate itself is pretty flat so we are working toward a constant flat target.

Diamond plates are an expensive way of doing this. This one cost me nearly £25 and is no longer as coarse and effective. Bigger, more expensive plates are, in our experience, just as short-lived. Another way of doing this is a granite slab with #180-grit wet/dry sandpaper; we use this to keep stones flat.


I think I spent a good couple of hours getting hot, wet and dirty doing this. The black stuff that comes off the blade is an indication that the abrasive is working, and the slowness is an indication this blade is hard steel and that the blacksmith knew what he was doing.

What I am hoping is that some of the Samurai sword making history will have rubbed off on my plane iron. “Tamahagane” or “jewel steel” is the name of the steel they used to make swords. The process of hammering and folding, creating a supremely sharp edge with the contrasting quality of toughness. The kind of edge that would cut through three bodies at a time. Mmmm…

It was the hammering under heat, the forging, that makes steel better for us woodies – the time-consuming hammering that gets left out of most modern tool steel production. It makes a finer grain, sharper, edge-holding steel. I have seen and appreciated this during the past 30 years I have been using Japanese chisels.

That plane iron back was hard as blazes. The hollow that is worked into the back of all Japanese tools to save us time in getting that blade flat was being slowly removed by my flattening efforts. The pitting from the rust was pretty deep. If you can, avoid rust-pitted blades; they may be cheap on eBay, but you pay for that neglect.


I tested my diamond-stoned surface on a series of Japanese waterstones: #330-grit green to take out the lines of the diamond plate, #800 to take out the lines of the #330, then #3000 natural waterstone (not synthetic), then #6000-grit gold polishing stone, finishing with a #10,000 natural waterstone. I will why the natural waterstones soon. All of these stones are kept flat religiously with our system of using #180-grit wet/dry sandpaper on a granite slab after every use.

This flat business is pretty dull, but you only do it once. Your shiny, mirror-like blade back then only ever touches your finest stone. All this as it is necessary to get your blade in REALLY close contact with that #10,000 grit polishing stone right at the cutting edge.

Next time we go for sharp…..

— David Savage, http://www.finefurnituremaker.com

Filed under: Handplanes
Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut