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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 21 min 39 sec ago

Misconceptions About Signatures

6 hours 36 min ago


During the last four months I’ve had some odd encounters with customers at shows, classes and the like.

Customer (holding a book): “I understand that you aren’t signing books anymore. But would you mind signing this one book for me?”

Me: “Huh? What? I’ll sign anything. Got a baby?”

I am happy to sign anything and with anyone’s name (I do a passable “Roy Underhill” and a crappy “Norm Abram”) on your books, DVDs, T-shirts and bare flesh when you see me. I’ve signed a man’s chest (and I have bad dreams still), and I’ve signed a dozen books in blood in Australia.

What I cannot do is personally sign every book we sell through the Lost Art Press web site. All of our inventory is two hours away, and it changes so rapidly that I would spend a significant amount of time driving, unpacking books and packing them again.

That is why I now sign books via a letterpress bookplate printed by Steamwhistle Press in Cincinnati, Ohio. These are printed on a treadle machine, one-by-one, on quality adhesive-backed paper. I have signed each one individually with an ink pen (non-treadle-powered).

These are not cheap. In fact, they cut into our profit significantly. But that’s OK because we like them.

So next time you see me, lift up your shirt and hand me a Sharpie.

Or, on second thought…. lift up your girlfriend’s shirt and…. Oh nevermind. I’m in so much trouble as it is.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Products We Sell
Categories: Hand Tools

Some Roorkee Details to Ponder

8 hours 4 min ago


Ghurka – the maker of fine leather goods – offers a couple of different Roorkee patterns for sale at its website: the officer’s lounger and the officer’s chair.

Both are made in the classic style in oak with nice leather details.

What caught my eye were a couple of construction details. One that I like, and one that makes me say “Hmmmm.”

The one I like is the way they attach the arm straps to the back of the legs. I assume there is a threaded insert in the leg. Then the strap is secured by a brass thumbscrew. Even better: the maker has punched holes in the arm strap so you can take up the slack. After studying a bunch of old Roorkees, the arms always go slack.

I’m sure I’ll try this method out on a future chair.


The other detail is the way the maker adjusts the straps on the reclining back of the chair. The adjustable straps use Sam Browne buttons and punched holes. It creates a clean look and requires less hardware than a buckle, but the straps cannot be adjusted as finely as a result. Perhaps it’s no big deal.

All in all, very nice examples.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools

Full-size Leather Lips for Your Stool

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 6:31pm


The leather “lips” for the seat on the stool in “Campaign Furniture” have stymied a few readers. Their exact shape isn’t critical, but I should have provided a gridded diagram to make things easier.

Reader Glenn Frazee has made it super-easy to cut out your leather lips. He generated the following full-size pattern in pdf format for you to download. Simply print it out (with no scaling) and use it to make a wooden template for your lips.


Thanks Glenn!

I also have some interesting hardware options for the stool to share with you in the coming weeks. Think: “blacksmith-made tri-bolt” and “hidden nuts.”

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools

Peter Galbert on Practicing Mistakes

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:38am


Editor’s note: Peter Galbert’s upcoming book on chairmaking is filled with stuff I have already begun to put into practice in my shop. Check out this short passage.

While learning techniques for turning specific details is important, I’ve found that having a process to practice and improve them is critical to mastering them. I remember learning to turn and feeling like mistakes and catches came out of nowhere, like a mugger in the night. But turning is simple physics, and the combination of tool, wood and movement will yield absolutely predictable results. Just like driving a car, the key is learning what the controls are and how to combine them to keep out of harm’s way. The problem almost always lies with you and your tool, and while this sounds like condemnation, I take it as encouragement. If the technique you are using gives poor results, you have the ability to choose a different technique, but first you must identify the problem.

Because the occasional turner usually needs to make a only few pieces when a project calls for them, it’s natural to assume that carefully turning a good bead on a scrap piece of wood is the way to bone up before chucking up a furniture part. The problem with this assumption is that it implies that squeaking out one good bead is proof positive that you can repeat the feat.

I’ve found it’s more productive to turn 10 poor-looking beads quickly. This gives the turner the chance to rehearse the movements and isolate the problem areas. I encourage consciously repeating mistakes, as long as they aren’t unsafe, until you can do so consistently. That way, you will learn to investigate the mechanics of the trouble, and avoiding it becomes easy. Plus, like a boxer learning to take a punch, you won’t become overly rattled by a simple catch or mistake.

— Peter Galbert

Filed under: Chairmaking by Peter Galbert
Categories: Hand Tools

The Piltdown Cabinet

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 9:14am


Most woodworkers become adept at hiding repairs on their furniture or antiques. But some use this skill to fool a buyer into paying much more for a piece that is actually modern or has been cobbled together from several antique sources.

The forgery trade employed many famous woodworkers, including Charles Hayward (by his own admission in his short biography). And there are many written accounts that explain the forgery trade. And it still goes on today quite actively.

One common ruse is to buy old but inexpensive pieces and chop them up for the vintage wood and patina. Then assemble bits and pieces from several sources to create something that looks much earlier, rare and expensive.

The pull above is a victim of the chop-shop trade. It was culled from an early campaign chest so the wood (oak veneer over tight-grain deal) could be used for something else. The pull made its way to woodworker Richard Arnold, who gave it to me this fall.

And while campaign pieces are typically the victims of the chop trade, they also can be the final result of the ruse, as explained by Bernard Jack in his book “The Antique Story Book” (Etching Hill Press).


Demand for Military Chests was outstripping supply and (the antiques dealer) had several people making them for her. She was sure I could do the work, adding that her local dustman was able to turn out one a week in his spare time. She would supply the Victorian chests and all the brasswork and pay me a fiver for each one. I apologised for being unable to help, saying that I was already heavily committed, but thanked her for the offer. I wonder who owns the chests the dustman made?

So the next time you are in a museum or antiques store and get to examine something rare or extraordinary, keep in mind that there is a shadowy world of woodworkers out there who are corrupting the furniture record we study and replicate.

— Christopher Schwarz

If you want to read more about the world of fakes, check out this article about the Chipstone Collection.

Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools

Too Busy to Sharpen

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:11am


I criticized a carpenter working for me recently for using dull tools. He excused himself by saying that he had been too busy to sharpen them. He had been working for weeks with a dull saw, and with a plane which had notches in it, leaving ugly ridges on the boards he was planing.

He had probably wasted more time in working with dull tools than would have been required to sharpen them several times, to say nothing of the inferior work he was turning out.

There are multitudes of people who never do good work because they never prepare for it, never put themselves in a position to do good work—they never sharpened their tools; never trained themselves for it, and they go through life botching their jobs…

Orison Swett Marden

North Judson News – December 24, 1914

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

What Will Become of Me?

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:26pm


A tall pine-tree had been cut down in the forest, and dragged away to a back yard, where it now lay chopped into blocks of wood for fuel, piled up on the top of one another. Near the yard, on the other side of the hedge, was a garden with a green lawn, and out amidst the foliage there peeped forth a charming villa, where a family from the neighbouring town were wont, during the summer months, to come to live, and inhale the balmy air and bask in the country sunshine.

During the long, dreary spring the wooden logs had plenty of time to reflect on their future, but the majority of them were agreed that there was not much to reflect upon, for the fate of a log of firewood was once for all decided, and could not be altered.

“We are not good for anything else but to be chopped up into little chips, and consumed in the large fire-place,” one of the blocks of wood said to the others.

“It is, alas! our pre-ordained destiny,” sighed another.

“We, the offspring of the forest, cannot attempt anything nobler than to become fire and flames, and to boil the pot,” added a third.

But one of the little blocks that was without either flaws or cracks, and which was lying there by itself, so white and pretty, could not agree in its mind that it would not become anything better than charcoal and cinders; and when it heard the disconsolate talking of its comrades, the little white block begged to differ: “Who knows what one is good for!”

But the others considered that it only spoke in pride, and said, “We shall meet again—in the fire-place.”

The guests from the town arrived at the villa. A journeyman threw down the pieces of wood from the big pile, he sawed and cut them into little pieces, preparing one log after another for the fire-place.

“Kneech, krasch!” said the logs as they were being chopped into little bits; and when the servant girl carried them into the kitchen, they all whispered to the little white log, “It will be your turn next.”

One day the owner came into the back yard, and had his little son with him.

“Now we will knock them with the axe, and hear by the ring whether there is a good piece of timber among them,” said the father, and hammered away on one piece of wood after another.

“No good, no good, only to burn!” all the blocks answered. But soon he came to the little white log, and it had quite another sound.

“Knock on, knock on, fit for anything!” it chimed in the wood.

“There we have one with a good ring in it. Let us take that one,” said the father; and he commenced at once chopping large chips from the log, both before and behind, and on both the sides.

“I shall burn as I am, entire, but you will be chopped into contemptible sticks,” said a crooked twisted bit of a branch with spite. But though its fibres were terribly cut every time the axe fell, still the little white log thought, “One must be shaped and formed before one can be fit for anything in this world.”

And, after every cut from the axe, the form of the log became more spruce and handsome. From a log it was soon formed into the shape of a ship’s hull, and carried away to the carpenter’s workshop, and with a screw affixed to the carpenter’s bench, to suffer more pains in the clutches of various tools.

“She will be a fine clipper,” said little Harry, with delight, when after a couple of days he came into the carpenter’s shop, and saw how the uncouth log gradually had been transformed into a trim little boat, with smart prow, deck and mast.

“I know now what will become of me,” thought the little boat with feelings of exultation, and was quite impatient to be let loose from the screw of the carpenter’s bench, and to be launched out on the limpid waters.

And soon it was completely rigged, the shrouds reaching from the top of the mast down both sides, and out on the bowsprit in perfect fashion.

“There is still something very important wanting, before I can proceed out on the watery main of my own accord,” said the boat.

Then the sails were hoisted, white and flapping. “These are my wings,” it thought; “but still I want something more.”

And then the rudder was affixed, for without that the boat would have been helpless, and not able to steer a right course. “Now I feel myself safe; now I long to leap along the crested billows,” said the eager little ship.

And young Harry took her in his arms and carried her to the creek. His father accompanied him, and all, big people and little folks, whom they met on the road turned and went with them to the shore to see the little boat sail across the tiny bay.

Amid exulting shouts and cheers, the little boat was launched. The wind swelled the sails, and, as if it were a swan, it was borne along the waves, now raised aloft on their surging crests, now descending their foaming valleys. The water glittered in the sunlight; the foliage of the green trees mirrored itself in the serene waters on the side of the creek from which the gentle wind came, and where the waters were unrippled.

“Such happiness I never dreamt of!” thought the boat, and listened with delight to the praise bestowed upon her by all for being so trim and smart.

“See how she dances on the waves—my pretty yacht!” exulted little Harry.
“A regular clipper!” said the father, and then smiled.

“She seems as if she were almost a living being!” said one of the lookers-on.
And the little skiff almost jumped along the billows for very joy to hear these praises; but suddenly she stopped—thought a moment—turned, and steered towards land.

“Right you are, you little skiff, sweep along the shore again; we have forgotten the most important thing of all,” said Harry’s father.

And the boat landed again. A tiny piece of blue silk with a yellow cross was hoisted to the mainsail. It was the Swedish flag!

“Now at last you are fully equipped,” said the father; and louder and lustier rose the cheering of the onlookers as the tiny schooner sailed afresh across the bay, and the flag waved in the wind.

“The blue flag with golden cross speaks of the blue sky and the golden sun that shed their lustre over the country of my birth!” exulted the little boat, and felt her heart beat with joy that she had believed in her true calling from the very first, until now at last it had come to pass that she had emerged from her obscure and lonely sphere to become admired and loved, and carry the Swedish flag to honour and glory.


From the Swedish of Richard Gustafsson
(Translated by Albert Albert)

Chit-Chat by Puck:
Tea-Time Tales for Young Little Folks and Young Old Folks – 1880

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Router Plane Fix

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 2:40am
felibien router plane 5

Worked like a charm.

The old Stanley router plane turned up in the mail from a colleague in the States a while back, the box a little crunched and the threaded adjustment shaft was bent. Not a huge problem, but the thing was that it made it impossible to set the iron for anything less than about 3/8” (9 mm). The question was; leave it as is, or try to bend and risk breaking the shaft? Not needing the plane right then, I decided to think about it…

Felibien router plane 1

The bent shaft made it impossible to decrease the depth of cut.

The other day when cutting some tenons for a desk for my daughter Rachel, I decided to try to fix the shaft. I figured even if I broke the shaft the plane would still be usable, as the thumb nut is only used for fine adjustments.

I had had a similar problem on a Record 044 plow plane I bought online a while back. It seemed at the time to be an incredible bargain. When it arrived, I could see why. Sharper eyes than mine… There is a machine screw that holds the irons, of different widths, up against the body and a pressure foot to hold the iron against its bed. Whoever bought the plane way back when seemed not to have understood how the screw and the pressure foot worked together, and had cranked the screw so hard he had bent it. Taking a closer look back at the photos online, you could see the problem, but I hadn’t noticed. The iron couldn’t seat properly and from the looks of it the plane was put back into the box and never touched again. None of the irons had ever even been sharpened.

For the plow plane, I took three regular nuts and threaded them down the screw, aligned them and clamped them in a metal vise and used a big Cresent wrench to bend the screw straight. Worked fine, but in this case, the shaft was a true 1/4” and the 6 mm bolts I have here in France wouldn’t fit. So I knocked together a little jig in 5 mm ply to protect the threads from the vise.

Felibien router plane 2

The soft aspen-cored okoume 5mm ply was perfect for the job.

felibien router plane 3

The 5 mm ply was the perfect thickness to leave space for the 1/4″ threaded shaft. You can see the slight indent where the wood compressed around the shaft.

Worked like a charm, not 100% straight, but fully functional.

felibien router plane 4

The iron was in pretty good shape, and 15 minutes on the stone got it done.

felibian router plane desk copy

Rachel’s desk

Oak and black locust, with maritime pine as secondary wood.

felibian router plane desk 2 copy

I have always liked a low angle for my wrists for typing, so I added an old-fashioned typing tray, wide enough to take a big laptop or a wide keyboard, with a drawer to store it behind the hinged center piece.

I ended up taking it to a joiner I know to cut the profile around the edges of the top on his table moulder. The end grain of the black locust was just too splintery to cut across it with the moulding plane I wanted to use, even with a sacrificial block clamped onto the end to keep it from tearing out. Other than that, I used a thicknesser, and then the rest was hand tools.

There is a reason it is a cliché among woodworkers to speak of the satisfaction of building something for your family that, as long as it lives in a home, will last centuries: It really is satisfying.

Now, if only someone could tell me what eschauffent means…

- Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson is a translator and woodworker living in France. He is translating the woodworking parts of André Felibien’s Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture… avec un dictionnaire des terms for Lost Art Press. The book is due out in the Autumn of 2014. Anderson translated Grandpa‘s Workshop for us.



Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Folding Campaign Bookcase Complete

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 12:05pm


For the last seven weeks I’ve been building this folding campaign bookcase using sapele I purchased from the dearly departed Midwest Woodworking. My logbook says I have about 50 hours in the project. It took seven weeks because I was interrupted by travel, teaching and taxes (to name a few things).

Some details:

Overall dimensions (open): 37” long, 27” high, 10-1/4” deep.
Hardware: Most of the hardware is from Lee Valley. The corner guards, brackets and campaign pulls were vintage stuff from eBay (though Londonderry Brasses carries the exact stuff I used). The lock is from eBay as well. See here for details.
Finish: Garnet shellac and black wax.
More details on construction: Coming this fall in Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The piece is away for photography and then to the customer. Now I can get started on making some birdhouses.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Books in Print, Campaign Furniture, Projects
Categories: Hand Tools

Split and Sawed Shingles

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:07pm


I have been interested in the communications of your correspondent in regard to shingles. I have had over thirty years’ experience in building and repairing roofs. I have taken rifted pine shingles from off several roofs that were worn entirely through, at the line where the water falls from one shingle upon the next one below, while underneath the courses the shingles were as bright as when first laid.

Such is not the fact with sawed and cut shingles, from any kind of timber. The reason is, that sawed and cut shingles are cross-grained, so that water runs through the pores of the wood,—wets the under course, and, in wet seasons, seldom if ever dries.

The agents of decay are, air, water and heat. All are combined on a roof to produce decay, and you have the effect on all roofs made of sawed or cut shingles. I have replaced many roofs of sawed shingles, but they never were half worn; they were rotten and unfit to remain longer.

Let any one examine a sawed shingle, and he will find the grain severed and every pore, through which the sap was pumped up from the roots to the branches, is a water-pipe to conduct water through the shingle, instead of over it, as is done by a rifted shingle.

I advise every man, who has means to procure a rifted and shaved shingle, never to use a sawed or cut one. I think slate is the most economical and durable of all roofs. Tin will do well, and roofs with it will be laid more flat, thereby making less surface to cover. There may be compositions that will make good roofs, but I know of none I would accept as a gift, and I have tried several kinds. In choosing rifted shingles, don’t get those of twisted grain, so that one side will turn up and the other turn down.

Any person who will discover a cheap kind of roofing, that will endure our variable climate, will deserve the everlasting gratitude of his kind. But forever deliver me from sawed, and more especially cut shingles.

Correspondent—Boston Cultivator

The Canada Farmer – June 1, 1864

—Jeff Burks

A Shingle sawing and packing operation at a small mill near Jefferson, Texas 1939. 8a25830v 8a25834v 8a25835v 8a25839v 8a25838v 8a25836v 8a25832v 8a25833v 8a25831v
Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

A Barrel of Shavings

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:29pm


A Carpenter can no longer be judged by his shavings. Machinery and improved tools is knocking to pieces the old-fashioned mechanical way of lots of sawdust and any amount of shavings in housework.

On this point the Springfield Republican remarks:
“A prominent city landlord, who is putting up many of the wooden houses in a district which is being rapidly filled, when asked by an old resident for a few barrels of shavings the other day, replied: We don’t have any shavings in the houses now; they are all made at the mill and you will have to go there for them. I don’t believe that the carpenters now a-days make more than a barrel of shavings in building a house. Modern residences are put up pretty much as Solomon’s temple was, the parts are brought together all prepared and fitted, and it is short and easy work to put them together.”

The wooden house is turned out of a saw and planing-mill, much as if it were a toy-block. Like ready-made clothes, the average mechanic can put up a ready-made house, while there is still the same opportunity for elaborate workmanship and outlay as in fine clothing.

The Builder and Wood-Worker – September, 1887

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

On the Stump and the Axe

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 1:34pm


For some reason I never considered a tree stump as essential workshop equipment until I met Richard Maguire.

Maguire, a lifelong furniture-maker and bench-builder, uses a stump and an axe in his shop and counts it among his essential workshop kit. I’ve always favored sawbenches (yup, I hew on them), but I am coming around to Richard’s way of thinking.

Especially after playing a few (OK, 126) rounds of the Hammer Schlager game, the best stump game ever.

This week Suzanne Ellison sent me this photo from the Victoria & Albert Museum archives. Lady Hawarden Clementina took this photo at Dundrum House circa 1858. It is a fascinating photograph. Not only for the workbench, the chest in the foreground and the awesome hats, but for the stump and the axe.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Historical Images, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Upcoming Projects at Lost Art Press

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 5:39am


When I left the corporate publishing world, I stopped wearing a wristwatch everyday. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn one this year. This is, of course, a symbolic gesture. We won’t release a book until we are happy with it.

So I can’t ever say when a certain title will be released. However, here are the projects we are working on now and in the coming months.

“Windsor Foundations” (a tentative title) by Peter Galbert
I’m about halfway through editing this book. As a woodworker who loves chairmaking, I can say that this is the best book I have read on the topic. Peter is able to explain complex subjects with clarity and just a few words. Plus, he is drawing all of the illustrations for the book (and there are a ton of them).

“Princips de l’Architecture” by André Félibien, translation by Brian Anderson
This important French book pre-dated Joseph Moxon and explains processes and tools not shown in Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.” Brian is finishing the translation, which should be in my hands in a few weeks. Read more on this book here.

“Roubo on Furniture” by Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue
The translation of this book is complete and the edited sections are now flowing to me. The scope of this book is remarkable. I think you will find it was worth the wait. We will again publish a standard edition and a limited deluxe edition of this book. I don’t have any more details on pricing or availability.

“Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill
The text is complete and Megan Fitzpatrick is finishing her first edit. We are on the verge of selecting an illustrator. Right, Megan? This book is on track for release in the fall.

“Furniture of Necessity” by Christopher Schwarz
I’m taking the first load of furniture up to the engraver on Saturday. So look for an update on this title in the next week or so.

“The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years” by Charles Hayward
This project has been going on for as long as our Roubo translation. We have acquired the rights to publish about 500 magazine articles written and illustrated by Charles Hayward when he was editor of The Woodworker magazine in England. The book will cover joinery, tools, casework, carving, turning and traditional design. The goal is to have this massive tome released by the end of 2014, but you’ve heard that line before.

“Virtuoso: The Tool Chest and Workbench of H.O. Studley” (tentative title) by Don Williams
This book will be out this time next year. That is all.

We also have three other titles that I haven’t announced yet but we have completed contract negotiations with the authors. One of these books is a do-it-before-you-die project for me. So our 2015 is booked up and we are already working on the lineup for 2016.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaking by Peter Galbert, Furniture of Necessity, Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

The Minimalist Anarchist Tool Kit

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:57am


To build an English-style tool chest, you don’t need a chest full of hand tools. Here is what I consider the minimum tool kit necessary to build this chest during a class or in your shop (as soon as you have your stock dimensioned).

Block plane: for smoothing surfaces and trimming joints flush
Jack plane: for gross removal of material
Moving fillister, skew rabbet or large shoulder plane: for cutting rabbets
Plow plane: for plowing the groove in the lid
Beading plane: 1/8” or 3/16” (optional)

Dovetail saw
Tenon saw
Coping saw, such as the Olson, and extra blades (10 or 12 tpi)

1/2” bevel-edge chisel
1/4” or 5/16” mortising chisel
Chisel mallet

Marking & Measuring
Cutting gauge, such as the Tite-Mark
Dividers (one or two pair)
Marking knife
Mechanical pencil
Dovetail gauge or sliding T-bevel
Tape measure
Combination square: 6” or 12”

16 oz. claw hammer
Nail sets
Hand drill with a set of bits up to 1/4”
Sharpening equipment

Depending on how you cut your dovetails, you can skip some of the equipment. If you cut pins first, you can get away without a marking knife. If you like your dovetails a little irregular looking, you can dispense with the dovetail marking gauge and the dividers. If you truly cut your dovetails “by hand” then you don’t need a dovetail saw (you ninja).

— Christopher Schwarz

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

What is that Shadowy Thing? Solved.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 5:33pm


When you look at old engravings, there are going to be details that confuse. Perhaps they were drawn incorrectly. Or you just don’t have enough information to interpret the marks on the page.

Several years ago, I wrote about the French benches in the La Forge Royale catalog, which illustrates several benches with wagon vises. The images of the benches show an odd thing hanging down below the benchtops. It’s clearly a stick, but its purpose isn’t discussed in the text of the catalog.

After several years of speculation, we now know what this dangling stick is. It is the handle for the wooden screw that attaches the top and base together. Thanks to a photo from Jameel Abraham, we have this clear cut-answer.


Of course, this answer raises some questions. Does this method of attaching the top and base adequately resist the horizontal forces from the leg vise? If you built a bench like this and attached the top and base with lag screws alone, you’d be sorry. I am sorry.

Perhaps the top and base of this French bench are attached with both the wooden screw and some dowel pins. I guess I’ll never know until I get to take apart one of these benches myself.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Insults From Beyond the Grave

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 2:53pm


Philippe Lafargue, my Roubo translation collaborator and long-time friend, has been insulted.

Deeply. By M. Roubo himself.

Roubo’s chapters on chairmaking are technically sublime, with many profound insights and word pictures I find captivating. However, he is incessant in his demeaning descriptions of chairmakers, accusing them of being sloppy, careless, unskilled and slothful. Somewhere between the lines he is probably implying that they are hung over, their feet stink and they don’t love Jesus. Though he does not comment on their table manners, we can guess what he might say.

As a graduate of the renowned École Boulle curriculum in classical French chairmaking, Philippe unsurprisingly takes umbrage at these characterizations. He has gone so far as to wonder out loud (well, in print correspondence) why it is that Roubo was so contemptuous of chairmakers.

If we knew where Roubo is buried, it might be worth trying to dig him up and asking him. When you read Roubo’s accounts of chairmaking, you will no doubt ask yourselves the same question.

— Don Williams

Filed under: Books in Print, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

Care of Grindstones

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:10pm


The American Agriculturist says, perhaps there is no farm implement which is so useful and so little esteemed as the grindstone. If it was kept under shelter and otherwise properly taken care off, one of these instruments should last almost a man’s life-time instead of wearing out in a few years.

No grindstone should be exposed to the weather, as it not only injures the wood work, but the sun’s rays harden the stone so much as in time to render it useless; neither should it be run in water, as the part remaining in the water softens so much that it wears away faster than the other side, and many a “soft place” in a stone has arisen from this cause alone, and not from any in equality in the grit.

The proper way is to allow the water to drop on the stone as it is needed, either from a cast-iron water cup, or (what answers very well) an old white lead keg, supported above the stone, with a spile near the bottom, which can be driven in when needed, and if kept filled with water will last a long time.

Finally, the stone should not be allowed to “get out of the round,” as no tool can be properly ground unless the stone runs true; if it should become uneven, get some one to turn it, and with a nail rod raze it down until it becomes perfectly round.

Greasy or rusty tools should be well cleaned before grinding or they will choke up the grit. If this should occur, a little sharp sand and water on a board kept against the stone while turning, will clean it off and sharpen up the grit.

The Dairy Farmer – January, 1861

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

No Tools to Lend

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:00pm


No Tools to Lend

These words, inscribed on the door of a farmer’s tool house, recently caught our eye, and furnished a ready theme for meditation. Borrowing is an ancient and evil custom, the fruitful source of many troubles. In the ruder stages of civilization there might have been greater necessity for borrowing than now; but as the world progresses there can be less and less need of it.

The tendency of cultivated humanity is to independent action—the tendency of barbarism is to a servile obligation. The more educated a community, the less they borrow, and consequently the more the borrowing element predominates, the greater their degradation.

There are several kinds of borrowers at the present day. There are the careful and the careless—the slack and the prompt —those who expect to pay for the privilege, and those who don’t expect to—those who help themselves without permission, and those who forget to return.

The careful, prompt, paying borrower is usually a welcome visitor. It is a pleasure to lend to such a man. This class know how to appreciate a favor, and it is of these that Solomon spoke when he said “the borrower is servant to the lender.”

But there is a class to whom the lender is servant, a degenerate class of borrowers, always to be dreaded. They wear a fair, smooth face to begin with, and a mean, sneaking face at the end. They take the precious property of another, and subject it to rougher usage and severer strain than does the owner. The chances are that the article is returned in a broken or damaged condition.

A man who can misuse a borrowed thing, seldom has delicacy enough to make amends for an injury. Thus insult is added to injury, and if complaint arises, neighbors often become enemies. That such are the frequent, final results of borrowing, any one familiar with social life knows.

At that farm house where the inscription above referred to was limned, there may have been peculiar reasons for it. Of these reasons we know nothing, and have no desire to. But our sympathies, quickened by trials in this lending line, have led us to recall cases that may have been real.

For example, farmer A keeps all sorts of tools neat, bright, and in perfect order. He prides himself on having tools, and sacrifices other pleasures to save money to buy and pay for them. He has neighbors who are unable or too stingy to buy, and so they live by borrowing, and making old apologies for tools answer instead. They can appreciate good tools, and are willing to save time in using them as well as anybody, but they never think about the propriety of remuneration.

Farmer A buys a new corn planter, and the season being backward, several neighbors are behind hand in planting, and apply for the use of the machine. The implement cost money: the owner never expecting to buy another, handles it himself carefully, and reluctantly loans it.

Some day after, when farmer A wants to use his machine, he has to hunt it up among his neighbors, and finds it dirty, unhoused, a nut lost off, and a wooden linchpin supplying the place of the appropriate iron one. As it has been used by several individuals, each throws the blame of damage upon the other, coolly leaving the owner to pocket the loss and its injury.

Again, farmer A gets a mowing machine, and puts it in running order some rainy day before the time of using. Soon after a neighboring farmer comes all prepared with his team, and wants to try it in his home lot, intimating that he thinks of buying when he can decide upon its merits.

The machine is allowed to depart, and finally returned by the borrower without thanks or offering, but with the cool impudence that it wouldn’t do its work. On examination the knives are found gapped and marked by the sticks and bricks through which it has run, and the loss of an important screw is a key to the mystery.

Other cases might be enumerated. Suffice it to say there are well off farmers in almost every town, who for years have depended upon less opulent neighbors for plows, rakes, forks, and grindstones. These things ought not to be. Every tub should stand or fall upon its own bottom.

It is neither charity or religion to lend to rich men without remuneration. A man’s tools are property, and like money are entitled to security and pay. We believe more and more in the sage advice to young men that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Polonius in the play of Hamlet:—

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

The Country Gentleman – July 11, 1861


The Lender is Servant to the Borrower.

Will you permit an old fellow who has seen some service in farming, and who has been a subscriber to your very useful paper since its first publication, to occupy a few lines in the Cabinet, for a purpose that perhaps some may consider of little importance.

The purpose indicated by the heading, to wit:—Borrowing, in many neighborhoods, and amongst considerate thoughtful farmers is not much practised; yet there are individuals who through downright carelessness and neglect of duty to themselves and their more provident neighbors, are much given to this species of imposition.

A proper spirit of accommodation, and a disposition to oblige and reasonably to promote the interests of neighbors, should always be encouraged and promoted, but it should never be carried to the point where it would assume the character of a regular systematic plan of operations.

Those who borrow, should resort to it as seldom as possible, and always return the article borrowed as early as practicable, and be sure that it is returned to its owner in good order. This is but a very plain principle of common sense and justice, and yet there are very frequent instances of its infringement, and that among well meaning, yet inconsiderate people.

On the farm that I was reared, care was taken to keep the implements of agriculture in good order, and to have a proper supply of them, but we had neighbors in good circumstances who instead of depending on their own resources, were constantly borrowing, first one article and then another, the year round, and it was somewhat of a rarity for them to send any thing home again; for they seemed to think it trouble enough to come for it in the first instance.

During my boy-hood, it fell to my lot when a loaned article was wanted to trudge off to the neighbor who had borrowed it and bring it home, and it was not unfrequent that it was unfit for use when brought home, and sometimes there was demur at the surrender of a borrowed article.

Now I hope there has been improvement in these matters since I was errand-boy, yet I fear there is still room for admonition on the subject of borrowing, and I concluded to drop you these few lines, that the boys of the present day, may know what has been the experience of those who were boys fifty years ago but are now
                                                                                                                 OLD MEN.

The Farmers’ Cabinet – April 13, 1838

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

A Roorkee Footstool

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 3:46pm


The principles behind the Roorkee chair can be easily adapted to other forms of furniture besides chairs. Its loose-tenon joinery has been used to make beds and even tables on occasion.

Today, however, I saw my first Roorkee footstool.

This weekend I visited the new Lee Valley store in Vaughan, Ontario, to deliver a couple talks on workbench design and campaign furniture. For my talk on campaign furniture, I brought along five campaign pieces (Me to border guard: “No, I am not invading your country”). But I didn’t have a Roorkee chair with me – my last one sold to a customer.


So I was happy when local woodworker Vincent brought along two Roorkee chairs he had made – plus a Roorkee footstool that was built using the same principles.

Made using purpleheart, the stool had a thigh strap and a slanted seat cover, just like a Roorkee chair. The rest of the attendees were gaga over it, taking photos and trying it out.

Vincent also made some nice modifications to the original Roorkee plan. Instead of turning round stretchers, he made his stretchers octagonal and terminated with a tapered tenon. They looked very nice – I’ll have to try that on a future chair.

Also, the “grip” turning at the top of the chair bowed out slightly in the middle instead of being straight. It looked nice and felt nice in the hand as well.

All in all, the new Lee Valley store is quite nice. The company is trying out some new things with this store. So if you are ever driving north of Toronto on the 400, be sure to stop and chck it out.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Books in Print, Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools

Animal Locomotion

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 4:42am


Last year we discussed the work of 19th century British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot. A print attributed to Talbot circa 1844, known as ‘Carpenter and Apprentice‘, may be the oldest surviving photograph of woodworkers.

The subject of this blog entry is the work of Eadweard Muybridge, known to many as the man who provided photographic evidence that a galloping horse could have all four hooves off the ground at the same time. You have probably seen his photographs whether you recognize his name or not. Many are not aware that Muybridge also photographed woodworkers. His studies may contain the oldest images of woodworking in action.

Muybridge had a penchant for photographing his models in the nude. His woodworking images depict semi-nude and fully nude males. If you have a problem with nudity, or are browsing this blog from work, you might want to skip this post.

Photography has its earliest beginnings in the 1830′s when most efforts were directed toward the science of capturing photographs and making the results permanent. Once the basic problems were solved, photographers moved on to new ideas. By the 1860′s a number of photographers were experimenting with “moving pictures” using a technique known as Chronophotography, defined as “a set of photographs of a moving object, taken for the purpose of recording and exhibiting successive phases of motion.”

At this time the motion picture camera (using roll film) had not yet been invented. All cameras were bulky contraptions that took significant time to load and prep for a single exposure. To get around this limitation the photographers would set up a series of cameras and trigger them sequentially. The downside of this technique becomes evident when the resulting images are “played back” flip-book style. Because each frame is captured from a slightly different location, the moving picture suffers from shifting perspective of the foreground and background objects.

To quote Wikipedia: “In 1872, Leland Stanford, former governor of California and horse enthusiast, hired Eadweard Muybridge to provide photographic proof that at some instants a galloping horse has all four hooves off the ground. Muybridge lined part of a racecourse with a row of cameras that had shutters connected to a series of tripwires, then photographed a horse against a white background as it galloped past. One of the resulting silhouette photographs provided the desired proof. Later in the decade, with the benefit of more sensitive photographic plates, he obtained greatly improved results. Muybridge also arranged such sequences of photographs in order around the inner surface of a zoetrope; when the drum-like device was set spinning, an observer looking through its slots saw an animated image.”

Muybridge’s story is a fascinating one. He fell out with Stanford after he was denied credit for his photography in the published work on horses, murdered the man he suspected of having an affair with his young wife, and went into exile in South America. When he returned to America in 1883, Muybridge was able to get funding from the University of Pennsylvania to work on a massive photography study known as Animal Locomotion.

Between 1883 and 1886, Muybridge made more than 100,000 photographs for this project using three batteries of cameras, each containing a line of twelve lenses with plate holders and one focusing lens. Muybridge used this setup to capture action sequences of everyday motion. This work would eventually be published in 11 volumes, all of which have been scanned and made available at Wikimedia Commons. Many of the sequences have been converted to animations, some of which can be seen here.



Animal Locomotion Volume II: Plate 379 depicts a man planing at a work bench. The 12-shot action sequence is photographed from three different angles. Similarly, plate 380 depicts the same man sawing a board from three different angles in an 8-shot sequence. Click on the images to see a high resolution copy of each plate. I have taken the liberty of converting these photo series into animations, which you can view by clicking the links below.

Plate 379 01
Plate 379 02
Plate 379 03

Plate 380 01
Plate 380 02
Plate 380 03


Animal Locomotion Volume V: Plate 491 depicts four 10-shot sequences of a naked old man engaged in blacksmithing and woodworking tasks. I have animated the two sequences showing the man splitting wood with a hatchet and sawing a board.

Plate 491 03
Plate 491 04

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut