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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 54 min 12 sec ago

The Storefront is Open this Saturday

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:07am


The Lost Art Press storefront in Covington, Ky., will be open this Saturday (Nov. 11) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visitors, customers and the curious.

We just received our copies of “From Truths to Tools” and you can come browser through this very interesting and fun book (and buy one if you like). Also, we’ll have blemished copies of other Lost Art Press titles to sell for 50 percent off (cash only). And, as always, our complete line of woodworking books (cash, check or credit welcome for those).

We have some blemished Crucible dividers for sale at a significant discount, as well. Plus Crucible holdfasts and design curves.

Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney will be running the store in the morning while I give a presentation to our local woodworking club. I’ll be at the store in the afternoon if you want to abuse me in particular.

Warning: If you are a professional carpenter you might want to keep your mouth shut about that. I’m in the middle of replacing the main beam in the Horse Garage and might just press you into service.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Our storefront is located at 837 Willard St., Covington, Ky., 41017. There are lots of good places to eat and drink around us. Try Saturday brunch at Otto’s or Hotel Covington.

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

A Walk in the Woods in August

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 6:15pm

Meanwhile, back in Ohio…

I was walking in the woods one day, as I am wont to do, when I came across this fruit on the ground:


I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve never seen a butternut tree around here, but this looks suspiciously like a butternut (Juglans cinerea). I looked up at the trees over the spot where I found the nut, but there were definitely no butternuts (or black walnuts, either), although there were several hickories.

A typical hickory fruit is more spherical, such as this shagbark hickory (Carya ovata):


Mockernut (C. tomentosa) fruit are similar, but they’re distinguishable when you open them up:


The mockernut, on the left, has a large kernel surrounded by thin flesh, while the shagbark on the right has a small kernel and very thick flesh.

I opened up the mystery nut, and on the inside it looks very much like a mockernut, albeit aberrantly shaped:


It’s definitely not a butternut, as the shell of a butternut is deeply grooved, much like this black walnut (J. nigra):



Here’s another hickory; I believe that it is a bitternut (C. cordiformis), but I can’t get near enough to the tree to pick one off and look at it closely:


There’s another kind of hickory around here that I didn’t mention back in the June installment, because I hadn’t come across an example. But now I have:


The shellbark hickory (C. laciniosa) has bark that’s peely like shagbark, but in smaller pieces. I probably would have passed right by this tree had I not noticed the fruit. The fruit of the shellbark is round and huge, almost the size of a tennis ball. Unfortunately, this one was standing in a swamp, and I was not willing to search for a fallen nut in the fetid water. (I will only go so far for you, dear reader.)

Other trees setting fruit in August are black cherries (Prunus serotina):


And yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava):


The fruit of Ohio buckeye (A. glabra) is more spherical, and sparsely covered with short spines.

Late summer is mushroom season in the Appalachian forests. There are mushrooms at other times of year, too, but the peak is in July and August. One of the most sought after is the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius):


This is one of the few wild mushrooms that I’m willing to pick and eat. There are a few inedible and even poisonous species that are vaguely similar, but a telltale identifying characteristic of the chanterelle is the presence of small ridges, in place of true gills, on the underside of the cap:


This is a destroying angel (Amanita virosa):


You can probably guess from the name that it’s one you shouldn’t eat. It and its close relatives are the species most often responsible for mushroom-related fatalities. Its toxicity is especially insidious because by the time you experience any symptoms, your liver and kidneys are pretty much gone.

The destroying angel is pure white, but other Amanita mushrooms are not. Like the other members of its genus, there is a distinct “veil” on the stem, and the base of the mushroom appears to emerge from an egg:


Here’s another veiled mushroom:


I wasn’t able to figure this one out; maybe Amanita or Lepiota. I don’t think I’ll eat it.

This one is a bolete; I believe that it is Gyroporus castaneus, the chestnut bolete, but I’m not 100% sure:


I didn’t get a good photo of the underside, but in place of gills, boletes are covered with tiny, close-packed pores.

Many Russula mushrooms, such as this short-stemmed russula (R. brevipes), won’t kill you but are not particularly good to eat:


Interestingly, they can become infected by a parasitic fungus, Hypomyces lactifluorum, which causes them to turn bright red, whereupon they’re known as lobster mushrooms. Apparently, in this form they are much better tasting (I’ve never tried), with a seafood-like taste (appropriately enough). I’ve seen lobster mushrooms in these woods before, but couldn’t find any this year.

The stalked scarlet cup (Sarcoscypha occidentalis) is tiny, but is so brightly colored that it’s easy to pick out, growing on fallen twigs on the forest floor:


Not all mushrooms look like mushrooms. The jellied false coral (Tremellodendron pallidum) is closely associated with oak trees:


We can’t have a false coral mushroom without also having a true coral mushroom, so here’s a crested coral (Clavulina cristata):


I found these mushrooms growing on some hardwood mulch in my front yard:


It took quite a bit of research, but I think I’ve correctly identified them as Hohenbuehelia mastrucata, the wooly oyster mushroom.

I’ve avoided writing about grasses, mostly because there just aren’t that many that grow in the woods. They’re also usually pretty hard to tell apart. But one common grass that grows deep in the shade and is easy to identify is eastern bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix):


I found this flower growing in my yard:


It’s an orchid, spring lady’s tresses (Spiranthes vernalis). Despite the name, it often blooms in late summer. While researching it online, I discovered that there was no record for this species for Athens County in the USDA PLANTS database, so I submitted photos and other documentation, and now there is.

I took the above photo ten years ago, and I haven’t seen it blooming since. I don’t know if the plant is still around or not. It’s very inconspicuous when it’s not blooming.

After a couple of slow wildflower months, activity begins to pick up again in August. Because it’s still pretty dark in the woods, most woodland-associated wildflowers are found either in open spaces within the woods, or along the margins.

There are many, many species of goldenrod (Solidago), and they can be very tricky to tell apart. One of the earliest to bloom is the aptly-named early goldenrod (S. juncea):


It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this one is easy to identify by its narrow leaves without toothed margins, along with small offshoot leaves that grow out from the bases of the main leaves.

The widespread goldenrod that we see along roadsides and in open fields is tall goldenrod (S. altissima). It’s sometimes called Canada goldenrod, but that name is also used for S. canadensis. You’re probably aware that there are many plants that have been imported from elsewhere into North America, and that have turned out to be extremely invasive. It works both ways, as Canada goldenrod has wreaked havoc in Europe and Asia, even leading to the extinction of several species in China.

The common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) grows in grassy openings in the woods:


The Carolina horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) is a member of the nightshade family, and shares the same five-petaled “beaked” flowers that all nightshades have:


Look closely, and you can see the thorns covering its stems and the undersides of its leaves. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the tomato-like fruits are the only part that might kill you.

I’ve mostly let nature take over the yard, and as a result, tall ironweed (Vernonia altissima) has started showing up:


At first, the deer would munch off the leaves before the plants got very far along, but now there are enough of the plants that I get lots of flowers. And it really is tall; this particular plant reaches well above my head.

It’s a stretch to call butterfly milkweed (Aclepias tuberosa) a woodland wildflower, but it’s one of my favorites, so you get a photo anyway:


– Steve Schafer

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Collapsible Trestle Table

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 1:03pm

About two years ago, my wife was planning a family get together at our home. She asked me if I had anything to use as a table for extra seating. I mentioned we could get two sawhorses, a sheet of plywood and throw a table cloth on it. I am from rural North Carolina so this is a more than adequate type of table. Of course if you have any faith in Mr. Schwarz’s research, it has been an acceptable form of table for may other folks as well for centuries.

My wife would have none of it; a couple days later she came in with a blow-molded plastic table with metal legs from one of the big box stores. It was an abomination. The folding legs worked OK, it was not terribly heavy, but it was just wrong. It looked like very-near future landfill material. It made it through the family gathering but did get me to thinking about something that would serve the same purpose but made of wood.


After after some thought, I came up with a trestle table that is assembled with wedges. The base is held together with four wedged tusk tenons and the top is attached to the base with four tapered dowels that work like removable drawbores. It can be assemble or broken down in a minute or so, with no tools other than a mallet or hammer and can be stored in a closet.



The base is made of yellow pine construction lumber with oak feet. The top is of white pine with breadboard ends. It’s strong, stable, not too heavy and can be set up quickly when needed. Or, it can be left assembled and used daily as this one is.



I filmed a video on making this table, “Building the Collapsible Trestle Table” that is available at Wood and Shop’s store (here) as a digital download or DVD, preview (here). The video was filmed and edited by Joshua Farnsworth (considering the substandard talent he had to work with on these projects, he works miracles with video) who I also filmed two previous projects, “Building the Portable Moravian Workbench” and “Building the Shaker Candle Stand”.

— Will Myers





Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Secrets of the Back Iron

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 12:14pm


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

The back iron of the plane is of the utmost importance. It will often happen that, because it has not been given proper attention, the plane will not work properly, or possibly not work at all.



The function of the back iron is to control the condition of the shaving that the plane makes. Not that one minds what happens to the shavings, but that, in being removed, they have their effect on the surface of the wood. The power of the arms expended in making shavings is shared between cleaving off the part of the wood from the solid mass and in destroying its stiffness as it passes up into the mouth of the plane. A shaving would not pass comfortably up into the mouth of the plane if it were not fractured on its outside at fairly regular intervals, and it is the function of the back iron to do the fracturing.


If all grain were parallel with the surface a back iron would never be needed (see Fig. 2). It is its slope that causes it to tear out

The breaking off of the shaving not only facilitates the removal of the shaving from the plane, but it does something that is even more important; it destroys the strength of the grain of the shaving, so that the natural tendency for the part that is removed to split off cleanly is checked.

To explain this by analogy, if a slice of a length of deal were chopped with an axe, the fact of the axe acting as a wedge would largely cleave off the piece as at A, Fig. 1. If the part already separated were snapped across by the introduction of a sort of back iron, the liability to split would be greatly lessened, as at B, Fig. 1. If we apply this illustration to the cutting iron and back iron of a plane, we shall see that the work of the back iron is to reduce the tendency to split.


This fracturing takes up a larger percentage of the energy expended than will at first be appreciated. As a consequence, the back iron is set close to the cutting edge only when the mixed nature of the grain renders it specially liable to tear out. Thus, quite a lot depends upon so arranging the back iron that it will give the results required with the most economical expenditure of time and labour. Time spent in planing can be very wasteful.

In planing off stout shavings of deal, the back iron is set well back, say, a full 1∕16 in. If the back iron were 1∕4 in. up, the curl in the shaving would not be sufficient and the grain might split out; probably a bare 1∕8 in. will be the utmost at any time that it will pay to keep the back iron up. One-sixteenth in. will, in practice, be satisfactory for an average run of work, especially so far as the jack plane is concerned. This distance will, however, be too much for material that is inclined to tear out, especially as the finishing stages are approaching. In fact, for a piece of curly grained mahogany, the back iron should be about 1∕64 in. only from the cutting edge.

A further important point regarding the back iron will be that there must be no flaws in it, for in the course of time the impact of the shavings against it is liable to cause this defect. With planes that are finely set, a certain slight jaggedness will at length appear along the edge of the back iron. This should be corrected with a fine file.

The back iron must also fit close down to its cutting iron when it is screwed in place; if there is the slightest space anywhere shavings will clog so that the plane will work both slowly and badly. Another point to remember is that the back iron should be a trifle round, so that the distance back from the cutting edge is parallel (for the edges of all cutting irons must also be slightly round).

Meghan Bates

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

3 Campaign Pieces for Sale

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 10:53am

I’ve recently completed a handful of campaign pieces and have some extras I can sell. All three pieces were built as part of articles I wrote for Popular Woodworking Magazine, and so I am selling them at a discount. I don’t want these sitting around.

As always, all pieces are made and finished entirely by me. No subcontractors. Even the leatherwork. All prices include shipping in the United States. International customers are welcome, but shipping will be quite expensive.

All pieces are first-come. If you want one, send me a message through my personal site. Ask all the questions you like. But the first person to say “I want it,” gets it. I take PayPal, checks and mutant chickens as payment.


Walnut Campaign Stool, SOLD
This is about as nice a campaign stool as I’ve made. The legs are turned from air-dried Tennessee walnut. The black leather is English-made bridle leather. The tri-bolt is from Lee Valley. This stool includes a black leather carrying strap, which cinches the legs when the stool is folded up. Approximately 17” high. Shellac finish.


Maple Campaign Stool, PENDING
This campaign stool was made in the flavor of my pieces from “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” It features hard maple legs that are tapered octagons. The black leather is English-made bridle leather. The tri-bolt is raw steel made from off-the-rack components. Approximately 17” high. Shellac finish.


Curly Oak Bookstand, PENDING
This clever campaign bookstand fold flat and telescopes open. It features solid brass hand-filed hinges and locks. The leather is brown latigo from Pennsylvania. This is based on an original 19th century piece from Mascart & Cie in England. The piece folds from about 14” wide to more than 20”. Height (unfolded) is 14”. Finish is shellac.


You can complain about my prices (too high/too low), using this link.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Campaign Furniture, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Carving the Acanthus’ Will Ship Early

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 5:41am

CTA_mockup_1000We just received word from our printer that “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” by Mary May shipped to our warehouse yesterday, two weeks ahead of schedule.

That means our warehouse will receive the books next week and we should be able to start shipping out pre-publication orders at the end of next week or so. As a result, the special pre-publication offer will end on Nov. 13. So if you want a free pdf of the book in addition to the hardcover copy, order before then. After Nov. 13, the pdf will cost extra.

Double Book-release Party
We are holding a special book-release party for “Carving the Acanthus” and “From Truths to Tools” on Dec. 9 at the Lost Art Press storefront in Covington, Ky. Mary May and George Walker will be there to sign books, give presentations on their work and answer your questions. We’ll post details on this free and fun event in the next couple weeks. So save the date.

Next up for Lost Art Press
We have two books that are now being designed: Richard Jones’s opus on wood technology (still wrestling with the title on that one) and Joshua Klein’s book on Jonathan Fisher, “With Hands Employed Aright.” We hope to have both of these books sent to the printer by the end of the year.

A little farther down the pipeline: Jögge Sundqvist’s “Sloyd in Wood” and my greatly expanded edition of “Roman Workbenches.” Both are almost ready for the designer. It looks like 2018 is going to be busy.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Carve the Acanthus with Mary May, From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Divide This!

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 4:03am


…says the Italian renaissance astronomer Galileo Galilei to a young student as he demonstrates a pair of proportional dividers. So how do these ingenious scaling devices work? The answer is embedded in the geometry of the sectioning of a circle. Here’s an excerpt from “From Truths to Tools” (shipping now) that presents an intuitive understanding:

Dividers 1

Dividers 2

Dividers 3


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Horse Garage Chronicles

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 3:50pm


With a bruised right rib and something seriously wrong with my elbow today, I thought about titling this blog entry: “Burn Horse Garage, You Sputum of Satan – Ptttttth, I Hate You – Love Chris.” Instead I decided to focus on the ridiculous aspect of this project: What I will do to create my workshop.

During the last 12 months I have failed to install the new screen door for the front of our house. It’s an easy job – probably only half a day. But apparently I’d rather spend weeks mired in rebuilding concrete block walls, heaving old mattresses to their doom and ripping out 40 square yards of disgusting detritus all for a 25’ x 30’ bunker to hold a few machines and a wood pile.

For the last three years I have neglected to make and install 5’ of moulding on the stairway of our home. It’s an insanely easy bit of work. I could do it with moulding planes or a router in an hour or two. Lucy would be so happy. But no, I’d rather rip out weird tile and ceiling boards for four days straight. (Asbestos? I hope not.) All for a dark cave that is as inspiring as a Communist debriefing room.

Our house’s lamppost and doorbell haven’t worked since the Clinton Administration. The risers of our stairs need a quick coat of paint. My office walls need to be painted after a plaster repair five years ago.

I’m a horrible person. And apparently I am also a sociopath because I don’t care. Today we spent hours restoring the jambs of the Horse Garage – resetting them to their original place in 1906. We filled all the nail holes with an all-weather putty. We sanded. Scraped. Primed and painted.

Honestly, this blog entry could be entered into evidence in a divorce proceeding.

And that’s fine. I deserve it.

As long as I get to keep the shop.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Last Chance for ‘Sharpen This’ Sticker

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 1:14pm

My daughter Maddy reports she has fewer than 50 sets of stickers left, a set that includes the “Sharpen This” sticker that is showing up on the boxes for sharpening stones everywhere. (Wish I had thought of that.)

If you want a set of these high-quality stickers, here are the details. You can order a set of three from her etsy store here. A set is $6 delivered ($10 for international orders).

Or, for customers in the United States, you can send a $5 bill and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to by daughter Maddy at:

Stick it to the Man
P.O. Box 3284
Columbus, OH 43210

As always, this is not a money-making venture for me or Lost Art Press. All profits help Maddy through college. (Only one more college payment due!)

After this set is exhausted, we’ll be printing three new stickers. I’m working on the new designs now.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

In Stock: Limited Edition LAP Hats

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 7:48am


You can now purchase our limited edition “marriage mark” hats in the online store. The hats are $27, and that price includes shipping in the United States (sorry these hats are not available to international customers).

You can purchase your hat via this link. You might want to hurry as there are only 100 available.

These are hats were embroidered and stamped by Texas Heritage Woodworks, so the work is crisp and perfect. These hats are made in China by Adams. But they are the best hat we could find before getting into the $100 baseball cap territory.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Additional Tip Shapes for Dividers

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 4:56pm


We’ve just posted a new video at Crucible Tool’s blog on how to create two additional (and useful) tip shapes for your dividers. One tip is designed specifically for scribing arcs. The other is for cutting inlay or recesses.

While we show these tips on our Improved Pattern Dividers, they can be created on any pair of dividers.

Also in the short video, Raney demonstrates a down-and-dirty way to harden and temper the tips with a torch.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Acanthus is Coming

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 9:19am


Our printing plant is in the final stages of work on “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” by Mary May. And, as always, our books are a creative struggle to the end.

This week we’ve been working on the “diestamp,” the debossed image on the inside of the dust jacket. We take great pains with our diestamps because they will live on longer than our dustjackets. (If you want to see my favorite diestamp, check out the one for “Calvin Cobb – Radio Woodworker!” and see if you can figure out the Easter egg.)

Diestamps are old technology. And though many printing plants can produce amazing covers with holograms, laser cutouts and unusual leather finishes, getting a diestamp with fine detail is a struggle. Almost every time I send our diestamp to the nice people at our prepress service, I am sure they smack their collective foreheads.

Their response is usually: I don’t think we can hold that level of detail without the image blurring.

To their credit, they are willing to try different approaches. Lately, we’ve been using a stamp made from magnesium and some different foils to see if we can achieve the fine lines shown in the samples above. In this case, we found the correct combination of a magnesium die and a cream foil that gave us the effect we’re looking for.

With the diestamp complete, our job is over. It’s up to the printing plant to bring all the different parts – the book block, boards, endsheets, cover cloth and dustjacket – together to complete the book. We haven’t been told when the book will ship, but history suggests it will be in within the next three weeks.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Carve the Acanthus with Mary May, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Campaign Chests

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 11:14am

This is an excerpt from “Campaign Furniture” by Christopher Schwarz.

Brass-bound campaign chests that can be split into two parts are likely the most iconic pieces of the style – like the Morris chair of the Arts & Crafts movement. The archetypal British-made chest is mahogany with four rows of drawers, brass corner guards and flush brass pulls. Most chests would fit nicely into a box that is 40″ H x 40″ W x 22″ D.

However, there are lots of variants of campaign chests and details about their construction that you should consider as a maker when you plan to build your own. The following details apply to British-made chests. Campaign chests made in China or India are outside the scope of this book.

As far as dating the chests, a good rule of thumb is that earlier chests had fewer brass corner guards and used pulls that are “skeletonized.” That is, the early pulls look more like the classic swan’s neck type. In addition to the skeletonized pulls, there are also some early pulls that have pointed ends and other shapes. Early chests are also more likely to have moulding than a later chest, though the ornament is usually is more subdued than that on a high-style chest for domestic use.

Because early chests were more likely made as one-off pieces (and not in a manufactory), you are apt to see more variation in their design and construction. So you can encounter (or use) almost any joinery variant of the dovetail family.

Later chests in the mid-19th century became more standardized. More brass was added. The pulls became rectangular and fairly uniform among the manufacturers. From a builder’s perspective, these later chests are well built and are worth studying and reproducing.

Here are some other construction details of the chests, both early and late.



Fig. 1.21 Paneled back. The frame of this back stiffens the carcases. The thin interior panels reduce the weight. These backs are more work to construct than a simple boarded back.

Backs of Campaign Chests
The backs of campaign chests can run the full gamut of techniques. I’ve seen frame-and-panel backs all the way down to backs that were simply nailed into a rabbet in the rear of the carcase.

A frame-and-panel back is by far the lightest in weight (because of the thin panels) and adds the most rigidity to the carcase, which is a frameless cabinet that benefits from the rigidity. You’ll also see backs that were paneled (usually via tongue-and-groove) and simple full panels that are inset into a rabbet or a groove. These options are preferred to a simple nailed- or screwed-on back.


Fig. 1.22 Boarded back. This common form of back has the panels screwed into rabbets in the carcases. It is not as robust as a typical frame-and-panel assembly, but it is quick to execute. The grain typically runs horizontal on the backboards.


Corner Joinery
When it comes to the joinery, most of these chests were dovetailed at the corners. Except for the very top board of the cases (which were joined with full-blind dovetails), the remaining tops and bottoms were typically joined to the ends with half-blind (also called lap) dovetails.

On all the examples I’ve examined so far, the tail boards have been on the tops and bottoms, and the pin boards are on the ends of the carcases. This violates the typical practice of putting the tails on the end boards, which makes the joints stronger for lifting.

My guess is that this is for simplicity’s sake. With the tails on the tops and bottoms, these joints are laid out and executed exactly like cutting the joints for a drawer. If you put the tails on the end boards, removing the waste in the blind tails would be a little more difficult. But most of all, it would be a less-common way of cutting the joint.

The tops of campaign chests were typically joined to the ends with rabbeted full-blind dovetails. Details of this joint are covered in the chapter on building campaign chests. After pulling the drawers out of a number of these chests and poking around with a flashlight, I’ve found that for this joint, it was typical to put the tails on the end boards and the pins on the top. (You can easily discern this in a glued-up joint by paying attention to the overcuts from the dovetail saw and if they are angled or vertical.)

Sometimes the corners of the carcases will be joined with through-dovetails, though I haven’t seen many of these in the wild or in auction catalogs. There are also a few chests where all the joints are half-blind dovetails and you can see the tails on the top.


Fig. 1.26 Inside a chest. You can see the web frame and dust panel inside this vintage campaign chest. Also, note the locations of the drawer stops, which keep the drawer front flush to the frame of the carcase.

Interior Joinery
Because these chests have to be strong, the interiors are usually mortise-and-tenon web frames with dust panels – again, first-class joinery. I’ve seen a few chests where the interior dividers are solid slab panels. These are simpler to build, but the slabs add weight.

The web frames are usually attached to the end boards with dados or, in some cases, sliding dovetails. You can tell which joint the maker used by removing the brass corner guards covering them.

As far as attaching the top case to the bottom case, it is typically done with two to four dowels that stick up on one of the cases and slide into matching holes in the other case. There are other methods of registering the top case on the bottom, including brass hardware that is incorporated into the corner guards, but I haven’t seen enough of these to know which other methods are typical and which are not.

Meghan Bates

Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools

Solving Spans with Sticks, Strings, Sightlines & Stones

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 4:38am


In this excerpt from our book, “From Truths to Tools,” we show how the carpenter/geometers of antiquity used the simplest of tools – those mentioned with almost annoying alliteration in the title – to solve for an unknown distance.   

Note that the solution does not necessarily require a number as it physically reveals the length of rope or timber needed to reach the span point. Here’s the excerpt:





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

Backwards Hinge?

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 6:47pm

A few weeks ago I ran across an old tool chest at an antique store and it managed to follow me home. It is not particularly unique in its construction; I was mostly taken by the old red paint job on the inside.


When I got home with my find, I took the tills out and had a close look at the inside to see what kind of tool marks there were. Also, looking for the almost-always nonexistent signature or possible date. It is not signed anywhere other than red paint fingerprints on the undersides of the tills.

One thing I did notice when I was looking it over in the store is that the lid had an extra hinge on the outside of the chest. I assumed it was a repair, that maybe the center hinge on the inside had pulled loose at some point and it would have been easier to add another hinge on the outside.


On closer inspection the outside hinge was the same size and type as the inside three. It looked to be original. The outside hinge also has two carefully made spacers so the barrel of the outside hinge and the inside hinges align. After thinking about it and wondering why the maker did not just space the four hinges on the inside I happened to open the lid up while standing behind the chest. Ah ha! The outside hinge is the stop for the lid.


Most box hinges the leaves of the hinge will close completely on one another in one direction and won’t in the other direction. When I realized how it worked I felt like a total dumb-ass (a regular occurrence) for not figuring it out sooner.

– Will Myers


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Jennie Alexander’s ‘Impossible’ Mallet

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 5:34pm


We took a break from our chairmaking class this morning to visit Jennie Alexander in Baltimore, Md., and hear a bit about her progress on the third edition of “Make a Chair From a Tree.”

During Jennie’s presentation she showed us a curious mallet made from a local oak branch. It was turned like a froe club with the pith running through the dead center. This kind of mallet is, according to the normal rules of wood movement, not a good idea. Because wood moves more along the annular rings than across them, the mallet should split.

But this mallet was dry and perfect. No splits.


Jennie explained that she did this by turning the mallet while it was green, then she coated both ends of the mallet with a heavy coat of tallow. This, she said, forced the moisture to leave the mallet through the face grain of the mallet. (Usually the moisture prefers to leave through the end grain.) This, she said, is what prevented it from cracking.

This sort of conundrum has always fascinated me. And it’s a topic that I and a few other woodworkers will be covering in an upcoming podcast. (Yes, we’re starting a podcast, but it won’t be about the things we’re building in our shops, or tool reviews, or listener mail. Details to come.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Last Chance to Pre-order ‘From Truths to Tools’

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 8:20pm


We’ve just received our shipment of the first printing of “From Truths to Tools” by Jim Tolpin and George Walker. We’ll start shipping out the people who placed pre-publication orders in the next seven days.

So this is the last call for people who would like to order the book and receive a free download of the book. Order by Oct. 30 so you can get the free pdf download with your printed copy of the book. After that date the pdf will cost extra.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Authentic Finish for a Roman Workbench

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 5:00pm


The only thing that disappoints me about my Saalburg workbench is the finish. It’s not jet black like the original I studied in Germany in June.

Of course, when the bench was thrown down a well circa 200 A.D., it probably wasn’t jet black then. But still, the black looks correct to me because I’ve been staring at photos of a black workbench for months now.

Today I figured out how to reproduce it.

I’m at Larry Barrett’s house this week taking a chairmaking class with four other friends. We’re building the Jennie Alexander Chair (with a few modifications) made famous in the book and DVD “Make a Chair From a Tree.”

Today we split out the long pack posts from green oak and began by sorting through the oak stacked in Larry’s yard. Some of it looked exactly like the oak Saalburg workbench. And I do mean exact.


This oak had been stored in a giant steel tub in the side yard of Larry’s house and the steel had rusted through, releasing a continuous supply of iron into the water. The result: jet black oak that wasn’t just on the surface. The wood was jet black as much as 1/2” into the wood.

This makes complete sense. At Saalburg, The wooden objects were thrown into wells along with lots of iron objects. It made the same stew in Larry’s log tank.

I have no plans to reproduce the finish on my bench, however, but I know how to achieve it.

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

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Falling in love — with a house

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 8:32am

The following is excerpted from A Home of Her Own


Photo: Kendall Reeves, Spectrum Studio of Photography and Design

Every so often she passed the striking limestone house and wondered what was going on there. Friends and colleagues knew that she and Tim had been interested in the place, and one day a coworker, who happened to live behind the house, mentioned that he had not seen the owner in some time. Margaret made some inquiries and discovered the owner had died. After a respectful delay, she contacted the owner’s daughter, who said she was still too attached to her mother’s home to imagine parting with it. But a few months later she contacted Margaret and arranged to show her the property.

“It was cavernous,” Margaret recalls. “You’d walk into one room and it would open onto another. There was a wonderful feel of continuousness.” There was also a captivating element of surprise; where any other house might have had an exterior wall, this house had a sunroom, a patio, or a porch, producing a rare sense of communion between inside and out. As she went from room to room, Margaret felt what she describes as “a selfish giddiness — something like, ‘This house can’t be true!'” Did the owners know what they had?

Even the lot behind the house was magical. Just beyond the garage, stone steps led into a sunken garden surrounded by a tangle of vines, in the midst of which stood a limestone sundial. Near the rear property line a majestic tree of heaven and a cluster of ancient conifers watched over the house and its garden like a convocation of druid priests.

After that first visit, she felt compelled to return. The house was still not on the market. One day, while looking around the back, she discovered an unlocked door. Could she go in?

The question was rather, could she not? She felt drawn.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

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Categories: Hand Tools

You Must Get Unstuck

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 3:43pm

A chair made by Jennie Alexander, author of “Make a Chair from a Tree.”

Early on as a woodworker I visited a successful professional cabinetmaker in Indiana who also sold wood on the side. After picking out some ash boards, he offered me a tour of his shop and showroom.

His cavernous barn was filled with heavy machinery. For someone whose sole machine was his grandfather’s contractor saw, his shop was impressive. His showroom was filled with country pieces: pie safes, potato bins, kitchen tables and the like.

He opened a door of a pie safe where the door’s panel had split. With a vexed look on his face he said, “No matter how many nails I put into these panels, they always split.”

We then moved to his office where he told me how he had become a professional woodworker 30 years prior. He was a Vietnam veteran, like my dad. After leaving the service, he’d bought a set of six woodworking books, which perched on a shelf behind his desk. He’d read the books, opened his business and built furniture using the plans in those books.

For me, it was remarkable that he had run a thriving furniture business for 30 years and didn’t think wood movement was something that could be mastered. Maybe he skipped the section on wood movement in the six books he owned. Perhaps his books didn’t cover the topic.

Honestly, this story isn’t a criticism of the guy. We all get stuck at different points in the craft. We get comfortable with our tools and processes. We design our projects around those constraints. We accept the consequences of our tools and knowledge.

I myself have been stuck at least 50 times since 1993.

The Exit Sign
The only way out of this condition is to regularly throw yourself into the briar patch. Play punk rock at a country and western bar. Take off all your clothes at a family reunion. Or attend a class about something you haven’t done before.

I try to take a class every year. The class could be on woodworking (such as the class on veneering I took from David Savage two years ago). Or it could be on leather work. Rebuilding a carburetor. Taxidermy.

Tomorrow I head to Maryland to learn to build a post-and-rung chair with Larry Barrett, a chairmaker who has worked with Jennie Alexander and is helping edit the third edition of “Make a Chair From a Tree.” Larry has made a lot of the “Jennie Chairs” (with some of his modifications). And I wanted to make one of these chairs before I edit the book. It will help me understand the construction process and master the technical details of this incredible chair.

I’m bringing a few friends for the week-long class, and together we will absorb everything Larry has to give. We will (I hope) pay Jennie a visit in her Baltimore home. And we will all become unstuck.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools