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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 38 min 56 sec ago

2 Books in the Birth Canal

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 4:35am

This is a very rough draft of the cover for the book, which will be painted in watercolor by Andrea Love.

This year we have been so busy working on new books that we’ve barely had time to tell you what we’re working on. Two books are just weeks away from heading to the printing plant so here are some quick details.

We’ve just finished up the design work on Mary May’s massive and fantastic “The Acanthus Leaf: A Rite of Passage for the Traditional Carver” (still working on the book’s title a bit). This is the most visually complex book I’ve ever worked on. Mary has poured her heart and hands into this book. The result is a fascinating trip through history, different cultures and her long career as a professional carver.

My hope is to have this book in our hands by Thanksgiving.

Also on the verge of publishing is “From Truths to Tools” by Jim Tolpin and George Walker. This fascinating book was illustrated and hand-lettered like “By Hound & Eye” and is just as mind-blowing and fun to read. In this book, Tolpin and Walker demonstrate how geometry is baked into the tools you use every day. And then they use that geometry to create and explain other tools and techniques you can use in the shop (or on the job site).

Even if you have been woodworking all your life, this book will surprise you. It will give you deeper knowledge of how our basic tools (such as a try square) function in the universe. And it will teach you practical methods you can use in the shop.

Again, let’s hope for Thanksgiving on this one.

We’re also working on a bunch of other books as well. Details to follow as we can squeeze out the time to write about them.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Get On Your Bike

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:30pm

Random street scene, Henley-on-Thames

Job Centres were government-operated employment agencies intended to help people find gainful work instead of spending their days watching telly while sponging off the dole. At least, such was the image of their unemployed compatriots entertained by many supporters of Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time. Her cabinet ministers (well, some of them) were less dismissive regarding the plight of their jobless constituents. There were jobs out there, they insisted; you just had to put some effort into finding one. “Get on your bike” became an oft-heard exhortation after Norman Tebbit, Secretary of State for Employment, told attendees at the Conservative Party Conference in 1981 that he’d grown up in the 1930s with an unemployed father. “He didn’t riot,” Tebbit said; “he got on his bike and looked for work and he kept looking ‘til he found it.”

The Job Centre certainly made it more convenient to find employment. But I would have found a job with or without it. I was raised by parents who, despite the haziness of their hippie years, impressed on me the importance of hard work and self-reliance. At the same time, they also supported the provision of social services and safety nets, knowing that things can go wrong for anyone, despite diligent work and the best-laid plans.

My friend Beatrice, on the other hand, had graduated from Cambridge with a degree in drama. Finding herself unable to secure paid employment in her field, she didn’t hesitate to sign up for the dole. “But surely you could get a job at a sandwich shop, or cleaning houses?” I offered, shocked that this bright, resourceful, relatively well-off friend had sought government assistance.

“If I take a job unrelated to my area of expertise it will count against me the next time I apply at a theatre,” she explained over Lapsang Souchong in her cozy London flat. Seeing my stunned expression, she added that taking just any job “would suggest that I’m not serious about my profession.”–Excerpted from Making Things Work by Nancy Hiller

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Creating Evenly Spaced Intervals with Dividers or a Sector

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:25am

This is an excerpt from “By Hound and Eye” by Geo. R. Walker and Jim Tolpin; illustrated by Andrea Love. 

Now let’s move past bisection and divide a line into a bunch of evenly spaced intervals.

This process is useful for laying out such things as:


Now let’s divide a line up into four equal segments; first with dividers and then with the sector.



As you have likely guessed by now, you can use the sector to find most any number of segments.


Now let’s do something practical, such as spacing fasteners evenly on the side of a tool tote.


Meghan Bates





Filed under: By Hound and Eye
Categories: Hand Tools

We Are Open this Saturday (Sharpenday)

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 7:07am


The Lost Art Press storefront will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday with lots to do and see. In addition to giving free sharpening lessons, we have:

  • Eight blemished Crucible dividers at half price ($90, cash only)
  • Four prototype (fully functional) Crucible holdfasts for half price ($60, cash only)
  • A bunch of blemished Lost Art Press books (also cash only)
  • T-shirts, stickers etc.
  • Copies of the deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” to examine and buy.
  • Our complete line of Lost Art Press books (credit, cash or check)

The store is located at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky., 41011. If you are coming with a spouse or family, consider brunch at Otto’s or Coppin’s (in the Hotel Covington). Get a beer at Braxton Brewing down the street and marvel at all the development along Pike Street (we got in here just in time!).

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Want to Pick Up Your Deluxe Book on Saturday? Here’s How

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:44am

lap-roubo-pressmark-1For those customers who pre-ordered a copy of deluxe “Roubo on Furniture Making” and want to pick up their copy at our Covington, Ky., storefront on Saturday, here’s how.

  1. Send an email to help@lostartpress.com with the subject line of “Deluxe Pickup.” Let us know your name and address and any other identifying birthmarks (just kidding about that part).
  2. Come to the storefront on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Let us know your name and we’ll hand over your deluxe copy, plus a special treat because you saved us some shipping costs. (No, it’s not a hug.)

IMPORTANT: We need to know by 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 8, if you are going to pick up your copy at our storefront. We’re going to transfer stock from our Indiana warehouse to Kentucky and will need an exact count.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the deluxe Roubo on Saturday, please let us know your intentions and we’ll transfer a copy for you.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Blemished Books & Tools: Why We Don’t Sell Them on the Website

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 6:14pm

We have been flooded with requests for us to sell our blemished tools and books on our website. There are many reasons we don’t do this – and don’t plan to. Here is a short explanation.

With these products, we have already lost money on the sale. We had to pay to have it shipped back to us, then we had to pay for the replacement item and ship it to the customer. Add to that all the other charges for picking, packing and the boxes and tape. Oh, and paying our customer service people to handle the problem.

These problems happen. And we are happy to fix them and try to make the customer happy.

So when dealing with the damaged goods left in our hands, we have to be careful. We don’t like pulping books or recycling tools. But if they are damaged beyond the point where they are useful, we will do that. So those items are a total loss for us.

For those items that have cosmetic damage, we want to recover our losses as much as possible. And we don’t want a damaged product to disappoint a customer. So we sell them in cash and in person only. Why cash? So we don’t lose 3-4 percent on credit card fees. Why in person? So the individual can inspect the damage and decide if they can live with it.

Why not sell these items on the website? We’d lose even more money. We’d have to spend time describing and photographing every item so the customer would know what he or she was getting. We don’t have the time do it ourselves, and we don’t want to pay someone to list them (we’d lose even more money).

I know that commenters will have a million suggestions for how we could do this differently (drones! Robots! AI! Crowdsourcing!). Chances are we’ve thought of it. And this is how we’ve decided to deal with damaged goods.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

A Walk in the Woods in July

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 4:18pm

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.


The three of you who pay close attention to my ramblings may recall that a couple of months ago, I wrote about the origin of the name sycamore, applied to both a kind of maple in Europe, and a kind of planetree in North America. The name supposedly refers to the shape of the leaves, and traces back to the sycomore fig (Ficus sycomorus). However, as far as I could determine, the sycomore fig’s leaves look nothing like those of either kind of sycamore. So what gives? I was determined to find out, so I booked a flight to South Africa [Truth-O-Meter: True] so that I could settle the question once and for all [Truth-O-Meter: Pants on Fire].

As it happened, I found a sycomore tree fairly quickly. This is the only one I saw that had fruit:


[Apologies for the poor image quality, but I only had my cell phone at the time, and the lighting was terrible.]

And, as various online sources suggest, the leaves look nothing like those of a sycamore (of either kind):


So, I have to go with my earlier hypothesis that somebody got a different kind of fig confused with the sycomore (possibly F. carica), and it’s really that other kind after which the sycamore (either kind) was named.

Having more or less resolved that issue, I decided to spend the next couple of weeks walking through the woods of South Africa [Truth-O-Meter: Mostly False]. In doing so, I faced some challenges: I know very little about the trees of South Africa, so I usually had no idea what I was looking at. And, it being winter, almost nothing was flowering. Add to that the fact that in most of South Africa, winter is also the dry season, which meant that many of the trees had lost their leaves. And did I mention that South Africa is mostly grassland? There just aren’t many trees to begin with.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on (all for you, dear reader). Fortunately, I did a lot of my woods-walking in national and regional parks, and many of the trees in these parks share a key characteristic that simplifies identification:


These signs were pretty neat, and something I hadn’t seen before: If you scan the QR code with your smartphone, it takes you to a web page with more information about the plant. (And yes, as you can guess from the scientific name, plants in this genus are the original source of the neurotoxin strychnine.)

But, like any product of modern technology, this one, too, has bugs:


The QR code on this sign does take you to a web page, but it’s the wrong one, for a different tree. Here’s what the tree itself (the right one, not the wrong) looks like:


Jackal-berries are in the genus Diospyros, which is the genus of both ebony and persimmon. Most Disopyros species are fairly small and therefore not commercially valuable, but nearly all of them have very hard wood, with the heartwood usually dark brown or black. The wood of these smaller trees is used for ornamental turnings and the like. The fruit looks a lot like a small persimmon:


(This one is a common jackal-berry, D. mespiliformis.)

Let’s officially begin our walk near the west coast, in the Northern Cape in an area known as Namaqualand (or, sometimes, the “succulent Karoo,” which is a pretty evocative name, if you ask me). Namaqualand is arid, not quite desert but close. There is very little rainfall, but some moisture does arrive from the Atlantic Ocean. There are virtually no trees, but like the deserts of the southwestern U.S. that are dominated by tree-like cacti, Namaqualand is also dominated by large succulents, only these are aloes, rather than cacti:


This one is the quiver tree, Aloe dichotoma. Although it appears substantial, the “trunk” is hollow and fibrous, resembling more a giant loofah than a log. The barren Namaqua landscape is punctuated by the desiccated skeletons of long-dead quiver trees:


As we travel eastward and inland, we move away from the ocean influence, and enter the Great Karoo:


There are still no trees (except along water courses), and the terrain and vegetation are strongly reminiscent of the Great Basin in North America. The few large trees that do exist are heavily (and I do mean heavily) utilized by Sociable Weavers (Philetairus socius):


The tree is an acacia of some kind, possibly sweet thorn (Vachellia karroo), but I’m not sure.

Even further east, we enter the Kalahari grasslands:


The Kalahari Desert itself is found mostly in Namibia and Botswana, extending just barely into South Africa, but the surrounding Kalahari Basin extends as far south as the city of Kimberley. This is still predominantly grassland, but you do begin to see small trees here and there. After spring rains, the area greens up quite a bit (this photo is from 2012, in December):


That meerkat (Suricata suricatta) was giving me a “Who are you and what are you doing in my front yard?” look.

Like other plants of arid regions around the world, nearly all of the shrubs and trees in the Kalahari are covered with thorns or spines:


This one is a common spike-thorn (Gymnosporia heterophylla). Its closest North American relatives are American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) and eastern burningbush or wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus), both vines.

Around the edges of the basin, you start to see “real” trees. This camelthorn acacia (Vachellia erioloba) was at Sandveld Nature Reserve, in Free State:


Like most other legumes, the wood is very hard and difficult to work. The “camel” in the name refers to giraffes, which use their long prehensile tongues to delicately pluck off the leaves from between the thorns of this and other acacias. In response to the browsing, the trees quickly begin to produce bitter tannin in the foliage, inducing the giraffe to move on to another plant. (Other trees, such as some oaks, respond similarly, but the acacia’s response is remarkably fast, on the order of five to ten minutes.)

As a rule, the many species of acacia have very similar foliage, so it’s difficult to tell one from another by looking at the leaves. But the flowers and especially the fruit are often very distinctive. The seed pods of the camelthorn are large and robust:


Moving south to the southern Indian Ocean coast, we find true forest, here at Tsitsikamma National Park, in Eastern Cape:


The dominant trees (by size, at least) in these coastal montane forests are Outeniqua yellowwood (Afrocarpus falcatus), and “true” yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius). Both are botanically softwoods, in the family Podocarpaceae, distantly related to pines. The wood of true yellowwood is reasonably hard and has good workability, and so is prized for furniture and architectural millwork. Outeniqua yellowwood is softer and more likely to be found in utilitarian applications. The true yellowwood is also the national tree of South Africa.

These yellowwood logs (I don’t know which species) were in the process of being harvested after having been downed during a strong winter storm in 2008:


It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the logs are quite large, close to three feet in diameter.

As we continue up the coast to the east, the terrain becomes less mountainous. In isolated valleys, we find scarp forest, such as here at the Dlinza Forest Reserve in Eshowe:


This view is from an observation tower overlooking the forest. From the tower, we were able to get a treetop look at the fruit of a fig (F. thonningii) that is common in this forest:


If you look closely at the forest photo above, you can see what looks like a pom-pom on a stick on the horizon. This is a Natal cabbage-tree (Cussonia sphaerocephala). The scientific name means “spherical head.” Here’s another cabbage-tree, this one with multiple heads (the hydra of the cabbage-tree realm, it would seem):


The interior of the scarp forest looks not all that different from a temperate forest in North America, although the trees here grow more slowly and therefore tend to be more twisted and bent:


As is generally the case in areas colonized by Europeans, many of the plants and animals are named after familiar species that they resemble, even if in reality they are not closely related. Thus, we have this wild-poplar or false-poplar (Macaranga capensis):


With enough squinting, you can imagine that the leaves on this tree somewhat resemble those of an aspen or poplar. But the tree is actually in the spurge family Euphorbiaceae. Most spurges are shrubs or forbs, with a few species occurring in the southwestern U.S. The one species that most people are familiar with is the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), native to Mexico. The wood of the false-poplar is said to be used for furniture, but I would personally be hesitant to work with it, as most spurges contain compounds that range from mildly irritating to, in the case of the castor bean, deadly poisonous.

The largest trees at Dlinza are the wild-plums (Harpephyllum caffrum):


For scale, the vine that hangs down in front of the tree is about twelve feet off the ground. As with the false-poplar, wild-plums are unrelated to what we call plums, and are in the sumac family Anacardiaceae, relatives of cashews, mangoes, and pistachios. Likewise, most members of this family contain toxic compounds. With sumacs, the toxin is urushiol, the active ingredient in poison oak/poison ivy. The wood is used for general-purpose construction, but is otherwise not notable.

The eastern corner of South Africa is home to lowland coastal forest:


One of the more common trees here is waterberry (Syzigium cordatum), a kind of myrtle:


I couldn’t find any information on the use of the wood, but the trees are fairly small and gnarly, so I suspect it has no widespread use. The berries (not present in winter) are apparently tasty.

The lowland forest in St. Lucia is also where we had an unexpectedly close encounter with a hippopotamus one evening. That’s a story for another time, but suffice to say that it was a Very Good Thing that we were standing in the adjacent parking lot, rather than walking in the woods, at the time.

Nearby, at Cape Vidal in iSimangaliso (“miracle and wonder”) Wetland Park, I found the only blooming woodland wildflower of the trip:


I have not the slightest idea what it is. It seems to have characteristics of both orchids and irises, which means that it might be a member of the order Asparagales. There are only about 36,000 species in that order….

Heading back northwards, we cross onto the Great Escarpment and the southern end of the Drakensberg (“mountain of dragons”). This is the beginning of the highveld (“high field”). The habitat is once again mostly grassland, but with pockets of woodland along the riparian corridors, such as here in Golden Gate Highlands National Park (in summer):


Near Johannesburg, the climate is drier, and the forest more sparse:


(Those odd-looking dark cylinders are another kind of aloe, A. marlothii.) Here, at Suikerbosrand (“sugarbush ridge”) Reserve, the trees once again become small and gnarly. The karee (Searsia lancea), another member of the sumac family, has hard wood that resembles yew and is likewise used for archery bows:


The buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) is in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae:


The closest North American relative that I know of is Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana). My main reason for including this tree, however, is the Afrikaans name:


How can you not love a tree called “Blinkblaar-wag-’n-bietjie”? The name translates to “shiny-leafed wait-a-minute.” Other shrubs with recurved thorns, such as the catclaw acacia of Arizona (Senegalia greggii) also go by the name “wait-a-minute” or “wait-a-bit,” which comes from what people invariably say after getting tangled up by accidentally walking into one.

Finishing up in the northeastern corner of South Africa, we drop back off the Great Escarpment and enter the lowveld in Kruger National Park, extending from the province of Limpopo at the north end to Mpumalanga in the south. This is the southern limit of what we think of when we visualize the vast savannahs of eastern Africa. It is a mixed woodland/grassland habitat, with shrubs and small to medium-sized trees scattered throughout. In the far north we can find huge baobabs (Adansonia digitata), which are fairly uncommon in South Africa (they are much more common in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Tanzania, to the north and east):


This region is also the home of the only wood from the area that is commercially exported: African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon). In South Africa, the climate is a little too dry, and blackwood (known locally by the Swahili name mpingo) grows as small, multi-trunked trees that are little more than large shrubs (much like eastern redbuds in the U.S.). You have to go further east into Mozambique and Tanzania before you find trees that are large enough for harvest. Much of the wood goes to the manufacture of clarinets, oboes, and other woodwind instruments.

A view from the Mlondozi picnic area near the Lower Sabie camp in Kruger gives an overall impression of the lowveld:


(For what it’s worth, according to Google Translate, the Zulu word “mlondozi” means “skin.”) The larger trees of the lowveld are nearly always located near water.

One common lowveld tree that anyone can remember is fever tree (Vachellia xanthophloea):


Its Grinch-colored bark is instantly recognizable. The fever tree was named by early European settlers, who noticed that the likelihood of contracting malaria was greater in the vicinity of the trees (which tend to grow in swampy areas harboring mosquitoes).

Traveling around Kruger, the most common large tree that I saw was Natal mahogany (Trichilia emetica):


Like African mahogany (Khaya), as well as sapele and sipo (Entandrophragma), Trichilia really is related to mahogany. The wood looks similar to those other species. While researching this species online I discovered that it is sometimes grown in a container as a houseplant.

Another common tree (also in the mahogany family Meliaceae) is cape-ash (Ekebergia capensis). The leaves do look a bit like those of ash:


The bark is different, though:


The bushwillows (Combretum sp.) are readily recognized by their four-winged samaras. This one is russet bushwillow (C. hereroense):


The only tree I found in full bloom was knob-thorn (Senegalia nigrescens):


The profusion of cream-colored flowers made these large trees easy to recognize from a distance. Other related legumes, identified once again by their seed pods, are the sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea):


and bullhorn acacia (Vachellia cornigera):


This lone seed pod in a leafless pod-mahogany tree (Afzelia quanzensis, not a true mahogany) illustrates the challenges I sometimes faced with identification:


I did eventually find one that still had a few leaves:


Afzelia is a genus of trees that wasn’t very well known to North American woodworkers until the publication of James Krenov’s Cabinetmaker’s Notebook trilogy. Relatives of this species from more tropical regions of Africa are the source of one of his favorite woods, doussie.

I found this Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue) growing in the shade under some small trees. I believe that it is S. hyacinthoides (the common house plant is S. trifasciata).


That ends our whirlwind tour of the flora of South Africa (I skipped some parts). As always, I encourage you to find time to take a walk in your own woods. Keep your eyes and ears open; you never know what you might find:


I believe this is a marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea). To be honest, though, I wasn’t really focused on the tree at the time.

–Steve Schafer

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Update on Shipping Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture Making’

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 6:33am


We’re eager to ship out copies of the deluxe “Roubo on Furniture Making,” but are still waiting for the custom boxes to be delivered to our warehouse.

Note: When I write “custom boxes” I am referring to cardboard shipping containers, not hand-dovetailed wooden boxes (as one customer thought and then complained about).

Why didn’t we have the boxes made beforehand? We didn’t know the exact size and weight of the book. The boxes are designed to cradle this book so it cannot move in shipment. Even with modern manufacturing methods, we didn’t dare have the boxes made until we had the actual book in our hands.

As soon as the boxes arrive and they start packing them up, I’ll post an update here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Pépé Clothaire’s Tool Chest

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:17pm


This is an excerpt from “Grandpa’s Workshop” by Maurice Pommier.

The darkest corner of Pépère’s shop both fascinates and frightens me. It is full of spiderwebs and dust. It is there that Pépère keeps the tools he doesn’t use anymore.

It’s also the place he keeps the odds and ends of things he calls his “couldcomeinhandy’s.”

He says it would be a terrible idea to clean the corner, because the elves would be furious. Grandma says he should be ashamed it is such a mess, and that he could easily clean up that shambles. Pépère just chuckles.

Today I came in earlier than usual. I brought a flashlight to look through the jumble of things in the corner while Pépère had gone to break his bread. I discovered a big blue chest. When Pépère came back into the shop, I tugged on his sleeve and asked him what it was.

— It’s Pépé Clothaire’s tool chest, he said, tapping his finger on the chest.

— Tool Chest?!?


— Pépé Clothaire’s chest was handed down from his grandfather, and certainly from the grandfather of his grandfather!

Pépère wrinkles his nose a bit, and he tugs on his mustache.

— Wow! It must be incredibly old! Open it! Show me what is inside!

Pépère goes to the keyboard on the wall and picks up a little key among the many hanging on nails there, and he makes a little space around the chest. He turns on the light and with a broom sweeps the dust off the top of the chest. The key goes cric-crac in the lock.

When he opens the chest, Pépère’s eyes shine. He shows me the underside of the top where the big English saw had been stored. Then he pulls out the tools and arranges them on the floor of the shop, and he teaches me the names of them all:


— Wow, Pépère, they are a little rusty…

— Yes, and they are covered with dust that tickles your nose. You see, here are almost all of your Pépé Clothaire’s tools, all that he needed to build the roof structures of churches, of castles, and of houses. But there is one missing…Wait a second, I think that it is over here, it was too long to fit in the chest.

He wipes his nose and rummages around in the corner of the woodshop. He returns, peeling oily rags off a long, strange tool.

— Is is the besaiguë of Pépé Clothaire, Pépère tells me before I can ask him what it is. The ends of the tool are protected by leather sheaths. He takes them off to show me:

— On one end you have a big chisel, like a slick, and on the other a mortise chisel. To cut a mortise, the carpenter would drill a series of holes into a beam , and then use the besaiguë to finish the square hole in the wood. He also used it to shape the pegs used to pin the joints, and when he wanted to show off, he would even use it to sharpen his pencil!

Pépère shows me how he can use the besaiguë to shape a peg from a scrap of oak.

— Pépère, who did the besaiguë belong to, before Pépé Clothaire?

Pépère’s face falls a little, and he says he will tell me about that later. Because he needs to put the tools away, because he has some work to do, and he isn’t going to do it alone. I help him put Clothaire’s tools back away in the chest. Pépère takes the angel’s head and looks at it, frowning, and stuffs it down deep into the chest.

Meghan Bates

Filed under: Grandpa's Workshop
Categories: Hand Tools

Sept. 9 at Our Storefront: ‘Sharpenday’

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:51am


Next Saturday, Sept. 9, is our regularly scheduled open day for Lost Art Press. We’ll have our complete line of books plus a good number of slightly damaged books at 50 percent of retail (cash only). And T-shirts. Coffee. Stickers.

I also have been informed that we will have a handful of Crucible dividers there that are cosmetic seconds (100 percent fully bang-on functional). Those also will be 50 percent of retail (cash only).

It’s ‘Sharpenday’
To reinforce the “Sharpen This” series of blog posts, I will offer free sharpening lessons all day. If you want to learn basic sharpening or get into more advanced topics, come on down. I don’t know everything about sharpening, but I’ll be happy to share what I do know.

(Note: Let’s not make this day about me rehabbing your old or damaged tools. If you’d like to bring in a tool to discuss, great. I’ll show you how to sharpen it, but you will do the grinding and honing. One guy brought in a box of old planes for me to fix for him once – that service is $60/hour plus materials.)

If you struggle with any aspect of sharpening, put your ego aside and come ask for guidance. If you don’t know how to sharpen curved blades (travishers or scorps), we can cover that. Scrapers? Yup. Grinding V-tools? Nope (those drive me nuts).

Our storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky., 41011. The hours on Saturday are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Christopher Schwarz, christophermschwarz.com

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

First Look: Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture’

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 3:37pm


After an astonishing amount of work from people on two continents – not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment – a surprise showed up at the front door today.

It was a FedEx driver in a big truck. Sign this, he said. And then five boxes were sitting on the front step. Inside were the first copies of the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture.” It’s the biggest (physical and mental) thing we’ve ever published at Lost Art Press. It’s also the most expensive book we’ve ever made (and probably ever will make).

The book is now sitting in front of me, and I’m still a bit bewildered. It’s like our deluxe edition of “Roubo on Marquetry” (now sold out) but more than twice as thick.

I’ll have more to report on the book as we get it into the mail to all the customers who ordered pre-publication copies. And we’ll definitely have copies to show off at the next open day on Saturday, Sept. 9.

— Christopher Schwarz, christophermschwarz.com

P.S. FYI, this book is available for worldwide delivery. Choose “Outside USA” when checking out and we’ll contact you about the actual delivery charges to your address.

Filed under: Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture’ Headed Our Way

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 6:43am

lap-roubo-pressmark-1We’ve just received word from the bindery that the deluxe edition of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making” will leave New Mexico on Monday morning and should arrive in our warehouse on Tuesday.

Once it arrives, we still have to manufacture a custom shipping box for the book, which should take only a few days, and then start boxing up all the pre-ordered copies. As soon as we have a shipping date, I will announce it here.

I know this has been a long wait for everyone who plunked down the serious wad of cash for the book. We are deeply grateful for your support – your faith in us is what allows us to bring mad projects like this into the world. This press run cost more than our storefront and more than my house.

Personally, I cannot wait to see it. We haven’t released a book in many months. And even though we are all working hard on multiple titles (more on that in a moment), nothing feels like progress more than cracking open a new book.

So what’s in the works right now? Plenty. Here’s a quick list of the books in our immediate orbit (all other titles are still in the hands of the authors so you’ll have to ask them where they are).

“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” by Mary May. The book is edited and designed. We’re just waiting for Mary’s final corrections. This book is not only a spectacular brain dump on carving, it also is enormous.

“Hands Employed Aright” by Joshua Klein. The editing is complete. We are just waiting for Joshua to sign off on our changes so we can begin designing the book.

“Sloyd in Wood” by Jogge Sundqvist. The translation is complete. We are just waiting for Jogge and his editorial assistant to approve it so we can move forward on the design.

“Joiner’s Work” by Peter Follansbee. Megan Fitzpatrick has finished her initial edit of the book and Peter is working on writing captions and tidying things up before we select a designer.

“Trees, Wood & Woodworking” (tentative title) by Richard Jones. This is a book we haven’t had any time to write about. This book is an incredibly detailed look at trees and how their structure affects the furniture maker. It is written by a craftsman for woodworkers. No scientific background required. Kara is getting this book ready for the designer.

“The Difference Makers: The Fourth Generation” by Marc Adams. This is another new book we haven’t discussed. Marc is profiling the 30 or so best craftsmen he’s worked with during the last 25 years. It’s an impressive work. I am editing the book now.

“Roman Workbenches: Expanded Edition” by me. I’m still writing and building. I hope to be done by the end of 2017.

I think that’s a complete list of current projects. Whew.

— Christopher Schwarz, christophermschwarz.com

Filed under: Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

Crucible Dividers: a Tool and Totem

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:43am


During the day, I hold a pair of our Crucible dividers and rub them like a worry stone or a rosary as I write, think or ponder my path forward at my workbench or my laptop.

The curves and chamfers of my dividers – I own only one pair – are as familiar to me as my wife’s hands or the tote of my Lie-Nielsen No. 3. The weight is reassuring. The stiffness of its hinge is something I measure every time I pick them up.

And when my mind runs out of ideas, I look down at the dividers in my hand and marvel at how difficult it has been for us to get these five pieces of steel to fit together and move deliberately.

During the last two years Raney, John and I have had to learn a lot about metal, casting, machining, laser-cutting and a host of other allied skills to keep Crucible Tool afloat, making tools and growing. Despite all this effort (and sometime anguish), these dividers remain a true wonder to me.


Raney began his design with an Art Deco pair my mother found in an antique stall. That vintage pair was an interesting design, and Raney and I stared at them for a long time, knowing they contained the kernel of a good idea.

But the tension in its hinge wasn’t adjustable. It was difficult to pull the legs apart. They had unnecessary bulk.

After weeks (months?) in his lab, Raney emerged with this tool. And it has replaced my pocketknife as “the thing” that is always in my hand.

Truth: They are a total b&^%h to manufacture. The fit between the sex nuts and the two legs has to be within a half of a thousandth of an inch. If we miss that specification, the legs have a bit of slop in them that we consider unacceptable. Many dividers have this slop, which can make your layouts a bit cattywumpus (though not disastrous).

John, who does our quality control, puts it this way: “That slop would be fine if these dividers were $50. But for $187? They have to be better than that.”

They are. Thanks to Raney and John, these are the best pair of dividers I’ve ever owned. I know this sounds like bullcrap coming from someone who is part of Crucible, but so be it. I am unashamed at my love for this tool. It is the result of hundreds of hours of grief and inspiration.

Every day, dozens of times I day, I test them. They open smoothly. They close the same (and without slipping). And so I test them again and stare at the work on my bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We have 30 dividers in stock today with another 30 about to go to the warehouse and another 100 in the CNC mill. You can order a pair here.

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Repairing Drawers

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 5:55pm


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

Runners. Generally the remedy is fairly obvious for worn runners—they are just replaced. It is merely a matter of removing the old ones, cleaning off any dried glue, and fitting fresh ones. There is one snag to look out for when there is no groove into which they fit. This absence of groove means that the exact position has to be measured, and there is the danger that the runners may be in winding.

The best plan is to use parallel strips as in Fig. 6. Cut a piece of wood A to a length exactly equal to the distance between the drawer rails. Place it at the rear and fix the runner with nails or screws as the case may be. Put the one strip on the front rail, and the other on a waste piece reaching between the runners.

Obviously the sides of the waste piece must be parallel. It need not be used of course when the strips are long enough to reach to the runners. Sighting across the strips ensures the runners being free from winding (it is clear that the drawer could not run properly if the runners were in winding).

To make good any wear at the front drawer rails the best plan is that in Fig. 7. A small notch or groove is cut right across and a new piece of hardwood let in.



The Drawers. It is clear that it is impossible to add new strips to the bottom edges of the drawer sides as they are. They would be too rounded over and out of shape to make a joint. The only plan is to cut them back to form a straight edge and glue in new pieces. It may be necessary to vary the method slightly in accordance with the construction. For instance, most Victorian and later furniture will be found to be fitted with drawer slips as at A, Fig. 8, whereas older pieces were made as at B.

Generally, however, it is a case of cutting back the old wood as given in Fig. 8. Little need be removed at the back; it is at the front that most attention is needed. Mark a straight line along the side in pencil and ease away the wood with the chisel. When practically down and smooth as far as possible with the smoothing or block plane, finish off close up to the corner at the front with the bullnose.



Test the new piece to see that it beds down everywhere and glue down. There is no harm in using nails to hold the strip in position whilst the glue sets, providing they are pulled out later. Allow them to stand up for the purpose. The new strip should be full all round to allow for fitting. Test the drawer in position and trim where necessary. Do not lubricate the edges until after the new piece has been stained to match the surrounding wood.

Drawer Bottoms. These often need attention, especially if in solid wood rather than ply. In most cases the grain runs from side to side, and, since in a deep drawer the shrinkage may be considerable, it is usual to allow the bottom to project at the back 1∕4 in. to 1∕2 in. This enables it to be pushed forwards into the front groove and be screwed again as in Fig. 9. A in this same illustration shows how the bottom is liable to sag at the front owing to its having pulled out of its groove. It is an annoying fault leading to papers and small items being lost. In bad cases it may sag so that it scrapes the drawer rail beneath.



In older pieces of the 18th century the grain of drawer bottoms frequently ran from back to front, and the whole was jointed up to width and fixed in rebates worked in the sides (see B, Fig. 8). Being held rigidly they invariably split in course of time, especially along joints. In really bad cases the only remedy is to remove the whole, reshoot the joints, make up to width, and replace. In a slight opening, however, the simplest plan is to glue strips of fine canvas over the joints at the underside. Sometimes slivers can be inserted in the openings from above. These are levelled down after the glue has set and strengthened with canvas beneath as before. This is shown in Fig. 10.



It sometimes happens that in these front-to-back drawer bottoms all the pieces can be removed except the two side ones which are glued and nailed in rebates and have bearing fillets below (B, Fig. 8). If the joints are good you can replace the parts straightway, gluing and nailing as you go. When you come to the last piece there will necessarily be a large gap, possibly 1∕2 in. wide. This will require filling. An excellent plan is to plane the edge so that the gap is about 1∕2 in. wider at back than at front. Then, when the last piece has been fixed, a tapered filling can be slid in from the rear. This is shown in Fig. 11.



If the main dovetails of the drawer are loose, the only plan is to knock the whole thing apart and re-glue. Mark the parts so that they can be replaced in the same positions, and scrape away all dried-up glue. Don’t drive nails into the joints, they look dreadful.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Learn to ‘Sharpen This’ – or Any Other Tool

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 1:47pm


Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has just posted its fall schedule of Hand Tool Events – eight free events held all over the country where you can learn to sharpen any woodworking tool from people who are eager to teach you.

The Lie-Nielsen crew won’t try to sell you anything – this is not like going for a test drive at a car dealership. Instead, they will take as much time as necessary to show you the basic principles of sharpening and coach you on the process.

All you have to do is show up and admit to yourself that you could use the help. I promise that one free lesson it will make a huge difference in your woodworking.

Also, if you are in the Midwest, feel free to come get a free sharpening lesson at our Lost Art Press storefront in Covington, Ky., during our open days this fall. We’re open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 9, Oct. 14, Nov. 11 and Dec. 9.

Again, I won’t try to sell you anything (I don’t sell sharpening equipment and we don’t publish a book on sharpening). But I’ll be happy to give you a personal lesson for free.

— Christopher Schwarz

Want to read my “Sharpen This” series? Check it out here.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

One More Roman Workbench

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 5:44am


Before I can complete the expanded edition of “Roman Workbenches,” I have to build a reproduction of the bench I saw at Saalburg this summer – the oldest surviving workbench I know of (about 187 A.D.).

I took complete measurements of the intact bench during my visit and I will reproduce the bench as best I can, right down to the unusual dovetail-shaped recesses in one edge of the benchtop.

What I won’t be reproducing, however, is the bench’s waterlogged, black and shriveled appearance. When wooden objects were pulled from the wells at Saalburg, Rudiger Schwarz says they were well-preserved. But as they dried out, the objects distorted a bit.

The original bench was oak and was perhaps rived from a trunk, according to Peter Galbert, who studied my collection of photos of the Saalburg bench this July.

My bench will be red oak from a slab cut by Lesley Caudle in North Carolina, who supplies wood for slab workbenches (read all about that here). Will Myers dried the wood and has roughed out the slab to its final dimensions.

I’ll pick up the slab next week and begin building the bench – the remainder of the work will all be by hand. I’m juggling two other projects currently – a walnut backstool commission and a dugout chair – so my progress will be slow at first. Despite this, the work should go fast. One of the great virtues of Roman workbenches is they take only a couple days of work to build.

So unless something goes haywire, this revised book should be done by the end of 2017.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We still have a 28 copies of the letterpress edition of “Roman Workbenches” available. Once these are gone, they are gone forever.

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Clothing-optional Caption Challenge!

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 2:35pm




Tune-up your think melons and caption this painting.

The painting is 17th-century and by an unknown Italian artist. The companion painting featured unclad blacksmiths.

Suzanne Ellison

Filed under: Historical Images, Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Soft Wax: Not Just for Furniture

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 5:30pm


While Katy’s soft wax is great for furniture surfaces – especially interiors – she has a new devoted customer: Crucible Tool. Unbeknownst to me, Raney and John have been using the soft wax on our improved-pattern dividers as the final finishing step.

In fact, Raney asked me to make a big batch for him so we didn’t waste so many little 4 oz. tins.

If you’d like to give soft wax a try, Katy has a batch in her etsy store that is ready for shipment. The wax is $12 per 4 oz. tin. I use it on drawers, turnings, chairs and even as a final topcoat on oil finishes.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We hope to have a new black soft wax soon. Oh, and about the photo of the cat: The wax had nothing to do with the hair loss.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘The Peasantry is Unimportant’

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 3:30pm

li161.1 C44 Q.R

One of the ideas that’s been crashing around in my head for years is that vernacular furniture – what I call the “furniture of necessity” – is divorced, separate and independent from the high styles of furniture that crowd the books in my office.

This idea is not commonly held.

The conventional wisdom is this: Chippenton Sheradale invents a style of furniture that is Neo-Classical Chinese. So he publishes a pattern book to illustrate his new pieces, and the style becomes all the rage. All of the rich people want pieces in Neo-Classical Chinese to replace all the pieces in their houses that were Neo-Chinese Classical.

So the local cabinetmakers oblige and (as a result) can all afford new chrome rims for their carriages.

Rich rural farmers see the pieces in the new style and return home with the crazy idea that they should also have pieces in the latest Neo-Classical Chinese style. So they get Festus, the local cabinetmaker, to build them a Neo-Classical Chinese chair. But Festus uses Redneck Maple (Holdimus beericus) because Festus can’t get New Money Mahogany (Stickusis inbutticus).

Oh, and Festus takes some liberties with the new furniture style to please his rural customers, who want a series of cupholders in the arms that can accommodate a Bigus Gulpus.

Then the poor farmers see the Redneck Maple Neo-Classical Chairs owned by the rich farmers and ask their local carpenters to make copies, who also make changes to the design (a gun rack on the back). And then the dirt farmers see that chair. And so on.

Meanwhile, back in the city, a furniture designer draws up a pattern book for Neo-Gothic Romanian furniture. The cycle begins again.

All this sounds plausible because it has been written down in almost every book of furniture history ever published. The rich make something fashionable, and the poor imitate it until the rich become annoyed or bored. So then the rich find a new style, which the poor imitate again.

The only problem with this theory of degenerate furniture forms is that the furniture record doesn’t always go along with the theory.

I think there’s furniture that is divorced from the gentry. Furniture that is divorced from architecture. Instead of beginning with a pattern book, it begins with these questions: What do I need? What materials do I have? What can I make that will take little time to build but will endure (so I don’t have to frickin’ build it again)?


For several months now I have been plowing through “Welsh Furniture 1250-1950” (Saer Books) by Richard Bebb and have been thrilled to find someone who thinks the same way. Bebb has done the research on the matter when it comes to Welsh furniture. And he has convinced me that I’m not nuts.

In the first section of Vol. I, Bebb deftly eviscerates these ideas like a fishmonger filleting a brook trout. It’s an amazing thing to read. I’ll be writing more about Bebb’s research in future entries, but if you want to get right to the source, I recommend you snag your own copy of this impressive work.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

I Made This !

Sat, 08/12/2017 - 3:10am

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire, England. National Trust.

In 1559 Richard Dale, a local carpenter, completed an addition to Little Moreton Hall that included a large bay window to light the new dining room. The estate owner was apparently very pleased with the job and allowed Dale to sign his work. Although a bit garish, his signature adds to the history and character of this fine old house.

In combination with construction methods, woods used, a signature and a date we can learn a lot about the maker and the communities in which he or she worked. For the owner, the signature of the maker extends a hand into the future and forms a connection.

Between 1510 and 1530 Robert Daye carved 79 bench ends in the Church of St. Nonna on Bodmin Moor in Altarnun, England.

I think he deserved to make one bench end to commemorate his efforts.

Phillip D. Zimmerman’s article, ‘Early American Furniture Maker’s Marks’ (Chipstone) provides many good examples of signatures and where they have been found (undersides of drawers, the top, etc).

Collection of Winterthur Museum.

On the back of this high chest both makers signed their work. Top: ‘Made by Josha Morss/Jany 1748/9.’ Bottom: ‘Made by Moses Bayley Newbury February AD 1748/9. Just to make sure they both put two signatures on the chest. They worked in what is now Newburyport, Massachusetts.

In another example the signature at the top of this chest was deciphered as ‘Walter Edge’ in the 1940s. Who was Walter Edge? No telling, because decades later Walter Edge turned out to be ‘Upper Edge’ a shipping mark!

Zimmerman also made note of signatures that provide other details about the maker. Although he didn’t provide a photo (and I couldn’t find one), somewhere out there is a Philadelphia-made table with the following written on the underside: ‘Made by Elias Reed in the year 1831 this table caused me to give Black Eye to a frenchman.’

Although he knew few people would see his work, a bell framer left his mark high up in the bell tower of St. Botolph’s Church in Slapton, Northamptonshire.

Photo by Christopher Dalton, Building Conservation.

The tower is too fragile to bear the weight of the two bells it previously held, but the bell frame and its plaque are still there. It reads, ‘Be it knowen unto all that see this same. That Thomas Cowper of Woodend made this frame. 1634.’

Earlier this year a mahogany bow-front Charleston-made chest was aquired by the Charleston Museum. The chest is from the workshop of the well-known and prolific Robert Walker and is on display at the Joseph Manigault House.

Charleston Museum

Prior to going to auction the previous owner thought the chest might be a Robert Walker Charleston piece. He disassembled the chest to inspect it and found written on the top support rail under the chest top the following: ‘Boston, October the 18th, 1805.’

Boston was once a slave and freed by 1790 or 1795. Even though the signature was hidden, some articles have termed the act of a 19th-century freed black craftsmen signing his name to something he made as ‘audaciously indiscreet.’  To me, it was a determined affirmation of, ‘I made this’ and also, ‘I exist.’

Suzanne Ellison

Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools