Hand Tool Headlines

The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator


Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.


Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

Subscribe to Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz feed Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz
Updated: 54 min 30 sec ago

What to Touch with a 10′ Pole

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:10pm

ten foot 3

Once upon a time, 10′ poles were a tool common to a number of trades including linemen and cemetery workers. What they touched with their 10′ poles – high-voltage power lines and corpses respectively – is not something most people would want to touch, not even with an 11′ pole.

Carpenters, however, were quite happy with the 10′, or as the drawing suggests, any length of stick divided into 10 equal segments. For in their hands lay a tool critical to the efficiency and accuracy of their layout work.  As we discuss in our book “From Truths to Tools” a right angle can be formed by a triangle composed of three whole-number leg lengths. In the simplest triplet, the leg lengths are three, four and five “whatevers.” The 10′ pole simply employs a doubling of those numbers: six, eight and 10, which are measured in this case with the imperial feet of some long-dead king. (If you think feet stink, you could measure out the pole in the cubits {forearm lengths} of some even longer-dead pharaoh.)

As demonstrated below – lifted from the book – we can construct a “proof” of this particular triplet using a straightedge and dividers. Be aware that there are many more whole-number triplet combinations – perhaps an infinite amount.

Triplet Proof

The sketch below shows the pole in use aligning a post square (and therefore plumb) to a level floor:

Scan 3

It’s a simple enough procedure: After fixing the base of the post to the desired location on the floor system, you use the pole to lay out a mark 6′ up from the bottom of the post. Next, you lay out a mark 8′ away from the post on the floor. When the full 10′ length of the pole fits exactly between the mark on the floor and on the post face, your post will be exactly square to the floor. Turns out that this layout problem (among many others as you’ll discover in the book) can be beat with a stick!

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com

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

Caption Challenge with an Elephant!

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 2:00am

The image is from 1634 and needs a caption. ‘Nusquam tuta fides’ translates as ‘no trust is ever sure’ but don’t let that get in your way.

Suzanne Ellison

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

The City Workshop

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 3:00am


After 21 years of working in shops in the suburbs or (worse) sprawling edge cities, I was thrilled to move to a storefront on Willard Street in Covington, Ky. It has exceeded every expectation, and I have forged a lot of great relationships with nearby woodworkers, metalworkers, carpenters and glass artists.

On top of that, the architecture is an endless source of inspiration, offering pattern, shadow, ornament and form. And my store’s plate-glass windows are like a high-definition television tuned to the human dramas on the sidewalks. Here are my three favorite tales from the last two years.

Sprinting in the City
While my daughter Katy and I were walking back to the store from lunch, I challenged her to a foot race down Ninth Street. She declined. But as we turned onto Ninth, she changed her mind and took off running. I pursued her – sprinting at top speed.

It was a spring day, and all the cars lined up at the stoplight on Ninth Street had their windows open. And the drivers and passengers started yelling at us.

“Hey! You leave her alone!” one driver yelled.

“Stop chasing her!” another screamed. “I’ll call the cops!”

I started laughing so hard I lost the race.


Money Doesn’t Buy Good Taste
It’s pretty common for local residents to stop by the shop to see what I’m building. They also like to look at the completed pieces of furniture waiting to go to customers.

One day a woman stopped by who was looking for work cleaning bathrooms (sorry, I clean my own toilets). After walking in she rushed to the back of the room, dropped to her knees and started examining the fretwork on the staked dining table we use as a desk. She spent a few minutes examining that table, then moved to the aumbry to examine the carving. Then one of my chairs.

She went on a rant about store-bought furniture that any woodworker would recognize. This woman, who you might think is homeless, had really good taste in furniture. (Better taste than my suburban neighbors on the whole.)


If it Looks Like a Crime Scene…
Last winter when I was building the 1505 Loffelholz workbench I was having a heck of a time getting the tail vise working properly. After a frustrating day of adjusting it and failing, I gave up and decided to go home.

I locked the shop’s door and walked to my truck. I had a sudden idea on adjusting the vise that stopped me dead in my tracks. I turned around, unlocked the shop door and immediately slid under the bench, lying on my back. I was so excited I forgot to close the shop’s door.

After 10 minutes of working on my back, I heard someone running toward me.

“I’m calling 911! Are you OK? Are you hurt? Did they rob you?”

A guy was standing in the open doorway, out of breath, with a cellphone.

Again, I started laughing. Except for a pool of blood it looked like a crime scene. I was flat on my back, staring straight up. The door was wide open.

I know a lot of woodworkers fantasize about a cozy workshop out in the woods somewhere where they can be surrounded by nature. And be free from distractions of human society. But for me, a city workshop is best shop I’ve ever had.

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

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

Evolution of the Crucible Dividers

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 5:40pm


I’ve just posted a blog entry that shows the evolution of the Crucible Improved Pattern Dividers (and explained why they have that name. Check it out here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Some of our Defences

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 11:18am

From “Cot With Drop Side,” The Woodworker magazine, April 1942

“ … For the comfort and seemliness of our furniture will decide the background of our home; whether it is to be a place we can truly rejoice in and be proud of, or whether it is to be a shoddy sort of place, a mean, vulgar sort of place. And these things do not depend upon whether a man is rich or poor. A rich man’s house can be innately vulgar, and a poor man’s house have real charm. It all depends upon what we are trying to do and how we set about doing it.

It is all part of the last defence, which is honesty of workmanship and purpose, qualities that were by no means the hallmark of the mass-produced furniture that flooded the market before the war, much of which had for its only purpose to tempt people to buy meretricious stuff which they did not really need and to push good, honest workmanship into the background. The man who has sufficient skill to make his own furniture need never succumb to this kind of temptation. For he at least knows how things ought to be done, he understands good construction and should have a keen eye for all the paltry makeshifts by which weaknesses and defects are hidden in the shoddy article. It is one of the evils of our time that so many men do not know how things are done. The nature of their work has been divorced from making; and it is from making, something, anything, soundly and well, that we get our main training of eye as well as hand.

Allied with this last defence comes beauty a shy quality in which good taste must combine with good workmanship and which even then refuses to be exactly defined. So many things in the home contribute to it; comfort, order, colour, charm, all reflecting something of the personality of the man and woman about whom the home centres, so that in thinking of “home” we think of a unity into which all are gathered—father, mother, children, background. And beauty becomes the first defence of the home as well as the last when it helps to keep boys or girls poised and steady when they are away from it, seeing it with new eyes just because they are away and are no longer blinded by familiarity, and giving them a standard by which to judge the outer world. The man who is honest with himself, honest with his work, and anxious to make good, honest things, is laying the foundation of such a standard. And beauty will not be far behind, indeed must follow, if he will put the best of his mind and will to it:

‘ … look where our dizziest spires are saying
What the hands of a man did up in the sky;
Drenched before you have heard the thunder,
White before you have felt the snow;
For the giants lift up their hands to wonder
How high the hands of a man could go.’ 

—Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1942; the poem Hayward references at the end is by G. K. Chesterton, titled “For Four Guilds: III. The Stone-Masons,” from the book “The Ballad of St. Barbara: And Other Verses”

Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Tools Appropriate for Finishing Mouldings

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 9:35am


This is an excerpt from “With all the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” by André-Jacob Roubo; translation by Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue. 

Once the mouldings are cut, you finish them, that is to say, you shape them on edge and you round off the talons/fillets and the beads. (In workman’s terms, it is called relieving the mouldings.) The tools appropriate for this use are the moulding planes for cutting beads, the moulding planes to make V-shaped grooves, moulding planes for beads of all sizes, duck beak [bec-de-cane is a plane whose blade is the shape of the top of a walking stick or door handle rather than a reference to an animal (duck)] and gorge fouille [a plane similar to the bec-de-cane with the extremity of its iron curved and rounded with a fillet or tip at its end so this plane makes round cuts and fillets], or furrowed gouges.

The moulding planes for cutting beads do not differ from other moulding planes, except that they have a cheek [guiding ledge/ridge/shoulder] just like the other moulding planes that I already spoke of. The other moulding planes, as well as the round planes [as in hollows-and-rounds], do not have one.

The duck beaks [see comment above] are tools which serve to dig out the bottom of the hollow/ ogees or beads where the moulding planes [ for cutting beads] cannot get in, as in the case of a ravalement [this refers to an area where one lowers the surface of the wood in an area to accentuate adjacent areas, or to accomplish the same effect through undercutting] or a groove. They differ from other planes in that they cut horizontally [on their sides] instead of the others that cut straight [down]. Their iron [blade] is placed upright in its throat or at least with very little angle (there are even many which are not angled at all). The angle of this iron [skew] is only on its width, that is to say, on the thickness of the tool, behind which it is empty. That is why this slope [skew angle] is made inside, not only to make the shavings eject, but also to make itself open to the iron [give a cutting angle or pitch to the blade/iron].

Since the point of the duck beak [see other description above] is very thin, the wood of their body [of the blade tip] can hardly survive very long. That is why it is highly advisable to make soles of copper or iron, which is even better, just as I said elsewhere. Look at Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7, which represent a duck beak viewed in all directions, as well as its iron and its wedge.


The gorge fouille [literally furrowed gouges] are types of duck beaks which do not differ from the former except their end is rounded in the form of a gouge, and it is squared up [the blade edge is configured more like a scraper than an edge tool]. The iron of these tools is not found ready-made at the Merchants, at least not normally. That is why woodworkers make them themselves.

Their use is to dig [out] bottoms [hollows] of ogee shapes, [and] to enlarge and finish the bottom of grooves, see Figs. 8, 9, 10 & 11. When it is [used on] frames with bevels or chamfers rounded with a fillet or tip at [the] end, one makes use of an ordinary grooving plane that is used on the edge of the frame, noting only to make it void on the inside.


There is still another tool where the iron is placed upright and which cuts horizontally which is called a side rabbet plane. Its use is to enlarge the grooves and to re-cut those that were badly made, see Figs. 12, 13, 14 & 15.


When the panels are dry, that is to say, the glue has set well, you set their length and width as needed, which in workman’s terms, is called squaring up the panels. You then produce the raised panel, which is made with a tool called a fielding or raising plane, which is similar to other rabbet planes, with the exception that they have a fence [and] that the slant of the mouth is skewed within the inside over the width of the iron, to make it more appropriate for cutting the end [grain] wood and [working] cross-grain. There are two irons on this tool, one that is in the form that we call flatbanded [making a bevel or chamfer], and the other in the shape of a square called a nicker. The two together are about 14–16 lines wide. On top of this plane and toward the front is a notch similar to that of the bench fillister, which serves to support the hand of whoever is pushing it, see Fig. 16.

Meghan Bates

Filed under: With All the Precision Possible
Categories: Hand Tools

Build a Welsh Stick Chair with Chris Williams

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:49am

Photo courtesy of Tim Bowen Antiques.

As many of you know, Chris Williams is writing a book (Kieran Binnie is the co-author) about the 10 years he spent with Welsh chairmaker John Brown, who was Chris’s mentor and friend. The book, which is well underway, will detail Brown’s woodworking life using Chris’s personal story, interviews with woodworkers all over the world and 20 of Brown’s best columns for Good Woodworking magazine.

In addition to the narrative of this influential woodworker and writer, the book will detail how Brown built his chairs using the techniques and patterns handed down to Chris.

This is not the same chair shown in Brown’s book “Welsh Stick Chairs.” That chair was one of Brown’s early forms. After more than a decade of work, the design of Brown’s chairs evolved into something else entirely. Something spectacular, really. Readers of Good Woodworking got a glimpse of these chairs in the 1990s, and these later chairs are what made me take up the tools and make chairs myself.

For a glimpse of this sort of work, I encourage you to visit Chris’s website and, more importantly, follow Chris on Instagram for a near daily look at his work.

To help re-introduce this style of chair to North America, we hope to bring Chris to our shop here in Covington, Ky., May 21-25, 2018, to lead a group of six woodworkers in building this chair. The class would be held in our storefront on Willard Street. Because of the intense nature of this class, we would encourage participants to have some chairmaking experience under their belts (or a lot of experience with handwork).

The Cost of the Class
The class would be $1,500 for the week plus a small fee for materials. This is a considerable expense for a week-long class, so an explanation is in order. For starters, this will be an intimate class – just six students, one instructor and an assistant (me). It will be a different experience than schools that have 12, 18 or even 30 students in a class. Second, we have to get Chris and his tools to Kentucky all the way from Wales. And, most importantly, we have to make it worth his while. This is not a Lost Art Press venture. Neither I nor Lost Art Press will make a dime off of this event. All the proceeds go to Chris to support his important work.

In addition to learning to make this gorgeous chair, participants also will learn a lot about Brown. Chris is filled with great stories about the man that could be pried loose with a pint or a glass of wine.


The Setting
Covington is a nice little city in the shadow of downtown Cincinnati. And the shop is walking distance to lots of hotels, restaurants, breweries and two of the best bourbon bars in the United States. The storefront is a great place to work – lots of natural light and workbenches.

We’ll be able to provide participants a list of nearby hotels and AirBnBs that range from $65 a night and up. Our shop is a 10-minute drive the Cincinnati International Airport (CVG) and we’re just a few blocks from I-75.

But before we plow forward on bringing Chris here, we’d like to hear from you. If you are interested in participating in this event, please leave a comment below. This will help us judge the interest among woodworkers. Thanks in advance for your help.

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

Personal note: No, I’m not opening a school; nor am I returning to teaching. What do I get out of this? I get to watch Chris work and listen to his stories about Brown, which will make me a better editor for the book about John Brown. Plus, this class will help expose woodworkers to a fantastic chair design.

Filed under: John Brown Book, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

On seeing and being seen

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 4:17am

A knockout indeed

I’ve lost track of how many times people have written “So great to see a woman in the magazine!” following the publication of a project feature. For years I’d roll my eyes and think Never mind my gender. WHAT ABOUT THE WORK?

It’s thorny, this issue of gender representation in woodworking. You can say pretty much the same about race. When you’re the odd one out, it’s easy for readers to see only what makes you different. Which is galling when, for you, what matters is the work.

While I was on hold during a recent phone call, I glanced at Instagram and found myself tagged by Sarah Marriage at A Workshop of Our Own. She was commenting on a post by Phoebe Kuo. “Have you heard about our woodshop drinking game?” asked Sarah. “You take a shot every time you see a woman depicted working in the field of woodworking (ie, not a customer service rep with a headset asking you to call today) in a woodworking periodical. It’s usually safe for the woodshop because you never take a shot!”

Of course she was exaggerating (a little), as she acknowledged by referring to a recent issue of Fine Woodworking. I replied with a comment listing a few other publications that have recently featured work by women: Woodcraft, Furniture & Cabinetmaking, and most recently a cover feature in Popular Woodworking. But as I continued working into the evening and ruminated on Sarah’s remark, her point sank in: It’s important to go beyond publishing work by women to publishing images of women working. While it was exceedingly rare to see a woman in a workshop or on a building site just three decades ago when I started in the field, it’s verging on common today. But outside of publications directed specifically at women, the percentage of females to males in woodworking publications is still low.


Image from http://www.awfullibrarybooks.net. (Yes, that is the title of the site.)

This dearth of representation is not due solely to sexism. There are also some distinctly prosaic explanations, among them:

  • some women are so busy with commissioned work and other activities that they don’t want to take the time, which can be considerable, to propose, write, and do the hands-on work for an article, and
  • while some of us are set up to photograph ourselves, others (guilty!) are not. As a result, in publications that use photographs provided by authors, work by women is published more often than images of women doing the work. 

For years I felt like gagging at the mention of gender in relation to my profession. It wasn’t just the unintentionally demeaning remarks — “Did your husband teach you to do this?” It was the focus on the novelty of finding a woman in a field populated primarily by men. I just wanted to be Nancy Hiller, not a token female. Sarah and Megan Fitzpatrick have expressed the same frustration; no doubt many other women have, too. So why are we now paying so much attention to gender and calling for more images of women woodworkers?

Because we all need role models.

As a young woodworker, my models were men. Even without wanting to, I fell into the role of  “cute tough-girl in the shop.” That was how others (though thankfully not all of them) made clear they saw me. I was “decorative,” to use a frequently cited word. This worked fine as long as I was thin. But when I gained 40 pounds in response to a devastating heartbreak, the reactions to the female in the shop turned to pity — and occasionally disdain, such as when the foreman at one of the shops where I worked greeted me with a hearty “MOO” when I arrived one Saturday morning to put in some extra hours on a deadline-sensitive job. (Note: Despite my appearance, I was still doing the work.)

What would a mature, confident woman in a workshop look like? I had no idea. To be honest, the question didn’t even occur to me. Instead, I had a vague sense that I should get out of the field before the age of 40, because a mature woman in jeans and work boots would be, well, kind of scary. Or maybe people would assume, based on her work clothes and dusty appearance, that she was not very smart. She would definitely not look “professional” or “desirable.” I’m embarrassed to admit that I ever felt this way, that I had so thoroughly internalized female norms presented by advertising and publishing that 40 represented the end of the road for me as a woodworker.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to present images of real women working. Not just demure young women with wood chips gathering on their chests while they use power tools, not just intentionally sexy babes using table saws, and not just tattooed tough-girls. We need to include women in mom-jeans and make-up, women of color, big strong women…you get the picture. In other words, we would like to see images of real women woodworkers, ideally in numbers proportionate to the population of women woodworkers, whether woodworking is their hobby or their job — pretty much as we do with men. (After all, not every man looks like Tommy Mac.)

As Megan pointed out in a recent Popular Woodworking editor’s letter, it’s hard to aspire to something for which you have no example. –Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work


Anissa Kapsales, editor at Fine Woodworking


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Building Crucible Inventory for Christmas

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 2:50pm


During the last two months, John, Raney and I have been building up our inventory of dividers, holdfasts and design curves at Crucible Tool to ensure we don’t run out during the holidays.

We’ve also been working on a new product – a lump hammer – that we hope to launch before the end of the year. Details on the hammer will come in the next few weeks as we get the handles finalized (the heads are done and designed).

As a result of all this production work (plus my duties at Lost Art Press and finishing some furniture commissions), I have been lax in writing about our tools. But, on the other hand, I’ve been using the hell out of our tools in the shop.


Our iron holdfasts are as important to my work as my leg vise. They get hit dozens of times a day to secure doe’s feet or workpieces at my French workbench. These are the only holdfasts that haven’t failed me (you know, when you hit a holdfast and it only bounces in the hole). Even when I’m securing stuff 8” off the bench, these cinch down as gently or as fiercely as you like.

I also love how my holdfasts have aged during the last 18 months in my shop. They are dark grey and nicely dented. I’m glad we didn’t opt to powder coat them or attempt to block the natural aging process.

The improved pattern dividers are always on my bench. They’re in my hand when I’m thinking. They’re in my hand when I’m laying out joints. They sit on the bench as a reminder of what’s important – accuracy not precision. As these dividers have broken in, I’m glad we took the extra step to make the hinge’s tension adjustable. Some blacksmith-made dividers I have in my shop have some slop in the mechanism. When you move the tips, they adjust suddenly for about 1/16” and then move tightly. You can tighten these up with a hammer, but it’s tricky.

Ours do not have this slop. And the reason they don’t have slop is one of the reasons they cost what they do.


Interestingly, the design curves haven’t seen as much use as the other two tools. But I haven’t been doing much designing during the last few months. I’ve used them to help design the arm bow for a staked armchair I’m (still) working on. But these curves have mostly sat on my desk, waiting to be used. I can say they have remained quite flat all summer – yay for seven layers of bamboo.

So apologies for the silence on the front of Crucible Tool. You can expect more information about using our tools in the coming months – there’s lots to explore with these tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Roman Workbenches’ Isn’t Quite Right

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 3:20pm


Today I glued up my recreation of the Roman workbench from the Saalburg fort and museum outside Frankfurt, Germany. The Saalburg bench is, as far as I know, the oldest surviving workbench from about 187 A.D. And as I pounded home the maple wedges, I pondered how the title of my book – “Roman Workbenches” – isn’t quite correct.

While two of the benches I’ve built for this book are definitely Roman, with a third from the Holy Roman Empire, the thrust of the book isn’t about Rome or the workbenches that came from there. It’s about the workholding on early benches.


Thanks to the paintings dug up by Suzanne Ellison and the addition of my active imagination, the book is becoming a treatise on: “Look, you don’t need a lot of complex devices on your bench to build fine furniture. You just need to be smarter than physics.”

For about 1,500 years, these forgotten workbench appliances were common on both low benches and high ones. Then we became a mechanical people. We tried to make our lives easier by inventing devices that would assist us in our work. I’m sure there’s some formal name for this idea. Until someone tells it to me, I’m going to call it “Arthur’s Law.”

(W. Brian Arthur was an economics professor at Stanford University and is now at the Santa Fe Institute. He wrote in 1993: “Complexity tends to increase as functions and modifications are added to a system to break through limitations, handle exceptional circumstances or adapt to a world itself more complex.”)


I’m not saying complexity itself is a bad thing. Some systems are complicated. But many times we attempt to overcome a problem with additional complexity when the answer might actually be simplicity.

So while the glue dries on this bench I’m going to give the title of this book some more thought. Likely I’m going to stick with “Roman Workbenches” because that’s where the historical record of these benches begins.

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

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

As Aequus as Aqua

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 4:55am

Earth curve

Or, translated from the Latin: “As Level as Water.” As we explored ancient layout tools at length in “From Truths to Tools,” it became quite clear that the artisans of antiquity were no dummies. For example, we see from their tools and works that they understood that there was a difference between the curved “level” of a horizontal line and the straight “level” of a sight line. In fact, when they used the term “horizontal” to name the latter they were alluding to “horos,” the horizon, the boundary between water and sky.

How did they know that the earth they stood on was a sphere? Two things for starters, according to source documents: They observed the arc-line shadow of the earth falling on the moon during a lunar eclipse, and they watched ships disappearing on the horizon from the hull to the top of the mast (as opposed to the ship simply getting smaller and smaller). Why is this so important? Try building an aqueduct so it works properly or digging a tunnel accurately through a mountain without accounting for this difference.


If the trough of the aqueduct were constructed to a sight (or laser!) line level, the water would flow toward the center because the center, relative to the earth’s surface, is downhill from either end. Another problem that could arise if the support columns were constructed to meet the trough at right angles, is that the columns would only be plumb in one location. They would all be parallel, but that doesn’t make them right! (Literally: the forces on the un-plumb columns would have some amount of shear in them, leading eventually to distortion and ultimately failure.)


In tunnel work, the opposite problem arises: if they relied solely on horizontal level as the digging progressed from start points established by sight lines shot around the mountain from surrounding benchmarks, the tunnel would not exit at the predicted opposing point. Digging from either end, one tunnel would travel above the other and they would never meet. Note that the gradient drop of the earth’s curve is about 8′ per mile – and it’s not an additive (linear) increase, but exponential to infinity. To grasp this intuitively, picture the earth constantly curving away from the sight line. Eventually, at a point just past a quarter of the way around the sphere, a line dropped down square from the sight line would never reach the earth’s surface.

The more George and I immersed ourselves in research for this book, the more we gleaned about the tools and works of the artisans of antiquity and the smarter they started looking to us. The corollary was the dumber the guys in the mirror looking back at us each morning started to look! Obviously, not only is there is still so much more to learn, there is so much more to relearn!

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com

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

Editor’s Journal: Summer is Over

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 3:37pm


On Friday – I think it was Friday – I had my first normal day since June 7, which is the day I left for Germany to see the Saalburg workbench and teach at Dictum GmbH.

Since that trip I’ve been on a nonstop schedule of traveling, taking care of unexpected (and important) family business and trying to keep up with all my publishing obligations. I failed spectacularly. Everything got so crazy that I had to do something very unusual: I canceled my trip last month to the UK and the European Woodworking Show.

While I regret missing that trip, those seven days were a gift and helped me get back on my feet. I was able to take care of some pressing family stuff, finish up some furniture commissions, complete a magazine article I was two months late on and get “From Truths to Tools” and “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” on a fast track to the printer.

So on Friday, I woke up and drank two cups of coffee. I opened my calendar and saw the day was empty. Absolutely clear. I decided to turn off my phone, leave my laptop closed and focus on building my reproduction of the Saalburg workbench for a forthcoming book. Thanks to that day of bliss, the bench now needs just a little cleaning up before I assemble it.

I just opened my calendar for the coming week. Monday is clear. So I think it’s going to be finished by Tuesday.

This post is a reminder (to myself) that somethings have to fall apart. And it’s an apology to all the people I owe phone calls and emails to. I’ll get to them in the next week or so. Just as soon as I have just a few more empty days of healing handwork. I wish I could bottle that stuff.

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


Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Coming Soon: Limited Edition LAP Hats

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 1:22pm


Later this month we will offer a limited run of 100 Lost Art Press baseball caps that feature the “marriage mark” symbol from “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” And, exciting for us, the hats are being embroidered and stamped by our friends at Texas Heritage Woodworks.

This hat is the first in a line of apparel products that we are working very hard on to make as special as our books. More items are already in the works. Here are the details on the hats.

For the last few years we’ve used US-made hats from Bayside. They are OK, but they aren’t the kind of “I want to wear this hat every day until it becomes rags” hat. So we’ve decided to do something we don’t normally do: We’re using the Chinese-made but completely excellent hat from Adams.


This was the first brand of hat we started using about eight years ago. It is very well-made, breaks in beautifully and has lots of nice details: a mesh liner, a leather adjusting strap and a brass buckle. We can’t find a domestic hat that’s made this well at almost any price (unless you want to pay $100 for a hat).

We sent the hats to Texas Heritage Woodworkers last month and Sarah Thigpen has been busy embroidering them in their shop and stamping the leather strap on the pack with the Texas Heritage Woodworks logo. If you have any of Sarah or Jason’s work (such as their best-in-class tool rolls), you know the work is going to be crisp. Perfect.

The hats will be $27, which includes shipping in the United States (if this hat thing works out we’ll expand it to other countries).


When we have all the hats in-house, we’ll announce a time and day they will go up for sale in the Lost Art Press online store.

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

Filed under: Products We Sell, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Unmodeling’ Old Buildings

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 6:44am


After two years of enduring our search for an old building in Covington, our real estate agent showed us something a bit different. It was a large and beautiful unit in an old commercial building. There was a storefront on the bottom. Living space up above. But here’s what was different than every other place we’d seen:

The entire building had been gutted and redone with new everything – mechanicals, plaster, flooring, windows. It even had off-street parking. All we had to do was pick the paint colors. The price was a bit higher than we wanted to pay. But to that the agent said:

“By the time you fix up a place in your price range, you’ll have spent way more than this place costs.”

She was absolutely right. I knew it the moment she said it. But still we said, no thanks.

For me, fixing up an old building is about uncovering the original intent of the builder, removing as much of the modern “improvements” as possible and gently restoring the place back to its original appearance.

During the restoration of the storefront area at 837 Willard Street, we’ve removed thousands of feet of wiring, lots of plumbing and significant amounts of silly ductwork. From the building’s floor, I think we’ve pulled up almost 3” of old floor. The plaster walls had been layer caked in plywood, wainscotting, then stud walls, drywall and then ridiculous moulding.


Justin is the muscle in our demolition efforts. He removed this section of wall with his bare hands.

On Saturday we turned our attention to the garage out back, which will become my machine room. It’s a circa 1905 cinderblock structure that was listed on the city’s fire insurance maps as a stable. So we call it the “horse garage.”

Most of the advice from my friends and neighbors has been along the lines of, “Tear it down and build what you want. It will look better and be cheaper.”

They’re probably right. But that thought won’t enter my head. Once you tear down an old building, it’s gone forever. You can’t bring it back. If a structure can be saved, I think it should be saved.

I may someday regret this attitude. And that day may come this week.


Megan hauls out an early layer crap from the horse garage. She is wicked with a recip saw.

Megan Fitzpatrick, Justin Leib and Brendan Gaffney all pitched Saturday in for a full day of demolition, which filled a 20-yard roll-away dumpster. (I’ll probably have to fill it twice more as I remove the modern gabled roof this week.)

As in the main structure, the stable was layers and layers of crap on the walls and ceilings. The most interesting find from the day was evidence that the stable had been used as a small apartment or house, probably in the 1960s. One of the stable doors had been altered to have a window surrounded by plaster. The other stable door had been converted into an entryway door. And a good deal of abandoned plumbing pointed out where a bathroom and kitchen had been.


In addition to gutting the horse garage, we also removed some modern drywall in the main structure. Here Brendan uses some of his training from the College of the Redwoods (now the Krenov School) to vacuum away what we hope is some blow-in insulation.

Despite all the dust, bugs and debris, we did have one good omen on Saturday: We didn’t find any glitter.

And now to the roof.

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

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

Farewell, old friend

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 11:26am


As woodworkers, we tend to think about trees most often in the context of wood. But a living tree is habitat, safe perch, shady spot, daily carbon dioxide sink, and more.

Trees also bear fruit. Until I moved to Indiana, persimmons were novelties: fat juicy globes with exotic names such as Fuyu and Hachiya. Then, one October, a boyfriend proposed a weekend paddle on Lake Monroe (yes, he’d made his own canoe) to a spot rich with persimmons. We filled a couple of shopping bags with squishy fruit and paddled back to the truck. He showed me how to make pulp and shared his grandmother’s recipe for pudding.


Milling persimmons for pulp is a time-consuming process but well worthwhile.

When we pulled the glass dish out of the oven, the kitchen filled with sweet, spicy steam. We let the pudding sit a while to firm up while we whipped some cream. Slice, serve, dollop. Heaven.

Persimmon pudding

Somewhere on the texture spectrum between jello and brownies lies the traditional Midwestern treat persimmon pudding.

Much smaller than their Oriental cousins, our native persimmons are packed with nutrients: 127 kcal per 100 grams of raw fruit (compared to 70 kcal for the same amount of Japanese persimmon, Diospyros Kaki), 33.5 grams of carbohydrate (compared to 18.59), 0.8 grams of protein (versus 0.58), as well as higher than the Japanese persimmon in fat, calcium, and iron. I offer this comparison not as an exercise in nationalism, but to help explain why the peoples native to this land considered putchamin an important food.


The fruit of Diospyros Virginiana, the persimmon native to eastern and Midwestern states, is generally considered unfit to eat until it has fallen on the ground. Bite into an unripe fruit and you’ll experience a serious tannin pucker.


A couple of years after my first taste of persimmon pudding I was looking for an affordable property where I could have a workshop. The first place I visited fit the bill and came with a bonus: an old persimmon tree on the front lawn and a couple more on the fence line.

Fast-forward fourteen years. After feeding many a deer (and two of my dogs) and giving us fruit for countless puddings, the old tree in our front yard finally gave up the ghost last winter. We had plenty of advance notice: fewer leaves each spring, more limbs dropped per thunderstorm. Of course it’s not really gone: Persimmons spread through their roots to form groves. Several daughter trees are growing to maturity in the garden.


Two of the daughters took root next to each other, on opposite sides of the garden path. I’ll continue pruning them so that they’ll eventually form an arch.

A large dead tree in the front yard is hardly attractive. “Can we please cut it down?” I asked my husband last spring. I wasn’t asking for permission; he’s the one who uses a chainsaw. I’ll use industrial shop equipment any day, but chainsaws terrify me. “No,” he said; “it offers wild birds refuge from Louis [the shop cat].” Spring turned to summer, and concern for the birds’ safety turned into “Taking that tree down is going to be a huge project. Do you have any idea how much work it’s going to be, cleaning up those limbs?” Clearly not a job for the itchy, sweaty months. Now that fall is here (if tentatively), we’ll take it down and give some of the wood to our friend Max Monts to turn into bowls, because as many readers will already be aware, persimmon is related to ebony.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work


Here’s that recipe.


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Carving the Acanthus Leaf’ Now in Store

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 5:19am


You can now place a pre-publication order for Mary May’s “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” in the Lost Art Press online store. The book is $49, which includes free shipping in the United States and Canada.

Customers who place a pre-publication order will receive a free and immediate pdf download of the book. The book is expected to ship in late November. You can download a sample chapter of the book here.

For customers outside the United States, we will offer this book to all our international retailers (a list of retailers is here). It is the decision of the retailer as to whether they carry this book or not.

“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” is May’s first book and is the result of three years of intense work. It is a deep exploration into this iconic leaf, which has been a cornerstone of Western ornamentation for thousands of years. May, a professional carver and instructor, starts her book at the beginning. She covers carving tools and sharpening with the efficiency of someone who has taught for years. Then she plunges the reader directly into the work.

It begins with a simple leaf that requires just a few tools. The book then progresses through 13 variations of leaves up to the highly ornate Renaissance and Rococo forms. Each lesson builds on the earlier ones as the complexity slowly increases.

One remarkable aspect of the book is how May has structured each chapter. Each chapter begins with a short discussion of how this particular leaf appears in architecture or the decorative arts, with photos May has taken from her travels around the world. Then you learn how to draw the leaf from scratch. Though you are provided with a full-size or scaled drawing of each leaf, May insists that drawing the leaf makes it easier to carve it. Each step of the drawing process is illustrated in detail.

As May explains how to carve the leaf, she augments each step with multiple photos and illustrations that show where and how each tool should move through the work. The result is that each leaf can have as many as 100 photos and illustrations of each step of the carving process.

In addition to the intense instruction, May also provides a short essay between every chapter that illustrates her journey from a young pumpkin carver to the world-renowned carver she is today. The overall effect is like apprenticing with a master carver, with both the demanding instruction and the personal experiences that make woodworking such a rich craft.

“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” is manufactured to survive many hours of use in the shop. The heavy paper is both glued and sewn so the book will lie flat on your benchtop without the pages coming loose. The pages are protected by cloth-covered hardboards and a tear-resistant dust jacket to protect its contents. This is a permanent book – produced and printed entirely in the United States.

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

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

How to Cut Wide Tenons

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 6:29pm

FIG. 1. WIDE TENONS WHICH ARE AWKWARD TO SAW It would be difficult to keep the saw to the line over so wide a rail. The planing method outlined here is generally followed in the trade.

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

A reader has been making a piece of work which has involved the use of a tenoned rail some 12 ins. wide, and tells us that he has had difficulty in sawing the tenons. Whilst it is possible to saw the tenons, we should not advise it. It would take too long, and it would be difficult to keep the saw true across so wide a tenon. We give here the simplest method.

We show a wide rail in Fig. 1, the cutting of the double tenons of which is a typical example of the process to be followed. A similar case of even wider tenons is that of, say, a table top with clamped ends, the last named being mortised for tenons cut at the ends of the top.

Mark out the joint in the usual way, squaring in the shoulders and marking the tenons with the mortise gauge. The chisel is used for marking the shoulders, and a shallow sloping groove is cut on the waste side as at X, Fig. 2. This forms a convenient channel in which the saw can run when cutting the shoulders, the next operation. The tenon saw can be used for this. Saw down to a fraction short of the gauge line, and be careful to keep the saw square.


FIG. 2. CHOPPING WASTE AFTER SAWING SHOULDERS. This can be done only when the grain is straight.

Assuming that the grain is reasonably straight, chop away the cheeks with a chisel as at B, Fig. 2. Do not attempt to remove all the waste in a single cut, but start the chisel about halfway down, and finally take it to within about 1/8 in. of the line. Of course, the grain must be watched. If it tends to run downwards the chisel cannot be used so close to the line. If it runs upwards, it can be taken almost on to it. A fairly wide chisel is desirable for this work.


FIG. 3. PRELIMINARY USE OF THE REBATE PLANE. The shoulder acts as a fence for the plane.

Now take the rebate plane and work across the grain, the side of the plane pressed against the shoulder as in Fig. 3. If you have the metal type of rebate plane you can set the depth gauge so that the plane ceases to cut when the tenon is reduced nearly to the gauge line. Be sure that the cutter does not project on the shoulder side as this will damage the latter. At the near side the grain is sure to splinter a bit, but this does not matter. It cannot splinter on the shoulder side as it has already been cut with the saw.


FIG. 4. FINAL REDUCTION WITH JACK PLANE. Work the plane inwards from each end.

To finish off use the jack or any other bench plane as in Fig. 4. Carried out in this way the reduction of the wood is quite rapid, certainly quicker than when the saw is used throughout, and it enables the tenon to be trimmed to within fine limits. The remainder of the work, that of cutting the separate tenons and the haunches, is as in normal tenoning.

Meghan Bates

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

Recipe for Happiness

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 1:46pm

“Traditional Chair Making – High Wycombe,” photographer unknown. © High Wycombe Furniture Archive, Bucks New University

“It is one thing for the man whose daily work offers him a really creative job, the engineer, the skilled craftsman, the artist, the writer, because with the work comes the discipline. He has to stick it, in spite of the weather or his feelings at the moment, because he who will not work neither shall he eat, neither, in fact, shall he have anything else that is worth having. But because the job is a job into which he can really put all his powers, he has the chance of extracting real satisfaction, real happiness, from it. Or at least as much as we can hope for in an imperfect world. Because to become absorbed in an interesting job is happiness. But when a man takes up some form of creative work in his spare time, he has to be his own taskmaster. And that is not so easy. There is always the temptation to cry off when he doesn’t feel like it, or to drop it altogether when difficulties crop up—as they are bound to do when a man is learning to do a thing on his own. In short, it takes character and grit to stick it long enough to acquire real skill. But once that is attained he has achieved something that will set him on the road to still greater achievement in the future. And that is at least one recipe for happiness.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1942

Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Carving the Acanthus Leaf’ Off to the Printer

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 10:06am


Mary May’s first book “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” has been delivered to the printer and we will open pre-publication ordering on Friday.

The book will be $49 (which includes shipping in the United States and Canada). All customers who place pre-publication orders through Lost Art Press will also receive a free download of a pdf of the book. The book should ship before Thanksgiving.

This is a massive book. It’s 336 pages and filled with more than 1,000 full-color step photos and illustrations demonstrating how to carve 13 different acanthus leaves, from an understated Scandinavian version, to the classic Greek to the gorgeous Renaissance-style leaf. Woodworkers of all skills – from the beginner to the seasoned carver – will find lots of techniques explored and explained.


“Carving the Acanthus Leaf” will be a hardbound book with a tear-resistant dust jacket. The binding will be sewn and glued so the book will sit flat on the bench for many years without the pages coming loose.

We will have more details on the content – including a free excerpt – on Friday. As always, we will offer this book to our retailers across the globe but it is up to them to stock it. So I don’t have any information on who will carry it.

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

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

I Don’t Use These as a Rule

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:47pm


Well that’s not entirely true, of course. I do use them when I need to make up a cut list from a full-scale drawing or story stick to tell a machine in numerical code (be it metric, Imperial or shaku) where to make the cuts. The cut list is, however, rarely necessary in the hand-tool approach to construction. So in typical layout work, I go with pin-point perfect real placements of cut or location lines.


For example, if I need to lay out the location of slats in a bed’s headboard, I simply stack the slats together against the post (or its location on a story stick) and find the intervening gaps by stepping out the number of gaps needed between the slats (number of slats + one). Layout follows as shown in the next drawing. The accuracy of the layout will be a function of however sharp I make the points of my dividers.



Of course, you can use algebra to generate dimensions with numbers:


As for me, I don’t want to spend the time doing it and then having to deal with reading tiny numbers on some ruler and coping with rounding errors!


As another example of rulers not always ruling: Say you want to locate placement buttons (the ebony plugs in the set shown here) on a pair of winding sticks so you can quickly locate the sticks on the edge of a board. In this case, the location is not a number at all (at least not until after the fact). You could, of course, measure the length of the sticks and divide by two to get a numerical center point.  Or, to avoid rounding error, you could step off an even number of intervals to locate the middle division line and then enjoy the accuracy of a pin prick. But both would miss the point so to speak. What we are really looking for here is not the center of the stick, but its center of gravity. How do we find that? We just balance the stick on a sharp knife blade!

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com and one of the authors of “From Truths to Tools

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