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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 3 hours 50 min ago

Dividers & Curves in the Store on Thursday

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 5:55am


We will have both Improved Pattern Dividers and Design Curves for sale in Crucible’s online store at noon Eastern time on Thursday, May 25.

Why are we waiting until Thursday? I’m still traveling after Handworks in Amana, Iowa. I decided to take a couple days off to see friends and clear my head after the last few months of grinding work to prepare for this fantastic show.

All of the tools are in the back of the trailer, which is parked on the prairie somewhere.

On Tuesday, I will drop these tools off at our warehouse in Indianapolis in the late afternoon. The warehouse employees will make a final count and return them to stock on Wednesday. So Thursday is the earliest we can make them available to you.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope everybody who wants one of these tools will be able to purchase them on Thursday.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Sprawled Below Tables and Chairs

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 12:21pm

Lignarius noseyparkerus exhibiting a behaviour often seen in the wild. They frequently travel in small packs and have the ability to flop like flounders as soon as a docent has turned her back.

“While publications of the 1930s and 40s explored the origins of design, principles of construction and the materials employed, it was not until the 1970s that the joinery of such furniture was discussed in print. In a developing field where scholars and art historians were puzzling over dating, types, functions and materials this neglect is understandable. In addition, there lurks the suspicion that learned investigators, accustomed to intellectual pursuits, found the exploration of furniture making unbefitting to their station. Undoubtedly, ladies and gentleman at work on paintings or jades cut a more poetic and elegant picture than those sprawled below tables or chairs.”

Grace Wu Bruce, a noted expert and dealer specializing in Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture was commenting specifically on the dearth of information on the joinery of Chinese furniture.

I think there are parallels in the study of Western furniture styles and the availabilty of information on joinery. Scholarship and publications on furniture styles often focused on classifying when a piece was made, where it was made, what woods were used and who was the maker. How the furniture was made, if investigated, was not always published.

In the last forty years or so finding out “the how” has become easier as woodworkers took on the task of researching and replicating historical furniture styles. In their research they opened up a world of variations in methods and tools. Publications that were previously limited to one language or one continent were made available to all readers and makers. Pushing these efforts along was the expansion of online resources and the use of blogs to document research and experiments in making furniture.

However, not everyone is conducting research for an article or a book. We still need those curious and intrepid souls who enjoy exploring out-of-the-way shops and regional museums and know how to charm their way into taking a closer look at that one piece that has caught their eye. If need be, they are perfectly willing to sprawl on the floor and get a bit dusty.

Suzanne Ellison

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Domestic Portrait of Studley

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 12:11pm

The façade of the Stetson Shoe Company facility shows a robust, respectable enterprise and suggests a considerable level of financial prosperity of the company’s owner.

This is an excerpt from “Virtuoso: The Top Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Donald C. Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar. 

Studley married Abbie Stetson of Washington Street in Quincy on Feb. 10, 1870. The details of their meeting and courtship are not known. He was 31 and she 25 at the time of their wedding, and their marriage lasted almost 50 years until her death in 1919.

The picture of prosperity for Studley’s family is unclear, but the same cannot be said of the Stetsons. Abbie’s father, David B. Stetson, was a prosperous merchant, with his fortune founded on a successful eponymous shoe factory in nearby Weymouth and at least one retail store in Quincy. He began as a very young man with a door-to-door shoe cart and eventually expanded every aspect of his enterprise to produce a stylish and sought-after line of footwear.

When David Stetson died 1894, his obituary asserts that “he had amassed a comfortable fortune.”*

The Stetson household was strongly anti-slavery; David Stetson was an original member of the Republican Party and devout in his regular attendance to the local Congregational church.

Apparently he instilled his four children with a sense of business and financial acumen that they practiced throughout their lives. At the time of his death, it was younger daughter, Ella, who managed the family business, considered to be one of the foremost shoe and boot purveyors in the Boston area. Brother Warren Stetson managed the shoe and boot manufactory, while brother Arthur Stetson was owner of a successful printing company specializing in artistic press-work. Abbie was by then married to Henry Studley, and was clearly an active partner in the couple’s growing real estate empire.

In short, both the Studley and Stetson families were diligent, hardworking, talented and successful clans. As their marriage began in 1870, Abbie was already accustomed to financial success through observing and working with her father.

We might think that the person who created this magnificent tool ensemble and the accompanying workbench was someone consumed by developing and honing this particular skill set to the exclusion of everything else and thus had no other outside interests. That Studley was committed to the practice of craftsmanship at the very highest level is beyond question, however, the intensity of his financial interests and activities outside the workshop were also fundamental parts of his life. The public record of the Studleys’ real estate transactions in particular is truly impressive. The fact that Henry was on the board of directors of a local bank for three decades certainly adds complexity to the tale and sparks a great deal of speculative reflection on the role of the tool cabinet in his life.

While we may be reduced to informed speculation about Henry Studley’s training, skills and woodworking accomplishments, we are not uninformed about what he and his wife were up to in their private finances, thanks to the tireless research of retired history professor John Cashman, who contributed greatly to the scope of this account. The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds records Abbie being a signatory to at least 342 real estate transactions during a roughly 25-year period. During the same period, Henry’s name appears as a signatory on at least another 80 transactions.

At first I wondered about this disparity in the public records, but when Cashman found the obituary noting Studley’s three decades of membership on the Quincy Cooperative Bank’s board of directors, an obvious conclusion to me was that his fiduciary responsibilities and regulatory restrictions curtailed his direct real estate investments as a matter of law. Further, as Cashman pointed out, Abbie’s aggressive real estate activities commenced soon after her father’s death, and perhaps with the infusion of liquid assets from his estate. In the model of a very modern power couple, Henry filled the “sitting on the board of the bank” role while Abbie did the buying and private lending.


This single page from the Registry of Deeds confirms the breadth of Abbie Studley’s activities as a mortgage broker in the Quincy community. There are several such pages in the registry for both Abbie and Henry.

Abbie’s will and probate records from 1919 paint a fascinating picture of her not as the wife of a prominent and superbly skilled craftsman, but rather almost as a partner in a real estate conglomerate. Even though her probate records state that she owned no real estate outright at the time of her death, the listing of assets being probated is noteworthy. Among them are almost 80 mortgages she held in her own name with a stated worth of $55,504.74. Not a huge fortune, but neither was it a paltry portfolio. Depending on which calculation model is used, Abbie’s estate would be worth between $750,000 to several million dollars in today’s economy (2014).

She and Henry had no children.


The Stetson and Studley lodgings are long gone, and though I regret their destruction I can simultaneously appreciate the beauty and utility of Quincy’s Thomas Crane Public Library. This photo shows roughly the area of Henry and Abbie Studley’s residence, now home to the “new wing” of the library.

Sadly, the home where Studley lived his last 50 years is long gone, replaced by the new wing of the stone H.H. Richardson-designed Thomas Crane Public Library, but I have stood on the sidewalk where he walked for that half-century.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

A Walk in the Woods in April

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 5:43pm

April March showers bring May April flowers.

–traditional proverb

Despite sharing a border with Canada, Ohio has a relatively mild climate, and spring usually arrives early. By April, all of the trees are at least beginning to leaf out. One of the earliest here is the yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava). Its digitate leaves unfurl at a time when most of the other trees are still in bud:


The flowers appear later in the month, in erect clusters:


Yellow buckeye occurs only in the southern portion of the state, mostly along the Ohio River. Brutus Buckeye, on the other hand, is the nut of an Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra). The leaves are very similar, and the flowers have the same general structure but different proportions:


The bark of yellow buckeye is fairly smooth, with a sort of gravelly texture:


Both buckeyes are generally found close to water.

A well-known flowering tree that blooms in April is flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Most people recognize the four large white bracts that surround each cluster of flowers, but few notice the tiny yellow-green flowers themselves:


An unusual subtropical species that occurs as an understory tree in southern Ohio is the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Its flowers are maroon/brown, hang straight down, and have a scent reminiscent of rotting flesh:


Given their aroma, it’s not surprising that pawpaws are pollinated by flies.

The pawpaw is the host plant for the zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus):


And, for no other reason than that I had my camera in hand when I saw them together, here are three different swallowtails; the top one is an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), and the middle one is a spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus):


A tree that any woodworker can appreciate is black cherry (Prunus serotina). Its flowers are distinctive:


Another sign of black cherry is the presence of eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) nests:


Black cherry appears to be their favorite food, although they are occasionally found on apples as well.

Rounding out the commonly occurring conifers in this neck of the woods is eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), easily recognized by its short needles and small cones:


Eastern hemlock occurs in the eastern half of Ohio; the trees are found almost exclusively on north-facing slopes and in deep, cool ravines.

Since the leaves have finally arrived, let’s look at them in more detail. First up are the maples. Red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves have irregularly toothed edges, and red petioles (leaf stems):


Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is likewise heavily toothed, and the petioles are usually green, but may be red as well:


The keys to distinguishing the two species are:

  • The sinuses (spaces between the lobes) in red maple are V-shaped, while those of silver maple are U-shaped.
  • The center lobe of the silver maple leaf is longer than half the overall length of the leaf, while that of the red maple is about half the length or less.

The leaves of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) have smooth edges:


This is, of course, the “classic” maple leaf, as depicted on the Canadian flag. Most of the sugar maples around here have leaves where the three main lobes are fairly broad, and the two outermost lobes are reduced to near nothing. In these respects, they approach the proportions of the leaves of black maple (Acer nigrum). The variation in both of these two species has led some botanists to consider the two to be extremes of a single species. I was not able to find a good example of a black maple leaf, but this variant of a sugar maple leaf is closer to what a black maple’s leaves look like:


Surprisingly, these two sugar maple leaves came from different branches of a single tree.

Our last maple, boxelder (Acer negundo) doesn’t look like a maple at all, and in fact its leaves are disturbingly similar to those of poison ivy:


Both red and silver maples set seed early:


Red maple (on the left) has the smallest samaras, while silver maple has the largest. Both sugar/black maple and boxelder are in between in size, and don’t ripen until mid-May.

Another species that leafs out early is tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The shape of its leaves is unique:


Tuliptree also has interesting flowers, but since they’re all at the tops of the trees, I wasn’t able to get any decent photos.

I mentioned last month that April was the month for wildflowers; here are a few, starting with white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum):


Trilliums were especially abundant this year.

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) bloom for only a short time in the middle of April, and by the end of the month, all traces of the plant (including the leaves) are gone:


(But why are the Dutchmen always hanging upside down?)

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) normally has white flowers, but they’re occasionally blue:


We spent a weekend at the end of April in Adams and Scioto counties, in south-central Ohio. There are a number of wildflowers there that are difficult to find elsewhere in the state, such as these yellow lady’s slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum):


I took photos of many other species, but rather than post them all here, I’ve put together an album that you can see online: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66983845@N03/sets/72157681988733910

In lieu of a sedge this month, we have this rather unassuming plant:


It has miniscule flowers, and its foliage isn’t much to look at, but the ability to recognize stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a useful skill when you’re walking in the woods.

–Steve Schafer


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Photo Gallery – Handworks 2015

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 7:30am


A 3 Part photo gallery from Handworks 2015 is available here. This is the consolation prize for those who will not be attending Handworks this week.

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

More Translated Text from Hulot on the Roman Workbench

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:00am


Woodworker, designer, great cook and all-around nice guy Tom Bonamici volunteered to help translate more sections of M. Hulot’s “L’Art du Tourneur Mécanicien” (1775) that deal with the low workbench.

I have devoted lots of brainpower to this bench lately, and I have many ideas and theories I will test when I build the chairmaking and mortising jigs Hulot describes for my own low Roman workbench.

For the time being, I’m going to hold my tongue and just let you enjoy some of the interesting details unearthed by Tom’s translation.

Tom provided two versions. One is a straight translation that embraces Hulot’s flowery cadence. The second is a condensed version that gets right to the point.

— Christopher Schwarz

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

The Figure 4, Plate 13, represents a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling; it’s a piece of oak of 5 feet in length by 12 to 14 inches in width, and very thick, carried on four strong legs below, R, Y, X, Z, which enter through as many round holes drilled in the bottom of the Saddle, A B. The Worker has his face turned towards the head, H B, which is a big piece of softwood, such as alder, and of which the bottom forms a flat tenon which passes through a mortise in the Saddle; the upper part [of the alder head] forms a type of stepped stop, of which the steps are notched in different ways, some perpendicular and shallow, for receiving the end of flat pieces to be planed on their edge [see vertical notch just to the left of the letter B, Fig. 4, Pl. 13]; the flat steps receive pieces to be planed on their face. Other steps are notched horizontally and vertically in the form of a little spoon, for receiving the end of a baton. There are more little vertical notches next to this hollow, which can be seen in the figure [Fig. 4]. Independently of the tenon which fixes the head H, it [the head] is supported by the cross beam K, also named the transom, head, or buttress of the head, & which is supported at the end & across the Saddle, by two strong pegs of strong and binding wood, such as ash or dogwood, which pass perpendicularly across the cross beam and the Saddle.

            If the wood to be planed is big & long, one doesn’t sit on the Saddle, but one stands upright, & one places the end of the wood in the corner H K formed by the cross beam and the side of the head of the Saddle.


Description of the work planing Belly.

The Worker is obliged, in planing a piece of wood, to support its end against his stomach; & so as not to hurt himself, he has in front of him a mass or block of wood that’s named the Belly.


            This Belly is a type of wooden palette of oak, a foot long, 6 inches wide, & about 1/3 of an inch thick, Pl. 13, fig. 10. The top part is cut in a roughly oval shape, F I, f G; the bottom part, F I, f k, is made in a roughly semicircular shape; & as the Turner places this Belly in front of himself, the cord of his apron passes from F to f, and by this method the Belly is held fast. In the middle of the oval, one places a block L, of softwood, round, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, by around 2 to 3 inches in thickness, made of end grain, and in the center of which has been inserted a pin l of hardwood, & which is held by a friction fit in a hole in the center of the Belly’s oval; one cuts the end of this pin flush off at the back so that it doesn’t hurt the Artist. On the face of this block, one makes a very shallow groove in the shape of a cross, which serves to hold the flat pieces to be planed, either on their face or on their edge. See Pl. 31, vignette, fig. 3, where the Turner is occupied in planing. Below figure 10, Pl. 13, we see the block shown in perspective; l, is the tenon or pin which enters in the hole in the middle of this block. The holes I, I, which are at the bottom, in the semicircle of these Bellies, serve to hang them on the wall when not in use.


Another use of the Saddle, which is also called the Assembly Saddle, is to firmly hold the workpiece by the means of three dogs I, D, D, fig 4, Pl 13, making three sorts of poppets of well-binding wood, such as ash, which enter by tenons and mortises into the Saddle. The tenon needs to be flush to the interior face of the poppet, which are named dogs [entaille means notch, literally, but that doesn’t feel quite right in this situation. I’m using ‘dogs’], & that their arris is on the opposite side, and on the exterior of the heads of these same dogs, so that they don’t reverse themselves under the forces of working; it’s between these three dogs that one holds the work that one wishes to mortise, regardless of whether the workpieces are round or square. I suppose that one has to mortise the two back legs of a chair E E F, which are turned, we have the custom of cambering them, so that the back of the chair has recurve, & is consequently more comfortable, which we will discuss later. These two legs are therefore placed between the three blocks D, D, I, one fixes them in this state by the means of a block of wood, square & straight L, & also by a wedge of wood C, which one drives with force with an iron mallet AB, fig. 3; this block L needs to be more or less thick, depending on whether the workpiece is more or less big, & one always places the wedge C, on the side where there’s only one block I, which must by consequence be larger than the others, so that these three points of pressure always maintains parallelism between the pieces which one wishes to mortise. On the head of the block D, which is to the right, one makes a hole flared in the shape of a salt cellar, which one fills with tallow, & in which one plunges the bit of the brace from time to time, which tends to heat up in drilling, which refreshes it [the bit], & eases the friction.

            Ordinarily, one makes this Saddle 16 to 17 inches in height, so that the body of the Artist curves, and presses the brace against his stomach to make it work more quickly, finding thusly more force.

Plain Language Interpretation

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

            The Figure 4, Plate 13, shows a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling. It’s a piece of oak of 5 feet long, 12 to 14 inches wide, and very thick. The slab sits on four strong legs held in four drilled mortises. The worker faces the head of the saddle, HB, which is a stepped piece of softwood such as alder that’s tenoned into the slab. The head has various steps and notches, which can be used to hold flat workpieces on their faces and edges. There’s also a hollow indent, used for holding the ends of round, baton-like pieces.

            The headpiece is also supported by a full-width cross bar that’s firmly pegged across the end of the bench, using two ash or dogwood pegs. Larger work may be worked on standing up, with the end of the work positioned in the corner formed by the cross bar and the stepped headpiece.

Description of the work planing Belly.

            When planing or shaving wood, the free end of the work must be supported by the Worker’s stomach. So that the Worker doesn’t get poked, it’s best to use a Belly.

            This Belly is made of oak, one foot tall, 6 inches wide, and about a third of an inch thick – see Plate 13, figure 10. The top part is oval, and the bottom part is semicircular, forming a notch between the two forms. The worker ties the Belly on at this notch with his apron strings. A replaceable softwood block is pegged on to the center of the Belly with a friction fit, and the peg is flush-cut on the back of the Belly to ensure the worker’s comfort. This block has a shallow cross-shaped groove on its face, allowing wood to be held horizontally or vertically. The Belly’s use is shown in Plate 31, figure 3, and a detail of the block is shown in Plate 13, below figure 10. A hanging hole, I, is the final touch.

            Another use of the Saddle bench is to hold work firmly with three wooden dogs, seen at I, D, D, fig. 4, Pl. 13. The dogs are made out of a sturdy wood, like ash, and are tenoned into the bench with an off-center tenon. The face of the tenon which is flush to the face of the dog is on the side that’s towards the work, providing an arris that helps support the dog during use. The workpiece is fixed between the three dogs using a wedge and a block, L C, which are sized proportionally to the workpiece and driven home with an iron mallet. The wedge is always placed on the side with just one dog, making sure that pressure is applied evenly to the workpiece. On the head of one of the dogs, there’s a hole filled with tallow that’s used to lubricate the bit of the brace when drilling.

            The Saddle is usually 16 to 17 inches high, which allows the Worker to bend over and apply maximum pressure to the brace with his stomach.

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized

Categories: Hand Tools

Moravian Workbench @ The Woodwright’s School

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 2:35pm

We’ve had two late cancellations for the June 16-20, 2017, class on building a Moravian workbench at Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, N.C.. If you are free that week and interested in building one heck of a workbench, you can sign up here.



— Will Myers

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Transporting the “Goodly Cedars” of Lebanon

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 9:42pm

In the ancient Mediterranean world the Phoenicians were suppliers of timber to kingdoms poor in wood and other natural resources. The cedars of Lebanon, Cedris libani, were especially valued for their fragrance and resistance to rot and insects.

In the Old Testament, Hiram, King of Tyre sends cedar for the temple in Jerusalem and the houses of David and Solomon. Cedar was used in Egypt for constructing royal sarcophagi and the resin was used for mummification. Cuneiform inscriptions tell us the Assyrians imported timber from the region of Lebanon starting at the end of the second millenium B.C.

Assyrian King Sargon II (721-705 B.C) imported cedar from Lebanon for his palace at Khorsabad (present-day Iraq). A series of stone friezes from Khorsabad record how cedar logs were processed and transported in the ancient world. The friezes are in the collection of the Louvre and on permanent display.

The first frieze takes place in a mountainous area. Logs have been cut and are being hauled away. It is thought the logs would have been taken to a port south of Tyre.

The second frieze is a double panel. In a swirling sea teeming with marine life there are ten ships. Seven ships are loaded with logs and are towing even more as they sail north along the Phoenician coast. Towards the bottom there are two guardians in the form of bearded and winged bulls.

In the next panel several ships approach the shore to unload while other ships have already offloaded their cargo and are pulling away. In this scene it is easier to see the wonderful depiction of sea life: crabs, fish, a sea snake, turtles and a few other creatures. If you look to the far left and center (about the 9 o’clock mark) you will see a merman, another guardian of the sea.

The last panel shows the cedar logs are being unloaded and pulled by a rope. Other logs have been trimmed and holes bored to take a rope. Futher movement of the cedar logs to Khorsabad was by river and road. The top of this last panel is a restoration. All of the friezes have some restoration based on drawings done when Khorsabad was rediscoverd in the mid-19th century.

The fact that the friezes were made tells us the importance of cedar as a resource to the Assyian kingdom. We also see the organization the Phoenicians had to accomplish the arduous and months-long work required to transport these massive logs from mountain to port, along the coast to the safety of the next port, and finally the preparation to move the heavy logs over land. Even with the mechanization available today logging is hard work. Imagine what it was like in the time of the Phoenicians.

I must also mention, as someone who has spent many hours in and on salt water, my absolute delight in the swirling waters and marine life in the friezes…and the merman.

Suzanne Ellison

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

Just a Journalist

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 3:00am


At the first Handworks in 2013, I overheard a funny conversation about my credentials. I was standing in the Lost Art Press booth with my back to a bunch of bearded fellows who were debating the fine points of workbenches.

Beard No. 1: Chris Schwartz says that….

Beard No. 2: Shwatz is just a journalist. He’s not a professional woodworker, so he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Chat closed.

I know that Beardy No. 2 was insulting me by saying I’m “just a journalist,” but to me it was anything but. I am – unapologetically – a journalist. I trained to be a newspaperman at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and am proud I survived the school’s bloodletting process. I then received my masters in journalism from Ohio State University, which is where I learned about Noam Chomsky and American anarchism.

Like it or not, Lost Art Press wouldn’t exist without my training from these two journalism schools.

While it’s unpopular to be a journalist these days, I didn’t enroll in journalism school to become rich and universally loved. Instead, I decided in 8th grade to become a journalist because I think – scratch that, I believe – there should be voices who are independent of the government, mega-corporations and churches.

Of course, when you work as a corporate journalist for reals, you learn that you are an underpaid and overworked tool of all three institutions – unless you can plot an escape that doesn’t involve public relations. And that you need to live low to the ground. And be happy with a small audience.

So everything you love (or hate) about this blog is a result of my training. We don’t take free tools, advertising, sponsorship, affiliate status or Dick Butkus thanks to every moment I spent in my Law & Ethics class at Northwestern. I learned the value of document research in Investigative Journalism. I fell in love with history in the History of Journalism.

But wait, let’s go back to Beardy No. 2. Shouldn’t I be insulted by the fact that he said I’m not a “professional woodworker?”

Well, no. I’ve met a lot of professional woodworkers in the last 25 years, from Sam Maloof on down to the guy who just got a job making particleboard cabinets with a narrow-crown stapler. Just because you make a living from working wood doesn’t mean you have superpowers (anymore than being a journalist gives you a monopoly on the truth).

In the end, I hope to be judged by the work I leave behind. That includes the words, the furniture I build and the ideas that I’ll share with anyone who will listen.

And if you got to this point in the story then that might just be you.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Be an Informed Woodworker (It’s Easy!)

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 2:21pm


Customers complain when they miss out on a special poster, book or shirt with a common refrain: Wahhh, I don’t have time to follow woodworking blogs and websites.

I’m not sure what they want us to say in reply. Perhaps: OK, next time I’ll send John Hoffman to your house to rap on your window when we have a new product we suspect you’ll be interested in (because we’re monitoring your phone. And no, your foil-covered colander isn’t blocking the transmissions).

Truth is, it has always been the duty and obligation of individual woodworkers to stay informed on the latest findings, thinkings and crackpot theories in our beloved craft. In the 18th century you were expected to read all the books that came out, join a local mechanical society and attend their lectures. In the 19th and 20th centuries, you could join a society (or union), read a trade newspaper and read books.


And now we have the Internet (plus magazines and books – at least for now).

Luckily, technology can sort through all the new information and let you scan the headlines from the woodworking blogs. One way to do this is to visit a news aggregator, such as Unplugged Workshop.

I don’t use aggregators, however, because their interests don’t always match mine. That’s why I use a free RSS reader (I use feedly.com but there are many out there). These readers make a custom webpage for you that’s filled with the latest posts from your favorite websites. And you can add or delete sites that you follow with just a click.

Using an RSS reader is not difficult. In fact, you probably use them (or a similar technology) all the time on your mobile device (Apple’s News app works like an RSS reader).

Don’t know where to start? Below you can download an .opml file of many of the blogs I follow. You can import these into almost any RSS reader, then add or delete sites to suit your tastes. Note that about 20 percent of the sites in my feed are dormant. I keep them because sometimes they come back to life after someone gets a divorce, gets through a health crisis or simply has their chi adjusted by the local witchdoctor.


Give it a try. You’ll be better informed and have to wander around aimlessly a lot less.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The 18th-century Shoulder Knife

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 11:46am

Fig.1 The shoulder knife was an important part of the ébéniste’s 18th-century tool kit – and yet this simple tool has all but disappeared.

This is an excerpt from “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” by  André-Jacob Roubo; translation by Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue.

One of the joys of researching the old ways of doing things is that every so often you encounter an amazing “new” way of accomplishing some task. Such is the case with the shoulder knife, an indispensable tool in the ateliers of Roubo’s world. The tool’s utility is remarkable, and I am still discovering new uses for it.

We all have our favorite shop knives; mine is a Swiss chip-carving tip that gets used in many ways. And – like you – I have tuned it exactly to my preferences. Yet, more and more I find myself reaching for the shoulder knife that I made at about the time this book project began.

One of the issues of knife work is balancing the power and control integral to its use. Typically one of the limitations is the amount of force you can bring to the cutting tip, and the precise control you can exert on it. The determining factor is often the amount of handle you can grab comfortably. In fact, that is why my favorite knife has a small blade but a comparatively large handle. Still, I am limited to having only one hand on the handle. A shoulder knife overcomes that because the handle extends all the way from the knife tip to, well, your shoulder. You can obtain great power and control because it allows you to grab its handle firmly with both hands and leverage it off your shoulder.


Fig. 2 The long handle of the shoulder knife allows immense control because you can grab it with both hands and brace its handle against your torso.

The shoulder knife has practically disappeared from the woodworker’s tool kit, and to my knowledge only one company supplies them commercially. Making one is fairly straightforward. Although it is a simple tool, mastering it is not so.

The first step in making a shoulder knife is to make apattern so it fits exactly your upper body’s dimensions and posture relative to the work surface. You can make a template from something as simple and disposable as heavy cardboard. A good starting point is to simply grab a yardstick tip in your hands, drape the stick over your shoulder and make note of the measurement from the work surface to your shoulder. Mark this out on the cardboard, then draw an arc to mimic the curve of your shoulder. Cut this out and compare it to your own body. Revise it until the match is the one you want. I made perhaps a half-dozen patterns until I got what I wanted, and then I cut that pattern out of three or four layers of cardboard and bonded them together to make it sturdy enough so I could get a good feel for its shape and fit. Just to make sure, I made a final pattern out of a piece of 6/4 softwood.

I selected a piece of scrap walnut to make my first knife, and a slab of ancient oak for the second, which is a few inches longer than the first. I used disparate methods for building each.

I made the walnut knife from two pieces of 3/4″ stock laminated together to make setting the blade much easier – even though the final thickness was 1–1/8″. I traced my pattern on both pieces and cut out the shape of the handle. Using a knife and chisel, I excavated a void matching the shaft of a Swiss blade purchased at a woodworking store on the two inner faces that were to be glued together in the final assembly. When the fit was perfect, I glued the whole package together with hide glue, with the knife blade embedded in and protruding about 1″ from the long handle.

For the oak-handled knife, I started with a 6/4 slab, then traced and cut out the shape I wanted. When I was satisfied with the overall shape, I sliced it lengthwise on the band saw. Recycling an old chip-carving blade, I excavated a pocket for the knife haft, then temporarily tack-glued the two pieces back together to shape the handle. (This is unlike the first knife when I assembled the knife and then shaped it.)


Fig. 6 The completed shoulder knives. The walnut one is a little shorter than the oak. Each knife is designed to fit its user.

With spokeshaves and files I shaped the handle to my preference, inserted the blade and glued the whole thing back together with hot hide glue. After shaping the business ends and adding compression-fitting brass ferrules, I coated both handles with shellac and wax, made the leather blade guards and called them complete.

My skill at using the shoulder knife is growing, but it is not yet to the degree where it is second-nature. But classical marqueteurs probably used it about the way we would use a scalpel for cutting filigree in paper.

One of the main differences between the manner of creating marquetry between the way I did it for decades and the way that Roubo practiced the art has to do with the assembling the compositional elements into the background. I had previously always sawn them together in fairly typical tarsia a encastro technique, and frankly it is still the practice where I feel the most comfort. But for Roubo and his contemporaries, the elements were often set into the background by scribing the element’s outline into the background with a shoulder knife after the background had been glued to the substrate.


Fig. 9 While the shoulder knife allows great control, you first must develop the skill to harness that control in order to follow a line.

This is in great measure the definition of David Pye’s “workmanship of risk.” Careful examination of enough old pieces of marquetry will indeed reveal instances where the knife got away from the marqueter.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Handworks: Stuff to Stand in Line For

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 10:35am


When the doors open at Handworks 2017 at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 19, here’s a list of the stuff we’ll have in limited supply. In other words, stop by early to avoid disappointment. Also, please don’t ask us to reserve items for you via help@lostartpress.com or phone calls to John. To be fair to all of our customers, it’s first-come-first-served.

H.O. Studley Posters
These 13” x 19” posters are printed on 80 lb. recycled paper with a matte aqueous coating (in other words, they aren’t shiny like your Farrah Fawcett poster from high school). The poster features an image taken by Narayan Nayar during our work for the book “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of H.O. Studley.” Both Narayan and the author, Don Williams, will be at Handworks, so you can track them down to get yours signed.

We’re bringing about 1,000 of these posters, which will be $20 each. We’ll have kraft paper and tape on hand so you can roll your own protective covering (we don’t have the room in our trailer for mailing tubes). After Handworks, we will sell these posters in the online store.


Crucible Improved Pattern Dividers
Raney and John have been working every day to finish and assemble dividers for Handworks. We hope to have 130 pairs or so to sell at Handworks. If we don’t sell out, these will go up in the online store as well. As you might know, we have had a heck of a time getting these made to keep up with demand. After this batch, I suspect we are going to retool the process (again), so this might be the last time we’ll have dividers for a while.


Crucible Design Curves
When I’m not editing or building, I’m sanding these design curves to get the sets ready for Handworks. We’ll be selling a set of three for $37 and they will come in a protective box suitable for traveling. I hope to have 250 sets of curves ready for handworks with another 750 sets ready soon after the show.

Other Stuff
We are bringing our full line of books, plus a variety of American-made T-shirts for Lost Art Press and Crucible. Because books are heavy, we can tow only so much. As a result, if you are there to get a particular book so you can get it signed by one of the many Lost Art Press authors in attendance, don’t tarry.

Authors who have told us they’re attending:

Don Williams
George Walker
Jim Tolpin
Peter Galbert
Roy Underhill
Matt Bickford
Mike Siemsen
Joel Moskowitz
Nancy Hiller (she’ll be signing her book in our booth at 2 p.m. Saturday)
Wesley Tanner (the designer of our Roubo and Studley volumes)
Narayan Nayar (photographer for the Studley book)
And me (duh).

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Covington Storefront Open This Saturday

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 5:02am


Though we’re on the eve of Handworks (and are a little ragged around the edges), we’ll open the Covington storefront this Saturday to the public with lots of good stuff to see.

Here’s a quick list of interesting objects:

  1. We should have some copies of our H.O. Studley poster to sell at the special introductory price of $20. (They are supposed to arrive today.)
  2. I have two repaired letterpress copies of “Roman Workbenches” we can sell.
  3. Come try out the new Crucible Design Curves. I have the prototypes at the store now. I’m not sure I’ll have complete sets packaged and ready to sell, however.
  4. We have lots of blemished and returned Lost Art Press books this month. They are 50 percent off retail (cash only and in-store only).
  5. Come check out the Swedish gateleg table I just finished (it ships to a customer next month). And I have a couple other pieces that are for sale, including one of my staked three-legged stools with the charred finish.

Plus all the usual stuff: all our books, T-shirts, stickers and gabbing about woodworking.

The storefront is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky. The Covington Farmer’s Market will be running the same day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s a short walk from our store and a great place to get lunch or snacks. And pet a goat.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Hardware Cabinet – 55 Drawers & 1 Mystery

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 3:00am

A few months ago I purchased an old hardware cabinet at an antique store a few miles north of Wilmington, NC. It is not really a very large cabinet considering it contains 55 drawers – 37″ tall x 31-1/2″ wide x 8″ deep.


The story that the antique shop owner told was that it had once been in a hardware store in Warsaw, NC. The cabinet was behind the cash register for easy access by the store owner for some of the smaller items the store carried. I have been to the town of Warsaw a couple of times since and tried to trace the cabinet’s trail but have hit dead ends on every lead. So, its origin is a mystery.

The construction of the cabinet is pretty simple, other than the shear quantity of joints involved. The case and drawers are all held together with nails, not a dovetail to be found (sorry Mr. Firley).



There are several interesting things about it though, joinery aside. Most of the cabinet and the drawers came from recycled crating and cigar boxes. There is something interesting to see every time you pull out a drawer: old labels of all kinds, tax stamps and writing.


Of course, there are also the hand-painted labels on each drawer front. This to me is the coolest part of the cabinet. Whoever painted them obviously was skilled, but there are subtle differences in style of the numbers and letters between drawers and sometimes on the same drawer.


Two different styles of 3’s on the same drawer.

As far as when it was made, my guess is around 1900 from the cigar box labels and tax stamps that I have been able to date.

I just recently finished up a three-part article at WK Fine Tools building a copy of this cabinet (yes, I am still mostly sane after 113 dados). It is available here.


— Will Myers

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Massive Mountain of Wax

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 12:30pm


Katy has been busy – this weekend she made more than 100 jars of soft wax, which are up for sale in her etsy store. They are $12 each for a 4 oz. tin.

I’m not only the father of the Soft Wax High Priestess, I’m also a customer. I use the stuff on many of my pieces. While the wax is intended to be applied to the insides of casework (it’s fantastic for drawers) it also works really well on turnings, stools and chairs, projects such as the three-legged stools I’ve been building this spring.

I also use it on the wooden vise screws on my workbenches, tool handles and on iron and steel tools (we use her soft wax on our Crucible Improved Pattern Dividers).


Katy’s business has taken over half of my workbench at home – and I couldn’t be happier. She makes it completely on her own and sources all her supplies (and buys it on her own credit card). It really is her business, and it’s hard to believe she’s only 16.

She’s even been approached by a few companies who want her to wholesale it (she can’t because there’s not enough margin).

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Introducing the Crucible Design Curves

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 3:57pm


While a compass and straightedge can design simple pieces of furniture, you also need curves that have a varying radius to draw smooth shapes that connect three or four points – the accelerating curves that give motion and life to furniture.

The tools for these important curves are commonly called French curves or Burmester curves. And they are the starting (and ending) point for any designer who wants to escape rigid rectilinear shapes and simple circles.

While you can buy inexpensive plastic curves at an art supply store, the plastic tools have disadvantages compared to traditional wooden curves.


Most plastic curves have a small rabbets along their edges. While we understand the function of the rabbet, we think it interferes with making a true and smooth line because you can tilt your pencil or pen. Traditional wooden curves have no rabbet, allowing greater accuracy.

Second, plastic curves are difficult to mark notations on, such as where you want a curve to start and stop. You can mark them with a permanent marker, but this is slow, inaccurate (in our experience) and messy. Plus, smooth plastic curves slide too easily on the paper while making your mark, again, spoiling your accuracy.

Traditional wooden curves, which are difficult to come by on the used market, are a joy to use. Warm in the hand, they are precise, they stick to the paper while you are drafting and it’s easy to write (and erase) notations on their surfaces.

The problem with traditional wooden curves is they were not truly dimensionally stable as they were typically made from solid hardwood. They were also fragile.


The Crucible Design Curves
When we set out to design our curves we wanted them to be strong and stable (like plastic curves) but warm, accurate and easy to use (like wooden curves). The solution was a special five-ply bamboo material specially designed for laser-cutting.

We designed our curves using an English set made in 1943 as our foundation and inspiration. The curves are cut and engraved in Covington, Ky., then sanded to #220-grit in our shop in Fort Mitchell, Ky.

Bamboo is the perfect material for this tool. It is more dimensionally stable than any hardwood or softwood that we know of, it doesn’t absorb moisture as readily as wood and the five plies of veneer ensure it will stay the same shape year round.

Like plastic curves, these will bend readily across curved shapes without breaking.

Our first set of curves consists of three of our favorite shapes. The large curve is about 12″ long. The smaller two are about 6″ long. A full set of curves encompassed many individual tools. And while we hope to bring out more curves in the future, we think these three are an excellent starting point.

We are introducing these curves at Handworks 2017 where we will sell a set of three for the introductory price of $37. After Handworks they will be available in our online store. We might have to increase the price slightly for shipping and packaging costs charged by our warehouse.

Please stop by our booth at Handworks and give them a try. We’ll have a huge pile of them to sell in protective boxes suitable for travel.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Stickers to Survive the Summer

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 1:20pm


With school out, our sticker heiress (Maddy) is hunkering down for a long summer of lab work and unpaid research assisting a PhD candidate in Columbus. The good news: the lab work and research helps her as an animal science major. The bad news: The two jobs pay less than working the counter at a pizza restaurant (one of her many other jobs at college).

Thanks to sticker sales, Maddy has saved enough money to scrape by without having to sell any organ meat attached to her skeleton.

She’s home this weekend so we can feed her, replenish her toilet paper supply and help with her laundry. Oh, and so she can abuse/love our cats. Shown is Wally, who is up for anything. Want to see him in a tuxedo? We can probably arrange that.

Maddy reports that she is down to the last 150 copies of the current set of stickers. So if you want an engraving of A.J. Roubo to adorn your band saw, laptop or cat, don’t tarry.

You can order a set of three stickers from her etsy store here. Yes, she accepts international orders.

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

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

She’ll put the three current sticker designs in your envelope and mail them back to you. These are nice, 100-percent vinyl weatherproof and cat-proof stickers.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbenches, in France, for Chairmaking

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 4:33pm


One of the primary reasons I decided to expand the book “Roman Workbenches” into a larger text was an unexpected gift from Jennie Alexander that was courtesy of John and Eleanor Kebabian.

The story starts some months ago when Jennie sent me photocopies of some old drawings and asked if I saw anything of interest. After about two seconds I wrote her back with an emphatic “yes.” The photocopies had sent my head reeling.

A few weeks later Jennie sent me a box. I was in Italy at the time, and the delivery person was not too bright. So he left it on top of the air conditioning unit, where it was rained on for several days until I returned.

I found the box in tatters and took it inside the shop, expecting the worst. The box fell apart on the bench and inside was a no-worse-for-the-wear copy of  “L’Art du Tourneur Mécanicien” by M. Hulot. It’s a 1775 book about turning and many other aspects of woodworking.

Written about the same time as A.J. Roubo’s “l’Art du menuisier,” it’s in a similar format: giant pages of text followed by gorgeous plates. After browsing through the plates, many looked similar to Roubo’s, but others didn’t. I’ve spent several hours studying the plates and am convinced this book deserves my undivided attention.

Of particular interest are plates 13 and 31, which depict a low staked workbench that is outfitted with a variety of appliances for chairmaking.

So I started isolating all the text that relates to these two plates so I could translate it. (And here I thought my meager French skills would get a rest.) Unlike Roubo, Hulot discusses these two plates in more than a dozen places in the text. This is not going to be easy. But you have to start somewhere.

During one long evening, I translated the section that introduces the bench, which Hulot calls appropriately “a saddle.” Take a look:

IV Description of the Saddle for Planing & Boring & Assembling the Work

FIG. 4, Plate 13, shows a bench type which is called a Saddle for planing/flattening and assembly; That is a piece of oak wood 5 feet long, about 12 to 14 inches wide, and very thick, carried on four feet, R, Y, X, Z, which enter into as many Round holes which have been pierced in the whole of the Saddle AB. The workman has the face, turned towards the head, B, which is a large piece of soft wood, such as alder, and the tail of which forms a flat tenon which passes into a mortise through the saddle; The top [of the head] forms a kind of step, the steps of which are cut into different fences, some at right angles and shallow, to receive the ends of the flat workpieces for planing its sides/edges; The flat stage receives the pieces that are to be planed flat. Other stepped [heads] are horizontally and vertically notched with the shape of a teaspoon to receive the tip of a stick. There are small cuts [or kerfs] that are perpendicular to the round hole [in the head], as seen in the figure. Independent of the tenon which fixes the head H, it rests against the support K, which is also called the crossbar or buttress of the head, and which is a stop at the end and is across the saddle. [It is secured] by two strong wooden dowel pins, [made of a wood] such as ash or dogwood, which pass perpendicularly through the saddle.

When the wood that is to be worked is large and long, we do not rely on the saddle, but we stand it upright. Place the end of the wood in the recess HK formed by the crossbar and the side of the head of the saddle.

I see many long nights of (exciting) translating ahead. I’m fairly certain this bench is another important piece of the puzzle in understanding the low workbench and all the ways it can be used.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Roman Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Second Chance for ‘Roman Workbenches’

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 9:05am


Thanks to the good work on the press and the bindery, we are going to have about 150 copies of the letterpress version of “Roman Workbenches” to sell in our online store at the end of May 2017.

Yesterday, Megan Fitzpatrick and I repaired all these excess copies, pasting in the two missing lines that were snipped off during the plate-making process. All these copies now need to return to our warehouse in Indianapolis and we need to take care of a few customers who received severely damaged copies.


Then, after we take care of all those details, we will put up the remaining stock for sale in our store at noon Eastern time on Friday, May 26, 2017. The price will be the same as it was for the first batch of books and it will be available for international customers.

We will not have any of these books at Handworks later this month, I’m afraid.

After these books sell out, they are gone. We will not do another run of letterpress copies of this book. So you have 20 days to sell your plasma, etc. I am, however, working on a greatly expanded book on this topic that we will print on our usual offset presses and will include photos and additional research I’ve conducted this year.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Several customers have asked if we will print any books in the future using letterpress. The answer is: I hope so. It has to be the right sort of book, and we’ll have to marshal all the people involved in this project and hope they’ve forgotten what a pain in the crotch mahogany it was.

Filed under: Roman Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

The Plate 11 Bench

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 5:58pm



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

One of the biggest obstacles, downsides and joys to a French bench is the massive slabs used to construct it. Finding wood that is big enough to use without laminating thinner pieces together can be difficult. Laminating thin pieces together to make the thick pieces required for the top and legs is a lot of work without the help of machines.


With any slab workbench with through-joinery, you will experience some shrinkage of the top around the tenon and sliding dovetail. This subsides eventually until it is almost imperceptible.

If you do find stock that is 6″ thick and 22″ wide for your benchtop, it almost certainly will be wet in the middle and prone to distortion. The first French bench that I built used a 4-1/2″-thick cherry slab that had been seasoning in a lot for about five years. The first couple years with that bench were rough. The top shrank at least 1/16″, leaving the through-tenons and sliding dovetails proud of the benchtop.

After planing those flush, the top didn’t shrink much more, but it sagged a bit in the middle during the third year. And now the benchtop is quite stable – yearly humidity fluctuations have little effect on it. The tops of the legs and the benchtop are always in the same plane and the overall shape of the top is consistent.

The French oak that I used in 2013 was likely even wetter than the cherry. For starters, the oak was thicker. And thick material takes a lot longer to dry than thin material. When we first cut into the oak, we used a moisture meter on the wood and found its moisture content in a few places was off the charts. Most places on the bench were about 30 percent moisture content, which is quite wet by furniture standards.

Two months after completing the bench, the top was so wet that it would rust the surface of a holdfast left in a hole overnight.

Like the slab cherry workbench I’d built years before, the oak benchtop shrank around the tenons by more than 1/16″ during the first six months. And the middle of the benchtop began to sag. I flattened the oak top twice during the first nine months in order to be able to plane thin stock on my benchtop.

This begs the question: How flat does a bench need to be? The answer is: It depends on your work. If you plane woods that are less than 3/4″ thick, benchtop flatness is important. I shoot for getting the front 12″ of the benchtop so flat that I cannot get a .006″ feeler gauge under a straightedge anywhere in that area.

If you work with thick stuff or do mostly carpentry, you can be more cavalier.

So if thick slab workbenches are so difficult to find and fussy at first, why bother?

After they settle down, slab workbenches move very little. The same forces that make the top dry slowly also retard its ability to take on much moisture during the seasons (thanks to Steve Schafer for explaining this via Fick’s Second Law, a diffusion equation). After about five years in your shop, your benchtop should be well acclimated and monolithic.

Meghan Bates

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