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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 6 min 34 sec ago

The Change of Seasons (Covington Style)

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 7:39pm


It’s been almost six months since my last haircut and three months since my last shave. This is not intentional. I simply don’t care what I look like or what others think of my visage (hey, a Fancy Lad term!).

But I do notice that as my hair gets longer the people of Covington address me differently.

When I have short hair, they call me “sir” and ask for work. When I have long hair, they call me “brother” and ask for a cigarette. Alas, I have neither.

Today I processed all the stock for the doors for the Horse Garage. My goal is to get these suckers built by Sunday. If you are offended by machine work, please avert your sensitive eyes. While I would love to cut the joints by hand for these doors, I have winter bearing down hard on me. These doors are going together with loose tenons from the Domino XL.


The other project at hand is building a lot of bench accessories for “Ingenious Mechanicks.” Today I modified the Roman bench I built earlier this year so I can straddle it (without feeling like I’m going to the gynecologist) and to add some vises.

I did this by ripping down the top during a visit to the shop at Popular Woodworking Magazine. During the visit, David Lyell asked me why I was doing this. I said:

“So I can add a 14th century Italian twin-screw vise for boatbuilding.”

He busted out laughing like I was joking. I wasn’t.

I should get out more.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Update on the Crucible Lump Hammer

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 5:03am


You can read all about it on the Crucible blog if you like.

Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Friends in high places

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 8:36am


Handmade bespoke artisanal kitchen cabinet exquisitely curated by Kim F
Hashtag intertextuality

A delivery arrived yesterday from our friend Kim, who lives just outside our nation’s capital. As a source of cultural information relevant to my research, Kim is my version of Chris’s Saucy Indexer (though Saucy’s finds, encompassing everything from erotic Roman cow costumes to the hurricane-shaped vise nuts on Saint Joseph’s workbench as portrayed in Peruvian art, are arguably a few notches up the cultural scale from our quotidian pursuits). A few weeks earlier she’d sent a snapshot of a Hoosier-type cabinet she recently acquired and asked whether I’d like to have it. Of course! I wrote back. I will gladly reimburse you for the cost of shipping. The cabinet is shown above.

At this point you may be wondering why Lost Art Press would ever have invited me to write a book about kitchens. This cabinet is a monstrosity: a plywood base without so much as a counter overhang, its floor-scraping doors hung on surface-mounted butt hinges and adorned with giant cherry decals…topped by an upper section that not only doesn’t match (to put it mildly), but offers a textbook example of the need to gauge shelf thickness according to depth, load, and span.

So let me assure you that I do not consider this cabinet an exemplar of the kitchen furnisher’s art. The key to its value (at least, to me) is its size: It’s only 18″ high — a toy, apparently made by someone of modest means for the delight of someone he or she loved. It is a perfect illustration of the kitchen’s magnetic appeal.


This one, which I keep in my shop, has proved irresistible to children, perhaps because of the peek-a-boo “TRY ME” window.

This is not the first toy kitchen cabinet I’ve been fortunate to have been given by Kim. The first was the colorful “Just Kidz” playset from 11 years ago; Kim made sure that I was the winner of this particular prize in a Thanksgiving parlor game played at a condo on the Delaware beach during a Nor’easter. I was charmed by the tiny plastic version of the kitchen-in-one promoted by the Hoosier Manufacturing Company in the 1930s that incorporated storage, cooking, prep space, and a sink.


Illustration from my 2009 book The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History, published by the Indiana University Press

You can dismiss these toys as gender-role enforcers along the lines of the Suzy Homemaker appliances my childhood friend Faye got on birthdays and holidays (kudos to my parents for agreeing to my requests for such gender-bending gems as Tonka Toys and a Thingmaker), but I’ve found that boys who visit my shop are just as intrigued as girls by the “housekeeping playhouse.” Such is the draw of the kitchen.


Image from clickamericana.com

As for Kim, my friend in a high place, she’s also the one who hooked me up with a treasure trove of information about post-war construction, remodeling, and design published by the United States Gypsum Company (who knew?) that I’ve mined for info to use in articles and books.


Thanks, Kim!


Here’s a recipe I made last weekend in my own kitchen: my favorite pound cake, made in this case with dried Montmorency cherries that Mark brought back from a recent trip to northern Michigan. The recipe is adapted from one for pound cake in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant. Those hippies knew their dairy products.–Nancy R. Hiller, author of Making Things Work


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

New Face Vises; New Title for a Book

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 7:31am


Before heading out for Charleston, S.C., to visit my dad, I added a couple face vises to my circa 1505 Holy Roman Workbench. These vises have no screws and no real jaws. Instead they clamp the work with a wedge.

The vises are merely large notches in the benchtop, so “installing” them took about an hour of time.

These “vises” – if you can call them that – are based on paintings and drawings of workbenches that Suzanne “Saucy Indexer” Ellison and I have dug up during the last 18 months for my next book. In this case, I’ve made a notch in the end grain of the benchtop and in the edge of the benchtop. Both sorts of notches are shown in paintings and I want to sort out if there’s any difference between them.


I cannot say yet if they work differently, but I can say the notch on the edge grain was much easier to saw and bash out. When I return home on Sunday, I’ll get to work installing a wide variety of other long-forgotten bench accessories that Suzanne and I have unearthed.

As I mentioned earlier, the scope of this book has expanded far beyond where it began, with Roman workbenches. The workholding schemes we have found are ideal for both low benches and high benches. And both sorts of benches – high and low – have always existed side-by-side, as they do today.

I’m also exploring how low benches developed lots of accessories for building chairs (both shaved and turned), boats, baskets and all sorts of items that require steam-bent wood. I think I’ve also convinced Suzanne to write a chapter of the book that will detail the paintings we’re exploring and the socio-economic conditions in which they were made.


Oh, and the book is also part travelogue. It begins at the summit of Mount Vesuvius and ends below the ground in a German forest.

Believe it or not, all these disparate elements are stitched together without any Kierkegaardian leaps.

So, after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to title the book: “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding.” We’re on track to finish writing it by the end of 2017. So we should have it released by March 2018.

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

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Tickets for Our Dec. 9 Book-release Party

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 9:00am


You can claim your free tickets for the Dec. 9 book release party with Mary May and George Walker using this link. The event is 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at our storefront: 837 Willard St., Covington, KY 41011.

Each author will give a short presentation on their work, answer questions and sign books. Drinks and snacks will be provided by Lost Art Press.

— Christopher Schwarz


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

Gentle Reminder: Still No Public Email

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 5:03am

LAP_logo2_940In 2015, I closed my public email address to preserve my sanity, though some would question whether I succeeded in my goal.

Lately, a lot of people have attempted to seek advice, feedback or whatever through my personal site: christophermschwarz.com and through help@lostartpress.com. I’m up to about five messages a day now.

Please don’t waste your breath, your fingers or your 1s and 0s. These messages are all simply deleted.

I know deleting them might seem rude. And some of you have told us how rude you think it is in long rants… which get deleted.

Trust me. It’s not you. It’s me. I had multiple public email addresses for 17 years and answered every damn question sent to me – no matter how odd or how much research it required. I helped lazy students with their papers on hand craft. I found links for people too lazy to use a thing called Google. I answered sincere but incredibly time-consuming emails from people who wanted to tell me their life story and get detailed advice on the steps they should take to become a woodworker.

And those weren’t even the ridiculous requests. It’s too early in the morning for me to even think of those.

It was all too much. I was spending hours each day answering emails. It cut into my time researching, building, editing and writing (not to mention time with my family). And then one message snapped my head in two. Out of respect for the individual who sent it, I won’t go into detail because he would be identifiable.

The email he sent was longer than my arm. It was going to take me hours to formulate even a half-a$%ed reply.

I deleted it. Then I deleted my inbox and my old email address.

So now I’m half-sane.

— Christopher Schwarz


P.S. If you really want to ask me detailed questions, the best way to do that is to visit our Covington storefront on the second Saturday of every month. I’m happy to talk to anyone about anything. I know some of you will whine that you are too poor to travel (while typing on your $2,000 computer…), but people have made the trip from almost every state in the country.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The History of the Acanthus Leaf in the Decorative Arts

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:53am

FIG. 1.16. A Greek capital, “Historic Ornament, A Pictorial Archive,” Dover Publications.

This is an excerpt from “Carving the Acanthus” by Mary May. 

Walking through a historical journey of the acanthus leaf has its challenges, as the different art periods often overlap and the styles frequently migrate from country to country. There are numerous volumes written on the history of decorative arts, and this brief explanation is not intended to be an exhaustive historical account. Focusing on the acanthus leaf and its significance in architecture and furniture,  we will follow the leaf as it evolves through each identifiable art period. At times, the design transition spans multiple years, and there are periods where this motif is nearly unrecognizable or almost disappears, only to regain in favor again in the following art period. There are certain art eras that I have omitted because of no evidence of acanthus leaf usage in their design. I hope this brief historical overview builds a curiosity and desire for further research and discovery.


FIG. 1.14. Egyptian chair, “Handbook of Historic Ornament, From Ancient Times to Biedermeier,” Dover Publications.

Ancient Egypt was not plentiful in trees, so the use of wood in furniture making was reserved strictly for the wealthy. Many of these pieces of furniture were well preserved in the low humidity of the Egyptian tombs. Native woods included acacia, sidder and fig, while ebony, cypress and cedar were imported from Syria and Lebanon. Ebony, ivory and bone were often combined with wood and overlaid with gold and silver. Lion paws, bull feet and goose and duck heads were carved into the legs of stools and armchairs. There is no evidence that acanthus leaves were a design element during this time in either furniture or architecture, but the lotus, papyrus and palm were common.


FIG. 1.15. Example of traditional a Greek anthemion, “Handbook of Historic Ornament, From Ancient Times to Biedermeier,” Dover Publications.

THE GREEKS: (1600 BC TO 100 BC)
The art of furniture making, which often included woodcarving, was highly valued in ancient Greece. Influenced by Egypt and the Orient, much of the early furniture was ornately decorated with marble, bronze, inlaid ivory, ebony and precious stones. Because wood is not as durable as stone, few remaining examples of woodcarvings from this period are available, and are mostly made of cedar, cypress, oak, maple, beech, citrus and willow. Even the famous Greek author Homer remarked that car penters were “welcomed the world over.” There are examples of the legs of some of the couches  (“kline”) or chairs having carved animal legs and feet, with the backs shaped like a snake or horse head.

The first known example of the acanthus leaf as a decorative architectural element was in the  Corinthian capital, originating in Greece in the 5th century BC. Based on the anthemion design popular in Greek architecture, the first carved acanthus leaves contained sharp points, deeply carved corners and sharp ridges between the lobes, creating  clear shadow lines that were visible from a distance. Most examples of this early style of acanthus leaf are found as architectural stone carvings.


FIG. 1.17. Roman carving, “Historic Ornament, A Pictorial Archive,” Dover Publications

After Greece came under Roman rule in 146 BC, the Greek decorative arts were eagerly absorbed by the new Roman Empire. Evidence of early Roman wood carvings show that arms and legs of chairs and couches were often carved to represent the limbs of animals, while chair backs and table supports were of carved griffins or winged lions. Common motifs used in architectural details are the anthemion, the scroll, the rosette, the acanthus, birds, cupids and reptiles. Woods used in carved furniture during this period were cedar, pine, elm, ash, beech, oak, box, olive, maple and pear.

The Roman period produced a richer, more flexible acanthus leaf, where the sharp points of the Greek style became softened. With its endless and  varied possibilities, the acanthus leaf reflected the Roman love of art and beauty, and was incorporated into a wider range of decorative ornament.  The details of the leaf contained deep “eyes,” which represented holes where the different lobes  of the leaf overlap, and sharply defined ripples in the leaf, giving a dramatic feeling of movement. The leaf took on a more naturalistic feel, with the tip of the leaf often curling and twisting in a lifelike manner. From the Roman era on, there was scarce  a time where the acanthus leaf was not a significant part of Italian ornamental design.

Meghan Bates

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

Original Moravian Workbench on Display

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:00am

In October 2011 my uncle and I headed down to Old Salem one Monday afternoon to go see the workbenches they have in storage. Christopher Schwarz had visited a few months before and written a blog post about the benches there; I could not just take his word for how great they were, I had to see them in person. The museum is closed on Mondays and my friend Chet Tomlinson, who is an interpreter there, came in on his day off to show us around. At the time I was building a Roubo workbench and was really curious to see the benches in there collection. I took lots of photos of the workbenches (and dozens of other things!), the conversation was great, and the three hours we were there flew by in what seemed like five minutes.


Portable Moravian bench on display at the J.Blum House.

In the days after the trip I looked thru the pictures I had taken many times and kept coming back to the photos of the portable workbench. A few weeks later I went back to Salem, poor Chet came in on his day off again so I could get some measurements of the portable bench. After the Roubo bench was complete the first project I used it for was to build the portable Moravian bench and wrote about the build on WK Fine Tools. A year or so later we started doing a class at the Woodwright’s School on building the bench. Another year later I filmed the video on building the bench with Joshua Farnsworth.

I wish I could say that I had foresight to know that this little workbench would be as popular of a project as it has become, but I did not. The response to the article and the video over the past several years was totally unexpected.

The interest in the bench has also had an effect at Old Salem. Visitors have been asking about the original bench, where it is, if they could see it. The original has been in storage all this time up until a few days ago. The bench is now on display for the foreseeable future at the new joiners shop at the J. Blum House. If you are in the area, even if you don’t have any interest in the bench, Old Salem is well worth a visit.


You can even get your own glamor shot with the bench!

Will Myers



Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Carvers & Compassers: Save This Date

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 8:39am


I am pleased to announce that Mary May and George Walker will be at the Lost Art Press storefront on Dec. 9 to celebrate the release of their new books.

Mary, the author of “Carving the Acanthus Leaf,” and George, one of the authors of “From Truths to Tools,” will each give a short presentation on their work that evening, answer your questions and sign books. Lost Art Press will provide drinks and snacks for this free event.


Only a limited number of people can attend (fire marshal’s orders), so we will offer free tickets to this event starting at Friday at noon Eastern time.

Note that Saturday, Dec. 9, is also the last open day for 2017. So if you need books signed by me (note: I am happy to fake any signature, including: Tommy Mac, Roy Underhill and André Roubo) that’s the day to do it.

We hope you can come!

— Christopher Schwarz

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

So Begins the ‘Lexapro’ Season

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:35am


I want y’all to know that you have adoring spouses and family members. Every year in mid-November we get flooded with requests from people who want to give you gifts with a little extra something special.

A few years ago, we got a request from a woodworker’s wife. She had bought one of our books at a used bookstore. She mailed it to us, and her request was something like this:

Please write an essay on the inside cover that will inspire my husband to continue woodworking. In your essay, I would like you to touch upon the following themes from his life:

  • The death of his father at a young age and the lack of authority figures in his life.
  • His two beloved dogs.
  • The difficulty he has at work because of his boss and the need for him to find a hobby.
  • ……
  • ….
  • .
  • !

It was then that John and I designated November and December the “Lexapro” season – when we are regularly pulled into anxiety-provoking family situations.

During the 2015 Lexapro Season (or was it the 2012 season?), a spouse asked if we could include a day of woodworking lessons with the book she wanted to buy for her husband. We replied with, “We charge $700 a day for one-on-one lessons.” And then she became very incensed that we couldn’t do it for free.

I hear those white pills rattling, rat- rat- rattling for me…

If you do have an overachieving spouse, we recommend they stop by our storefront on one of our open days if they want a personal signature – that really is the only way we can fulfill unusual requests. (Our last open day of 2017 is Dec. 9.) Because I’m in Kentucky and our warehouse is two hours away in Indiana, there’s no way to pull certain orders, sign them in blood and repackage them.

I honestly wish we had the staff to honor requests such as these as they are an indication of how much you are loved. And who doesn’t love love? But we are just two guys, and I have bathrooms to clean.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Workbench & Staked Stool Classes for 2018

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 6:38am


I will teach two classes in June 2018 at Dictum in Germany – one class on building a Roubo workbench and a second short course on building a staked three-legged stool.

The classes are held at Niederalteich, a gorgeous monastery in Bavaria. Students can stay in the comfortable guest rooms at the monastery or at one of the local bed and breakfasts in the town. The monastery has a really good restaurant and lively beer garden. It is a perfect setting if you want to disconnect from the outside world and focus on the craft.

The staked furniture class is June 9-10. During the class we’ll build a three-legged staked stool. This class is an excellent introduction to the world of chairmaking. We’ll discuss how to design and execute compound-angle joinery without math or trig tables. And we’ll explore the tapered mortise and tenon, the foundation of staked furniture.

For more details or to sign up for the course, visit this page.


The workbench class is an intense five day class from June 11-15. Each student will build a Roubo-style workbench. The class will focus on making the bench and helping you decide what vises or workholding you need in your shop. We will build the bench using traditional mortise-and-tenon construction and the massive sliding dovetail used on early French benches.

For more details or to sign up for the bench course, visit this page.

Note that these classes do not mark my return to a regular teaching schedule. Teaching these classes in Bavaria helps fund my research into early woodworking in Europe. Plus, I owe the people at Dictum a personal favor for which I will ever be grateful.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Doors for Dessert

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 1:36pm


Replacing the main beam of the Horse Garage has been hanging over my head for more than a month now. Every time I go in there I feel like Damocles and wonder if I will become buried in my work.

Last month, Brendan Gaffney, Megan Fitzpatrick and I jacked up the garage’s joists to relieve pressure on the rotted beam. Today was the day to replace the punky thing.

Lucky for me, woodworker Jeremy Hanson was in town, and I hired him to help. Jeremy is a cabinet maker, carpenter, tattoo artist and art teacher from Seattle, Wash., who is traveling around the country with his charming family in a Toyota Tacoma that is outfitted with a camper. They stopped by the open house yesterday, and Jeremy volunteered to lend a hand.


It took us about four hours of dirty work, but at about 2 p.m. we lowered the joists back on the new beam. All the pieces returned to their proper places without complaint.

Now comes the rush to button the place up before winter comes. I have a roofing company prepared to add a membrane roof. And I am starting to build the new doors tomorrow.


The doors will be lightweight pine, joined with mortise-and-tenon joints and painted for protection. After all the wacky repairs we’ve been making to the Horse Garage, doors will be a cakewalk.

Then I will be out of money – again. After I complete a couple furniture commissions I should have enough money to add electricity to the building. (And, if I’m fortunate, enough money for a mini-split as well.)

There is still a long way to go, but the Horse Garage might be in business before the end of 2017.

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

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

It Ain’t Done Until the Antlers are On

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 4:32am


Note: No deer were harmed in the making of this project. These antlers were shed by a buck and retrieved from the woods by a so-called “shed collector.”

Getting the antlers fastened to the chair was straightforward in the end. But I’ve spent many nights pondering the possibilities. Rejected ideas:

  • Bore a hole for the irregular antler and pack epoxy and maple shavings around the antler.
  • Use a staked furniture joint: Use a tapered tenon cutter to shape the antler. Ream a matching hole in the chair.
  • Build a mounting board – like a taxidermist would – that would be fastened to the chair.

In the end, I decided to use hanger bolts. One end is threaded like a machine screw – that goes into the antler side. The other end is a wood screw and goes into the chair.


We also decided to cut a shallow counterbore in the chair to obscure the joint between the antler and the chair. This worked brilliantly.

Because you’ll never see a project such as this in a woodworking (or deerworking) magazine, here are a couple tips.

  • If you don’t own a tap for the machine screw, the hanger bolt is strong enough to form threads in the hole in the antler.
  • A dab of quick-set epoxy on the machine threads is a good idea.
  • Have a spotter (or two) help you drill the holes in the irregular chair and antler. It’s more difficult to do alone and make it look right.

After we installed the antlers, most of our customers that day asked to sit in the chair and have their picture taken with it. So either the project is a success, or I’ve created something so ugly that people want a photo to warn others not to do this.

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


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

It’s not about the drawings

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 11:34am


Writing for woodworking magazines is a strange experience in many ways. You never know what readers will make of your work — the artistry, thinking, writing, building, calculating, drawing, and editing that go into a project article. Will they love it? Hate it? Discover some hideously embarrassing error in the cutting list even after three eagle-eyed editors have gone through it with a fine-tooth comb? Odds are, many people won’t even venture beyond the title. But the one thing of which you can be certain is that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Sometimes I hear nothing after an article is published. Every so often I get a super enthusiastic message that makes my day, such as one I recently received from Larry Nottingham:

“I knew the sideboard on the cover of Popular Woodworking was yours even before I saw your name. All I can say is WOW. I recently purchased a bunch of quarter sawn white oak and, even though I’m just an amateur, I’m gonna give that one a try. Your work inspires me.”

The most common response is a request for more detailed plans. I write back, explaining that I have no more detailed plans and that the drawings in any article I write for Popular Woodworking or Fine Woodworking show far more detail than anything I use in my own work or have ever been given in the shops where I worked for others. The fact is, unless you’re working side by side with the person who wrote an article, you’re going to be interpreting and extrapolating from the instructions and plans, no matter how much detail an article contains. Add to this the reality that publishers today are working with fewer staff and lower budgets than before the Great Recession, and I think it becomes easier to understand that for authors and editors both, selecting what to include is a risky business virtually guaranteed to tick someone off. “I’m not subscribing to xyz for spoon feeding,” some will say, while others lament the lack of exactly that level of instruction.

Let me offer some insight based on my experience.

When doing small-scale custom work (as distinct from production work, whether in a one-person shop or a factory setting where every step of the process has to be just-so in order for the next parts to fit the ones that have already been made*) there’s typically some allowance for the craftsperson to interpret a drawing and build it in whichever way will best suit the job in question. A good example is the Voysey two heart chair in my book about English Arts & Crafts furniture for Popular Woodworking (forthcoming in June 2018). As I explain in the introduction to the chair build, real-life chairs made during Voysey’s lifetime based on his drawings diverge from those plans in multiple ways. Some of the variations were probably requested by customers when they commissioned their seats; others were undoubtedly decided on by the craftsmen who built them, in an effort to make the work affordable.

The drawings I use for my own work are meant to convey to clients how a piece will look and function, as well as provide the basic information I need to build it.


Drawing for a recent commission. This is the original drawing I showed the client, explaining that I might make changes to dimensions if the mock-up indicated that they were warranted for comfort’s sake. In the end, I made the seat a few inches deeper — night and day in terms of comfort — and changed a few other details, some of them scribbled on the drawing as I worked. I also omitted the back stretcher once I realized that the T-bridle joints at the front provided excellent racking resistance.


The completed bench

Even my bare-bones drawings are head and shoulders above those I often got from my employers in the past, such as this delight:


My employer’s drawing for a three-part dining table to be built in ash, circa 1986. The idea was that the table could be used as one large piece, a square and two half-circles, or a square and a circle. The legs and top(s) had to fit together just-so, in every configuration.

Of course, when you’re building something from an article in a magazine you don’t have the luxury of checking in with the person who designed it as you work your way through the structure. Having made a couple of pieces from articles in magazines over the years (a benchtop bench and some leaded glass panels), I can say I’ve found that even in simple cases such as these, I’ve wished there were more detail. Each time I was stumped, I stopped, thought through the logic of the process, and moved ahead when I thought I had it figured out. I have had to redo a few parts — a drag that might have been unnecessary, had the articles contained more detail. But I chalk such things up to learning, whether a new skill (such as making leaded glass panels) or how to use unfamiliar hardware (as in the benchtop bench). Some readers, such as my friend Bill Heidt, construct a piece on the screen before digging into material in the shop; this is another way to work through the ins and outs of a build beyond an article’s text and illustrations.

So while the basic information should be in the article, it may require clarification. Apparently one or two aspects of the recently published sideboard in Popular Woodworking have had some readers scratching their heads, for which I apologize. Thanks to Megan Fitzpatrick, you can find SketchUp plans with additional information here.–Nancy R. Hiller, author of Making Things Work

*In the shops where I’ve worked, every step of the build is adjusted for the parts that have been made. Flexibility is part of the m.o. You start with a few basic dimensions on a drawing, but the rest are based on direct measurement of the piece in progress.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Carving the Acanthus Leaf’ Available at our Storefront

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 4:59am


Thanks to a stroke of good timing, we have two cases of Mary May’s book “Carving the Acanthus Leaf,” which will be for sale at our storefront this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As always, our Tennessee printing plant did a fine job with this book. And they delivered it two weeks ahead of schedule.

We’ve got lots going on at the storefront on Saturday. In addition to the arrival of “Carving the Acanthus” and “From Truths to Tools,” Brendan Gaffney will be showing off his newly constructed shaving horse and making spindles. I’ll be there trying to affix antlers to the dugout chair. And Megan Fitzpatrick will be demonstrating any hand skill you’d like to see – sharpening? Dovetailing? Hand-cut mouldings?

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

Filed under: Carve the Acanthus with Mary May, Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Don’t Blow it on the Lid

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:21am

Miters and mayhem. The flat panel lid warped and shrank. The miters lost their hold. This lid is a mess.

This is an excerpt from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Christopher Schwarz. 

There are several ways to make the lid. Some work great. Some are quite stupid. Let’s start with the stupid ways first. When I built my first tool chest, I copied the construction of the lid from an original. It was a single flat panel of wood trimmed on three of its edges with narrow stock that would interlock with the dust seal attached to the shell.

If I remember correctly, I think the lid worked as intended for about a week, and it has been bockety ever since. The first problem was with the lock strike, the brass plate mortised into the underside of the lid. Because the lid was a simple flat panel, the top shrank a bit, which moved the lock strike.

One day I tried to lock the chest, and the mechanism wouldn’t engage. In fact, it just pushed the lid up off the dust seal. So I filed the opening in the strike until the lock worked again. About six months later the top expanded and the lock wouldn’t work anymore. This time, filing wasn’t going to fix the problem – I would have filed away one wall off the strike. So I resigned myself to having a chest that would lock only during the dry season.

Then the top warped.

Because the top of the lid was the bark side of the tree, the warping made things worse. The front and back edges of the top curled up. And the movement was enough that the strike couldn’t be struck by the lock mechanism.

But my troubles didn’t end there. When I built the chest, I wasn’t a total doofus on the topic of wood movement. I knew the lid was going to move, so I selected a species that didn’t move a lot once it was dry. I used white pine. And when I applied the trim around the lid, I did everything I could to minimize the problem of cross-grain construction. The trim pieces on the ends of the lid were the problem. They had to be nailed onto the end grain.

This is a problem. Nails and screws don’t hold as tightly into end grain as they do into face grain. So I wanted to introduce some glue into the joint to help things along. of course, glue doesn’t want to stick to end grain. And when you glue long grain to end grain, the end grain will try to bust apart the joint as it expands and contracts with the seasons.

There are several solutions to this problem. Some involve a sliding dovetail. others involve screws in elongated slots. The simplest solution is to glue and nail the trim on at the front of the lid and use nails only at the back part of the lid. This was the technique that the original builder had used. The theory here is that the glue and nails will keep the trim secure and tight up at the miters, and the nails at the back of the lid will bend to allow the lid to move.

It’s an interesting theory and one that sometimes works. It sure didn’t work for me, however.

The trim is barely holding on to the lid. The miters are open and flopping around like a broken finger. And the lid’s joints look like crap. I want to remove the lid and rebuild it. I should remove it and rebuild it. But I really like the way the paint has aged on the lid, and the broken joints are a constant reminder about the wily ways of wood.

So when I set out to build a new chest, I looked for other historical examples that would be more durable. The vintage pine chest I bought had the trim glued and pinned to the underside of the lid. This had the advantage of removing the end grain from the equation. All the joints were long-grainto-long-grain. But this is still a bad way to build a lid. Instead of the trim coming loose, this lid is designed to split. And boy did the lid split. There is a 3/8″-wide canyon right up the middle of the lid, which invites dust inside. It’s such a problem that the best solution was to cover the split with tape to keep the dust out.

So don’t build your lid like that.

I took a look at other chests. Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) was a smart guy, one of the most celebrated 19th-century cabinetmakers. And his tool chest, now at the New-York Historical Society, is filled with all manner of amazing tools. But the lid is curious. It’s a flat panel with breadboard ends. While the lid worked out for Duncan, it might not work out for you. Breadboard ends definitely can help things and improve the way a dust seal will attach to it. But it still won’t help things when you add lock hardware. It’s going to move forward and back as the panel expands and contracts.


Better lid. A frame-and-panel lid with a raised panel is about as robust as you can get without adding lots of weight.

Really, the best solution is to build the lid as a frame-and-panel assembly (or use a slab of Formica). This confines almost all of the wood movement to the panel that floats harmlessly in the middle of the rails and stiles. And if you choose quartersawn wood for the rails and stiles, they will barely move at all.

So you could build the lid in the same way you would build a raised panel door. I would recommend using through-tenons on the rails. But what about the panel? You want the panel to be thick and stout because it will take a beating. So the joint between the panel and the lid frame is critical. You don’t really want to thin down the edges of the panel as you would when making a door panel. Thin edges will weaken the panel.

The old-school solution here is to plow a groove in the edges of the panel so the panel will interlock with the rails and stiles. This will keep the joint between the panel and frame as stout as possible, and the panel will be raised above the frame of the lid.

There is no downside to this approach. There are no weak spots on the lid. There is no significant wood movement along the edges or ends of the lid. So the trim around it will stay put. It is as permanent as can be.

Meghan Bates

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

A New Batch of Soft Wax

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 6:43am


My daughter Katy has just finished making up a new batch of 46 jars of soft wax, which are available in her etsy.com store. The tins are $12 each.

I am one of her biggest customers – I love using the wax on my chairs, tools and vise screws. It has a strong piney smell and, because of the amount of solvent she uses, it is easy to apply and requires no buffing to get a low lustre.

Katy has been taking a break from making the wax lately at my insistence. There have been some really nasty things thrown around on social media – mostly that I’m exploiting our customers by mentioning her wax business on this blog. I hate for her to get dragged into my mud.

But last week I decided not to care about the wankers.

So if you don’t like it, don’t click here. And I have something – it’s around here somewhere – that you can sharpen instead….

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Storefront is Open this Saturday

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


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

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

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

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

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

— Christopher Schwarz

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

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

A Walk in the Woods in August

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

Meanwhile, back in Ohio…

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


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

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


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


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

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


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



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


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


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

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


And yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava):


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

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


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


This is a destroying angel (Amanita virosa):


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

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


Here’s another veiled mushroom:


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


I found this flower growing in my yard:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


– Steve Schafer

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Collapsible Trestle Table

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

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

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


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



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



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

— Will Myers





Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools