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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 47 min 16 sec ago

Queen Anne Chair Construction

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:29am

FIG. 1. TYPICAL CHAIR OF THE PERIOD, WITH SHAPED SEAT. This particular chair was made by the halved method given at D, Fig. 2.

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

Most readers know that the vast majority of chairs are made by tenoning (and sometimes dowelling) the seat rails into the legs. Normally there is no difficulty, the mortises (or occasionally the tenons) being at a slight slope to allow for the splay of the rails. In certain period chairs, however, this is awkward in that the plan shape of the seat is curved. There are no angular front corners, the whole thing taking the form of a continuous sweep as in the Queen Anne chair shown in Fig. 1. Thus to enable the rail shoulders to be square the top rectangular portion of the leg has to be cut down considerably as at A, Fig. 2. This means a loss of strength in itself, but in addition there is a little wood left in which the mortises can be cut. In fact there is only the roughly triangular shape left, and the tenons are necessarily restricted in length. Furthermore the shape of the rails means that there is a great deal of cross grain.

Still, this system of construction was sometimes followed, and the craftsmen got over the difficulty by fixing stout inside brackets (see shaded part at A, Fig. 2). These had the effect of binding the two rails together. Since the brackets might be anything up to 2 in. thick the strength was sufficient for the job.


Alternative Construction.
The awkward form of construction must have been realised, however, and this, no doubt, was the reason for the alternative method by which the front and side rails were halved together, the shape cut in them, and the leg either tenoned or dovetailed up into the frame so formed. The dotted lines show the squares of timber required to enable the shape to be worked, and it should be noted that the inner shape is plotted so that the thickness is considerably wider over the legs, so avoiding much loss of strength owing to short grain.

Fig. 2, C. shows the first stage in which the parts are halved together, and the rear shoulders marked round. In practice the craftsman probably cut and fitted the rear tenons first as it would be awkward to fit them after the frame was assembled. After cutting the tenons the halved joints would be glued up as at C and, the glue having set, the shape sawn out as at D, Fig. 2. Some chairmakers preferred to cut tenons at the top of the legs, and corresponding mortises had to be chopped in the frame. Others cut a dovetail shape as at D, Fig. 2, and formed a notch to receive it in the outer surface of the frame as shown by the dotted lines. In either case the dovetail or the tenon passed right across the halved joint and so served to bind it together.

It will be realised that all these Queen Anne chairs were cross-veneered around the rails, and this hid any unsightly joints. The top-moulding forming the rebate for the loose seat was either planted on the top edge, or was let into a rebate worked around the edge before veneering.

Meghan Bates

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

Copperplate Prints Now Available for Ordering

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 1:30pm


It took only 10 months (all my fault), but we are now taking orders for handmade copperplate prints from “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”

The prints will be made individually by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, the artist who created the etchings and original set of prints used in the book. Prints measure 11” x 15-3/4” and are printed on a cotton rag paper called Hahnemuhle Copperplate – the same paper used for the prints reproduced in the book.

Individual prints are $110. If you order the entire set for $1,300 they’ll come in a handmade clamshell box constructed by Mike Fallon at Ohio Book. Ordering information is here.


We’ll be taking orders for the plates until early April. After we close the ordering, Briony will make the prints, Mike will make the boxes and we will ship your prints in protective packaging (recommended by the artist) when they are done.

Copperplate prints are rare today, but they were the primary way that woodworking and other technical information was transmitted in the 18th century. A.-J. Roubo made his own copperplate engravings for “l’Art du menuisier,” which is one of the reasons his book is such a classic.

Inspired by Roubo’s copperplate engravings, I convinced Briony to make the plates for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” She makes etchings, not engravings, but it’s a similar intaglio process. Each plate began as a CAD sketch which I then redrew to make it more human. Then Briony made her own drawings based on mine and we went back and forth to balance the technical with the artistic aspects of each plate.

In the end, every line and stipple was etched into copper, the plates were hand inked and then embossed into the paper.

The result is unlike anything you’ll find printed today.

If you’d like to see the plates and box in person, I’ll have them at our storefront for the next two open days: Feb. 11 and March 11.

Last note: This is the only time we’ll be offering these plates for sale. We don’t seek to become an art dealer, but these prints are special and offer you a personal link to the great woodworking book traditions of the 18th century.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Cover Cloth on ‘Roubo on Furniture’

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 10:04am

r2_blue_twineRoubo on Furniture” will forever be known as one of our children that had a difficult birth. The cover cloth we ordered for the book has been discontinued. As was our backup color.

And so we have switched gears and the cover cloth will be the greenish blue shown at right.

If you ordered the book for the color of the cover only, please send a message to help@lostartpress.com and we’ll dispatch a psychiatrist to your home immediately.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Important Update: ‘Roman Workbenches’

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 3:28pm

A mock-up of the two-part cover for the book with navy blue cloth on the spine over a wheat-colored tweed on the boards.

John and I have decided to make significant changes to the manufacturing specifications of the letterpress version of “Roman Workbenches.” So much so that I’ve taken the unprecedented step of deleting my post from Jan. 29 to avoid confusion.

After much research, we’ve decided to offer “Roman Workbenches” fully bound with a two-part cloth cover, sewn binding, heavy endsheets and headbands. The binding will easily meet (and likely exceed) what we offer on typical Lost Art Press Books.

The price (including domestic shipping) will be $87 – still less than the $100 we promised. The book will go on sale at noon Eastern time on Sunday, Feb. 5. There will be 500 copies available.

Why make the change to the binding? Well, once I started pricing sewing and taping the binding, it was only a little bit more money to simply complete the binding. So John and I decided to go all the way (with the book binding).

If you are like me and really really want to bind your own book, we will have some unbound book blocks and will put those up for sale once the 500 are bound. I suspect the price for the unbound book blocks will be $77 (I know, it’s not a big savings; hence, our decision).

I am sorry (and a bit embarrassed) at this change. We try not to alter manufacturing specs like this in midstream. But I know it’s the correct thing to do.

See you Sunday (I hope, or we will flush away many thousands of American dollars).

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Undercarriage Assembly

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 11:18am


Gluing and wedging the legs into the seat is pretty easy if you don’t have stretchers between the legs. But there are still lots of opportunities to mess things up and get into a bind when you open the glue bottle.

Here’s how I prepare for the glue up so I don’t have many surprises.

First I knock the legs into the seat and pencil around all the tenons – both above the seat and below the seat. The mark around the tenon above the seat tells me about where I should crosscut the tenon before assembly. The mark around the tenon below the seat tells me at what point I should stop sawing a kerf for the wedges.


With the legs still in the seat, I also number each one and mark its position in the seat so the leg’s annular rings run parallel to the grain in the seat. I know that this runs contrary to some sound advice out there. Here’s my rationale:

If the legs are going to shrink, they are going to shrink more in the direction parallel to the rings than they will shrink perpendicular to the rings (that’s the way trees work). So I want to apply a wedge against the annular rings to resist this shrinkage. So the annular rings in my legs run front to back, the grain in the seat runs front to back and the wedge cuts across the legs’ annular rings.

Honest: I am not trying to talk anyone into doing it this way, and I am certain other tactics work. But this is what suits my head at this time.


Then I kerf the tenons with a tenon saw, stopping short of the pencil line representing the underside of the seat.

I gather all the materials I need for assembly and lay them out on the bench. This includes extra wedges, rags, a toothbrush for cleaning up the glue, a cup of hot water, several mallets and hammers and a 1/2″ chisel.

To assemble, I paint hide glue on the inside of one mortise. Then I paint glue on its tenon and drive the leg home. I strike the leg with a 2-1/2 lb. sledge until its stops moving into the seat when I strike it. Repeat for the other three legs.

I clean up any glue on the underside of the seat then flip it over.


Usually, driving the legs into the seat will close up the kerfs I just sawed in the tenons. Instead of trying to wedge the closed kerf and risk destroying some wedges, I open up each kerf with a 1/2″ chisel and a few mallet blows. This reduces wedge failure by about 345 percent.


I paint glue on a wedge and drive it in with my hand sledge. When the wedge stops moving, I stop hitting it.

Finally I clean up all the glue I can find with rags and a toothbrush. I put the chair on a bench and walk away, resisting the urge to fiddle with it too much and make it worse.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Saddling a Seat

Sun, 01/29/2017 - 2:31pm


There’s almost certainly a sort of Reinheitsgebot for chairmakers. If you don’t use hand tools at every stage, you receive one evil eye.

Truth is, lots of chairmakers I know use power tools at some stage of the process. Many use a band saw. Others use an angle grinder to roughly shape their seats. Many use electric lathes. And a few – gasp – use sandpaper.

Me, I’m indifferent to this claptrap. I like to use the tools I like to use. I avoid the tools I dislike. Simple.

So this is how I saddle my seats.

I don’t have an adze. Why? I don’t know; it just never happened. Sure, I’ve tried a few adzes here and there at woodworking shows, but I’ve always started saddling my seats with a scorp (mine is from Barr Specialty Tools). It takes longer than if I had an adze, but I’m happy I don’t have to take care of an additional tool.

So after marking out the saddle I begin by traversing the seat with the scorp. Traversing in chairmaking is not like traversing with a jack plane. You don’t work with the cutter 90° to the grain.

Instead you pull the tool directly across the grain, but you angle its cutter in the direction the grain is flowing in the board. If this sounds odd to you, try it with a jack plane. Say you are traversing a board where the grain directions runs from right to left. The best plan is to push the tool directly across the grain of the board but angle it 30° to the left.

Try it and it will click.

I usually bottom my seats to be about 5/8” deep at the deepest point near the back of the seat. Then I saddle it about 3/8” near the front of the seat.


After I get it as clean as possible with a scorp, I switch to a travisher (mine is from Claire Minihan). Again, I work across the grain with the tool angled in the direction of the grain. I take lighter and lighter cuts as I work. When I can’t refine the surface any more, I switch to a card scraper.


I scrape out the tops of the dawks and try to remove any high spots my fingers can feel. I scrape and scrape until I can’t get it looking any better.

Then, finally, I wrap a piece of #180-grit sandpaper around a cork sanding block and try to refine the surface even more. After I scuff up the surface entirely with the sandpaper, I come back with a scraper and remove the sanding scratches.

adb15_sanding_block_img_4266 adb14_scrape-sand_img_4263

The last 15 minutes of the process is me switching back and forth between a scraper and sandpaper, trying to get it as perfect as possible.

Eventually I give up – never satisfied with the final surface. But that’s typical.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Best laid plans…

Sun, 01/29/2017 - 10:09am

As some of you will recall, I last reported from Ecuador back in August, when I showed you the workbench that I had completed. Since then…nothing. What happened? Well, as it turned out, a variety of events and situations conspired to the extent that I ended up with virtually no time to do any actual woodworking. I did get started on a project, but wasn’t able to finish before we had to leave.

You will at least be happy to know that the bench found a good home in the workshop of the architect friend who earlier pointed me in the direction of wood merchants in my neighborhood.

And I did learn a few things along the way:

Lesson 1 – Colorado (aka Lyptus®, Eucalyptus grandis x urophylla) is not a hand tool-friendly wood.

Lyptus is very hard, about the same as hard maple or the very hardest of white oaks. And it has interlocked grain, which tears out readily no matter which direction you try to plane it in (even cross grain!). I eventually figured out how to plane it: with my plane set to a 60° cutting angle and taking extremely thin shavings, I was able to achieve a surface that could later be sanded smooth. But removing 1/16″ of tearout a thousandth at a time is not my idea of fun.

The wood reminds me of sapele, which is similarly hard and also has interlocked grain, although it’s more brittle and doesn’t tear out quite as much. Like sapele, it’s very difficult to get a decent finish without a considerable amount of sanding.

Lesson 2 – At some point, a baggage handler will drop your tool case very, very hard.


The damage shown here occurred when the lever cap knob of my Veritas low-angle jack plane punched through the bottom of the tray from below. Given that when the trays are stacked together there is at most 1/2″ of play before the knob contacts the tray bottom, I don’t want to think about how far the case must have fallen in order for this amount of destruction to occur. Fortunately, it appears that all of the tools are okay.

Lesson 3 – An outdoor woodworking shop in Tumbaco may not be the best idea.

This one was completely unexpected, and it’s the fault of these guys:


Volcán Antisana (5,704 m/18,714 ft) on a rare sunny afternoon; one of many volcanoes visible from the vicinity of Quito, Antisana is located about 40 km/25 mi from where we lived in Tumbaco.

The soil in Ecuador is virtually all volcanic ash, in some places hundreds of feet deep. Very fine, very abrasive volcanic ash. Add to that the fact that the climate in Tumbaco is dry, and afternoons are usually windy, and you begin to see the problem. I would finish up one day and come back the next to find everything covered by a clearly visible layer of ash. Ash that wreaked havoc on my tool edges.

The ash ends up indoors, too. We had a housekeeper that came to clean every week, and still the pile-up of dust near windows and doors was impressive.

I’ll have more to write about our adventures in Ecuador (plus a couple of weeks in Peru) soon, so stay tuned. But for now, I have some pent-up woodworking to attend to.

– Steve Schafer

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Wednesday: Copperplate Prints from ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 7:58pm


On Wednesday we will begin to take orders for people who would like handmade copperplate prints from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” made by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. Because of the time and expense in offering these prints, however, we are going to offer these only one time.

We will offer all 12 prints for individual sale at $110 each. If you order the complete set for $1,300, they will come in a handmade custom box made at Ohio Book in Cincinnati.

Ordering will be open during February and March. Then, in April, we will close ordering and Briony will start making the prints and they will ship out to you in special protective packaging. Check out this short film on how Briony made the prints.

Each print will be made on cotton rag paper that measures 11” x 15-3/4” (approximately).


I’ve had a set of these prints in my shop now for a year and they are just stunning. Modern printing methods pale in comparison to the clarity, texture and imperfection of a copperplate print.

We hesitated in offering these prints because they are expensive in comparison to the Farrah Fawcett poster you still have from college. But, like a fine tool or piece of handmade furniture, these prints have an intangible quality that I like.

If you’d like to see them in person before you purchase one, please stop by our storefront on our open days on Feb. 11 and March 11. I’ll have the complete set on hand, including the handmade box from Ohio Book.

— Christopher Schwarz


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

Legging up the Staked Armchair

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 4:01pm


There are two reasons I bore and ream the mortises for a chair before saddling the seat. 1) Saddling the seat removes any spelching made by the drill bit. Or, put another way, I don’t spelch my newly saddled seat. And 2) If I mess up the boring or reaming then I haven’t wasted as much time if I’d saddled the seat.

Like many chairmakers, I use sightlines and resultant angles to bore and ream my mortises for the legs. And I’ve figured out how to do it without any trig. Or numbers. Or words. (OK, scratch the “or words.” The words and explanation are covered fully in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” </blowhard advertisement>.)


With this chair I use the same angles as the staked chair in the book. So use the drawing above to draw your sightlines and set your sliding bevel square (which Roubo calls the “false square,” which amuses me greatly, which wasn’t supposed to be amusing but is).


Bore the 5/8” hole for the mortises, using the sliding bevel as a guide for your bit. I put a backer board under the seat so I can bore straight through without thinking/stopping. When the shavings change color I rotate the brace twice more and pull out.


Reaming is similar. But instead of using the bit as a guide for the bevel square, I use the shell of my chuck. This is why I love the chuck of my Yankee brace. It is a straight cylinder. Some chucks are fancy shaped like a baluster. They’re pretty, but they are no help when reaming.


Ever four turns or so, I pull out and check my angle using a dowel with a tapered tenon on the end. I can’t check my work (easily) using the actual legs because they are all kinds of tapered.

Then I drive all four legs into their mortises, stand back and make sure the whole thing doesn’t look like a bandy-legged goat.

And only then do I start to saddle the seat.

— Christopher`Schwarz

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

More Soft Wax Available Today

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 8:19am


Katy has made another couple batches of her soft wax, which you can purchase on her etsy store. Each tin is $12 and contains approximately 4 oz. of wax (by volume).

Katy makes the wax in my basement shop, She packages it up and even designed the label.

The wax is based on an old French recipe and a fine polish for the interiors of woodwork (and exteriors – I love it on chairs – though it is not designed for high-performance situations).

Note that the wax is not for your beard, mustache or lizard.

Speaking of lizards, modeling the wax today is Brunhilde, Katy’s chameleon companion. Yes, Brunhilde is named after the princess in the legend (and the movie “D’Jango”).

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Legs for the Staked Armchair

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 1:12pm


All the legs featured in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” are octagonal or square in section – this makes them easy to make without a lathe. For this chair design, I decided to turn the legs but make the shape simple enough that you could shave them if, again, you are lathe-less in Louisiana.

This shape of leg is a modernized bamboo turning. The top section of the leg tapers and flows into the leg’s tapered tenon. The taper begins 6-1/2″ from the top of the leg and tapers from 1-1/2″ to 5/8″ at the top of the tenon. The bottom section of the leg tapers to 1″ at the floor.

This profile looks nice with the 12.8° taper I use on my tenons. However, if you use a different angle, I’m going to show you how I laid out the leg so you can design it to suit your tools.


First I made the leg blanks into 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ x 19″ octagons. I chucked them in the lathe and turned the leg to a straight cylinder (note that after you get the leg dimensions figured out you can skip this step to save time).

Then I marked the length of my tenon (3″) on the leg and turned the tenon very slightly oversized. The tenon starts as 1-1/16″ in diameter and tapers to 5/8″ at the top.


With the taper roughed in I took a straightedge and held it up to the taper and eyeballed where this taper would end at the full diameter of the leg. This guess is about 6-1/2″ from the top. I could have drawn it out in CAD, but I like wood better than pixels.

I marked the cylinder at 6-1/2″ from the top of the leg and then turned the remainder of the top taper to that point. Note that I turned a small groove where the tenon began. This is an important mark when you shave the tenon to its final size.


The rest is easy. I turned the bottom taper from the 6-1/2″ line down to the bottom of the leg. The bottom of the leg is 1″ in diameter. In the photo above I’m looking for humps with a straightedge.

adb5_taper_complete_img_4225 adb4_taper_tenon_img_4221

Then I removed the leg from the lathe and used my tapered tenon cutter to shave the tenon to the perfect shape and size. It took only a few turns to do. When I shaved the legs in the tenon cutter I stopped cutting right at the groove I turned in the leg.

Then I sanded the legs (avoiding the tenons) with #180-grit sandpaper and got ready to leg up the chair. That’s tomorrow’s entry.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

The Good Books

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 12:13pm


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

The funny thing is that it was my mad obsession with acquiring woodworking stuff that helped me find a balanced approach to the craft. You see, I became as obsessed with acquiring woodworking books as I was with the tools. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so consuming books on woodworking and tools was natural. (And add to that the fact that I was freelancing at the time as a contributing editor for the WoodWorkers’ Book Club newsletter. That job was a five-year-long force-fed diet of woodworking writing.)

Read enough modern woodworking books, and you might just want to gouge out your eyes with a melon baller. They are all so similar and shallow and filled with idiosyncratic information. I can’t tell you how many times I read the following phrase: “This might not be the right way to do this, but it works for me.”

Something inside my head made me wonder about that “right way” the author rejected.

It just so happened that at about that same time I had a short phone conversation with Graham Blackburn, one of my woodworking heroes. I had a few of Blackburn’s books from the 1970s, and I knew he had a command of woodworking history. So I interviewed him about the origin of the word “jack” in “jack plane” for a short piece I was writing for the magazine.

We then started talking about saws.

During the conversation, Blackburn said I could find the answer to one of my questions in the book “Grimshaw on Saws.”

Huh? I replied.

I’ll never forget what he said next: “You don’t have a copy of Grimshaw, and you’re an editor at a woodworking magazine? Hmmm.”

I was ashamed. So ashamed that I went down to Cincinnati’s public library that weekend to check out Robert Grimshaw’s 1882 treatise on saws. It was sitting on the shelf next to a bunch of other old woodworking books I’d never heard of. I wondered which of those books were also “required reading” in Blackburn’s world. I checked out as many of those cloth-bound books as the library would let me. I went home. I started reading, and I haven’t stopped.

The things I learned from the old books were different than what I expected to learn. I actually expected the shop practices to be different – you know, they had different ways of cutting a mortise, a tenon and a dovetail. But really, not much has changed in the way that steel (usually) defeats wood.

While there are a wide variety of ways to perform every standard operation, the pre-Industrial craftsman didn’t seem to have secret tricks as much as he had lots of opportunities to practice and become swift.

Instead, what surprised me was the small set of tools that were prescribed for a person who wanted to become a joiner or a cabinetmaker.

Joseph Moxon, the earliest English chronicler of woodworking, describes 44 kinds of tools necessary for joinery in “Mechanick Exercises” (1678). For some of these tools, you’d need several in different sizes (such as chisels), but for many of the tools that he described, a joiner would need only one (a workbench, axe, fore plane etc.).

Randle Holme’s “Academie of Armory” (Book III, 1688) has approximately 46 different joinery tools explained in his encyclopedia. An exact number is hard to pin down because some of the tools are discussed twice(for example, mallets, smoothing planes and hatchets) and some tools seem shared with the carpentry trade.


Academy of Sanity. Randle Holme’s 1688 book outlined a small tool kit that could be used for building lots of furniture forms.

If we jump forward more than 150 years, not too much has changed. The list of tools required by the rural joiner in “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” (1839) isn’t all that much different from the tool list described by Moxon and Holme. “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” gives a significant description to about 40 tools used by a young apprentice during his climb to journeyman.

As the Industrial Revolution begins to crank out mass-manufactured tools, the basic list of tools recommended for basic joinery starts to expand. There are more kinds of boring bits available, new kinds of metallic planes (such as blocks, shoulders and routers), plus some new saws, including the coping saw.

By the 20th century, the basic list of tools for joiners stands at about 63, according to books by Charles Hayward, the traditionally trained dean of workshop writers. Still, when I looked at Hayward’s list it seemed rather paltry compared to what was in my shop. (See this book’s appendix for a comparison of these tool lists.)

At first, I attributed these short lists of essential tools to three things:

• Everything in the pre-Industrial age would have been more expensive because it was made by hand.

• The general level of economic prosperity was lower.

• Technological innovation had yet to produce the fantastic new tools shown in the modern catalogs.

But all that was just denial kicking in.

Meghan Bates

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

Where I’ll be in 2017

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:11pm


After a year of burrowing deeper than our Kenton County moles, I’ve decided to attend a few events this year to see old friends, repay some favors and do some research during side trips. The following is a list of places where you can hurl rotten garbage at me without coming to my home.

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event, Braxton Brewing, Covington, Ky.
March 10-11, 2017
We’ll have the Lost Art Press storefront open on one of the two days (probably Saturday). And will be organizing a barbecue/beer/Hammerschlager event at Rhinegeist Brewing across the river. Details to come. If you attended last year’s event at Braxton then you know it was a hoot – probably the biggest Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event I’ve been to.

Handworks, Amana, Iowa
May 19-20, 2017
Handworks is the S%^&. Period. End of story. Get there by any means possible. We will be there with books and tools. This year I promise not to die.

Dictum classes in Germany
Build a Sawbench, June 12-14
Build a Mallet and a Marking Gauge, June 15-16
These are the only two classes I’m teaching in 2017. Heck they might be the only classes I teach for the next decade. I owe the good people at Dictum a huge personal favor. These two classes are my way of repaying them. If you’ve never taken a class at their Niederalteich location, I highly recommend it. Many of my favorite stories begin with the line: “We were at the gasthaus in Niederalteich when Brian….” The classes are taught in English. The eating is in German.

Lie-Nielsen Open House
July 7-8
I have so many friends who attend this event that it’s difficult for me to skip it. The Open House is always a wonderful weekend of food, woodworking and axe throwing. Bring your family and they’ll enjoy it as well.

European Woodworking Shop
Sept. 16-17
Again, this is one of the few events that one simply cannot miss. The Cressing Temple barns inspire woodworking awe (and regular awe). There are always lots of fun makers, tool dealers and English-types at this well-organized show. And the food! I’ll be there.

Please note that this blog entry does not mark my return to public touring and teaching. This is probably too much activity already, and next year I will burrow in deeper.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

A Staked Armchair for ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 1:17pm


When I finished up writing “The Anarchist’s Design Book” in January 2016, there were two projects that I wish I’d included: a staked armchair and a staked settee.

At the time, my designs for these two pieces were still juvenile. Well maybe that’s not correct. They were too complex to be presented in a book aimed at simple forms. So I set them aside. During the last 12 months, I’ve completed these two designs and began building the staked armchair this week.

For the armchair, I finally got the arm shape to my satisfaction while drinking a beer in a Cleveland restaurant (that’s the 45-second sketch above). While the arm is dead simple, it has an interior curve that echoes the curve at the back of the seat and a bevel on the front that repeats the bevel on the underside of the seat.


I’m going to photograph the construction process and share it here on the blog. After I get this armchair built and I also finish the settee we might add them to the next printing of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” (If we do that, we will offer free downloads of the new chapters to all previous purchasers, no matter where you bought the book.)

This armchair will be made with sycamore and hickory left over from the last chair.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

Work With Wet Workbench Tops

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:54pm


After reading hundreds (thousands?) of historical woodworking texts I have noticed a mantra for making furniture: Use wood that is well-seasoned.

It’s fantastic advice. Perhaps it’s even the starting point for all fine furniture making. But does it apply to building your workbench? If we follow the historical texts, then yes. I have yet to find any old book that says: The stock for your bench can be a little (or a lot) wet.

And yet, here’s the problem that I have discovered after years of building benches. Thick stock (6”, for example) can take way more than a decade to dry. I’ve cut into 6”-thick slabs that had been air-dried for 13 years that were more than 60 percent moisture content (MC). That’s way above the 6 percent recommended by many books.

Should one wait 50 more years with these slabs? Use MDF instead?

After working with massive wet slabs for the last seven years or so, I offer this recommendation based on personal experience – not on historical research or anything I’ve gleaned from my library:

Use wet wood for your benchtop. Even if it has been seasoned less than a year, you’ll be OK. Just be prepared to flatten the thing. And don’t be an idiot about your undercarriage (that sounds like advice to my teenage self).

Here’s my strategy with wet slabs: Use a species for the benchtop that dries readily, such as red oak. For the undercarriage, use wood that is at equilibrium moisture content. Because these components are rarely more than 3” thick they can be kiln-dried.

This combination works well in my experience. The undercarriage is dry. It won’t shrink. But it acts like a frame for drying the top, which shrinks around the joints on the tops of the legs.

Yes, the top will distort a bit as it dries. But you’re a woodworker – flatten the sucker.

But when the benchtop finishes drying after a few years, you will find it to be glorious. Slab tops don’t move much (if at all) after a few years in the shop. They just sit there like a machinist’s reference surface.

I think it’s worth the effort to find a slab. And I think it’s worth the effort to work with a wet one.

The last few wet slabs I’ve worked with came from North Carolina sawyer Lesley Caudle. He sells kits for workbenches that are inexpensive and ready to go – you just have to pick them up or work with Lesley to get them trucked to you. (You can email Lesley at lesley27011@yahoo.com.) Don’t be alarmed if the benchtop was cut less than 12 months ago. Embrace it.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

A Brain Dump on Upcoming Projects

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:54pm


During the last few months we’ve all been working on a lot of projects behind the scenes that haven’t gotten much attention here on the blog. Here’s a quick update on all of our active projects.

‘Carve the Acanthus Leaf’ by Mary May
Meghan Bates, the page designer, and I have been working on finalizing the design for Mary’s book. It’s a complex piece of work – there are so many art and text elements that we are having to rethink how we design our books to get it right. Expect this book in the late spring.

Copperplate Engravings from ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’
Last year we promised we would sell handmade copperplate engraving prints from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” that were made by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. But then my calendar went to crap and I got bogged down in revising “Handplane Essentials” for F+W Media. On Feb. 1 we will offer all of the plates from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” for sale. And if you order the complete set you’ll receive a handmade book box from Ohio Book to hold them.

New Titles in the Works
In addition to the books coming about John Brown and by Jögge Sundqvist and Bill Rainford, we have some other titles in the works that we haven’t talked much about. Megan Fitzpatrick is finishing work on Peter Follansbee’s new book (tentatively titled “Joiner’s Work”), and I am thrilled to announce we will be publishing a boundary-pushing book by David Savage titled “The Intelligent Hand.” I’ll be writing more about all these titles in the coming weeks.

Letterpress Posters from ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’
I’ve found a significant cache of these posters in a box high on a shelf at our storefront. We’ll try to get there in the web store in the coming weeks.

Letterpress Book on ‘Roman Workbenches’
We are closing in on getting this book to press. We hope that it will be $77 for the letterpress version. The pdf version will be much less. And the standard offset version (due later this year) will be expanded and reasonably priced.

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event March 10-11
If you attended the Lie-Nielsen event in Covington last year, then you know it was one of the best hand-tool events of 2016. This year we are participating in the event again at Braxton Brewing. We’re also arranging an event at Rhinegeist Brewing that will involve barbecue, beer and (wait for it) Hammerschlager. Details to come.

As always, we don’t have updates on books that aren’t in our hands. So you’ll have to wait longer on Andrew Lunn’s book.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Sorry for all the product updates lately. Tomorrow I hope to post an entry on workbenches that will infuriate a lot of people.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools