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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 48 min 27 sec ago

Curriculum aliud*

9 hours 45 min ago


Fixin’s for tofu and carrot pizza. (Yum?)

My father assigned his office assistant, Bambi, to be my teacher. One of our early lessons involved learning to copy maps, an essential life skill if there ever was one. She showed me how to copy an outline using a grid. “Just draw in some squiggles around the edges,” she instructed as I worked on a map of Florida’s east coast.

“But what about everyone who lives along those bays and beaches?” I asked, concerned that such a laissez-faire approach to cartography might result in the flooding of countless homes, drowning the pets who lived in them. (Never mind their human inhabitants, who were of less concern to me in those days.)

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said. “It’s just a map.”

It wasn’t long before we dispensed with this farce and I sought instruction from the young people who were living in assorted small structures they had erected around our tropical half-acre backyard. I learned to make whole wheat bread, tofu and carrot pizza, and home-churned ice milk, washed my clothes in a puddle, and took cold showers to fortify my character.  I dispensed with my hair brush and allowed my dirty-blond tresses to spin themselves into a head of dreadlocks that unsophisticated acquaintances of my parents dismissed as filthy matted hair.


Norman Stanley Hippietoe on the way to dreadlocks — emphatically not a sexualized image, but the opposite: a ten-year-old’s attempt to escape the confines of gendered expectations.

In a nod toward formal study, I read several entries in the World Book Encyclopedia each day and was so taken with the one for panpipes that I wrote to the editor and asked for plans that I might use to make a set. I signed my letter Norman Stanley Hippietoe, an androgynous persona I had invented to replace my birth name and gender. I was elated when a letter addressed to Mr. N. Hippietoe arrived in the mail, even though it carried the disappointing news that the publisher could offer no plans for constructing the instrument.–Excerpted from Making Things Work by Nancy R. Hiller

*Fancy Lass-speak for different curriculum. There’s nothing like learning to make tofu and carrot pizza and wash your clothes in a puddle to set a kid up for the discipline and structure offered by the Fancy Lads Academy.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Last Soft Wax of the Year

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:05pm


Katy has made a big batch of soft wax this week – 63 tins that are ready to ship immediately. Click here to order if you don’t need any more information than that.

Soft wax is a nice addition to the tool kit of the finisher or tool restorer. It can be used as a stand-alone finish on bare wood. It imparts just a little color and a little protection. Its advantage is it’s incredibly easy to apply. Because it is so high in solvent (Georgia turpentine), it is easy to rub onto a surface and does not need to be buffed like floor wax. You simply wipe the excess soft wax away for a nice matte finish.

For tools, it helps lubricate the sticky bits and prevents rust. A thin coat is all it takes.

It is not a good finish for high-traffic items (bathroom cabinets) or your hipster mustache. It is high in solvents that could irritate your baby-smooth Fancy Lad skin.

The wax is made in our basement entirely by a 16-year-old who never ceases to amaze me. She is intent on forging her own path through this world without relying on institutions to prop her up. (Sounds strangely familiar.)

You can order tins of her wax through her etsy store here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Richard Jones: Why I Wrote This Book

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:52am

Richard recently completed this massive oak refectory table for a client. Here it sits in the workshop, waiting for the client to make a decision on a wood finish.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts by Richard Jones, who has written a detailed book about timber technology. The book is scheduled to be released in early 2018.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

I didn’t set out to write a book on timber technology. Doing so was an accident of circumstances. In 2003, I closed my furniture business in Texas, moved home to the UK and started teaching furniture undergraduates at Rycotewood, which I mentioned here. I was given the task of introducing the students to the craft furniture maker’s primary material of wood in the Timber Technology module. I possessed a relatively good expertise in the subject but I’d never prepared and delivered learning materials on it. It was a challenging sink-or-swim moment for me – well, more of an ongoing fight against drowning throughout a 12-week term. But it got easier with practice and as the years passed.

In 2005, I started creating illustrated Timber Tech PowerPoint presentations as learning tools. From that, I converted the PowerPoints into articles to sell to woodworking magazines, a sideline of mine. At some stage in this article production I decided the topic was too involved to be covered adequately in a series of articles in several magazine issues. So, being a bit bloody minded, I decided to create a manuscript covering the key issues relevant and of interest to me as a woodworker. Further, I decided to write it in such a way that non-specialists could understand some of the more challenging elements, and my students were the model non-specialists. Of course, this meant I was writing speculatively, without having a publisher on board – but more on that in a later post.

Most books on timber technology are written by timber technologists for wood scientist colleagues, or students of the topic. They’re consequently a difficult read for the general reader, something probably true of most woodworkers, myself included. Wood science authors assume a certain background knowledge in their expected readership. And why not? They’re generally singing to the choir, or at least aspirant wood scientists. It doesn’t really help the non-scientific woodworker who wants a better understanding of their material as simply as possible. In creating my manuscript I took pains to try and make some difficult science accessible and useful to all woodworkers – carpenters, joiners, furniture makers and so on.

An oak tabletop, such as the one shown above, 1100 mm (~43-1/4″) wide with end clamps (aka breadboard ends) needs allowance for expansion and contraction on the main panel across the grain. A tongue and groove, incorporating three tenons worked in the main panel fit motices in the clamps. The central tenon is glued, and the two end tenons are free to move side to side in extended mortices, but held tight in the main panel with dowels passing through slots in the tenons.

– Richard Jones

Filed under: Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

It Takes Only 100 Workbenches

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 3:27pm


Some things in woodworking are hard-earned. Translation: I might not be so bright.

This week I performed some maintenance to my circa 1505 workbench designed by Martin Löffelholz. I’d built the bench last year using components that were soaking wet. This was not my preference, but sometimes we don’t have a choice when it comes to wood.

So what would be my preference? A wet top and bone-dry legs.

In my case, the tenons on the four wet legs had dried out faster than the wet benchtop. Because the ends of a stick of wood dry out before its middle, this was to be expected. As a result, three of the tenons became loose in their mortises, and I needed to re-glue and re-wedge them.

This is quick and easy work, maybe an hour. And because I use hide glue, there was no need to scrape off the dried PVA glue to remake the joints. (Yay for animal glue – for the 102nd billionth time.)

What’s the point here? Well, if you’ve ever made a workbench with through-tenons or through-dovetails then you know that the most difficult part of flattening the benchtop is dealing with the recalcitrant end grain. It can stop your handplane short, no matter how sharp it is or strong you think you are.


This week I got smart. Usually when you make a through-tenon, you make the tenon over-long and then saw or plane it flush to the surrounding wood. This is a good idea when making doors or small boxes. But when making workbenches, perhaps not.

This week I decided to cut the tenons 1/16” shy so they would end up recessed instead of proud when the joints were assembled. And, after assembly, I chiseled the wedges down flush with the tenon.

As a result, the benchtop was easy to flatten. My jack plane didn’t encounter any end grain until the last few strokes of flattening the benchtop.

Why haven’t I done this for the last 100 workbenches that I’ve built with my students, for customers or for me?

Lesson: Don’t be a Schwarz. Cut your workbench tenons short.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

New Stickers Available my Fancy Lads (and Lasses)

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 1:03pm


Perchance would you care to procure a new sticker set for your divan, boudoir or your dearest fainting couch? (Translation: Want some stickers for your pie hole?) We have a new set of three stickers available now from my daughter Maddy the sticker princess (not be confused with Katy the wax princess).

This set features a 3”-diameter sticker from the Fancy Lad Academy of Woodworking & Charcuterie. Click here if that doesn’t mean anything to you. The second sticker is 4” wide and is an original piece of art from Suzanne Ellison – a crow made from tools from A.J. Roubo’s “l’Art du menuisier.” The third sticker is the gorgeous cover from “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill.

These are quality 100 percent vinyl stickers. They will survive the outdoors – heck you could put one on your car. Want a set? You can order them from Maddy’s etsy store here. They are $6 delivered ($10 for international orders).

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

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

As always, this is not a money-making venture for me or Lost Art Press. All profits help Maddy escape her undergraduate education with both kidneys.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Stickers, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Door Types

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 4:07am


This is an excerpt from “The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing. 

In making plain or flush doors the obvious choice of material appears to be a well-chosen board of solid wood (Fig 353). However this is no solution since the wood may swell or shrink, spoiling the fit, or warp, making any fit impossible. A stable, light door suitable for painting or lower-quality work can be made from a mitred frame to which are glued two sheets of thin ply (Fig 354).

A heavier and more robust door is shown in Fig 355. Here a stronger frame is dowelled or tenoned together with two ply skins. Extra cross members are added to stiffen the door. Air holes are drilled in the cross members and in the bottom rail to equalize air pressure inside and outside. Such cross members must not be too far apart, nor should the ply be too thin (minimum 6mm (1/4in.)), otherwise an impression of the framing may show through.



A door from multi-ply or blockboard is extremely stable, but the edges are unattractive and do not take the hinge screws well. Such a door is generally lipped (Fig 356). The lipping may be butted or mitred at the corners. The tongue is essential for good adhesion, particularly on the end grain of blockboard. The lipping may be applied to veneered material but for better work the lipping is concealed by veneering the whole face after the lippings have been glued and planed flush. Lippings must be made from thoroughly dry material, otherwise shrinkage will take place and the lipping will show through the veneer.


Good-quality handwork makes frequent use of the framed and panelled door (Fig 357), the inner edge of which is moulded or chamfered. The following illustrations show some of the possible combinations of frame and panel.







Meghan Bates

Filed under: The Essential Woodworker
Categories: Hand Tools

The 6 Personalities of Workbench Builders

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 5:47am


This post is by request. Several people have asked me to assemble all the links to the stories in this series in one posting so it would be easy to share or to find in the future.

Workbench Personality No. 1: The Engineer

Workbench Personality No. 2: The Traditionalist

Workbench Personality No. 3: The Cheapskate

Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything

Workbench Personality No. 5: Frank Sinatra

Workbench Personality No. 6: The Undecider

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Canadian Sales Temporarily Suspended

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:39am


We’ve had to stop selling our products in Canada temporarily until we can find a new way to ship our goods across the border.

Our warehouse in Canada has decided to drop us as a customer to focus on other aspects of their business. John is hard at work trying to get a replacement service lined up. Because we are in the middle of the holiday season, however, it’s impossible to really get a shipping service’s attention until January.

We apologize for this and hope we can get it resolved quickly. In the meantime, Lee Valley Tools carries our full line of books.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Workbench Personality No. 6: The Undecider

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 5:23pm

KD Nicholson Workbench_underside

Of all the workbench personalities, only The Undecider has driven me to reconsider my career in woodworking.

Like herpes, when you encounter The Undecider, everything seems kinda normal at first. But then, inexplicably, you cannot get rid of him.

The Undecider: Hey, I LOVE that Robo workbench on your blog. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about wood movement, wood selection and anything you would change if you built it again.

Me: Sure…. And blah, blah, blah.

Six weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, that Nickelback Bench is amazing! It really got me rethinking my workbench plans. Do you think oak would work for this bench? Could I equip it with a quick-release vise?

Me: Sure…. And blah, blah, blah.

Seven weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, I just read the article on John White’s “New-Fangled Workbench.” I was wondering if you could compare the strengths and weaknesses of this bench with the Rubiot bench, the Niklesen and this Newfangled one.

Me: I’ve never even seen one of these benches from John White. I read his article, of course, and it’s very interesting. But I’m afraid you know just as much as I do.

Eight weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, have you seen the height-adjustable bench? Do you think that could be combined with a Robo bench and the planing platform from the Newfangled Bench? Love to get your thoughts on how this might work.

I put the email aside. I needed to think of how to answer this email without using the phrase: “How many Hot Wheels can fit up your butt?” This process takes a couple weeks and includes some guided meditation. Finally, I am ready to answer this without sounding like a pirate. Then my email dings.

The Undecider: Hey, me again. I’ve actually been thinking I should just buy a workbench and “get to the good part” – you know, making furniture. But I can’t decide if the Lie-Nielsen bench is really worth the money compared to the Sjoberg. Do you think you could do a side-by-side comparison for me? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Me: Dude, my thoughts would get me arrested in 22 states.

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

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Megan has Left the Magazine

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 3:06pm

One of my favorite bas-a#% people.

You might have heard: Megan Fitzpatrick is no longer the editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

While readers might be wringing their hands or wondering how the magazine will fare without her (hint: it will be just fine), I am personally and selfishly pleased at the news.

Megan was, hands down, the best employee I ever had (followed closely behind by Kara Gebhart). As my managing editor, Megan worked her butt off. She was both passionate and professional. Intensely curious about the craft. Willing to do whatever it took to get the magazine to the printer while refusing to sacrifice quality.

And now, with her days free, she can work for Lost Art Press even more – both editing and writing. As many of you know, nearly every book at Lost Art Press has benefitted from Megan’s careful eye and deadly red pen. And, if I get my way, she’ll allow us to publish a book of hers that’s been percolating for many years.

The community of woodworking editors is small – maybe 30 or 40 people at most. And when someone leaves a publication, one of two things happen. Most editors disappear. They return to their lives as commercial woodworkers or move on to edit a magazine about drones or hospital hand sanitizers. A few (and I can name them on one hand) refuse to leave the world of woodworking and carve out their own place. On their own terms. And they improve the craft (and their own lives).

The smart money says that Megan will do the latter.

So please welcome Megan to the ranks of the Woodworking Editorial Hobo Society (of which I am lifetime member). There’s a warm chair and a cold beverage waiting for you at our next meeting.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Workbench Personality No. 5: Frank Sinatra

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:05pm


I call this type of workbench builder the “Frank Sinatra” because they always do it “My Way.” In other words, a Frank Sinatra workbench is entirely disconnected from tradition and – at times – human reason.

Is this bad? Shouldn’t workbenches be a “I’m OK and You’re OK” kinda thing? If it works for you it’s right, right?

While I don’t seek to poo on anyone’s parade, there are certain guidelines for building things that are related to the human form and the work. If someone came to you and said: I’ve just rethought the idea of the chair – I’ve made the seat 24” deep so there’s more room to relax! Isn’t that great? More, more, more!

Me: Doesn’t that cut off the circulation of blood to the legs?

Designer: Hey, it works for me.

The following descriptions of my encounters with the Frank Sinatras are not an effort to quash innovation in workbench design. Instead, this is a look at what happens if you build a bench without knowing how benches are used.

How it Begins
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Frank Sinatra in person. Instead, they are the people who read my blog entries and then send me photos of their workbenches with a note that says something like:

“Saw your Rubio bench. Thought I’d show you what a REAL bench looks like. I designed this one myself – an ORIGINAL design. Want to do a story on my bench? It’s awesome.”

The first Frank Sinatra I encountered had made a U-shaped bench that was 12’ wide and 16’ long (yes, 12 feet x 16 feet). It was comprised entirely of kitchen cabinets that were bolted together and then covered in 4×8 sheets of plywood. Imagine a giant “U” covered in plywood. And there were vises every 3’ or so.

Me: Do you run a school? Is this for your employees? Or are you Catholic like my wife and have a lot of kids?

Frank Sinatra: Nope. It’s just me. But it’s the best damn bench I’ve ever seen. Better than your Robo bench for sure.


Your Bench is for Pansies
Like many bench builders of the last 2,000 years, I like a bench to have some mass. You can work with a lightweight bench – we’ve all had to do it – but mass makes things easier.

Some people, however, take mass to a ridiculous level. One day I received an email from Frank Sinatra with photos of a bench “that makes your benches look like church picnic tables.”

I opened the attached photos. It was a French-style bench that was made entirely out of 2x12s. The top was all 2x12s that were face-glued (the top was 11” thick). The legs? 2x12s that finished out at 11” x 11”. (Elephants would be jealous.) The stretchers? 2x12s.

In all honesty, it looked like a cartoon sketch of a bench. But I wanted to be diplomatic. After reading the stats provided by the Frank Sinatra (it weighs 575 lbs.!), I asked a simple question.

Me: Bench looks beefy. How do the holdfasts work?

Frank Sinatra: Don’t know. Haven’t used the bench yet. Just finished it last weekend.


Suckier Workholding
It’s a simple note via email: You don’t need vises. No one needs vises. Take a look!

The bench in the photos is a 4x4x8 box made of plywood. Every foot or so is a vacuum port. They are on the benchtop. On the end of the box. On the front face. The bench is powered by two large compressors, which, through a venturi nozzle, provide the vacuum power.

Now there is no need for vises. Place your work on the vacuum port and it is immobilized. Cutting dovetails? No problem! The work is held immediately upright, ready for sawing? Planing? Put it on the benchtop and the vacuum ports hold it fast. No planing stops. No tail vises. No nothing.

I ask a question: How does it hold rough stock? Stuff that is fresh off the sawmill?

To this day, I still haven’t heard a reply.

Torsion or Tension?
Many times the Frank Sinatras come at me with their torsion box designs – “The T-Box Rules!”

So instead of a simple slab of wood, the T-box designer wants to make a benchtop from thin skins of plywood that cover a baffle system of thin components. This is a great way to make a lightweight tabletop that has a lot of visual presence. But a workbench top?

Me: How will you get holdfasts to hold in a torsion box?

Frank Sinatra: Those areas will be solid wood, surrounded by air.

Me. What about the dog holes?

Frank Sinatra: Same answer. Solid wood in the areas for the dogs.

Me: Don’t you want some mass? This benchtop weighs only 17 lbs.

Frank Sinatra: I’m going to fill all the cavities between the baffles with sand.

It’s Not a Bench. It’s the World
A common Frank Sinatra affliction is to add endless functionality to the bench. A table saw is integrated into the benchtop. A planer is in the base. There is tool storage galore. A fridge. A router table. And Bluetooth.

But does it work? Outside of your mind? Outside of a piece of paper?

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

Next up: Workbench Personality No. 6: The Undecider

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Saturday: A Book-release Party & an Open Storefront

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:43am


This Saturday, Dec. 9, will be the last day the Lost Art Press storefront will be open for 2017 (our next open day will be Jan. 13, 2018). So if you need holiday gifts or something with a personal signature, this is the best and last day to get them.

That same evening, Dec. 9, we’re throwing a book release party for Mary May, author of “Carving the Acanthus Leaf” and George Walker, one of the authors of “From Truths to Tools.” Both authors will give brief presentations, and then they’ll be happy to answer your questions and sign books. Lost Art Press will supply drinks and light snacks. The free event is 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and is just about filled up. We still have a few places left – you can register here.

If you haven’t been to the storefront in a while, there is a lot of progress to see. The Horse Garage is nearing completion, and we’re setting up the Covington Mechanical Library in the back room for reading and research.

We’ll also have lots of blemished books and tools for sale at 50 percent of retail (cash only). We also have the “Big Bag of Free T-shirts” for you to dive into. Recently I culled my collection of woodworking T-shirts (from all over the world). Come and get as many as you like to wear or to cut them up for rags.

As always, we are happy to answer any of your woodworking questions during these events. Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney (from Popular Woodworking Magazine) will also be there to help out. Here’s a map to the storefront:

Hope to see you there.

— Christopher Schwarz

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

The Year of the Covington Mechanical Library

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 4:17pm


This calendar year has been all about gutting, rebuilding and setting up the Horse Garage, which will store wood and a few machines that I use for processing stock. For 2018, the major project will be setting up a mechanical library in the area formerly known as the storeroom.

Today, Brendan Gaffney and I took the first step on this project by moving all of the book inventory, furniture parts and shelving to the basement below the shop.

I’ve been waiting months for the humidity level in the basement to reach a tolerable level for books and furniture parts. Earlier this year, we dug out the basement floor about 18”, installed French drains and a sump pump and concreted the place. At the time, the humidity levels down there matched the outdoors (or a little higher).

About two weeks ago, the humidity level in the basement began to match the humidity in my shop upstairs.

Tomorrow, I’ll start moving the bulk of my woodworking book collection to our library area. When I run out of shelf space, my plan is to build an entire floor-to-ceiling bank of bookshelves on the blank north wall of the building.

I hope that task will be easier than gutting a building and rebuilding the Horse Garage. But I’ve been wrong before.

The goal of the mechanical library is amorphous for now. There are plenty of excellent mechanical libraries out there (Winterthur and American College of the Building Arts are two wonderful ones that I have visited). But the mechanical societies of the 18th and 19th centuries had other functions that were social and educational. So I’m letting things fall into shape as the community of Covington and our storefront get on their feet.

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

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

Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 7:50pm


The Best of Everything calls to ask if he can hire me to consult on his workbench build. And, if we get along personally, he would like to fly me to his shop so we can build the bench together.

Me: I have young children and a day job with little vacation. I can’t really do that, but I’ll be happy to help you (for free) like I do all our readers via email.

The Best of Everything decides to fly to Cincinnati, meet me for lunch, look over my workbenches and pick my brain about his design ideas.

Question No. 1, of course, is wood selection. His first choice: tiger maple from Irion Lumber Co. He shows me some photos from the website. I tell him it’s beautiful stuff, but that he might get a little nauseated staring at it all day. And it’s a bench. It’s going to get beat up and dirty. I recommend plain rock maple.

His second choice: purpleheart. My response: It’s dark and difficult to work – it’ll be hell on your tools. Plus, a light-colored workbench (such as rock maple) is much easier to work at in my experience. Setting your tools against the light background of a benchtop is much easier than against a dark wood.

Choice No. 3: Ipe.

Me: Really? Ipe? That’s not a wood. That a metal that once fondled some wood grain. And it’s dark. And it’s a pain in the butt to work – like purpleheart, but worse.

His final choice: Cuban mahogany – an old stash he’s located at a lumberyard. It’s the least objectionable of his other choices, so I say: OK, kinda?

Next up are the vises. He wants a vise for every corner of the bench: A Benchcrafted Glide on one corner, a Lie-Nielsen tail vise on one end, an Emmert patternmaker’s vise on one back corner and a Benchcrafted end vise on the final corner.

Me: May I ask why?

The Best of Everything: I can’t make up my mind about which vises are better, so I decided to get them all. I do have one question, however: Is there any brand that’s better than Benchcrafted that I should be considering instead? Something from Germany or Japan perhaps?

Me: No, there’s nothing better in my experience.


The Best of Everything: I also want six rows of dog holes on 3” centers all along the length of the benchtop.

Me: May I ask why?

The Best of Everything: I’ll be able to hold anything then, no matter its size or shape.

Me: No one needs that many dog holes.

The Best of Everything: I think it will also reduce wood movement in the bench because all areas of the bench will be exposed to the atmosphere.

Me: Aren’t you worried that dust, tools, screws and the like will fall into these holes?

The Best of Everything: Not at all. Every hole will have its own dog.

The discussion turns to the cabinet he’s going to build below the bench. (“I don’t recommend those,” I say.) The drawers will have Blumotion slides, and all the tools will be French-fitted with custom-cut foam. Do I have any recommendations on foam?

“Kaizen Foam,” he says, “is so coarse.”

I look up Kaizen Foam on my phone to see what the hell it is. He starts talking about getting his Benchcrafted vises chrome-plated. Oh look, I find a cat video on my phone….

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

Next up: Workbench Personality No. 5: Frank Sinatra

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Woodwright’s School Classes for 2018!

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 7:06am


The 2018 class schedule is now live at The Woodwright’s School website. Roy Underhill has been diligently working on the new calendar of classes for the upcoming year and it is finally complete. Most of the regular classes are back with many new classes added as well. You can check it out here.

As most of you know, If there is a class you are interested in get signed up ASAP, they fill up quickly.


— Will Myers


Filed under: Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

And the Other Stickers

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 6:11am


In addition to the “Fancy Lad Academy of Woodworking & Charcuterie” sticker, the next set of stickers will feature the “Mine!” image (above) by Suzanne Ellison. Suzanne created this image of a crow made of tools using bits from A.J. Roubo’s “l’Art du menuisier.” The original hangs in my office.

The third sticker will be the cover of Roy Underhill’s book “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Jode Thompson.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Stickers, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

New Stickers are Coming

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 6:30pm

Fancy Lad Sticker

My daughter Maddy is sold out of stickers. But three new designs are being printed now. My favorite is the one shown above. If that sicker doesn’t make a bit of sense to you, read this blog entry at my other blog.

Maddy will start selling the stickers once they arrive.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Stickers, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Workbench Personality No. 3: The Cheapskate

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:55pm


Quick editor’s note: These entries on the six kinds of workbench builders are all 100 percent true. I have removed the names of the people involved (except for Todd). Note that I have only love for these nutjobs.

My encounters with The Cheapskate could fill a book on workbenches. This is but one short story.

I receive a fax. On the paper is the message: “Could you call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX please? I have an important question about workbenches.”

Intrigued, I call. My first question: Hey, uh, why the fax?

The Cheapskate: “We’re not allowed to make long-distance calls here at my place of employment. But they didn’t say anything about making long-distance faxes.”

A cold stone grows in my stomach.

The Cheapskate gets down to business: “I want to build a Roubo workbench, but I’m tight on fundage. We’ve got these pallets where I work, and I’m wondering if those will work? I don’t know what the species is – something weird – and the stock is thin and filled with nails and spiral screw things.”

I am certified in counseling The Pallet People. So I know what to do.

Question: What sort of sizes can you get from the pallets?

The Cheapskate: “About 1/2” thick, 4” wide and 48” long.”

Me: So for an 8’-long bench, you will need almost 100 of those pieces just for the benchtop. You will need to de-nail them, flatten them and glue them together in stages that are staggered – probably about 18 to 20 stages – if I remember right from my Pallet People Intervention Manual.

The Cheapskate: “Brilliant! Thanks so much! I’ll do it!”

A few weeks pass; another fax arrives.

The Cheapskate: “I’m working on the benchtop, and I have a technical question for you. How little glue do I need to use to stick these pieces together? I mean, I’m trying to recover all the squeeze-out, but I’ve laminated seven layers so far and used up a 16 oz. bottle of glue. That’s crazy.

“Can I get away with just gluing a little bit at the top and bottom of each board – leaving the middle dry?”

Me: I explain that glue is the cheapest part of any project. (“Not this one!” he interjects. “So far I’ve spent money only on glue!”) Deep breath. OK, I say, if you use this strategy, once you flatten the benchtop a few times the top will delaminate.

There is silence on the phone line. (I’ve won!)

Then he answers: “What if I put a paste of rice and water in the middle instead of glue? I’ve heard that rice glue was used in Japanese cultures. We have a lot of rice.”

I unplug the office fax machine.


The Cheapskate sends me an email: “I need to make a face vise and a tail vise, but all I have on hand is all-thread rod from a neighbor’s fencing job – 32 tpi. Can you help?”

I am seriously considering counseling for myself when a follow-up email arrives. It continues the discussion of the 32 tpi vises.

The Cheapskate: “I’m thinking a quick-release mechanism is the way to go – 32 tpi is really slow. But it’s super precise! So here’s the thing.  I have a friend with a SawStop. He set the thing off when ripping my benchtop for me (some of the glue wasn’t dry). The SawStop cartridge has these strong blue springs in it. He was going to THROW THEM AWAY! That got me thinking: I could use those as a quick-release trigger for my vise – holding a bit of metal against the all-thread.

“Have you ever seen plans for something like this?”

Weeks pass, and I hope The Cheapskate has taken up Animal Husbandry, cheaping out on animal condoms or something. But then I get a phone call.

The Cheapskate: “I see you’re teaching a workbench class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.”

Me: Yup.

The Cheapskate: “I was wondering: Could get a student to take videos of your lectures and send them to me? Not the building part. Just the part where you explain how to make the thing. I don’t really have the fundage to take a class.”

Me: I’m afraid that’s not really fair to the students or the owner of the school. Sorry.

The Cheapskate: “Hey, I totally understand. How about I just come to the class and watch? Is that OK? I won’t build anything. I’ll just be there, like a fly on the wall to listen? That OK?”

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

Next up: Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Workbench Personality No. 2: The Traditionalist

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:48am


The Traditionalist sends me an email. He wants to find a source for his slab workbench top. It needs to be 6” thick, 20” wide and 9’ long. One piece of oak. And rived. Definitely rived. Rived is best. He’s talked to a tree service in his town about riving a tree for him, but they just shook their chainsaws at him.

Hmm, I reply. Have you tried visiting RivedBigSlabs.com? I apologize for my joke. OK, let’s try again: If you want a riven benchtop, you will have to do the work yourself.

He’s considered that, he writes. The problem is that the wedges they sell at his hardware store are either plastic or cast iron. Surely there is an online source for wrought-iron wedges. Wrought iron has grain, like a tree, and is much more suited to cleaving without deforming or breaking.

Also, could I suggest a class for making traditional forged axes in the American pattern? Nothing too late in the game – definitely an axe pattern before 1860. Best before 1830, when the great design malaise of Classicism crept into the work of the craftsman.

The Traditionalist send me a message on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook. A week later he sends me another email. He’d like to buy a large frame saw for ripping his bench legs, but he can’t find anything suitable. Yes, yes, he knows there are people who sell kits for building a saw. He owns those already. But the blade isn’t right. The blade’s teeth have fleam.

Fleam, he explains, doesn’t show up in the historical record until sometime in the mid-19th century, well after the Golden Age of furniture making. If their saws didn’t have fleam, then surely they knew something we didn’t. Fleam must be an unnecessary modern contrivance.

My short reply: Dude, you definitely want fleam, especially in wettish hardwoods.

A week later, The Traditionalist replies: he’s removed the fleam and is having problems. The saw sticks. Do I think they filed sloped gullets between the teeth back then? Perhaps these larger gullets will carry away the waste? Also, he’d like to make some mutton tallow to lubricate the blade but doesn’t know what cut of lamb he should ask for at the butcher to make the tallow. Should it have a lot of fat? Cartilage? Do I have any cites to share on this matter?


The Traditionalist asks me a question during one of his SnapChat stories. One of my teenage daughters sees it and shows it to me on her phone. I decide to wait for his email.

The Traditionalist takes a workbench-building class. On the first day I explain how we’re going to build all the workbench components as a group – one team will work on tops, a second on leg joints, a third on the undercarriage and vises.

During a coffee break on the first morning, The Traditionalist asks if there’s any way he could build his bench during the class without power tools. He explains: Using these machines tends to rob the work of its soul. Everything is too exact. Too perfect. It has lost all its humanity. He wants to stand at a workbench that reflects his own values on craft. It should be beautifully imperfect.

I think about his request. OK, I say. You can build your bench by hand in the afternoons and evenings, and I’ll help you. But in the morning I need you to do your part on the machines so the class doesn’t fall behind. He gladly agrees. I assign him to the Altendorf sliding table saw to crosscut the components to length.

At lunch that day, The Traditionalist sits next to me.

How much, he asks, is an Altendorf?

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


Next up: Workbench Personality No. 3: The Cheapskate

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

The 6 Different Workbench Builders

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:07pm


I’ve built more workbenches than any other woodworking project. I’ve taught more workbench classes than any other type of class. And I’ve written more words about workbenches than I care to remember.

During the last two decades, I’ve encountered six distinct personalities of workbench builders. These are the six little angels (or devils) that sit on my shoulders as I peck away at my laptop on my latest effort: “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding.”

I’d like to introduce you to them. I am quite fond of all six. But all six drive me a bit bonkers at times. Let’s start with “The Engineer.”

Workbench Personality No. 1: The Engineer
It begins with a discussion of the wood selection for the top. The engineer looks over the stock and begins measuring the angles of the annular rings on the end grain.

“This top,” he says, “will never remain flat.”

He’s done the calculations for how much each stick will move tangentially and radially. The conclusion: These pieces of wood cannot be joined into a benchtop that will move homogeneously throughout the yearly humidity changes. He wants all his sticks to be perfectly quartersawn. Or, at the least, all the annular rings should be at nearly the same angler to the true faces of each board.

I attempt to explain how flat a top needs to be for typical planing operations (not very flat), and that it has to be reasonably flat in only certain areas of the benchtop (near the front 12” of the benchtop). I take away his feeler gauges when he isn’t looking.

When cutting the joinery for the base, I implore (beg, really) for all the students to make their tenons fit loosely. The tenons should fall into the mortises – like throwing a hotdog down a hallway. This makes the bench much easier to assemble and faster to build. Drawboring will lock the joints together instead of glue.

The engineer asks: Won’t a loose fit make the joints weaker? And therefore the overall bench?

Me: Not in any meaningful way.

Engineer: Prove it.

He makes his tenons so they are .002” smaller than the mortise opening. (“That is loose” he protests.) When he’s in the bathroom I take a wide chisel and pare slightly the walls of his mortises. When glue-up time comes, he’s amazed that the bench goes together so easily.

Me: The glue is acting like a lubricant.


We’re installing the vises. The engineer isn’t satisfied with the bushings and bearings used on the guide bars. He recommends we overnight some alternative raw materials from MSC that we could mill up the next evening. Also, he has drawn up some sketches of shielding we could construct that would prevent dust from ever landing on the screw mechanism. Perhaps they could run in a sealed oil bath.

After the class adjourns for the day I drive to my hotel to drink a beer and sleep – thrilled that a throng of engineers built my vehicle and made it safe. But I’m also hoping against hope that that The Engineer will discover LSD, marijuana and Ecstasy that evening and is going to show up to class the next day in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops.

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

Next up: Workbench Personality No. 2: The Traditionalist

Filed under: Uncategorized, Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools