New in the Store: ‘Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!’

CalvinCobb_Jacket6Roy Underhill’s woodworking novel – “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” – is now available for pre-publication ordering in the Lost Art Press store. The book will begin shipping on Nov. 10, and we are offering free shipping on all orders placed before Nov. 29, 2014.

The hardbound book is $29. The ePub version is $14. You can purchase both the hardbound version and the ePub for $36. If you order the ePub, you will receive your download immediately (in other words, you can begin reading the book today).

Go here to order the book. Or read on for more information on this unusual woodworking book.

What is That?
The first time I heard Roy had written a woodworking novel was when I visited his school in Pittsboro, N.C. Stuck to the corkboard above the school’s coffeemaker was a book cover that looked like something from the 1930s. The cover featured a redhead holding a handsaw, plus a dude holding a handplane and an armload of cash.

“What’s that?” I asked Roy.

“That’s the cover to my novel,” he replied.

Now Roy has a reputation for practical jokery. So rather than swallowing that piece of stink bait I just said something like, “Uhh….”

During the next few years of working with Roy, the topic of his novel came up several times, and I eventually asked him, “Is that real?”

He said it was, and that he even had a manuscript to prove it. Under a little duress, he found a battered, marked-up copy in his office. He explained that he had spent several years writing and polishing “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” but had set it aside when he didn’t get much interest from the big publishers.

I asked if I could borrow the manuscript. And that was what launched this multi-year project.

I know it’s a bit crazy to publish a woodworking novel with measured drawings. But this book is a jewel – well-written, fast-paced and simply funny. And with lots of juicy woodworking parts (and, yes, measured drawings for four projects). You can read the book’s plot description in our store, so I won’t repeat it here.

But allow me to answer a few questions that people have asked me about this book.

Will I learn any woodworking techniques?
Maybe? There are a few good descriptions of work in the novel, but the point of the book isn’t to help you cut a better tenon. It’s to entertain you and perhaps think a bit differently about your world.

Is it appropriate for kids?
Let’s just say that I’m not the best parent. I would let my 13-year-old read this book – no problem. I’d say it’s PG-13 for mild language and adult situations. It’s not “Dick & Jane,” nor is it “50 Shades of Wood.” I’d also say that if you are easily offended by stuff on television, then Lost Art Press books and this blog are not written for you.

Measured drawings, really?
Really. They are key to the plot. Really.

Roy writes fiction?
Yes, and very well. And to make sure this book has all the polish of novel from a major publisher, we hired Megan Fitzpatrick, a veritable fiction maven, to edit Roy’s book. We are all very proud of the result.

So if you like a good story, like Roy’s show or just like redheads riding motorcycles, we think you’ll enjoy “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!

And now I have to think of something crazier to do than publishing a woodworking novel….

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! | 18 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 26


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Tool Donations for the Baby Anarchists


Thanks to everyone who has sent tools and money for the 18 new hand-tool woodworkers I’ll be teaching at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking next year.

Your tax-deductible donations have already paid for five (almost six) of the students. And the donated tools are piling up on my workbench in the sunroom. I haven’t counted everything yet (and I still have three boxes to open today). But I can say that we are set on mallets and coping saws – more on that point at a future date.

If you haven’t heard about this heavily discounted course that I’m teaching in the United States and England in 2015, go here. If you are interested in donating tools or money to the effort, you can read about that here.

I have had a lot of questions about the class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in particular because it has not opened for registration yet. Registration for the general public begins on Dec. 1. If you wish to read the course description and get information on registering, fill out the contact form here and opt in for the school’s newsletter. They’ll send you the 2015 schedule and registration information.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Woodworking Classes | 8 Comments

Why I Want ‘The Book of Plates’

Whenever woodworkers come to my house, two things happen. We drink beer and we gaze longingly at my 18th-century copies of A.-J. Roubo’s ‘l’Art du Menuisier.”

I assure you that we keep the beer far away from the books.

I’ve owned many copies of Roubo, from the trade paperbacks all the way up to this beautiful first edition. And it is the detail and size of these original plates that grab your eye and cause you to press your face to the page.

“Why did he draw that tool in that way?” is a common question.

With many old woodworking books, the answer is, “He didn’t draw it that way. Some illustrator did.” But in this case, Roubo himself drew most all of the plates. Nothing is unintentional – I can say this because I know many of these plates by heart and have been editing our upcoming translation, which will be published next year.

With “The Book of Plates,” we wanted to capture that same experience of examining the 18th-century original by giving you the plates at the same size they were drawn in the 1700s. We wanted to offer the extreme detail from the original. Oh, and the paper is the nicest stuff available.

To give you a feel for that experience, I made this short video tour of two plates in the book – one on trying planes and one on measuring tools. The book shown in the video is my first edition – “The Book of Plates” is still on press. I apologize in advance for how many times I say “cool.” I recommend you turn that quirk of mine into a drinking game.

We are now accepting pre-publication orders for “The Book of Plates.” Order soon to ensure delivery by Christmas. The book ships starting Nov. 20, 2014.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 10 Comments

How to Saw/Why you Should Follow David Savage


“I teach people to see using a motorbike analogy. ‘Imagine you are riding a nice powerful bike, the sun is shining and you are driving along this winding country lane your partner is on the back and you are going quite quick but safe. You approach a series of shallow S-bends you flick the bike left and right with no conscious movement of your body. Sawing down a line is like that.’ Hold that saw handle light like a child’s hand, don’t rush the stroke, don’t press down, just do it. Watch yourself uncritically, your body will adjust your stance to achieve your goal if you allow it. The moment we get tense, the second we seek to control, it goes to hell. Like raising a child.”

— David Savage

David’s e-mail newsletter is one of the things I most look forward to in the morning. As a writer, David is willing to take risks and go places I wouldn’t dare. As a woodworker, he kicks all of our butts. Sign up for his newsletter by going to his home page at Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see a box where you can sign up. Highly recommended.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, Saws | 8 Comments

In Defense of the ‘Notched Batten’


When Richard Maguire posted his fantastic entry on using a notched batten to hold work in place on the bench, he was eviscerated by a certain segment of the woodworking populace because Richard said it was an old technique and yet he did not offer up footnotes and cites.

Today I’m going to set the record straight on that.

But first, a little begging. If you haven’t tried using a notched batten, stop reading. Close your laptop and go down to the shop. Make a notched batten and try it out. The notched batten is the difference between needing an end vise and not needing an end vise.

And now back to our regularly scheduled exoneration. Today while editing one of the translated sections for “Roubo on Furniture” (due in early 2015), I came across this passage:

To trim [set right] the planks on their edges, you hold them along the length of the bench with holdfasts, or even when they are too short, you hold them at one end with a holdfast, and the other with a planing stop [figure 17], which is itself held on the workbench with a holdfast, and which you close against the end of the plank with strikes of the mallet. The planing stop is a piece of hard wood, at the end of which is made a triangular notch, in which enters the end of the planks, see figure 19.

Fig17Yup. It is the notched batten, albeit a little shorter than the one currently on my bench. Curious, I went back to the original French to take apart some of the words. Roubo calls the device a le pied de biche, which in modern French comes out as “crowbar.” But more literally is “doe’s foot,” which is much more evocative. Fig. 19, by the way, shows a board being planed on its face, not just its edge.

So now we have a name for it. We have a solid 18th-century account of its use and a drawing.

And so I say to Richard’s critics: Shut it.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Workbenches | 24 Comments

Kaare Klint’s Safari Chair Drawings in the Danish National Art Library


There’s little doubt that Kaare Klint’s “Safari Chair” was directly inspired by Roorkee chairs built during the late Victorian era.

The chairs are so close in dimension that I use the same leather patterns when building an 1898 Roorkee chair or a 1930s Klint chair. As a builder, the only significant differences between the chairs are in the leg turnings and the way the arm straps are attached.

This observation isn’t to denigrate Kaare’s genius as a designer. Only to point out a close connection between campaign furniture and Danish modern.


This weekend I was delighted to receive some images of construction drawings of a Klint chair that were executed in 1933 by Rigmor Andersen, a student of Klint’s and life-long supporter of his work. These ink and pencil drawings are on display at the Danish National Art Library. The photos were taken by woodworker Jared Fortney during a recent visit to the library.

(If you are near Copenhagen, Fortney says you should get there immediately to see the current exhibit on Hans Wegner that features more than 150 Danish chairs.)

The three-view drawing shows a lot of good details. First is that the stretchers are indeed cigar-shaped and 1-1/4” in diameter in the center. Also interesting: The two back pieces are double-tapered. I actually haven’t noticed this on Klint chairs to date. So I’ll try that on my next one.


Because this drawing is scaled, it’s easy to see exactly where the transitions occur in the turnings. And lastly, the seat construction shown in the drawing in one I haven’t encountered before in the wild. The seat material wraps around the front stretcher and is sewn. At the rear, the material wraps around a dowel and is sewn. Then there are four grommets in the seat. Leather belting attaches the grommets to the rear stretcher.


This arrangement saves some material and makes the belting easy to replace. On a fair number of vintage Safari chairs the belting has snapped or rotted.

All of the images in this blog post are as high a resolution as possible from the photos. I also processed and sharpened the images to make the details more readable. So download them and print them out to get the maximum detail.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Campaign Furniture, Historical Images | 2 Comments