The History of Wood, Part 17

As many of you know, The History of Wood was my idea of a woodworker version of a comic strip. All of the past ones were written over 20 years ago for a living history newsletter called the Phish Wrap. Almost exactly three years ago I was contacted and asked to write another History of Wood for a memorial copy of the Phish Wrap because a very dear friend who was involved in our group had passed. She was the kindest most loving person I ever knew. Also she was a brilliant woman and had an amazing voice. She and I performed together for many years. While this is not the last History of Wood, this one was written for Anne.

— McDara


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Roorkee No. 24. Same, But Not


One of the things I enjoy about this chair form is that it never gets boring for me (but I don’t think I’ve been bored since age 11). Though this is the 24th Roorkee I’ve built during the last three years, it was still just as fun, thanks to the details I get to experiment with.

I’m on a never-ending quest to improve the hardware kit for this chair, which is featured in “Campaign Furniture,” and this Roorkee shows some of those new bits. I started using knurled brass thumbscrews to hold the arms straps to the back legs (the thumbscrews thread into brass threaded inserts). This allows you to easily take up any slack in the leather arms should you get bovine stretch marks.

I also found a good source for bronze bolts for the chair’s back, plus brass washers and brass nuts with a locking nylon insert. This makes the back bits less likely to loosen up.

Elsewhere, I’ve switched to using antiqued brass roller buckles, which recede into the leather instead of jumping out at you like the bright brass ones I used before.

All the other changes are things that are difficult to notice if you aren’t me. The foot shape is just a little different. And the ends of the tenons are flush with the legs instead of protruding a tad.

But just like the first Roorkee chairs I made, this one sits really well. So it might be time for a beer.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The complete hardware list for this chair is here.

Posted in Campaign Furniture | 6 Comments

Beading Planes? Talk to Caleb


The most infectious hand tool I own is a 3/16” beading plane that has a permanent space in my traveling tool chest. Nearly every woodworker who uses it becomes possessed by the entirely sane desire to own one (or three) for their work.

cj_beading_plane_DSC01093However, finding a functional antique beading plane in the wild is difficult. While they are common planes, they commonly have a lot of problems. The body (also called the stock) is warped. The iron is a mess. The mouth has been opened too far. The wedge doesn’t fit.

And those are for starters.

When I was at Hulls Cove Tool Barn this summer I inspected at least 20 beading planes. None was worth buying.

If you are interested in getting a new beading plane, I’d talk to planemaker Caleb James right quick. He has been working on batches of beading planes in 1/8”, 3/16” and 1/4” sizes – the most useful sizes for furniture-making. I have two planes on order from him myself.

I got to use his planes while at a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event and am totally sold. Caleb is a very talented planemaker (and furniture maker). So place your order now before he gets swamped. His e-mail is

— Christopher Schwarz


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A British Perspective on a Dutch Tool Chest Class Taught by a Loud-mouthed American

With every class there are three types of students.

  1. The type that is there to learn. They learn. They go home happy.
  2. The type that probably should consider a different hobby. (To be honest, that was me during my first woodworking class. Somehow I persevered.)
  3. The type that has no business there because they could easily teach the class.

Ed Sutton is in the third category. Ed runs the blog, and is actively involved on Instagram and Twitter. If you haven’t joined in on Instagram and Twitter, you should consider it. It hasn’t (yet) been overrun by trolls.

(By the way, Lost Art Press is on Instagram and Twitter, as well.)

Anyway, Ed was in my Dutch Tool Chest class in England this month (last month? who am I?) and has finished it up right pretty as we say in Arkansas (about our cousins). Here is his blog entry about the class. And check out his video, which is comprised of stills from the class.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Over There: Roorkee Hardware & Tool Storage


If you don’t check my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine, here are a couple of items you might be interested in.

I’m finishing off two Roorkee chairs this week and am using some different hardware bits that are working out quite well. If you want a preview, check out this entry on my hardware sources for Roorkee chairs.

After I buy a new 1/4” leather punch (the old one is roaming California or Germany or who-knows where), I’ll post some completed photos of the chairs and discuss some of the hardware options I’ve been investigating.


The other thing you might check out is a three-part series on storing hand tools. I have used (and still use) a variety of ways to keep my tools at hand. You might not agree with my perspective, but that’s OK. Because I’m OK and you’re OK. There’s what’s right and there’s what’s right, and never the twain shall meet.

Part 1: Principles 1, 2 & 3
Part 2: Principles 4, 5 & 6
Part 3: Principles 7, 8 and (BONUS!) 9

— Christopher Schwarz


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Plane maintenance


My trusty Lie-Nielsen #60½

The handful of you who witnessed the incident during the Midwest Woodworking wood sale already know that my block plane spontaneously disassembled while I was using it to check out some 8/4 incense cedar, with the various components flying out of my hand and scattering themselves across the concrete floor.

Surprisingly enough, I couldn’t find any signs of damage afterwards. There was a nick in the front adjusting knob, but that may have been there already. Anyway, once I got home I decided that it deserved the full spa treatment after an experience like that.

I disassembled it as far as I could, lightly went over the sole and sides with some 400-grit silicon carbide paper to remove any incipient rust, then cleaned everything with soap and water. After everything was good and dry, I sprayed the bare iron surfaces with Boeshield T-9.* Once that was dry, I wiped it all down with a cotton cloth to remove the excess.


Ready for reassembly

Then it was just a matter of putting all the pieces back together in the correct order, honing the blade, and verifying that I hadn’t screwed something up and it still worked. Speaking of honing, I’ve been experimenting with some freehand honing techniques recently, and while the jury is still out, one thing I’ve decided to permanently add to the regimen is a final stropping. I bought a couple of Genuine Horse Butt strops from Joel Moskowitz, and—as he advises—use the rough side of the leather with some micro-fine stropping compound.


The proof is in the shaving: sugar pine end grain

I suspect that the slight round-over produced by the stropping acts sort of like a micro-bevel, and helps toughen the edge. The net result is that the edge seems to last a bit longer between sharpenings.

–Steve Schafer

*I’ve also used TopCote (now apparently called GlideCote). Boeshield has gotten better reviews with regard to preventing rust; TopCote is less messy to use.


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Look Mom, I Made the Cover


Even though I’ve been writing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years, it’s still a thrill to be on the cover or the front page. This month, a campaign-style bookcase I built for a customer is on the cover of the October 2014 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The folding clamshell bookcase is my own design that is inspired by bookcases I have observed and measured during the last few years in my research for “Campaign Furniture.” The bookcase is in sapele. The finish is garnet shellac.

It’s a really good issue of the magazine, overall. And if you don’t subscribe, here’s where you can remedy that.

In addition to my piece, there’s a great article by Willard Anderson on restoring wooden-bodies bench planes. And Don Williams, the author of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” has plans for a clever sawhorse that folds flat.

Oh, and Peter Follansbee, the author of “Make a Stool from a Tree” is now the Arts & Mysteries columnist. (Congrats to both Peter and the magazine.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Campaign Furniture, Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 13 Comments