On Books

chemise

“What knowledge is this which thieves may steal, mice or moths eat up, fire or water destroy?”

— 13th-century Parisian preacher in a sermon on elaborately bound books.  

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Commemorative Postcards with ‘Virtuoso’

Studley-cover-2(3)We still have 109 postcards left to give away with copies of “Virtuoso” The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley,” which will be published next month.

So if you had given up hope that it was too late to get a postcard, it’s not.

The full-color 4×6 postcards will accompany the first 1,000 copies of “Virtuoso” purchased through Lost Art Press, whether you opted to pick it up at Handworks or have it shipped to you. “Virtuoso” is available with free domestic shipping if ordered before May 13, 2015.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Divided we Share

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George Walker, one of the authors of “By Hand & Eye,” handed me a small box of tools yesterday as the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Cincinnati was winding down.

The tools were intended for the students at my Hand Tool Immersion class this fall at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. While some of the students have their own tools, many will need some of the basics to complete the tool chest we’re building.

I picked through the box of well-cared-for, user-grade tools and thanked George.

He picked up a Brown & Sharpe 12” combination square from the top of the pile that looked like it had seen a lot of years. It had a well-patinated standard head, plus the protractor and center-finding heads.

“When I was an apprentice, this was my square,” he said, smiling a bit.

I know that my face screwed up a bit when I replied: “You’re giving away your first combination square? You sure you want to do that?”

“Sure,” he said. “During the last several years I found I have a lot less need for rulers in my work.”

Touche, George. This fall some lucky beginning woodworker is going to end up with a sweet tool with an even better story behind it.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Grindstone Reforms

cleveland_grinderWhy was the grindstone placed in that obscure corner where no light ever comes? And why was so much care taken to adjust the belt so precisely that conjointly with any pressure of the tool on the stone the belt flies off? In the present instance, by a change in the locality of the shop, and a consequent re-setting of machines, these evils have been done away with, but the places are not a few where such things still exist.

This may seem to some an unimportant subject, but in the opinion of those who work with good tools it is not. I have never owned or managed a large manufacturing concern—nor a small one either—but in a shop employing between 500 and 800 men all the year round, a large proportion of whom consist of cabinet makers, car builders, finishers, some carpenters and pattern makers, we think that a grindstone kept in condition for grinding wood chisels and plane bits would be worth its keeping.
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Effect of the Bicycle on the Lumber Trade

springfield_bicycleThe continuing and growing demand for bicycles has its effect upon the hardwood lumber trade. It is estimated that there will be produced in American factories this year nearly 800,000 bicycles.

Practically all of these are equipped with wood rims. Each wood rim requires 2½ feet board measure, and allowing one-third for waste, that would mean a consumption of 6,000,000 feet, almost exclusively rock elm. This is for the rims alone, to say nothing of the guards and handlebars, but of the latter there is another story.

The consumption of 6,000,000 feet or thereabouts of rock elm does not look very large in a business which is accustomed to deal with hundreds of millions, but when it is remembered that only about 15 per cent of hard maple is available for rim purposes, and that therefore 40,000,000 feet of one of the minor hard woods must be handled over in order to obtain this material, the importance of the bicycle demand in this special way will be recognized.
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Staked Dutch Furniture in Van Vliet’s 1635 ‘Book of Crafts & Trades’

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Whether you realize it or not, we pour a significant amount of the money you send us into our research library. While it might not be as impressive as the mechanic’s library at Winterthur or the American College of the Building Arts, we want to be grounded in the past as we write and edit books.

We use local libraries when we must, but it’s unwise to do research at the University of Cincinnati at 5:30 a.m. in your underwear. And that’s exactly what I was doing this morning as I was trying to shake off some jet lag from my trip to the Northwest. Something led my hand to Jan van Vliet’s “Book of Crafts & Trades” (Early American Industries Association, 1981).

This reprint includes a reappraisal of van Vliet as an artist after many years of academic dismissal or scorn. However, all I could think about this morning were the tables, stools and benches shown in the plates.

Of course, they were practically all staked construction, with the kind of detail only the Dutch can muster. Finding this small cache of amazingly detailed drawings was just what I needed for a couple of the projects in “Furniture of Necessity.”

And so to celebrate, I bought a reprint of a related book from 1568. So, if you wouldn’t mind buying a few extra Lost Art Press T-shirts this week….

— Christopher Schwarz

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Drowning in Pixels and Paper

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Back in January, Chris came to my studio in Oak Park, Illinois to help cull the thousands of images in our Virtuoso archive down to the several hundred-or-so that are featured in the book. It took several days, but at the end of that process we had the scaffolding in place for Wesley Tanner to begin designing the book, and I had a pile of selected photographs (“picks”) to begin preparing for print. Though photographs are standard fare for any print publication, they play a significant role in Virtuoso. I thought I’d provide a behind-the-scenes look at how we approached the final stages of image processing.

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