Caleb James’s Knockdown Nicholson Workbench


Caleb James, a planemaker and chairmaker in Greenville, S.C., built a very cool knockdown Nicholson workbench earlier this year that inspired me to design a version for myself.

His breaks down into fewer pieces than mine, but what is most interesting about Caleb’s design is his face vise that is powered by holdfasts. While I am sure this has been done before, I can’t recall seeing this on any workbench, old or new.

It’s definitely worth checking out all the details on Caleb’s blog.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Workbenches | 1 Comment

Join the Search for a Piano H.O. Studley Built

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In planning and preparing for the upcoming book “Virtuoso” and the accompanying exhibit of H.O. Studley’s magnificent tool cabinet and workbench (May 15-17, 2015), I invariably get the question, “Is it possible to have a piano built by Studley in the exhibit?”

My typical response was, “I have no way to know if any particular Poole Piano was built by Studley.” Studley’s job was to build the “actions” or complex mechanism of levers, pivots, rods and hammers that connect the keys to the strings of the piano (along with all their adjusting devices). Depending on the size of the piano factory, anywhere from two to 50 men, perhaps more, could have this job. That would make every piano essentially anonymous, bearing only the company logo.

Or so I thought until today. While spending a very productive afternoon with Tom Shaw and Randolph Byrd at Charlottesville Piano I learned something that will someday redound to the benefit of my research. According to these fellows it was something of a tradition for “action men” like Studley to sign the side of the first key of the keyboard!

So, if you ever encounter the keyboard from a Poole Piano, check the side of the first key. And if you see the name “Henry O. Studley” emblazoned thereon, please drop me a note.

By the way, Tom’s grandfather was a piano teacher and technician in Boston from 1907 on, so he was a contemporary of Studley, who worked for Poole until 1919.

— Don Williams

Posted in Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley | 2 Comments

SOLD Need a Knockdown Workbench?


In the coming week we’ll post the free SketchUp drawing for the knockdown Nicholson workbench I built earlier this month. But if you need an inexpensive and portable workbench, this one is for sale for $400, cash and carry. Sorry, sold.

I built the bench to prove the design concept, and also we needed a fourth workbench for my coffin-building event this weekend.

I didn’t expect the knockdown bench to be this good – I thought I’d have to tinker with it before I was happy. But this thing is solid and ready to go. No apologies.

The bench is made from Southern yellow pine and weighs about 250 pounds. The top is 22” x 72” and the benchtop is 33” from the floor. The entire bench can be assembled and disassembled with a 9/16” ratchet in less than 10 minutes.

If you are interested in the bench, let me know at The first one to say “I’ll take it” and comes to pick it up gets it. Sorry, I cannot ship this bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Projects, Workbenches | 6 Comments

Step 1, Build Coffins. Step 2…. Step 3, Profit!


This weekend I built three coffins with the help of some friends and wrote a blog post about the experience over at my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Check it out here.

Special thanks to John Hoffman, the other half of Lost Art Press, Dr. Tim Henrickson, Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks, Megan Fitzpatrick of Popular Woodworking, Sean Thomas and Andrew Lunn.

These coffins and the details of their construction will be featured in the forthcoming “Furniture of Necessity” book.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 6 Comments

First Review of ‘The Naked Woodworker’

NW_wrap4_1024x1024Veteran woodworker Jeff Branch has reviewed our new DVD, “The Naked Woodworker” with Mike Siemsen. Jeff has 30 years of woodworking experience but is just entering the world of handwork – so he’s not a babe in the woods.

Be sure to check out the review so you know what to do when your spouse walks in on you watching “The Naked Woodworker.” All I can say is that it’s a good thing we used an Americana soundtrack for the DVD and not smooth wife-swapping jazz.

If you don’t have time to read the review, here’s the conclusion in a nutshell: “A friend once asked me about woodworking: ‘How do I get started; what do I do first?’ I am going to tell him to buy this video.”

The Naked Woodworker” is available in a two-DVD set or for immediate download in our store.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Naked Woodworker DVD | 3 Comments

Jennie Alexander’s Bench Hook


Jennie Alexander requested that I show a photo of her bench hook (aka planing stop) that is made with a bit of saw steel. If you look close you can see the mortise she cut in front of the wooden pillar to prevent someone getting bit by the “toothy critter.”

Earlier this year I visited Jennie in Baltimore to interview her for an upcoming feature article I am writing about her life’s work – green woodworking and chairmaking. We also discussed some upcoming projects between her and Lost Art Press. More on that as it develops.

It is difficult to overstate Jennie’s influence on the craft. “Make a Chair from a Tree” – the first woodworking book published by The Taunton Press – changed the trajectory of many people’s lives, leading them into a lifetime of building things with their hands.


The chair that is the subject of that book is something both ancient and thoroughly modern. It is mixed with equal parts traditional joinery and Jennie’s personal approach to the craft and design. And while I have built many chairs during the last 20 years and sat in hundreds more made by fellow woodworkers, Jennie’s chair is the most perfect and delightful one I have ever encountered.

It is lightweight, strong, incredible comfortable and beautiful to behold.

When you sit in her chair, only one thing flashes in your mind: I must make one of these.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, Personal Favorites | 18 Comments

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


Posted in Personal Favorites | Tagged | 5 Comments