‘By Hound & Eye’ is Here. Special Offer Ending

HOUND_coverAWe’ve just received our shipment of “By Hound & Eye” – the cartoon workbook that will open your eyes to the hidden geometry behind excellent furniture.

The shipment is early – way early. We were expecting it in mid-September. And so we are going to end our special pre-publication offer early as well. (Sorry. FYI, when a book is late, we extend the pre-publication offer.)

So if you want a copy of “By Hound & Eye” with a free download of the book, you have until Sept. 4 to order. After that, the free pdf will not be available.

If you ordered a copy of “By Hound & Eye,” it will be packed up Monday and sent via SmartPost, which can take five to seven business days. We’ve also shipped out copies to all our retailers. We don’t know when they’ll add them to their stores, so keep a sharp eye out.

I haven’t seen the physical printed book (I’m in England right now). but I’m very much looking forward to seeing our first softcover workbook.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in By Hound and Eye | 2 Comments

Watch the Trailer for the ‘Virtuoso’ DVD

I’ve just signed off on the final details of our latest DVD, a companion to our book “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of H.O. Studley.”

During our four-year odyssey of documenting the cabinet and workbench, we also shot high-resolution video of the process, including a complete video of us unloading the cabinet.

For the last few months, woodworker and multimedia artist Ben Strano has been assembling all of our footage into a coherent narrative that covers Studley’s life, the construction of the cabinet, the tools and our adventure in documenting it for the book.

The result is a 1 hour 13 minute documentary on the cabinet that features author Don Williams, photographer Narayan Nayar and – most importantly – the cabinet and workbench.

It is a surprisingly engaging documentary, and I say that as a Studley-weary veteran who was there for every frame of the shoot. Strano edited our footage into something that is eminently watchable and features an original soundtrack of period-appropriate piano music (more on that in a future post from Ben).

The DVD will be released on Sept. 25 – the first day of Woodworking in America. We will offer it for pre-publication sales (with free shipping) within the next week or so. And we will also offer it as a streaming video for international customers or those who don’t wish to own a physical DVD.

The DVD will be $20. The streaming video will be $18.

In addition to the documentary, customers who purchase the video will receive a video showing the unloading of the entire cabinet set to music (it will liven up your next party). This footage is nice because it shows a separate still photo of every tool after it is removed from the cabinet.

Check out the short trailer above.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley | 12 Comments

ATC Interview, Part II

Three TablesAuthor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part interview with Chris about the Anarchist’s Tool Chest, which is nearing its fifth anniversary. If you missed the first part of the conversation, you can read it here.

— Brian Clites, your forum moderator and author of thewoodprof.com.

Brian Clites: Good evening Chris. I’ll try to keep my questions brief because we’ve received many thoughtful inquires from other readers. In fact, I think I’ll devote the entire third installment of this conversation to the reader questions.

Christopher Schwarz: Good evening. Glad we’re having this conversation tonight. Better than when I get back from England… in September.

BC: When I first read the book, some of the construction details perplexed me. Many of those questions resolved themselves as I completed my own ATC. But I still wonder about some of your hardware choices – particularly the wheels and the lid stay. If you were rebuilding the chest today, would you still buy your casters from a big-box home improvement store? And the lid stay – the “too twee chain” – did you ever find a better solution to recommend to students?

CS:As to the casters, I love them. Though they are Chinese-made, I have yet to find any domestic-made casters that work as well and are that compact. I found some vintage Nylon casters on eBay that I messed around with, but it’s difficult to recommend something unreliable like that to thousands of readers.

On the lid stay, when I wrote the book my research suggested that most tool chests didn’t use one. And for years I’d had my chest lid propped against the wall – a traditional approach.

But some fellow woodworkers convinced me that some sort of stay was the right thing to do, and I agreed with them. I wish I hadn’t. You don’t need a chain or some sort of mechanism or fancy hinge with a stop. Use the wall. It is the only real stop that stops the lid.

If you work in the middle of warehouse-like space, then check out Jameel Abraham’s stay. It’s the only one I recommend.

BC: If my memory is correct, you constructed the ATC before you’d purchased your first complete “half set” of hollows and rounds. Are moulding planes essential tools? And, even if so, how might readers who don’t have all those planes better utilize that space? 

CS: Actually I had hollows and rounds (and lots of moulding planes) before constructing the chest. They were stored in the front of my crappy copy of Benjamin Seaton’s chest (please don’t ask me about that chest. It hurts). I actually don’t think moulding planes are essential to woodwork. I know that sounds crazy to people who make reproductions, but most furniture forms built since 1900 don’t need moulding planes. The decorative details are the joinery or, at most, chamfers.

I love moulding planes and use them whenever I can. But do you need them to be a jedi woodworker? No.

If you don’t have moulding planes, use that space at the back of the chest for whatever strikes your fancy – chairmaking tools, marquetry tools or some rolls of carving tools.

BC: Speaking of all the tools in the chest, which ones didn’t really need to be in there?  In other words, which tools could the true “naked” woodworker do without? And are there any necessary tools that you, in retrospect, omitted from the text?

CS: You can build a highboy with a knife or (given enough time) erosion, so that’s not really an answerable question. The tools in there are based on 300 years worth of tool inventories (remember the appendix I wrote on this? No one else does). The 1678 list from Joseph Moxon is the shortest list. If you are hard up, use that 1678 list as a starting point. As more tools were invented or improved, then the lists of “required” tools became bigger.

“My list” is not my list. It’s set theory from Moxon to Hayward. I’m not bright enough to come up with a comprehensive list.

BC: Over the years (and most recently in our two-day old forum), I’ve heard lots of talk about building the ATC from “better wood.”  Pine – even gorgeous eastern white pine – has a reputation of being cheap, soft, and proletarian. I’ve seen pictures of ATCs built from mahogany and bird’s eye maple. I’ve heard talk of using padauk and purpleheart.

And I even once argued with you along the lines of “if strength is so important, why not 5/4 white oak?”  You’ve seemed polite but unmoved by such talk. Is pine merely sufficient for the structure of the ATC, or is it also essential to its soul?

CS: If you don’t need to ever move your chest, then build it from whatever you like. But if your chest has to be moved, use pine or basswood or something lightweight. Your life will be so much easier. I can get the chest into my truck by myself, and that’s because it is pine. A dovetailed pine box is more than strong enough. So the argument for more strength leaves me unmoved.

Aesthetically, I like painted pine chests. But that’s because I’ve seen a thousand of those kinds of chests for every purpleheart abomination. Plus, painted chests just make sense. A beat-up chest that is French polished is a pain to repair. A painted chest is easy – more paint.

I don’t have any class-based attachment to the purity of pine. Wood is wood. Use what you have. Here in this area of the country we have so much black walnut that we used to frame houses with it. Is that wrong?

BC: OK. Get ready. This is my last question tonight, but its long. My favorite chapter in The Anarchist’s Tool Chest is “A Tale of Three Tables.” As a reader who had never met anyone in the book, it was the first time that I got a sense of who you were. Gone was my vague image of a clean-shaven youth tightening clamps on his $159 bench. That distant vision replaced by an actual guy, and his family, and their real tribulations in the modern world. (What married couple hasn’t spilled hot dogs and ketchup all over each other on date night?)

In addition to being able to relate to your family’s frustrations with furniture-like objects, I was smitten by your approach of designing the table based on the family’s habits. Narrow enough that you all could join hands and pass food. Short enough that it would not overwhelm you guys. This table was more than anti-junk; it felt destined to become a member of your family.

Looking back five years, I now notice even more inspiring things about that chapter. I see the seeds of the anatomical approach of By Hand and Eye. I feel the same impulse to simplify that animates your forthcoming Furniture of Necessity. And, most astoundingly, I notice the chapter’s sub-section on Josiah Warren’s Cincinnati Time Store. Wow — are you telling me you had  a “ten-year plan” all along?  Stated otherwise, what aspirations and values of the ATC have remained bedrocks in your life?  And has anything (of that level of personal and philosophical importance) changed?

CS: When I was about 12 years old I can remember sitting in my family’s living room and looking at a hand-hammered copper lamp my family had owned for a couple generations. The lamp had been converted from some weird piece of maratime equipment and had an iron hook on it. And a paper shade. I fell in love with that lamp. (My wife HATES it.)

Before I knew crap about building furniture, at that moment I became smitten with the handmade world. Metal, wood, glass and leather.

Since that weird crystal-clear moment I have tried to surround me and my family with things that were made by human hands. Nothing is more beautiful or reassuring to me.

As Lucy and I struggled to build a life for ourselves we had to make compromises by purchasing ugly, awful and sub-functional things – like the first two tables in that chapter. But the goal was always to have the table that we still use today. And the Morris chair where I drink my coffee in the morning. The Welsh chair where I drink a beer every night.

When I was caressing that lamp 35 years ago, did I have a vision for Lost Art Press, mutualism and some sort of mechanical society? No. But I wanted to make things so badly that (at times) it physically hurt.

So where we are headed now is the only logical path for someone who has those ridiculous feelings – plus the energy to never lay down my tools.

As to the final question: Has anything philosophically changed since I wrote the book? No. I’m still the same person. But what has changed is that I know I’m not alone.

Posted in Personal Favorites, The Anarchist's Tool Chest | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Working Elephants and Burmese Carpenters


Earlier this summer Jeff Burks posted an article “Elephants at Work.” The article below presents a additional look at elephants working in the timber industry and the changes already underway in the industry and the working life of Burmese carpenters.  The artwork is by an unknown Burmese artist and is part of a series of watercolors on Burmese life late in the 19th century. The descriptions were written by a missionary, possibly more than one. The series is not dated but was purchased from the original collector in 1897. The collection is from the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Note: the red markings on the carpenters are traditional tattoos.

Sin-mya   Elephants

Elephants used to be numerous in all forests of Burmah; but owing to the spread of civilization, capture and slaughter, the wild elephant is rarely met in Lower Burmah. In Upper Burma, the animal is chiefly used, as in India, for state processions and in military display; but the gangs of foresters from British Burmah make a much more practical use of this creature’s enormous strength.

He is used in hauling trunks of timber to the water-courses preparatory to floating them down the rivers. In Maulmein and Rangoon, Elephants are highly trained and display wonderful sagacity in hauling and stacking timber. They move about carefully among machinery and circular Saws, and seem to calculate with great precision, the weight, position and size of the timber and logs they have to move. They lift with their tusks, grasping by a turn of their trunks over the timber. In pushing, they generally make a pad or cushion of their trunks and push against this with their tusks to prevent the ivory from chipping. An Elephant has been known to lift upon his tusks a log weighing nearly a ton; and some of them can move along logs weighing over three tons.

In height, Elephants vary 5 to 8 cubits i.e. up to 12 feet at the shoulder; and in value, from Rs. 800 to Rs. 3000 according to their strength and training. The female is not much used in timber yards as her tusks are too short to be of use in laying hold of logs and the trunk can get no purchase.

The SIN-U-ZEE, or Elephant-driver sits on the neck of the animal, and partly by his voice, but more by the touch of his feet and knees, guides the huge brute’s movements.

The Elephant never seems in a hurry, and in spite of his size, is really a very delicate creature,soon falling sick and becoming useless if not well cared for and properly fed. His food consists chiefly of Paddy i.e. undressed Rice, Sugarcane, plantains (bananas), young shoots and branches of trees, and grass.



This is the old way of converting logs for building purposes; but steam saw-mills have displaced most of the sturdy sawyers except in districts remote from the mills, or for short inferior timber, which is hardly worth taking to the mill. The SAYAH, or Teacher is above; his TABEH, or Apprentice below.

The saws used to be of native manufacture, but Sheffield and Birmingham have now the field all to themselves. Just under the log is shown the PHEH, or key, for adjusting the teeth of the Saw, and above is the KOON-JAH, or Wedge, to give the Saw free play

Two men in a little over a day, will reduce a round log of 30 feet in length to 16 inches X 15 inches square, for Rs.4/. Working hours are from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M. A circular steam Saw would do the same work in a few minutes but not at much less cost.


Burmese Carpenter

The Burmese word for “Carpenter” is “lek-tha-ma” – handi-craftsman, and to this work Burmans take most naturally. Their forests supply enormous quantities of slendid teak, pyingdo, and pyinma for boat and house building purposes; and the profuse decorations of their religious edifices allow them to display to the fullest extent their imitative powers in carving, etc. The Boat-builders get a fine seasoned log of thin-gan or chyun, split it to the heart by means of fire and wedges; then open it out, and so make the lowest part of the hull, and upon this build the sides in the ordinary way. Hulls of 35 feet made out of a single trunk are common, but there are some as long as 60 feet. The price of a well made boat (Wohn-lay) 40 to 50 feet in length, 8 feet in the beam is Rs. 2000 to Rs. 2500, i.e. £200 to £250. The tools are of European manufacture but fitted in native fashion.

Suzanne Ellison


Posted in Historical Images | 5 Comments

The Nightmare from Which I Didn’t Awake


One of my recurring dreams is that I’m demonstrating during a woodworking class and everything goes wrong. I have the wrong parts on the bench. Nothing fits. Things split. I am missing parts.

I had that same dream today. Problem was, I didn’t wake up.

I’m at David Savage’s woodworking school this week teaching how to make a traveling tool chest to 18 students. Today about lunchtime I showed how to assemble the carcase with hot hide glue.

I knocked it together. The joints were tight enough that I didn’t need clamps. Nice. One of the joints split slightly at the bottom of the skirt. Grrr. That was unexpected (and unwelcome). But I was happy that it would be covered by the chest’s lower skirt.

I stepped away from the chest and one of the students said, “Chris, I think you assembled your chest wrong.”

She was right. My pin boards were rotated 180°. I thought I had checked my cabinetmaker’s triangle, but obviously I hadn’t done a good job.

On one hand, I was relieved that the carcase had gone together despite this major disaster. But that error was what made the corner split. And it caused a couple odd gaps that I had to fix with “the Bishop” (a ball-peen hammer).

So tonight I am drowning my misery in a Sharp’s Doom Bar and thinking it’s a good thing that I’m not teaching next year.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Woodworking Classes | 39 Comments

The Benefits of Mandatory Inactivity


Editor’s note: The following is a special update from Don Williams on his forthcoming To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making. For those of you unfamiliar with Don, he is the mastermind behind our editions of Roubo on marquetry, Roubo on furniture making (forthcoming), Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley, and the Virtuoso DVD (forthcoming). Don is also a former conservator for the Smithsonian Institute. You can read more of his writings on donsbarn.com.


Thanks to my recent bone-crunching encounter with a gravel-laden wheelbarrow, I am essentially recliner-bound for the next month.  Starting this week I get to putter in my studio, provided I sit in my rolling office chair or use a grandma-style walker. But mostly for the past fortnight and the next four weeks, I must sit and undertake isometric exercises.

Fortunately, I am well stocked with productive tasks. The main “benefit” to all this is that I can devote my undivided attention to To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making. A tote bag from Chris, overflowing with printouts for the book, has been sitting next to my desk for many moons, patiently awaiting my return from other endeavors. Chris’s edits are finished, and now I am diligently working through them to either approve or disapprove his revisions. (Yes, I do get to tell him when and where he is wrong, but his comments are usually correct.) I will also add my final set of revisions before releasing the manuscript to the ministrations of copy editing and layout.


It is fun work, actually, as I have not looked through the manuscript carefully since the  H.O. Studley projects went supernova last summer. Looking at Roubo on Furniture Making with fresh eyes has been very enjoyable. Far from being displeased with the text, I continue to marvel at this trove of wisdom from an age long past.

I am also enjoying reviewing the essays that we have curated to accompany Roubo’s original text. In his contribution, Chris reflects on the Roubo bench illustrated in Plate 11. Mike Mascelli’s essay examines historic upholstery methods.

Philippe Lafargue and Michele Pagan, two of my colleagues for the book, also add tremendous insight. Philippe’s essay is about his training as a classical chair maker at the École Boulle. Michele’s piece sheds light onto 18th century bed linens.

The book is chock full of good stuff. Another of my favorite contributions is Jonathan Thornton’s narrative about how he reproduced the wave moulding machine that even Roubo admitted he had never seen.

In addition to these remarkable essays are a dozen or so expositions I’ve authored on the tools and techniques that Roubo describes in the text. After I finish this final round of edits, it should only be another few weeks until I am released from the recliner gulag.

– Donald C. Williams.

Posted in Roubo Translation | Tagged , | 7 Comments

English Arts & Crafts at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum


We are less than five minutes into the tour when David Savage stopped to scold the museum docent.

“You really are doing a poor job of displaying this,” Savage said, pointing to a Morris textile hanging in a shadowy corner. “Really, you can barely see it.”

Savage has a reputation for being a straight talker, both to his students and readers of his excellent blog. And you know what? I had to completely agree with him. The gorgeous and subtle textile looked like a blanket hung off to the side to block a draft.

So began a morning at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum with Savage and a handful of his students. Savage brought them there to view the museum’s excellent Arts & Crafts Movement Galley and discuss the history of the relationship between makers and customers.

I got to tag along, and I’m glad I did. The Cheltenham has a small but quite astonishing collection of pieces I never dreamed I’d see all in two rooms.

A Sidney Barnsley Hayrake table? Check. Frederick Rawlence coffer? Yup. Ernest Gimson 1885 ladderback armchair. Check. And this checklist could go on for several more paragraphs.

Savage lectured at bit in front of several of the pieces, pointing out design or construction details for the students. At the Gimson armchair, Savage discussed the relationship of the width of the slats and the negative space between each as they progressed up the back.


Then he paused for a minute.

“That chair,” he said, “more than anything, made me a furniture maker.”

It’s a surprising statement on its face. Savage’s work is so incredibly forward-looking and technical. Gimson and his Cotswold companions were trying to harness a bit of the past with their work.

But after a bit of reflection, the relationship between the two men seems clear. They were both independent craftsmen who were incredibly concerned with proportion, good lines, proper construction and beauty.

Below are some of the pieces from the exhibit. If you are every near Cheltenham, the museum is well worth a visit.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites | 7 Comments