On the Importance of the Studley Tool Chest

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During the last five years, I’ve had more than my share of intimate contact with the famous H.O. Studley tool cabinet. And so wherever I travel I get asked this question: “What’s it like?”

So I lie.

“I hate it,” I say. And then I talk about how stressful it is to unload and load all the 245 tools from such a precious artifact without dropping them or harming the chest.

The truth is, my encounters with the chest have changed both me and my woodworking. (And I’m sure that Don Williams, the book’s author and team leader, and Narayan Nayar, the photographer, would concur.)

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The chest mocks us. It is a piece of craftsmanship and design that is virtually faultless, no matter how close you get to it. It’s an experience you don’t get from looking at the poster of the chest or a picture on a screen. It is something that is best experienced in person.

If you start with your eye about 2” from the chest you can see that the interior surfaces are exquisite. The inlay is seamless. The grain has no defects.

As you step back, you can see how each grouping of tools is organized. They are stepped and scaled in an orderly fashion, some of them looking a bit like a military formation.

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You step back again. And again. Until it is at the back of the room. At no point does it become imperfect.

We are finishing up our shooting and filming of the chest (and Studley’s workbench) this week for the forthcoming book “Virtuoso.” I promise the book will be incredible on every level we can manage. But what I also recommend that you – as a craftsman – make a pilgrimage to see the chest in person in May 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Details at www.studleytoolchestexhibit.com/.

It will humble you, as it has me. And it will inspire you to be a better woodworker or toolmaker. The only reason not to go is if you are already a better woodworker than H.O. Studley.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley | 21 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 24

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My Final Visit to Studley’s Chest (And Your First One)

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In about 90 minutes I leave the real world to enter the shadowy territory of H.O. Studley. His tool cabinet and workbench are under the kind curation of a man who wishes to remain anonymous. And so we turn off all the location services on our smart devices.

During this final visit, we will shoot a video about the chest, including a time-lapse film of us unloading it. And we will finish all the extra still photos we need for Don Williams’ forthcoming book, “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of H.O. Studley.”

Don is almost finished with his manuscript. I have read his first draft, and Don has uncovered a lot of information on Studley himself and the interesting journey of the chest from Quincy, Mass., to the wall of a collector’s Batcave.

The photos, by Narayan Nayar, are of museum quality.

The book will be released in March 2015, just in time for the (perhaps final) public exhibit of the chest and workbench that coincides with the Handworks event in the Amana Colonies, May 15-16, 2015. Don’t miss Handworks. Seriously. You will kick yourself if you do. Nothing else embodies the ideas of hand-tool woodworking that we hold dear at Lost Art Press. It’s not a commercial thing. There are no guys selling router bits. No Sham-wows. Just lots of people who love handwork having a good time. Admission is free.

The Studley exhibit will be held at the Masonic lodge in nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The exhibit is being funded entirely out of Don Williams’ pocket with some volunteer help. There is no corporate or museum money behind him. This is, frankly, a huge risk on Don’s part.

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When Don visited here recently I asked him about the exhibit and if he would cancel it if he didn’t sell enough tickets. He replied, “No.” After I asked the obvious follow-up, “Why?” here’s the answer I received.

“Because it has to be done. This might be the only chance for people to ever see these objects. And,” he added, ”I said that I would do it.”

If you are thinking about attending or just want to support this kind of quixotic endeavor, buy your tickets at http://www.studleytoolchestexhibit.com/. Tickets are only $25.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley | 8 Comments

More Sweatshirts on the Way

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The new Lost Art Press sweatshirts are selling faster than we anticipated. We are sold out of size “medium” and are almost out of XXL. But don’t fear, small one (or very large one), we are ordering more today.

We will keep this item in stock through all the cold months in 2014 and 2015.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Products We Sell | 14 Comments

Moonlighting with the Screen Printer (Sweatshirts are in the Store)

So guess what I did today?

Today I was in the shop of Kelly Robbins who does screen printing and embroidery. Kelly, his wife and parents have been running Robbins Apparel since 1997, with Kelly working full-time for the last five years. As you can see, it is a small shop that requires a good amount of hand work. Today I was “catching” the garments after they were heated to cure the ink, which was a hot job!

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Kelly starts with a poly material that he puts into a machine that places the art image onto it. I’m not really sure how it happens, but after spraying it with water the image becomes visible. This “screen” is now ready to be inserted into the print machine, which squeegees ink onto the garment.

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In order to get the art to line up exactly with the zipper, Kelly thought like a woodworker. He put the image onto the carrier and then when he placed the hoodie onto the carrier he only had to unzip it a bit to see where the image was going to be placed.

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And for the final very hot product…

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Hooded sweatshirts are now live on the site. Get yours here.

— John

Posted in Products We Sell | 6 Comments

4 Workbench Classes, 3 Continents

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I’ll never know the pain of childbearing, but I think I know the next-closest thing: bench building. That why I include a full bottle of ibuprofen on the list of tools needed for my bench-building classes.

Students think I’m kidding about the pills, but by mid-week they are hitting my personal bottle of painkillers like a candy bowl at the front desk of a Mars bar factory.

For 2015, I am offering four bench-building classes on three continents: Australia, North America and England. I don’t know how many more of bench classes I have in me, so take that as fair warning. Here are details:

Build a Roubo Workbench at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, Feb. 23-27, 2015

The owner of the Melbourne, Australia, school scored a load of sweet yellow pine benchtops that are already glued up. We’re going to transform these into some fantastic French-style workbenches with the traditional joint: a sliding dovetail and through-tenon at each corner.

As always, you can add your own vises to build the bench of your dreams. That’s one of the huge advantages of the open architecture of the French format.

For this Australia class I’ll also bring a stomach pump in addition to my painkillers. Aussies drink like Germans.

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Knockdown Nicholson at The Woodworker’s Club in Rockville, Md., May 4-8, 2015

Knockdown Nicholson at The New English Workshop, July 20-24, 2015

The knockdown Nicholson workbench is a new design this year (check out details here). I’ve made many Nicholson-style workbenches, but this one is by far the best, easiest to build and knocks down in less than five minutes.

This bench is suited for anyone who doesn’t have a dedicated shop space, or who might need to move their bench on occasion. However, even if you don’t fit in those categories, this bench offers no downsides. Unlike other knockdown benches I’ve worked on, this one has no compromises. It is as solid as a French bench.

The version we’re building has no screw-feed vises, but you can bring whatever you like and we’ll add them to your bench. A leg vises would be ideal for the face vise position. I personally wouldn’t add a tail vise to this bench – I work just fine without one – but this bench can accept several tail vises as well.

While I am very much looking forward to returning to Royal Leamington Spa and Warwickshire College for this course, I am not sure how the local pubs feel about our triumphant return.

Build a French Bench at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Aug. 10-14, 2015
Using sweet, sweet ash from Horizon Wood Products, we’ll be building full-on Roubo-style workbenches in the well-equipped shop at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. And we will most certainly have a pizza-eating contest that week, courtesy of Frank Pepe’s.

As mentioned above, you can add whatever vises you like to this bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. There is one more workbench class scheduled for 2015: The French Oak Roubo Project. While that class is full, get on the waiting list if you want to do it. Spots may yet open up.

Posted in Woodworking Classes, Workbenches | 14 Comments

How to Stack and Preserve Wood, Plate 4

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Although the wood which one chooses has by itself all the required qualities, it is still necessary to watch out for its preservation. Since wood for woodworking should not be used except very dry, it is of the final consequence to woodworkers to always be well provisioned with wood of all types, which they keep and dry in their yard before using them.

They should also take care that their yard not be placed too low, nor planted with grass, because the falling and gathering of leaves will prevent the run off of water, which could ruin the wood pile coverings and also the base of a woodpile.

The terrain occupied by the woodpiles should be higher than the rest of the yard, so that water does not collect there. It must be well set up and leveled, after which you put on top some pieces of wood side A, which we call chantier [or beam/timber spacers] which has a length the same as the width of the pile – ordinarily 4 feet, although sometimes they make them wider. You make them the greatest thickness possible, so that they make the pile taller with the most possible spaces between the boards.

You put the spacers distant from each other about 3 feet. Their topsides should be squared and straight, after which you pile the wood on top, after having taken the precaution of putting the worst planks on the lowest level to save the better woods from ground moisture.

— Translation from the forthcoming “Roubo on Furniture.” Colored plate by Suzanne Ellison.

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 8 Comments