International Shipping Update

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After an unholy amount of work by John, we are now offering international shipping to Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for all of our products.

Three things to keep in mind:

  1. International shipping is expensive. It will always always be more economical for you to purchase books through our fine international sellers. We are using FedEx as our carrier. The rate you pay is what it costs. It is crazy expensive and there is nothing we can do about it (and still stay in business).
  2. There will be a learning curve for us. International shipping is complex for a small business. We have tried to automate things as much as possible, but there will be bumps in the road for us and customers. Please be patient with us.
  3. The best bet for international customers is to order T-shirts only. The shipping fees are fairly reasonable for shirts. Sending books overseas is nutty expensive.

So if you are international, check out the store. Most importantly, check out the T-shirts.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Products We Sell | 22 Comments

Hide Glue Gives You Happy Endings

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There are many reasons to use hide glue for furniture, and today I was reminded of one of them – hide glue sticks to itself.

This morning I assembled the uppercarriage of this wacky backstool and hit a serious snag. One of the spindles simply would not descend into its mortise enough. So I hit the assembly with a mallet. Then a heavier mallet. Then a hammer.

It would not budge. So I had to pull off the crest rail and remove the frozen spindle. It was locked in to the point that I had to saw it off and drill out the tenon. As always, I make extra spindles in case disaster strikes.

So while I prepped the new spindle, the hide glue on the other tenons and the mortises of the crest rail gelled and set up.

Had I used yellow glue, I would have been cornholed. I would have had to scrape the tenons clean and do something about the glue in the crest rail (I probably would have used a backup crest rail). Or switched to epoxy or any other number of more involved solutions.

But because it was hide glue, I relaxed as I did the repair.

Once the new spindle fit nicely, I reactivated the hide glue on the chair parts by painting on some slightly thinned hot hide glue. The spindle went in perfectly. The crest went on level. And then I finally exhaled.

Tomorrow I’m going to paint this backstool. It sits very nicely. Then I’m going to drink a bunch of beer and film me sitting in it to show you how stable it is.

The things I do for you readers.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. A couple weekends ago I did a two-day demonstration to the Alabama Woodworker’s Guild and, of course, I talked about hide glue. During a lull in my monologue I (jokingly) asked the club members if they wanted to hear my plan for dealing with ISIS.

Some wiseacre in the back piped up, “I’ll bet your plan involves hide glue.”

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 33 Comments

Woodworking by Jack Handy

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I wonder sometimes if the reason old woodworking texts seem frustratingly incomplete to us is because there weren’t many words out there that could help one learn the craft.

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Put another way: Why do most old woodworking texts begin with an exhaustive explanation of geometry and then refuse to tell us how to set up a smoothing plane?

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 33 Comments

You Cannot. You Should Not. You Will Not.

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Peter Follansbee’s brain switches off when someone begins a sentence with, “You should….” Mine does a similar thing when I am told, “You can’t….”

Part of the beauty of modern communication – you can get a message rapidly to the whole world – is also its flaw – soon everyone is repeating that same message. If you repeat something long enough, it will soon become a facsimile of truth. (If you want to test this theory, start reading a lot about wood finishing.)

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In some ways I am grateful that I did not learn woodworking in the Internet age. I did a lot of things that are so incredibly stupid that I have burned the evidence, lest it end up on someone’s blog. I made up joints that probably shouldn’t exist. And I built furniture that by all rights should have exploded by now (it didn’t).

Oh, and I spent the first six years of my life as a newspaper reporter being fed outright lies everyday.

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So I like to test declaratives (three-legged chairs are tippy), assumptions (you need special tools to build chairs), writ (you cannot bend kiln-dried wood) and common practice (drawboring is for timber-framing and old work). Most of the time I find that these ideas are based in some truth, but they have become twisted into holy law.

Woodworking doesn’t have a lot of laws. They are similar to the laws of physics, but not much more.

In other words, wood can be shaped by your mind and your hands, but not by words.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 23 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 43

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Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 6 Comments

A Few Favorite Images from ‘Chairmaker’s Notebook’

I spent the morning organizing and packing up more than 500 hand-drawn illustrations that Peter Galbert made for “Chairmaker’s Notebook.” Even though John and I have spent about 150 hours scanning and adjusting the images, they are still as remarkable and wonderful as the day we opened the box.

As all the pages went back into their proper portfolios, it became obvious that you could almost build a chair using the images alone – they are that detailed.

To give a feel for the imagery in “Chairmaker’s Notebook,” I made a short video of a few of my favorites from the book, set to music by The Black Twig Pickers.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. “Chairmaker’s Notebook” is available for pre-publication ordering in our store with free domestic shipping until March 20, 2015 – the day the book ships from the printer.

Also noteworthy: Lie-Nielsen has agreed to carry the book, as well as the other retailers mentioned earlier: Lee Valley Tools, Tools for Working Wood, Highland Woodworking, Henry Eckert Fine Tools in Australia and Classic Hand Tools in the UK. Links to our retailers can be found here.

And finally: A reader noted that our Vimeo videos (and my Vimeo profile) had become populated by some naughty, naughty content. After some digging, it became obvious that having “The Naked Woodworker” in our feed was attracting the smut.

If you encountered this, I apologize. If you missed seeing it, ditto.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Kiss the Devil on the Tongue

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In 1990, I was fresh out of college, working my first job at The Greenville News and terrified of being fired.

During my first year on the job as reporter I hit a patch where I made a string of minor errors in my stories that required the newspaper to print corrections or clarifications the next day. And it seemed the harder I worked to get things right, the worse things got.

After a couple weeks of this it got to the point where I couldn’t open the second-floor door to the newsroom. I just froze at the top of the beige-painted stairwell and stared at the fire door.

I had no idea what to do next. So I opened the door and resolved to ride it into the dirt.

At this point in the tale, I’m supposed to tell you that things took a turn for better. That I became a stronger person and a better journalist. But that would be bull#$&@. It got worse.

I made an error in a story about a huge oil spill at a golf course. I misspelled the name of the oil pipeline company at least a dozen times in my story. I should have been fired that day. But I suppose my editor took pity on me.

But even that wasn’t the bottom of the well. Hitting bottom was so painful I can’t really talk about the event except with close friends and my wife. And that wretched weekend is where things started to turn around for me as a writer and a journalist.

What does this have to do with woodworking? For me, everything. When I hit a rough patch in a project or a design, I have found that the only way out for me is to drive the car off the cliff and into the sea. I have to find bottom so I can push off that and find air.

I’ve tried other strategies – walking away from a project and then coming back to it with a fresh attitude and new ideas. For me that’s like pressing “pause” on the Betamax. It only prolongs the inevitable.

Today I am looking for the bottom with this design for a backstool. It has to be around here somewhere.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 48 Comments