Avoid This Disaster with Hide Glue

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The only time I feel like I’m a Deep South Bible salesman is when I try to convince people of the merits of hide glue. I’ve spent years honing my case for this glue, which is perfectly designed for furniture makers.

Among younger woodworkers, it’s an easy sell. But for people who have been using yellow or white glue for a decade or two, it’s typically hopeless.

And so I present to you these four photos that show one of the glue’s many merits.

Today I’m tidying up the carcase of a tool chest that is bound for a customer in two weeks. And I found an ugly film of glue that has squeezed out under the top skirt. I’d missed it because it had been obscured by the bar of a clamp.

No worries. I get a small bucket filled with the hottest tap water and fetch a toothbrush and a blue surgical rag.

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I apply some of the hot water to the glue and rub it in with the rag. These surgical rags (available via mail order or from friends in the medical profession) don’t leave lint behind and have a very slight abrasive quality. But they don’t scratch the wood.

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After about 30 seconds of rubbing, I switch to the toothbrush to make sure I get all the glue out of the corner. Then I dip the rag in the hot water anew, scrub the affected area and hit it again with the toothbrush. After a couple cycles the glue softens, then dissolves into the rag and the water. I dry off the area and I’m done.

There might still be a little bit of dissolved glue in the grain (which I cannot see), but as hide glue is transparent to most finishes, I’ve never had a problem.

This fix took about two minutes and there was zero chance of my gashing the wood with a scraper, chisel or shoulder plane.

By the way, this fix works on hide glue that is way older than I am.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 47 Comments

New DVD on Bookcases now Available

R1574My latest DVD with Popular Woodworking, “Build a Hand-Crafted Bookcase“ is expected to ship this week. It’s a 126-minute exploration of building the bookcase from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” entirely by hand using surfaced home-center pine.

The DVD begins by throwing out the modern idea of using adjustable shelves and discusses how the design was created and can be modified. From there we explore a bunch of different skills in detail suitable for the dead-nuts beginner (there’s way more detail than in the book).

Topics include:

  1. Surfacing boards with handplanes.
  2. Cutting through-dados with saws, chisel and a router plane.
  3. Making stopped grooves with a chisel and router plane.
  4. Making a tongue-and-groove back.
  5. All about cut nails, forged nails and wire nails.
  6. Why furniture makers should use hide glue.
  7. On using milk paint and why you shouldn’t use the instructions to mix it.

It was a fun DVD to make and we ended up with another bookcase for the house, allowing me to unbox some more woodworking books stored in the basement. The video is available as a DVD or as a download.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Get to Know Charles H. Hayward, Part I

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Editor’s note: In 1981, Charles H. Hayward wrote some short autobiographical pieces about his time as a young woodworker in England before the Great War. To give you a better picture of the man behind our new book, “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years,” we offer some excerpts for you to enjoy.

Looking back over the years perhaps the most outstanding difference between a cabinet-making workshop as I remember it in the years before the war of 1914 and that of today is that, whereas in the early days a man made a piece of furniture from start to finish, today he may carry out just one process in a whole chain of operations. It is, of course, the result, partly of mechanisation and of specialisation. There are a few workshops in which a man may make up perhaps one of an individual piece for a customer, but in general the furniture of today is not only mass-produced but is the product of several specialised operations, one shop cutting parts to size, a second laying veneers, a third cleaning up, another assembling, and so on. To a man of today the day’s work may be one long repetitive process, and he may never see the final outcome.

In the early years of which I speak, there were of course some machines in use, circular saws, bandsaws, planers, spindle moulders, and so on, but mass-production on a grand scale had yet to come, and it was still possible for an individual cabinet-maker to make a living, turning out one or perhaps two or three of an item.

I recall that remarkable district of Shoreditch as it was before 1914 when it was the home of the furniture trade. There were a few factories in which a dozen or so men might be employed in turning out bureaux, tables, or whatever their specialty might be, but for the greater part whole streets of houses were let out, sometimes in individual rooms to cabinet-makers, each self-employed. One man might be making the finest grade cabinet work, serpentine-front sideboards, or oval writing desks, etc., while his neighbour was turning out the cheapest grade flimsy items made from plywood faced with veneer. No one thought there was anything strange about such curiously mixed classes of work, and each man went about his business sublimely indifferent to the works of his neighbours.

Of course, even in those days the necessity for machines to reduce costs had made itself felt, but few men had the room or facilities for installing even a basic machine, and so came the development of machine shops which undertook to do planing, fret-cutting, sawing, spindle moulding, turning, and so on. Thus a cabinet-maker could take his timber or partly prepared parts and have the moulded, rebated, or given whatever treatment was needed.

And even here the curious system often maintained in which, say, a woodturner would hire the use of a lathe for a day or more, and would then earn whatever he could on a piece work basis from regular or chance customers. His clients would bring him their timbers with a drawing or note of whatever was wanted, and bargain for a price.

I recall as a youngster wanting a set of oak turned legs for a table I was making. One of the men from the workshop where I was an apprentice offered to take me to Shoreditch when he had finished work on Saturday at 12:30 pm. He knew the district well, having worked there himself, and we went by tram to Old Street (there were still a few horse-drawn trams in those days, though they were mostly electric). The machine shop was in a dismal back street, and apparently had been the basement of a large house, for we went four or five steps down from the pavement. The turner must have been a master of his craft (as he needed to be because he was far from sober and was in the garrulous stage of drink). He leaned against the stand of his lathe for support as he finished off the legs and entertained us with a recital of his matrimonial difficulties. I have never seen a man work so quickly with gouge and chisel and still turn out a really clean job. When we paid him he made an elaborate bow, gave us his blessing, and picked up the next square of timber for turning, apparently set for an afternoon’s work. Maybe he found it more congenial to remain at work than face further contact with his life companion.

I cannot recall that there seemed to be anything odd about either the district or the people who worked there. Things in those days seemed to produce a species with curiously emphasized characteristics, and working conditions and sanitary arrangements were tolerated to a degree difficult to realise today. I remember being taken to the East End of London a day or two after the Sydney Street Siege to see the site of the street battle, and opposite the blackened building were two women, both drunk, fighting like furies, one with her blouse torn open up the front and both with black eyes and scratched cheeks. Eventually one fell into the gutter, and the last I saw of her was as she was carted off screaming, strapped into a wheeled hand-stretcher by two policemen, one of whom had his helmet knocked off. (These wheeled hand-stretchers, by the way, were used as much for removal of drunks as for use in street accidents).

— Charles H. Hayward

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Loose Ends: Upcoming Lost Art Press Projects

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With “The Anarchist’s Design Book” and “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years” at the printer, John and I are working on stuff to fill out the next five months when we aren’t eating bonbons and getting pedicures.

Here’s a short list of stuff you should see before June – the five-year anniversary of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

  1. We have figured out a way for international customers to buy a book plus a pdf at a discounted price. We’ll have details in the next few weeks.
  2. Starting in February, we are going to begin selling original handmade copperplate prints of the 12 projects in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” Each month we will feature one of the project prints for ordering on the website. Then the artist, Briony Morrow-Cribbs, will make your copperplate print to order and they will be signed and numbered by Briony and myself. Each print will be $125; we’ll offer a different print every month. We’ll also be offering a complete set of the prints in a handmade box. Details to follow.
  3. Visitors to the new Lost Art Press storefront will be able to examine and purchase these copperplate prints during our March 12 open house. Prepare to be impressed.
  4. For the five-year anniversary of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” we’ll be printing special stickers, red T-shirts and a 17” x 22” poster featuring an architectural drawing of the chest. All of these will be available first at our Covington storefront as we work out the supply issues, and then on the website.
  5. “Woodworking in Estonia” is at the top of my editing list right now. We hope to have that at the printer by June.

All of this is possible because I’m not teaching this year. I’ll also be releasing three DVDs through Popular Woodworking that I think you’ll find interesting. Oh, and I’ve started working on my next book. It will be unlike anything published in the last 70 years. Promise.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Lost Art Press Storefront, The Anarchist's Design Book, The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized, Woodworking in Estonia | 22 Comments

Now Available: ‘The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years’

At long last, we are now offering the first two volumes of “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years” for sale in the Lost Art Press store. The books are at the printer now and are expected to ship in March 2016.

If you want to skip the backstory and place your order, click here. There you can order the volumes for $45 each or $80 for the set.

During the last eight years, we have culled, organized, scanned, edited and re-edited these articles to create these two hardbound volumes totaling 888 pages. This is not simply a quick reprint of old magazines. We have reset all of the type. We have scanned and cleaned every image (there are more than 2,000 drawings and photos). The entire project took many hundred hours and a dozen people all over the country.

The first volume is on tools and the second is on techniques. The volumes are organized as follows:

Volume I: Tools
Sharpening
Setting Out Tools & Chisels
Planes
Saws
Boring Tools
Carving
Turning
Veneering & Inlay

Volume II: Techniques
General Techniques
Miscellaneous Tools & Techniques

You can download a complete (and searchable) list of the articles in these two volumes here.

Like all Lost Art Press books, “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years” is produced and printed entirely in the United States. It is printed on smooth acid-free #60 paper and joined with a tough binding that is sewn, affixed with fiber tape and then glued. The pages are covered in dense hardbound covers that are wrapped with cotton cloth.

Below is my introduction to the first volume, which explains the long journey we have traveled to get to this day.

An Introduction to “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years”

There is little doubt that Charles H. Hayward (1898-1998) was the most important workshop writer and editor of the 20th century. Unlike any person before (and perhaps after) him, Hayward was a trained cabinetmaker and extraordinary illustrator, not to mention an excellent designer, writer, editor and photographer.

Add to all that the fact that Hayward was, according to Robert Wearing, a “workaholic,” and you have a good picture as to why we spent almost eight years laboring to bring this book to life to honor his work.

As editor of The Woodworker magazine from 1939 to 1967, Hayward oversaw the transformation of the craft from one that was almost entirely hand-tool based to a time where machines were common, inexpensive and had displaced the handplanes, chisels and backsaws of Hayward’s training and youth.

While Hayward didn’t mind machines (he wrote the book “Light Machines for Woodwork” (Evans Bros. 1952) after all), he never stopped filling the pages of his magazine with information on hand tools, joinery and finishing that is difficult to come by today, even with the Internet to help us.

The early 20th century was an important time in the history of handwork because we finally had automated machines that could turn out well-made woodworking tools at prices that the working class could afford. With these machines, firms such as Stanley and Record flooded the world with tools that allowed almost anyone to be a woodworker. (It was, of course, these automated machines that almost killed hand-tool woodworking, but let’s set that aside for a moment.)

Hayward and his contributors took great pains to teach readers how to use these hand tools, whether it was a jack plane, a Stanley 45, a metallic side-rebate plane or a quirk router. This sort of information was rarely written down, and much of it was lost in decaying magazines or cemeteries.

The book you hold in your hands, the first of several volumes, seeks to reprint a small part of the information Hayward published in The Woodworker during his time as editor in chief. We have tried to organize it into sections on tools, techniques and projects that you will find useful. But most of all we sought to capture the spirit of Hayward’s tenure at The Woodworker without excessive editing or watering down of the text.

As a result, you will find stylistic inconsistencies throughout. Should a tool we call a “straightedge” be written as “straight-edge,” “straightedge” or “straight edge?” All three appear in the text, as do a thousand other inconsistencies that we could have unified into some homogenous whole.

But we didn’t. The English language and the tools it describes are always in flux. And so we reproduced all of the text exactly as it appeared when published. Yes, some of it might seem sexist in the 21st century. Some of the words are spelled oddly. And sometimes simple articles are dropped, as was common at the time (“Take gouge and mark…”).

Like it or not, writing is like that. Writing styles, punctuation and even grammar rules change. So we left the text as-is for you to interpret and enjoy.

That is not to say we had an easy time editing this project.

The genesis of this book occurred before John Hoffman and I formed Lost Art Press. We were frustrated with the books available to teach us the details of handwork. We decided to chase after republishing Robert Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker” and some of Hayward’s classic writings. Getting Wearing’s book revised and republished was easy – Wearing is still alive and he was happy to help.

But Hayward had died in 1998, so things were more difficult than we could have imagined.

In the end, we made a deal with the current owners of The Woodworker magazine to republish the articles in this volume. That was the easy part. Which articles? And how should we present them?

A group of us took on the project on nights and weekends. Megan Fitzpatrick, Phil Hirz and I spent weeks combing through the original texts, compiling the articles that were important and organizing them into something you could read without buying 27 years of rare magazine issues and boiling them down for yourself.

After a couple years of work, Ty Black took on the monumental task of scanning the text and processing all the classic images from the magazines. This process alone took almost a year.

Then we had to double-check all the scanned text and images against the originals. John spent months of his life at the computer comparing the scanned text to the originals from Hayward’s typewriter.

And then it needed to be designed so you could easily digest it. Graphic artists Linda Watts and Meghan Bates both spent months puzzling together all of the text and images into what you have here.

There were many more steps, but I won’t bore you with them. What’s important to know is this: We tried to reproduce faithfully the articles that Hayward wrote and edited. There are stylistic inconsistencies. If you care about these small details, this book is not for you. Return it to us for a full refund.

We hope that you will enjoy “The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years.” But we mostly hope that it will inspire you to pick up the tools and get busy. As Hayward said in 1980:

“I think that books are useful, but I certainly think that, like anything else, the skill to do comes from actually doing. Books can guide you, explain about techniques, tools, materials, – present ideas, steer you away from pit-falls… Books include a great deal of valuable information but it is up to the reader to apply that information.”

We could not agree more. Hayward says his first project was a coffin-shaped bed he built for the family cat as a young boy. And after his eyes had failed him and he could not write, edit or build furniture, he received a visitor in the 1980s who said Hayward was “in his 80s, painting the guttering of his house.”

I hope to go to my ultimate reward in the same way.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Every Chest Deserves Paint

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Every time I build a tool chest for a customer or during a class, someone asks me this question: Why are you going to paint over all those beautiful dovetails?

My answer: Because it’s the best finish for a tool chest.

Historically, most tool chests were painted. I think I’ve seen only a dozen that have avoided the brush. And most of those were shop queens. But that’s not why I paint all my chests. Blindly obeying the historical record isn’t my thing. While the historical record usually wins, I am willing to question it.

So here is my propaganda paper on paint.

  1. It is the most durable of all finishes. Good paint is nearly impervious to UV light. It forms a tough film that readily resists water, abrasion and other shop mishaps.
  2. Unlike other finishes, paint looks better (not worse) after abuse. This is opinion, but a battered, torched and gouged paint finish looks awesome.
  3. It is easily repaired – just add paint. With most modern finishes, repairing damage is difficult. Say you finish your chest with varnish or polyurethane. After a year of hard knocks and water damage it will look like something at a church tag sale. Fixing those clear film finishes is usually difficult. Fixing a paint finish is easy. Just add paint. (Note: Shellac, lacquer and wax are more easily repaired than varnishes, but they also are easily damaged.)
  4. Paint reveals the form. Many modern woodworkers love the look of natural wood. I agree that the wood’s figure can really enhance a piece. But the figure can also be distracting or detrimental to the form. Because of all the dovetails and wild figure, the form of the piece can get lost. Paint reveals the silhouette.
  5. A good paint job isn’t the easy way out. When I use clear finishes, I spray them on. So I can finish a big piece of furniture in a morning. Not so with paint. Choosing to paint a piece adds two or three days to the process. It takes skill and care to do it well.
  6. Expressed joinery isn’t the point. This is another opinion, but when I see lots of exposed dovetail joinery in a piece, I assume the maker is trying to make a point about his or her skill with a saw or a router. So I’ll step back, squint my eyes to blur them and look at the piece again. Are the dovetails the “bread and circuses” of the piece?

It’s your tool chest, so finish it the way you (or your customer) wants. But know that someday, someone is going to take a brush to cover over your crazed, flaked and dented French polish. And that is the moment when your true workmanship will be revealed.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Finishing, The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 28 Comments

If You Can’t Attend the Book-release Party

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Our March 12 book-release party for “The Anarchist’s Design Book” is fully booked. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the new storefront if you are in town.

On March 12, my daughters will be womaning the store from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. while the rest of us are down the street at Braxton Brewing for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. Our store, at 9th and Willard streets, is less than a 10-minute walk from Braxton at 7th and Madison.

Katy and Maddy will have all of our titles there and will be happy to have you look around. We’ll also have some special Covington-only merchandise that celebrates the five-year anniversary of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” A special T-shirt, stickers and other stuff we’re working on now.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 18 Comments