In Defense of the ‘Notched Batten’


When Richard Maguire posted his fantastic entry on using a notched batten to hold work in place on the bench, he was eviscerated by a certain segment of the woodworking populace because Richard said it was an old technique and yet he did not offer up footnotes and cites.

Today I’m going to set the record straight on that.

But first, a little begging. If you haven’t tried using a notched batten, stop reading. Close your laptop and go down to the shop. Make a notched batten and try it out. The notched batten is the difference between needing an end vise and not needing an end vise.

And now back to our regularly scheduled exoneration. Today while editing one of the translated sections for “Roubo on Furniture” (due in early 2015), I came across this passage:

To trim [set right] the planks on their edges, you hold them along the length of the bench with holdfasts, or even when they are too short, you hold them at one end with a holdfast, and the other with a planing stop [figure 17], which is itself held on the workbench with a holdfast, and which you close against the end of the plank with strikes of the mallet. The planing stop is a piece of hard wood, at the end of which is made a triangular notch, in which enters the end of the planks, see figure 19.

Fig17Yup. It is the notched batten, albeit a little shorter than the one currently on my bench. Curious, I went back to the original French to take apart some of the words. Roubo calls the device a le pied de biche, which in modern French comes out as “crowbar.” But more literally is “doe’s foot,” which is much more evocative. Fig. 19, by the way, shows a board being planed on its face, not just its edge.

So now we have a name for it. We have a solid 18th-century account of its use and a drawing.

And so I say to Richard’s critics: Shut it.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Workbenches | 25 Comments

Kaare Klint’s Safari Chair Drawings in the Danish National Art Library


There’s little doubt that Kaare Klint’s “Safari Chair” was directly inspired by Roorkee chairs built during the late Victorian era.

The chairs are so close in dimension that I use the same leather patterns when building an 1898 Roorkee chair or a 1930s Klint chair. As a builder, the only significant differences between the chairs are in the leg turnings and the way the arm straps are attached.

This observation isn’t to denigrate Kaare’s genius as a designer. Only to point out a close connection between campaign furniture and Danish modern.


This weekend I was delighted to receive some images of construction drawings of a Klint chair that were executed in 1933 by Rigmor Andersen, a student of Klint’s and life-long supporter of his work. These ink and pencil drawings are on display at the Danish National Art Library. The photos were taken by woodworker Jared Fortney during a recent visit to the library.

(If you are near Copenhagen, Fortney says you should get there immediately to see the current exhibit on Hans Wegner that features more than 150 Danish chairs.)

The three-view drawing shows a lot of good details. First is that the stretchers are indeed cigar-shaped and 1-1/4” in diameter in the center. Also interesting: The two back pieces are double-tapered. I actually haven’t noticed this on Klint chairs to date. So I’ll try that on my next one.


Because this drawing is scaled, it’s easy to see exactly where the transitions occur in the turnings. And lastly, the seat construction shown in the drawing in one I haven’t encountered before in the wild. The seat material wraps around the front stretcher and is sewn. At the rear, the material wraps around a dowel and is sewn. Then there are four grommets in the seat. Leather belting attaches the grommets to the rear stretcher.


This arrangement saves some material and makes the belting easy to replace. On a fair number of vintage Safari chairs the belting has snapped or rotted.

All of the images in this blog post are as high a resolution as possible from the photos. I also processed and sharpened the images to make the details more readable. So download them and print them out to get the maximum detail.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Campaign Furniture, Historical Images | 2 Comments

Short Notes on Lost Art Press Stuff


Here are a few quick updates on things you might care about.

  1. “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill will ship from the printer on Nov. 10. So we’ll be getting that out in plenty of time for Christmas (whew). As I mentioned yesterday, the “Book of Plates” is a wee bit delayed at the bindery. So if you want that book for Christmas, please place your order as soon as possible.
  2. Sweatshirts are back in stock, except for the XXLs. Those will be in stock next week. As to sizes, take a look at the charts provided by American Apparel for the sweatshirt here. Some people are reporting they fit a bit snug. I haven’t found that to be the case, and I’m on my second washing.
  3. George Walker, one of the authors of “By Hand & Eye” is teaching a class at The Woodworkers Club in Rockville, Md., on Nov. 3-4. And there are a few openings. Want to be a better designer? Talk to George. Details here.
  4. Peter Galbert is depleting the world’s supply of pencils with his new book. If you want a peek at the illustrations, follow him on Instagram here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in By Hand & Eye, Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 7 Comments

Design Under Duress


Building a project in front of an audience is one thing. Designing it and building it on the fly is enough to drive me to drink.

Earlier this year I did a two-day seminar for the Alabama Woodworkers Guild where I designed and built a six-board chest. While I usually do a lot work beforehand for classes, I was in the final stages of editing “Campaign Furniture” and was a bit task-saturated. Here was my prep work for that class: I threw some boards and tools into my truck and drove south.

Luckily, I’ve built a lot of six-board chests, and the resulting piece turned out well. In fact, I like this particular chest so much that I’m using it in “Furniture of Necessity.” As a result, I had to create a SketchUp drawing and cutting list after building the project.

As I was drawing the chest yesterday, I was amused to see that I had fallen into using some typical ratios while designing the project, even though I didn’t use dividers or a tape measure. I just looked, marked and cut. It really was “By Hand & Eye.

The elevation of the case is 3:5, one of my favorite ratios. And the ends of the carcase – minus the legs – are 1:1, which is what I almost always use for my tool chests.

While these ratios make the chest’s appearance simple, they complicate the cutting list. If you have ever developed a cutting list from an antique piece of furniture, you probably asked yourself: “Why did they use these odd measurements?” You can chalk up the weird measurements to wood movement or the metric system, or you can realize that perhaps they weren’t measuring as much as we measure.

Here, for example, is the cutting list for the chest as built:

Six-board Chest Cutting List, Furniture of Necessity

No.    Name        T  x  W  x  L
1    Lid        3/4  x  14-3/4  x  35-1/8
2    Battens    3/4  x  1-5/8  x  14-3/4
2    Front/back    3/4  x  14-1/4  x  33-3/8
2    Ends        3/4  x  14-1/4  x 19-1/4
1    Bottom        3/4  x  12-7/8  x  32-3/8
1    Moulding    5/8  x  1-1/4  x  33-3/8
4    Feet        5/8  x  5  x  7-3/8

Yeah, I know. This cutting list could be simplified to use some rounder numbers. Or you could make this mental leap: There is no difference between hitting 35-1/8” or 35” or 35-7/64”. They are all numbers that are available to us.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 8 Comments

New in the Store: ‘The Book of Plates’

BOP_1000To ensure you can receive “l’Art du menuisier: The Book of Plates” in time for Christmas, we are taking pre-publication orders for this book and offering free domestic shipping until Nov. 19, 2014.

“The Book of Plates” goes on press tomorrow, Oct. 24, but because the book is oversized, the pages have to be trucked to a separate bindery, which is experiencing delays. Because of this unforeseen event, the book will not ship to our warehouse until Nov. 19.

To make sure all Christmas orders go out as quickly as possible, we are now taking orders for the “Book of Plates.” This will give us time to prepare all the shipping labels and custom boxes for the books beforehand. All orders will be shipped in the order they are received.

Pre-publication orders will receive free domestic shipping. After Nov. 19, shipping will increase to approximately $10.

You can place your order here.

If you haven’t heard about the “Book of Plates,” here are the details:

“The Book of Plates” contains every single gorgeous illustration from all of the volumes of André-Jacob Roubo’s “l’Art du Menuisier,” the most important woodworking book of the 18th century. All the plates are printed full size on #100 Mohawk Superfine paper – the best paper available today.

The book itself is 472 pages long and measures 10” wide, 14-1/4” tall and 2” thick – a sizable chunk. It will ship in a custom-made box. The price is $100.

As with all Lost Art Press books, “The Book of Plates” is produced entirely in the United States. It is hardbound, casebound, with sewn signatures and a cloth cover. The book is designed to outlast us all. The plates were scanned from 18th-century originals at the highest resolution available and are printed at a linescreen that will produce the maximum detail possible for the paper and press technology.

“The Book of Plates” is an intoxicating look at 18th-century work, everything from furniture to architectural woodwork, carriage-making, marquetry and garden woodwork. Roubo’s volumes are still the legal standard when it comes to the craft of woodworking in most of the world.

Even if you never buy one of our translations of Roubo’s text, “The Book of Plates” will inspire you (for many years we owned two copies of Roubo with only a passing knowledge of French). And if you read Roubo in the original French, German or one of our English translations, having the full-size plates in front of you makes a huge difference.

In addition to containing all 383 plates from “l’Art du menuisier,” we have included the first English translation of the table of contents for the books, which serve as a guide to the plates. This table of contents is 11 pages long and is a roadmap to the contents of every plate. There also are short essays from Don Williams, our partner in translating the text, and Christopher Schwarz, the publisher.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 5 Comments

Hooded Sweatshirts Back in Stock


Lost Art Press sweatshirts with the hand-lettered logo are back in stock and ready to ship immediately.

These midweight American Apparel sweatshirts are available in sizes small to XXL. The price is $45 (XXLs are $1 more). Some customers have reported the sweatshirts are a bit snug. So before you order, check out this sizing chart for this particular sweatshirt. If in doubt, order one size larger than you typically wear.

In my personal experience, American Apparel sweatshirts loosen up over time, becoming a little more baggy than when new (just like me!).

We’re going to keep this sweatshirt in stock as best we can through the winter months. Order early, however, to avoid delays and disappointment.

See the sweatshirt in the store here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Products We Sell | 4 Comments

An Aumbry for ‘The Furniture of Necessity’


I am finally – finally – getting my butt in gear on “The Furniture of Necessity,” building the projects for my next book.

The most recent project has been this aumbry. What’s an aumbry? If you don’t follow my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine, here’s the shorthand. An aumbry is an early case piece used to store food, books or anything of value.

You might argue that aumbries are only for holding the sacrament in a church, but you’ll have to talk to Victor Chinnery about that. (See also: Misnomers, Bible Boxes.) My interest in the aumbry stems from the fact that the form evolved into many pieces that we use today: bookcases, cupboards, armoires and the lowly kitchen cabinet.

Oh, and aumbries are dang fun to build.


In essence, an aumbry is nailed together and features some gothic tracery on the front. The tracery is not merely decorative. It allows air to circulate inside the carcase.

The piercings were covered with cloth on the inside of the case to keep the bugs away. My guess (and the guess of others) is that the cloth would have been undyed linen, which is made from flax.

This aumbry was made from off-the-rack quartered and rift oak. The finish is boiled linseed oil, a wee bit of varnish and brown wax. The hardware is from blacksmith Peter Ross. If you are going to build one of these for yourself, you might want to drop Peter a line now to get in line for the lock, H-hinges and nails needed to build the piece.

All the hardware is secured by clenched wrought nails. It’s a fun way to install hardware (if you like driving while blindfolded).


I haven’t installed the linen yet; I’m waiting until after a photo shoot next week. While I wait, I’ve been sketching up the drawings for the plate for this project and other plates in “The Furniture of Necessity.” The engraver is going to make these look very nice. So ignore my pixels.

The next project for “The Furniture of Necessity:” Welsh chairs. I can’t wait.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Furniture of Necessity, Projects | 9 Comments