Even (Some) of the History is Correct!

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Today, we got Jode Thompson’s final cover art for “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! A Novel with Measured Drawings” (thank you Jode – it looks awesome!).

But because I’m too much of a tease to share it with you – yet – I thought perhaps you’d like to look at other bad-ass women on motorcycles in the 19teens-’30s, thanks to Suzanne Ellison, who sent me the link.

Above is Sally Halterman, the first woman to have a motorcycle license in Washington, D.C. (Impressive and all…but she’s no Verdie – try riding a bike with a wooden leg, Sally! That said, nice boots.)

Below, the heels win. (It’s a 1933 shot of a woman trying out a Douglas on display.)

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And here’s a woman who really could have been Verdie in 1917 – she’s a WWI dispatch rider (note the fellow in the sidecar hitching a ride). Verdie lost her leg riding a motorcycle during that war.

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For a look at a wide range of women, motorcycles and women with dogs on motorcycles (plus a bonus priest and a bathing suit shot or two), click here.

And now I must get back to writing cover copy you simply can’t resist for “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!”

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. Bonus shot from 1973…about which I’ll say nothing. Because they scare me, and could very well still be alive.

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p.p.s. And here’s an interesting read about Britain’s women dispatch riders in WWII (again, thank you Suzanne).

Posted in Books in the Works, Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! | 7 Comments

From (Fictional) Workshop to Trump Hotel


The picture above is the clock tower of the Old Post Office building at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and 12th Street in Washington, D.C. Calvin Cobb’s workshop is behind the clock faces – so in his shop, he says, time runs backward.

But in reality, time marches relentlessly forward, and for the Old Post Office, that means stepping into new life as a hotel. Donald Trump is in the midst of developing the former government building into a luxury hotel, slated to open in 2016. It certainly beats razing the 1899 Richardsonian Romanesque structure.

And I suppose Calvin would be pleased – presumably, there is actual woodworking going on inside the walls of his old workshop as workers ready the hotel space for visitors.

The building, designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, was D.C.’s main post office for only 15 years; in 1914, the postal service relocated to a larger building near Union Station. What then became known as the “old” Post office was saved during the 1920s/1930s redevelopment of Federal Triangle only because there weren’t enough funds to tear it down (or perhaps because enough people realized how politically inexpedient it would be to spend money razing a perfectly sound building in the midst of the Great Depression).

In the early 1970s, there was another attempt to tear it down, but it was quickly (in political time) squelched by an ardent group of preservationists; in 1973, the Old Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a multi-stage renovation project commenced that resulted in a mix of federal office space and three retail levels (and eventual addition of an annex).

But it wasn’t successful. By 2000, the vacancy rate on the retail space was 80 percent, the annex was closed and there was no income.

Since then, there have been several efforts to renovate the space, including the “Old Post Office Building Redevelopment Act of 2008″ (H.R. 5001), which eventually led to movement (following a lot of maneuvering by various agencies including the General Services Administration (GSA)…which is too complicated to boil down into just a few sentences).

In early 2012, the GSA announced it has chosen the Trump Organization as the potential redeveloper for plans that included a conference center, restaurants and 250+ hotel rooms, as well as a small museum dedicated to the history of the building, and the agreement to preserve the historic integrity of the building. And the National Park Service retains control over the clock tower and observation deck.

So if all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to visit Calvin’s workshop when the space reopens – whether or not you can afford the room rates.

But you’ll be able to read “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! A Novel with Measured Drawings” well before the Old Post Office Building is once again open to the public.

We’re 99 percent there, and will have everything off to the printer within three weeks. Linda Watts is making the final corrections to the measured drawings and finishing up design work on the end papers. Illustrator Jode Thompson is putting the finishing touches on the drawing that will become the dust jacket, Roy is working on copy for the back of the dust jacket, and Chris and I are writing copy for the dust-jacket flaps.

By tomorrow evening, I should be able to export a soup-to-nuts PDF of the project for final review, then it’s off to the printer and then to you.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Posted in Books in the Works, Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

More Unprofitable Shop Posters!


Because our poster experiment last week was so unsuccesful (I think six people sent me photos of their Hayward shop posters), we’ve decided to do it again – this time with original images from my collection that were already scanned and cleaned up for other projects.

Both images are French. One is Juliette Caron, who is said to be the first female “compagnon” (that’s French for “woodworking jedi”). She was so notable that there was a line of postcards showing her at work – I have two of these postcards and this is my favorite.



The other image is of a beautiful French atelier – I love the benches and the bowsaws hanging above each student’s area.


Both have been optimized to be printed at 18” x 24” at 300 dpi and are about 10 mb each. One reader noted that you can get these printed in black and white for only $2 at Staples. Dang. Color is $13.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Downloads, Personal Favorites | 18 Comments

Discount Classes for the New Hand-tool Anarchist


During the last 10 years, my students have gotten younger and younger each year. When I started teaching, most students were retired and well-off. These days, most of my students are younger than me – including many in their late teens and 20s.

Many of them make great sacrifices when it comes to taking classes in handwork. Most can barely afford the tuition. Many have young families to support. And a fair number are scraping by with poor tools.

I remember what that was like. I took my first woodworking class when I was 24, and the only way I could swing it was because the class was at a publicly funded university.

For 2015, I am teaching two classes  – one in the United States and one in England – that are aimed at helping young adults get started in handwork. I have worked with two schools – the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the New English Workshop – to produce a special (almost crazy) class for new woodworkers. I have slashed my teaching rate to almost nothing; and the schools have slashed the tuition. So these classes will be a small fraction of a normal one-week class. We are also arranging for accommodations that will be free or almost free – camping in some cases. And we are going to attempt to cook communally as a class to save money.


But the money and the “stinky hippie” part of the class is only a small part of the story. This will be a class that will begin when you register and commit to the week. We’re going to work with all of the students before class begins to help them build a basic tool kit made up of high-quality vintage tools that we will tune up during the class. After tuning up the tools, we’ll learn to use them to process stock (we are attempting to get the wood donated), and then we will build a simple and stout tool chest.

I call it the Tool Chest for New Anarchists. It will be nailed together much like a six-board chest, but is based on historical examples that have survived more than 200 years.

So when the class ends, you will have a chest that is full of sharp tools that you know how to use to make all the basic woodworking joints.

And you will likely need a shower. Or at least a delousing.

The class in England will be July 13-20, 2015. The Marc Adams class will be Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2015. I’m telling you this now so you can get your ducks in a row. Ask for time off. Prepare an opportune disease. Or whatever it takes to allow you to attend. Registration for the class in England is already open and costs £95.00 for the whole week (go here for details and to register). I don’t have final details on the cost for the Marc Adams class yet.

I’ve posted the day-by-day activities below.

Note: You can be any age to take these classes, but be prepared for long days, odd smells and puerile behavior (mostly by me).

— Christopher Schwarz

Registration and Building your Tool Kit.
Once you are registered and have committed to the class, we’ll help you build an inexpensive tool kit before you arrive. Some of the tools will be vintage (we’ll help you find them). Some will be from the home center. All of them will be good enough to last you a lifetime without upgrading.

Day 1: Tool Restoration and Sharpening
We’ll fix up the vintage tools in your kit and sharpen everything using inexpensive sharpening media. By the end of the day your tools will be ready to work.

Day 2. Wood and Handwork
You need to know wood intimately in order to work it with hand tools. This day will be a crash course in understanding wood from a joiner’s perspective – stuff you will never find in books. At the end of the day we’ll use that knowledge to begin processing the rough stock for a tool chest.

Day 3. Basic Joints
We’ll begin building a tool chest using rabbets, dados and nails – when properly made these chests can last 200 years. You’ll learn about fasteners and how to use them properly. How to understand and use glue – it’s a complex topic. And you’ll learn to use a smoothing plane so you’ll never have to buy sandpaper if you don’t want to.

Day 4. Details and Finishes
We’ll add details to the tool chest using curves, bevels and mouldings – all made with simple hand tools. You’ll learn to install hinges and locks. And to apply a simple oil-varnish blend finish that we’ll make on-site. This beautiful finish requires no spray equipment or expensive brushes. Just a rag, a Mason jar and a paper bag.

Day 5. Advanced Joinery
We’ll begin cutting dovetails so you can have sliding tills in your chest. And we’ll cut a mortise-and-tenon joint to make you a wooden try square. At the end of the day, you’ll load up your razor-sharp tools into your finished tool chest and head back home ready to build almost any piece of basic casework.

Posted in Woodworking Classes | 49 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 21


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This Weekend: Escape to Canada


After looking through about 100 pages of notes this week, I asked myself: “Does anyone really want to listen me talk about nails?”

I mean, who else gets giddy when reading through a 30-page manuscript detailing the British military’s nail needs in 1813? (Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1976), pp. 88-118.)

So I’m also researching fart jokes to insert into that lecture.


On Friday I leave for Perth, Ontario, to speak at the first-ever Woodworks Conference – a nicely organized event that combines a lot of learning with some nice furniture and some quality tool vendors (Lee Valley, Lie-Nielsen, Konrad Sauer and (drool coming) Douglas S. Orr, a dealer in vintage tools.

Thanks to Delta Airlines, I am not flying to Canada. This is good news because John Hoffman is going to come along for the drive. And I’ll get to bring a few pieces of campaign furniture for people to fondle.

Lost Art Press won’t have a booth, and we won’t be able to bring books or T-shirts. We’ll be hanging out like the rest of the attendees.

I’m actually quite excited about my nail lecture – thanks to some tips from Chris Howe in Australia I’ve been researching a forgotten form of nail that is technologically more advanced than anything we use today. Tonight I got a few more clues about the way the nail is made from blacksmith Peter Ross.


In addition to my lecture on nails, I’m also giving a talk on “double irons” – aka “cap irons,” “back irons” or “chipbreakers.”

While a few people on the forums have burned this topic in effigy, I have found that a reasoned, historical-based discussing of this 18th-century device helps students immensely. Most woodworkers don’t have the patience to wade into the nasty discussions about double irons to extract the useful bits.

This lecture is about the useful bits. (And why Stanley needs to spanked for almost ruining the technology for us.)

So come to Perth and have a beer with your American friends (that’s John and me).

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites | 23 Comments

FAQ: ‘l’Art du menuisier: The Book of Plates’


No matter how much we write about a new book, there are always additional questions we didn’t think of at first. Here are some of the common questions I am fielding about “l’Art du menuisier: The Book of Plates.”

Question: If I buy all the deluxe editions of the André-Jacob Roubo translations, will I then have all the plates in full size? In other words, do I need to buy “The Book of Plates?”

Answer: While we hope to eventually translate every word of Roubo, that will take many more years to accomplish, and I can offer no guarantees that it will be possible. “The Book of Plates” is a way to have all 383 plates in one quality binding.

Question: How many are you printing? Will you sell out?

Answer: To keep the price reasonable, we are printing several thousand copies of “The Book of Plates.” Unlike the deluxe editions of Roubo, this book is not a limited edition. We plan to keep “The Book of Plates” in print for many years. So if you cannot afford it now, it will be available in the future. No rush.

Question: Will there be a deluxe edition of “The Book of Plates?” Will this book match my deluxe edition?

Answer: There will not be a deluxe edition of “The Book of Plates.” This book is not designed to “match” either the standard or deluxe editions of Roubo now in print. It is larger than the standard edition and smaller than the deluxe. But all the books were designed by the same person, Wesley Tanner. So they all look like part of a family.

Question: So I’m confused about what plates are in what book. Will I have all the plates if I buy “Roubo on Marquetry” and “Roubo on Furniture?”

Answer: Here’s the shortest answer I can offer without a Venn diagram: “Roubo on Marquetry” contains 34 plates. “Roubo on Furniture” (due early 2015) will contain about 84 plates. So the “Book of Plates” will have more than 260 plates that are not in those two books. These 260-plus plates include lots of good stuff on interior woodwork, carriage-making, garden woodwork and some miscellaneous stuff on geometry.

Question: Will you ship “The Book of Plates” internationally?

Answer: This book will be offered to all of our retailers, including the overseas sellers. So we hope it will be available worldwide through them. As retailers officially sign on, we will announce it here on the blog.

Question: Will this book be signed by the author?

Answer: We don’t have an Ouija board that works that well. Sorry.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 15 Comments