‘Workbenches Revised’ – A Special Offer for Customers

front_cover_T9086Next month, F+W will release the revised edition of my first book: “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” I still have a great affection for this book from 2007 for several reasons.

  1. It was my first book and took three years of my life to write and design.
  2. It is still an excellent reference for anyone looking to build a first workbench.
  3. It was produced and printed in the United States.
  4. I still agree with (almost) every word of it (except an error I made in a caption).

And while I quite like this book, it hasn’t done much to help our household during the last eight years. Though it sold quite well, I was paid a flat fee for the writing and have received no royalties since it was released in 2007. I’m not bitter about it in the least. That was the deal they offered me, and I gladly accepted it.

However, all that changes with the release of the revised edition next month. I spent the first part of 2015 revising every chapter and adding material throughout – including two additional chapters on new versions of French and English workbenches – with complete construction drawings from Louis Bois. The book is now longer, stronger and I’ll receive royalties on every copy sold.

Lost Art Press has committed to carry 500 copies of the book, which is being printed in the United States to high standards. All 500 copies that we are selling will be autographed personally (not via bookplate) and will be shipped domestically via USPS with free shipping. The cost is $34.99 and can be pre-ordered through our store. The book should ship sometime in late October 2015.

You can place an order for one of these books from our site here. The price is $34.99.

Should you buy this book if you already have the first edition and a great workbench? Probably not – the core ideas are the same, though sections of the book have been expanded greatly to cover advancements in workholding. But if you like to support the work we do at Lost Art Press or know someone who could benefit from a book on workbenches, then we are happy to send you one.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Workbenches | 42 Comments

A Scrubbed Finish

A top with a scrubbed finish at the Cheltenham museum.

A top with a scrubbed finish at the Cheltenham museum.

Editor’s note: Search around for information on how to achieve a “scrubbed finish” and you will encounter a comedy of chemistry. People try to achieve this with all manner of stains and caustic chemicals. A real scrubbed finish is simply bare wood that has been cleaned and cleaned – getting better over time. Alan Peters explains:

At times this (a flawless finish) disturbs me, for the surface that some admire and some craftsmen strive to satisfy has little to distinguish it from a piece of plastic laminate; for that is precisely what the surface has become, after the grain has been filled and endless coats of plastic film have been applied and painstakingly rubbed down.

Natural wood finishes, such as oil and wax, are very susceptible to marking in their early stages and do require care and attention. Frankly, this dilemma of finding wood finishes that leave the material looking like wood, resist marking, and improve rather than deteriorate with age, has dogged me and often defeated me these past 20 years….

For example, a scrubbed finish to an oak dining table, so favoured by the Cotswold School, is a beautiful surface, immensely practical in use, improving with age and developing a wonderful surface texture that would look fine in many situations, especially in the older farmhouse or cottage-style dwelling, and for most of the time it requires no more than a wipe over with a damp cloth after a meal.

However, it is also virtually colourless, just a bland uniform silvery grey. It has none of the colour variations of say a rosewood veneer or an oiled elm surface, and it is this richness of colour and grain that many of us find attractive about wood, so one has to move in this instance to a finish that heightens and preserves these characteristics….

Scrubbed and Washed Finishes

Ten years ago on moving to Devon I needed to make a pine kitchen/dining table quickly for our own use. Today, it is a beautiful golden colour similar to old stripped pine with not a bruise and hardly a scratch to be seen. We do not use a table cloth, only place mats, and we have never treated it at all gently. Yet, all that it has received in treatment or finish is a regular wipe over with a damp cloth after use and, once a month perhaps, it is thoroughly washed and scrubbed with hot water and household detergent. The hot water raises any bruises and scratches and the table looks like new, or rather, even better than new, for it has acquired a lovely patina now. There is no comparison with the treacly, bruised and scratched polyurethane surfaces so often encountered with modern manufactured pine tables.

A scrubbed finish is not restricted to pine, and I have used it for dining and kitchen tables and sideboards in oak, chestnut, pine, cedar and also sycamore. In the case of the latter, if an occasional wash with household bleach is substituted for the detergent, a beautifully white spotless surface will result.

My only regret is that I cannot persuade more of my customers to have this finish.

— Alan Peters, “Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach, 2nd edition” (Linden)

Posted in Finishing, Furniture of Necessity | 8 Comments

The Hammer Poster: From LAP and Steam Whistle Letter Press


We got our first look today at the finished letter press poster carved and hand-printed by Brian Stuparyk at Steam Whistle Letter Press in Newport, Ky. It’s a beauty.

The 13” x 19” poster will go on sale at Woodworking in America in Kansas City, Mo., next weekend. The price will be $20. We don’t have the room in our truck to bring mailing tubes, I’m afraid, but we will be rubber-banding the posters if you like.

We have 500 of them. If we have any left after the show, we’ll put them up in the online store. The price might be a little higher because we’ll have to use special packaging. Details to come.

This is a joint project that Brian and I have been talking about for many months. And after kicking around a few ideas we settled on a poster that embraced the ethos of both of our companies for quality, handmade stuff. And the poster actually has some useful and fun information on it. The art elements of poster were hand-carved by Brian and printed on vintage letter press equipment. I’ve included some photos of that process in a gallery below.


As I loaded the posters into my truck today we started kicking around a few other ideas. Could we do a book together that he printed on letter press? That’s crazy, right?

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Products We Sell | 40 Comments

Everything New


“Everything new stalls because there is precedence for the old.”

— Poul Henningsen (1894-1967)

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 11 Comments

Soap Finish: The Mushy, Flat Stuff


The soap finish after three coats.

After cooking the soap concoction and letting it cool for 24 hours, it became opaque and thickened to a mayonnaise-like consistency. Today I used it to finish the top of a worktable that is based off examples shown in the Tacuinum Sanitatis, a health book from the Middle Ages.

My goal with this worktable was to give the top what some people call a “scrubbed finish” with a painted base below. An authentic scrubbed finish is really no finish at all. It is the result of years of washing – just bare, almost-bleached wood.

A top with a scrubbed finish at the Cheltenham museum.

A top with a scrubbed finish at the Cheltenham museum.

The finish is so prized by some collectors that it is routinely faked by some dealers. (Or so I am told.)

Applying the mayo-like finish is quick and easy. It spreads easily with a rag. The water soaks into the wood or evaporates quickly, leaving a bit of a hazy sheen on the wood. A clean rag wipes off the excess on the surface. It takes about 5 minutes total to apply a coat of finish to the top shown.


After the soap dries, it is indeed a dead-flat finish. Unlike other users, however, I didn’t experience any raised grain on the tabletop; my guess is that is because I didn’t use any sandpaper. The top is right off the jack plane. Even so, I sanded the finish lightly between coats with a #320-grit sanding sponge.

After four coats the top is very smooth and soft. Just what I wanted.

I’m going to experiment more with a soap finish in the coming months. I like how it can be used to produce a variety of sheens depending on the amount of water you add to the flakes. I also really like how simple it is and how difficult it is to mess up – perfect for the beginner. The added bonus is that it is much less toxic than many solvent-based finishes. I have enough volatile organics in my shop.

— Christopher Schwarz

The soap finish after 24 hours of cooling and setting up.

The soap finish after 24 hours of cooling and setting up.

Posted in Finishing | 18 Comments

Soap Soup, the Movie


My first experiments with a runny soap finish didn’t impress me – the wood just got wet and a little slimy. But after watching this movie, I’m trying it again. This time I’m going to let the mixed finish sit for 24 hours before applying it to the wood.

This morning I mixed up a runny solution of boiling hot water and soap flakes (1 cup soap flakes and 4 cups of water). And it’s cooling as I type.

By the way, I got my soap flakes from MSO Distributing. They’re made in England without any additives or fragrance. Delivery was prompt. I’ve also ordered a pound of soap flakes from Pure Soap Flakes to give the USA-made flakes a try, even though they are more expensive than the British flakes.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Finishing | 12 Comments

New Lost Art Press Stuff at WIA


In addition to our two new products – “By Hound & Eye” and the “Virtuoso DVD” – we’ll be selling two special limited-edition items at the Lost Art Press booth in the Marketplace in Woodworking in America on Sept. 25-26.


First is a joint project between Lost Art Press and Steam Whistle Letter Press in Newport, Ky. Brian Stuparyk, the founder of Steam Whistle, approached us about doing a short run of 500 letterpress posters that are 18” x 12”, numbered and signed.

We don’t want to be in the poster business, but we agreed to this joint project because it will be a useful graphic for your shop wall – it’s all about how to use hammers and cut nails in furniture. Most of the poster’s blocks have been hand cut by Brian and the poster is being printed on his vintage equipment. We’ll unveil the design next week. I’ve seen Brian’s preliminary work, and it’s quite cool.

The posters will be $20. If we have any leftover from WIA (I expect we will) we will put them up for sale in our online store.


The second crazy product is a new T-shirt design from Indianapolis artist Shelby Kelley. Shelby painted the artwork for Revolucion, a taco joint we like. John and Shelby re-imagined some of his wild bandito paintings and added some awesome dovetail saws (the woodworking equivalent of “more cowbell”).

We’ll have a bunch of these shirts at WIA – American-made in gray (correction: Army green) with black printing. We might add these shirts to the store after Woodworking in America. Not sure.

So look for our booth in the Marketplace. Where will we be? Chances are you’ll find us by the bathrooms. At every WIA they’ve put our booth in the back by the toilets. But no, Don, I don’t take it personally.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Products We Sell | 22 Comments