The Old Furniture Restorer

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Ostensibly he keeps the village inn. His name appears over the door in the orthodox black letters on a white ground as a licensed seller of beer and tobacco. It is a pleasant little inn, and in the garden behind there are some choice plants of the old-fashioned kind in which the landlord takes a good deal of pride; but the trade in beer and tobacco is not very brisk.

They keep a gramophone at the ‘Swan’ at the other end of the village, and its seductive tones seem to have an attraction for the thirsty. Such customers as fall to the quieter tap of the ‘Lion’ are served by the landlady, an active, bustling body with some little contempt for the slow, niggling work which her husband puts into the old rubbish that she would consign to the flames. Not but what she admits that the money that the old things fetch is a welcome addition to the family purse.

The old man is not contentious by nature, but he enjoys a moment of quiet triumph. ‘She took on about an old chair I brought home the other night,’ he tells you, after glancing round to see whether the good lady is within hearing. ‘I gave five shillings for it. Well, it didn’t look up to much, certainly; but I tell you what, sir, it was a genuine Cromwellian chair, and I never saw another of the same pattern.’ Then, with a twinkle in his eye of self-conscious justification, he adds that two days later a passer-by looked in, saw the chair, and promptly gave him three guineas for it, and sent it across the Atlantic.
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Making Chairs for Members of New Cabinet

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Washington Feb 16.—Cabinet-Maker M.W. Dove, fitting dark green leather to polished mahogany with a border of brass nails, is busily completing chairs for Cabinet-Maker F. D. Roosevelt. Making the seats of the mighty is nothing new to Dove. He’s 54 years old now, and he’s been at it ever since his early twenties when he “worked right in the palace of the czar.”
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Miniature Chairs from Norimitsu Takahashi

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Suzanne Ellison knows I have a chair problem. So she destroyed my Sunday morning by passing me this link to Norimitsu Takahashi’s web site: Nori Art Handicrafts.

The builder makes lots of miniatures, which is amazing in and of itself. But many of the miniatures are chairs. Very, very nice chairs – many of which I have been studying myself.

Check out this amazing Klismos. One of the many chairs on my short list. Or, this Borge Morgensen Hunting Chair, which I am resisting all efforts to build so I can edit books. I have Morgensen’s scale drawing of the chair and enough leather. Grrr.

All of the chairs are on this page. Clicking through on each chair will show you some detail photos of the objects. Beautiful work.

— Christopher Schwarz

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August 2015 is Early This Year

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This week marks four years since I left Popular Woodworking Magazine, and today the mailman delivered the August 2015 issue, which features a tool chest on the cover that I helped build.

Some think it’s peculiar that I still write for the magazine, and that the magazine still prints my stuff. I guess things always look different from the inside of a relationship.

As I’ve said many times before, editing that magazine was the best job I’ve ever had. They paid me well. They trained me. They gave me the keys to a fully equipped workshop. I worked as hard as possible to turn a struggling, third-tier craft magazine into something profitable, stable and competitive.

When I made the decision to leave, it had little to do with the magazine. It had more to do with my desires as a writer and the death of my uncle in the spring of 2011.

So if you like what we do here at Lost Art Press, you can thank Popular Woodworking in general and, specifically, former editor Steve Shanesy, who took a huge chance when he hired me in the fall of 1996.

People tell me all the time that magazines are dead. But I can think of one magazine that I’ll do anything to save until I put down my tools and my keyboard for the last time.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Neatness Among Trimmers

carriage_trimmerOrder is Heaven’s first law, and in no department of our business have we found less of this law than in the trimming room. Some workmen will have their work-bench filled with tacks, knobs, buckles, chalk, paste—in short, a sorry hodge-podge of here a little and there a good deal of evidence of slovenliness on the part of the occupant.

The again, the patent leather is unrolled and kicking about the floor, the moss—nobody uses moss now-a-days—and curled hair are everywhere, and the paste is sticking to everything in use. We have seen trimmers, whose jobs have been “turned out” with such a variety of paste shading, about the top and other parts of the leather as to almost entirely spoil it.

Such workmen are not fitted for their profession. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” was never more appropriately exercised than in the trimming department. We all know that leather, once soiled, can never be made to look as good as new. For this very reason, a trimmer should keep his hands clean, and his work, as far as practicable, as he proceeds, covered up.

Not long since, we saw in a trimming room any quantity of scraps hanging on the floor, and a pile in one corner, of dirt, and leather, and paper, and other material, as the merchants say, “too numerous to mention,” a fine place for one to raise his own fleas, and no doubt they find ample feeding ground near at hand—in the sloven’s own person!

But all are not like our hero. There are some trimmers whose habits are worthy of commendation—they are neatness itself; such we should hold up, to the class we have been describing, as worthy pattern for them to follow.

The New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine – November, 1859

—Jeff Burks

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Notes on Word Origins

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Perhaps there is no other material of such universal application for constructive, decorative, and an endless variety of other purposes, as “Wood”; or that affords occupation to so large a number of persons.

Life, with the major portion of my readers, is too short for a full and exhaustive study of wood in its living state as a tree, or in its dead state as timber; the one embracing Botany and Arboriculture, and the other general construction, in which latter the architect, the civil engineer; the clerk of works, the timber convertor, and the builder play an important part.
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As Natural as a Yale Lock

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If ordinary applied art has a personal stamp, this means that it is incomplete. The artist has not gotten past his mistakes or arrived at the typical solution that is just as ordinary and natural in form as a Yale lock, a fountain pen, a bicycle, a scythe, a shovel. Imagine if a bicycle bore the mark of the artist who had designed it!

— Poul Henningsen (1894-1967), Danish author, architect and critic

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