Never Mind the Movie Star, Look at that Deadman


Reader Charles W. Luetje sent me a link to this New York Times story that features Zach Braff sitting on a fantastic workbench with a beautiful deadman. I will definitely be stealing this form for a future bench.

From the wear marks on the bench, it looks like the deadman panels are stationary – not sliders.


Braff’s bench is quite similar to one I discussed in my 2007 book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” That bench was featured in the August 1882 edition of Carpentry and Building magazine (see page 58 of that book for details).

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Workbenches | 6 Comments

Peter Follansbee Has Left the Building


When I visited Peter Follansbee in his shop at Plimoth Plantation in 2012, it looked as if his shop had always been there and always would.

I wouldn’t call it cluttered, exactly. It was quite tidy. But it was filled with 20 years of tools, work and the bits and pieces that come with a joiner’s life. (For photos from my visit, go here.)

But after 20 years, Peter has left Plimoth to strike out on his own. On one hand, I could not be happier for Peter. Walking away from any organization with its meetings, internal politics and hassle is liberating. But it’s also the end of an era at Plimoth. It appears that Plimoth will not replace Peter.

Peter said they were talking about adding a candle-dipper and soap-maker in his place.

While I have nothing against candles or cleanliness, this is a step backward for woodworking research into the 17th century. Peter, Jennie Alexander and a few others have been at the core of exploring and understanding the lively and robust furniture and tools from the 1600s.

(This isn’t a commercial for his book, but if you don’t own “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” and like green woodworking, you are missing out.)

Peter explains the shape of one of his bowls.

Peter explains the shape of one of his bowls.

No longer will you be able to visit Plimoth and watch Peter dismantle oak trees with sharp tools and a sharper tongue.

But there is a bright side to all of this. Peter is not slowing down or retiring from joinery. I spoke to him a bit at the Lie-Nielsen Open House last weekend about his new life and he’s keeping quite busy with commercial work, carving spoons and bowls and (I hope) finishing up a book for Lost Art Press.

Peter at work on some birch at the Lie-Nielsen Open House.

Peter at work on some birch at the Lie-Nielsen Open House.

That book, tentatively titled “Joiner’s Work,” will focus on the tools, methods and typical pieces of a joiner from the 17th century. He’s been at work on the book for some time – now he just needs the shop space to finish it up.

So if you love Peter’s work like we do here at Lost Art Press, you can lend a hand by following his excellent blog, picking up a copy of his book or DVDs from Lie-Nielsen or perhaps buying a spoon or bowl from his web site. Peter’s no charity case, but every little bit helps when you are starting out on your own.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Hey Peter, sorry about the title of this post. I couldn’t think of a good Bob Dylan song to go with this post. Hence, Elvis.


Posted in Make a Joint Stool from a Tree | 18 Comments

Tools to Make the Anarchist’s Tool Chest


The following is a list I should have made four years ago when I first started teaching people how to build the full-size tool chest in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

Apologies for the delay.

Here are the tools you need.

Dovetailing Equipment
Dovetail saw (15 point or coarser)
Cutting gauge, such as the Tite-Mark
Mechanical pencil
Dovetail layout square (Or a bevel gauge and smallish try square)
Coping saw with several blades (coarse blades, 12 tpi or so)
1/2” bevel-edge chisel
Mallet (I like a 16 oz. model)
Two pair of small dividers

One bench plane, such as a jack, jointer or smoother
Block plane
Rabbet plane or shoulder plane (if you have one)
If you have a tongue-and-groove plane (or match planes), use them
Beading plane (1/8”, 3/16” or 1/4”)
Plow plane with 1/4” cutter

Nailing equipment
Hand drill
Variety of small bits (1/16” up to 1/8”)
16 oz. hammer
Nail set
Nippers (if you have them)

General Marking/Measuring
12” combination square
12’ tape measure
Spear-point marking knife

Additional Tools
Mortise chisel (1/4″, 5/16″ or a close metric equivalent)
Crosscut handsaw (7 or 8 ppi)
Rip saw (4 to 7 ppi)
Your personal sharpening kit
Clamps (48” bars)

Hardware Installation Tools
Small router plane
Birdcage awl

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest | 8 Comments

Campaign Birdhouse (And a Movie)


Campaign birdhouse. It is real. Check it out on my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Posted in Campaign Furniture | 7 Comments

The Making of the Oldtime Woodworker


In a prominent place in a cozy Long Island home are two huge volumes. These interesting books contain a record of that second honeymoon which so few of us attain in this world, the Golden Wedding. The record is a careful description of a trip to the old home in England of Allen Moore and his wife in celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The books are illustrated with photos and letters, and on one page is a document which Mr. Moore—for half a century a loyal American—refers to in this way:

“I regard this document, which I have carefully preserved for 60 years, as my ‘Title Deed of Nobility.’ Some men inherit nobility, some get their titles by robbing other people, but my title came through hard and honest work as testified by Mr. Miller in his endorsement on the back of the indenture.”
Continue reading

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Extravagant Economy


The customers of a country cooper caused him a vast deal of vexation by their saving habits and persistence in getting all their old tubs and casks repaired, and buying but little new work.

“I stood it however,” said he, “until one day old Sam Crabtree brought in an old ‘bung-hole’ to which he said he wanted a new barrel made. Then I quit the business in disgust!”

Town Talk – 1859

—Jeff Burks

Posted in Historical Images | 3 Comments

One (or Two) of Jonathan Fisher’s Workbenches


Jonathan Fisher built a number of workbenches during his life in Blue Hill, Maine, according to woodworker Joshua Klein, who has studied Fisher’s journal in detail.

One of Fisher’s workbenches is a lightweight model that uses a basic Nicholson construction with an unusual base that looks a little like a folding ironing board.

Here are some of the details Klein and I observed while looking over the workbench.

1. The front apron of the bench, which is facing away from the camera in the photo above, has two threaded holes in it that look like they were intended for a twin-screw vise.

2. The benchtop doesn’t have a planing stop. Instead it is bored with a series of holes for wooden pegs. Some pegs are designed to restrain the end of the board; other pegs are designed to restrain the board laterally. It looks a lot like workbenches shown in drawings of Nuremburg woodworkers.


3. The underside of the bench uses four diagonal braces and one horizontal brace to restrain the bench while traversing. The aprons are fastened to the legs with nails, which prevent it from swaying while planing with the grain.

fisher_bench_rear_IMG_9877 fisher_bench_notches_IMG_9878

4. The one thing that had Klein and I scratching our heads was the backside of the bench. It looks like the bench had a drop leaf attached with butt hinges. In the middle of the apron are some notches and a semi-circular dado. Our guess is that this was the mechanism for holding the drop leaf up. But we couldn’t figure out how it worked exactly.


Another bench at Blue Hill is a low workbench that looks like a Roman or Estonian model. It is pierces with a lot of holes for pegs (or jigs). There is some evidence of sawing and chiseling that was done on the bench – but not a lot.

This could have been a low workbench that Fisher used. Or perhaps it’s a sitting bench that was used occasionally for woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

To read more about Jonathan Fisher and his woodworking, check out these links.

Jonathan Fisher’s Tool Chest (and Tools)
Jonathan Fisher. Begin the Begin
Friday’s Fisher House Tour
The Congregationalist’s Tool Chest


Posted in Workbenches | 7 Comments