The ‘Spirited’ Workshop – Part 2

From Epinal, France, 1834. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Bacchus in the form of Saint Lundi sits astride a barrel and offers drinks to a group of craftsmen. Each craftsman has his own verse in the song printed on the broadsheet. Spot the menuisier and read his verse to the left of the image.

“I drink to the general joy of the whole table.”

After working at a least half-day on Saturday and then collecting their pay workmen could look forward to Sunday and a full day off. In this account published in 1824 the writer differentiates between the married and the unmarried mechanic. Contemporary accounts tell us the married mechanic often joined his unmarried companions in Saturday night drinking.

From Ivan Sparkes’ article on the chairmakers of High Wycombe, England we have this description of Saturday activities after the week’s pay was received.

The revelries and drinking continued into Sunday and when Monday morning dawned there were many workmen not in much of a state to return to work – so they didn’t. For those observers of this tradition, Monday became known as Saint Monday in Great Britain, Ireland and America. This ditty is from England in the 17th century:

In 1546 there was an effort in the Venice Arsensal to stop the arsenalotti from observing Saint Monday. They were threatened with a loss of pay for the entire week. Although the workers would make up the lost gay by working longer hours the rest of the week, the loss of work on Monday was too disruptive to the organization of a shipyard. Because of inconsistent enforcement of the pay penalty the observance of Saint Monday continued.

The chairmakers of High Wycombe provide another example of Saint Monday.

Much of the the images available for Saint Monday were generated in France. I leave it to you to surmise why that may be.

In France and Belgium Saint Monday was, of course, Saint Lundi. One 19-century French writer referred to Saint Lundi as an uncanonized saint. I can’t think of a better description.

When workmen took Monday as a second day of leisure they weren’t necessarily drinking the entire day. It was also a day for playing games (skittles were popular in England), taking a ramble through town (including a few stops at taverns) and time for trade union meetings.

In Germany, Saint Monday was known as Blauer Montag (Blue Monday).

Dusseldorf, 1838. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Blauer Montag was widespread enough to earn a place in Flügel’s 1857 German-English dictionary.

An American gathering information on wages and living expenses in Europe during the 1870s made this note about Germany:

Cordwainers (shoemakers) were often at the forefront, both in Europe and America, of the push for better working conditions and a shorter workday. They were also noted as some of the most fervent followers of Saint Monday and consequently are often seen being beaten by their wives.

The observance of Saint Monday began to fade away towards the end of the 19th century and prevalence of the factory system. However, Saint Monday was another step in the working class effort to gain more control over their work lives and to have more time for rest and leisure.

”Why, sir, for my part I say the gentlemen had drunk himself out of his fives senses.”

From the “British Workingman” 1878.

Just how much alcohol was being consumed? In 1770 Americans averaged 3-1/2 gallons of pure alcohol per person per year. This is not gallons of a specific spirit, rather a total of all alcohol content. The apogee (or perhaps the nadir) of American consumption was in 1830 when the average consumption was 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol per person. Per the 1830 census the population was 12.9 million. One of the drivers of alcohol availability came from corn in the Midwest. Corn would spoil if shipped to the coastal states, however, it could be distilled and shipped as whisky instead. Whiskey was cheap and easy to buy.

In 1839 a Captain Marryat from England visited America and wrote a multi-volume “Diary in America.” In the section titled “Travelling” he expressed these observations about the drinking habits of America:

In the state of Virginia he commented on the consumption of large quantities of mint juleps and noted “you may always know the grave of a Virginian; as from the quantity of juleps he has drunk, mint invariably springs up where he has been buried.”

He also enjoyed an American champagne.

Edward Young, an American gathering data on wages and the price of living in Europe in the 1870s, was flabbergasted that Belgium had “about one hundred-thousand licensed public houses…for the supply of five million inhabitants.” For every 48 inhabitants there was 1 liquor shop.

In Germany he contrasted the unmarried man with the married. The unmarried laborer rented a bed in a room with others in lodgings close to the workplace. Spending time in a tavern was essentially the only place to relax. Beer, bread and a little meat made up a large part of the diet of both married and unmarried men.

Surveying Great Britain, Edward Young commented “The fact is not forgotten that this investigation is made by a citizen of a country which, next to Great Britain, is perhaps most noted for its large consumption of intoxicating beverages – a country which expends over $600,000,000 annually in spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors.” Based on a report from 1872, England (not all of Great Britain) consumed more than 72 million gallons of pure alcohol at a cost of £120,000,000. At least half of this money was spent by the working classes.

I have just a few comments on the gin epidemic in England that began late in the 17th century and extended well into the 18th century. Gin was very cheap to make and buy and was sought by many as a relief to poverty. Men, women and children were addicted and it ravaged London. There was a “pandemonium of drunkenness” and ruin. A sign over one popular gin shop advertised “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two pence, clean straw for nothing.” William Hogarth’s 1751 etching titled “Gin Lane” is thought to capture the misery of the epidemic. You can easily find much more on your own.

The 18th century is also when temperance efforts gained traction and physicians began to think of alcohol addition as a disease.

“Ask God for temp’rance. That’s the appliance only which disease requires.”

In 1722, a century before America reached peak alcohol consumption, Ben Franklin was cautioning against drunkenness and overindulgence. By 1840 there were temperance societies to be found in every state with many affiliated with religious groups. In May of 1840 six Baltimore friends, all artisans, met and decided to stop drinking. Their approach was different from other groups as each member stood and talked about their lives as drunkards (the term alcoholic was not yet used). Their emphasis was on compassion and understanding for the addicted man. They named themselves the Washingtonians, after George Washington, and pledged to stop drinking all alcohol. The group grew rapidly, and as far as we know, it was the only temperance society founded by craftsmen.

The British Workman, published in London, was a monthly magazine advocating healthy living, Christian ideals and temperance. It was filled with illustrations, short stories and testimonials and was advertised as “dedicated to the industrial classes.” The masthead changed each month and featured sketches of men working at various jobs.

The magazine frequently urged employers to provided fresh water for workers in an effort to curb alcohol consumption in the workplace. One well-known illustration from British Workmen has been separated from its intended message.

The craftsman in his paper hat is filling his mug with water, not beer! Did the intended message get lost in nostalgia for the image?

The many satirical drawings of the grim reaper looming over a very drunk man were not promoting temperance, rather a comment on society. In that vein there is a second Drinker’s Dictionary printed in 1886 by Silas Farmer & Co. of Detroit.

The cover stamp pretty much sends the message of the dictionary. A link to the dictionary is at the end of this post.

In 1845 Francis William Edmonds painted a carpenter sitting in his workshop.

“Facing the Enemy” by Francis Willam Edmonds, 1845. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia.

The carpenter is “Facing the Enemy” and the scene captures the struggle of a man attempting to stop. He rocks back as though repelled but at the same time his eyes are locked on the bottle. Will he succumb?

In the darkness to the right of the open window is a broadsheet tacked to the wall. It is a notice for a temperance meeting. Side-by-side they are in a balancing act. The bottle offers ruin. The temperance meeting offers hope. That he still has a half-bottle of liquor tells us has not yet been able to let go. He took the trouble to put the temperance notice on the wall. His shop is neat and he has his jacket on. Is the temperance meeting that night and will he go?


Shakespeare and his Saturday-to-Monday Bender

After using quotes from the works of Will as titles for each section it is fitting to end with a tale from the 17th century. It seems to have some relation to the observance of Saint Monday.

Top: detail from an undated trade card, British Museum. Bottom: anecdote from “The Curiosities of Ale & Beer” by J. Bickerdyke.



















The Drinker’s Dictionary of 1886 can be found here.

Our French readers can find more about Saint Lundi here.

The gallery has a bit more Blauer Montag, Saint Monday and Saint Lundi for you.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

2 Classes in Florida – Chairs & Toolboxes


I’m teaching two classes at the Florida School of Woodwork in Tampa in February 2020. Registration began yesterday, and let me repeat the two most important words from my first sentence: Florida and February.

The Tampa school is relatively new and has been the location of Fine Woodworking’s Hands On events, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the school and its facility. Here are some details on my classes.

Chair Making, Feb. 17-21, 2020

We’ll be making the American Welsh Stick Chair that is featured in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” It is a great introduction to chairmaking – no previous experience required. And the emphasis is on using mostly common woodworking tools and processes. No steam bending or green woodworking is required for this class.


Japanese Siding-lid Box, Feb. 22-23, 2020

In this class we’ll make a reproduction of a Japanese sliding-lid box I measured while I was overseas. It’s a fun project to make. Though the joinery is simple – finger joints and steel dome-head nails – the real challenge is keeping all the details crisp and producing beautiful surfaces.

I hope you will consider joining me. I don’t teach many classes these days, and I’ve never taught this far south.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Woodworking Classes | 2 Comments

The ‘Spirited’ Workshop – Part 1

Part 1 includes the drinking of alcoholic beverages in the workshop and at the work site, the practice of footings and fees collected in the workshop and drinking after the workday ended.

Before water was clean and safe to drink the consumption of cider, ale and wine was a normal activity. Cider, cyder or sider was made from a variety of fruits each summer and autumn and ale was brewed in the home every few days. The day started with a ‘morning’ or ‘eye-opener’ and ended with a nightcap. Hard cider and ale were a significant source of daily calories and alcoholic mixtures were considered healthy. Alcohol consumption was also a normal part of working in the trades, both in the workshop and at work sites. The men of the trades became known for their drinking habits.

The Custom of the Shop

The Mudejar carpenters of Teruel Cathedral (Aragon, Spain) painted on a crossbeam, est. 15th c.

The artists responsible for painting the ceilings and crossbeams of Tereul Cathedral included the central figure offering liquid refreshment to the carpenters, with ready acceptance by the one on the right.

Peter Parler, the builder of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, was “awarded ad hoc sums for purchases, payments or bonus related to the building site. These amounts were related to…measuring cords, nails and metal sheets for templates…when 60 groschen were probably spent on a barrel of young beer distributed among the cathedral workers.”

In 1901, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine published an article “Rites and Ceremonies Connected with Building.” The last part of the article used contemporary diaries and accounts to describe the numerous alcoholic needs of the builders of the first stone building in Albany, New York, in 1656. A staircase was included in the plans: “A winding staircase was a feature of the fort, and when this was finished, five guilders’ worth of liquor gave the workmen the necessary winding gait to test it.”

You can read the account of the Albany stone building in the following link:

Building Rites and Drinking

The Stent Panel, 17th century, England or Northern Europe.

The workday usually started close to dawn and breaks for breakfast and lunch were taken in the shop. Here’s an account from an article by Ivan Sparkes article about the chairmakers of High Wycombe, England:

Following the (some might say hard-drinking) traditions of immigrants from Europe, workmen in America also had plenty to drink. And as was traditional in Europe, the master was expected to provide the grog. When a ship-builder in Medford, Massachusetts decided not to provide the daily rum the men were not happy.

When Henry Hayes was bound into an apprenticeship in High Wycombe in 1824 among the many prohibitions was this term “He shall not…haunt taverns or playhouses.” Soon he would learn a tavern wasn’t needed in order to drink. Ten years later James Hopkinson was apprenticed at age 15 in Nottingham, and he very quickly learned the payments required to work in the shop: “…having cut out the wood for a table, I was told that I must pay a shilling for them to drink my health, and also that they expected my father to pay a sovereign towards a binding supper…and every fresh job that I had not made one like before, I had to pay a shilling or I should not have been allowed to make it.”

The footings, fees and fines that were required in a craftsmen’s workshop were extensive. In 1839 the 6th edition of John Dunlop’s “The Philosophy of Artificial and Compulsory Drinking Usage in Great Britain and Ireland” was published. Dunlop was the president of The General Temperance Union of Scotland and his book gathered information on drinking practices across society, for men, women and children, and in skilled and unskilled jobs. The summary for cabinetmakers and joiners in Scotland is as follows:

The summaries for the woodworking shops in England and Ireland are similar. Money for drinks was expected when a man was about to get married, when a child was born and in some cases when a workman wore a new shirt. It is important to remember Dunlop’s book has summaries of workshop practices and not every workshop surveyed had the same level of fees and fines for the purposes of drinking. There may also be a certain level of exaggeration on the part of workmen in an effort to shock a temperance worker.  On the other hand, it is not surprising apprentices ran away and some men abandoned working in these shops altogether.

The Ivan Sparkes article also includes a passage on how disputes between two men or a disruptive man were handled.

Although drinking ale, beer, wine and “ardent” spirits was perfectly acceptable, being bowz’d, buskey or buzzey was frowned upon.

One of the founding fathers of America enjoyed his beer and wine, however, writing under the pseudonym Silence Dogood, he cautioned against overindulging and the loud and public drunk. Silence, otherwise known as Benjamin Franklin, gathered together all the terms used to describe the overindulged and in January 1737 published his “Drinker’s Dictionary” in the Pennsylvania Gazette. You can read the full dictionary here.

Being a known drunk could have consequences for a craftsman. In his article “Chairmaking in Low Cringles in Yorkshire” Christopher Gibert included this note from the account book of the Laycock family:

After Work and Possibly On the Way Home

Walking to a public house with only horses, carts and carriages in the way of traffic, was often the next step in the daily alcoholic intake of a craftsmen. (I have personally observed this except for the walking, horses, carts and carriages.) When it became unseemly for a woman to be seen in a public house, drinking establishments became an enclave for men.

Craftsmen met to relax after work and before making their way home. Singing bawdy songs and songs about their favorite beverages was a popular pastime. Broadsides printed with the verses of ballads were pasted on the walls of public houses. Although we don’t know the melodies of all the old ballads we do have the verses. It is not too difficult to imagine that after a few beers a lively group of today’s woodworkers could come up with a tune to match the lyrics.

Because even drinkers want value for their hard-earned wages, one popular ballad from the around the middle of the 17th century was “Good Ale For My Money” and here’s a sample verse with the chorus:

In one of the verses from “The Ballad-Makers Complaint” a woodcarver has a bit of a problem and comes up with a clever solution.

One song, that may trace its roots to pagan times is still familiar to us in the 21st-century. Steve Winwood and Traffic gave it new life in their version titled “John Barleycorn Must Die.” In the 17th century the song had various titles (and verses) and one of the more popular titles was:

John Barleycorn personifies the grain that can be made into beer or whisky. In a macabre manner the song describes the planting, harvesting and brewing of the barley. You can listen to a version of the song here.

Spending too much time in a public house could send a man and his family into poverty. Dipping back into John Dunlop’s book on “Drink Usage” he noted an additional practice detrimental to the wage earner. “Some masters and foremen keep a public-house, where they excite the men to take drink upon credit, and take it off the week’s wages: this is said to be “bringing sucken to their own mill.”

There is a similar passage in Ivan Sparkes’ article on High Wycombe, “Indeed one wife complained of the late payment of wages on Saturday evening, when the men would have to stand around and drink their future wages while waiting to be paid. She wrote to the local newspaper of the bad example set by her husband and his mates to their 12-year-old son, when they would come home tottering, have drunk a good part of their pay packet.”

The drinking song “The Jovial Cutlers” from the late 18th century includes a passage in the voice of a grieved wife who ultimately resorts to the Lysistrata stategy:

The public house was also where the early Mechanics’ Societies were formed and they paid their ‘rent’ in drinks bought from the owner. In 1790 a law was passed in England that prohibited payment of wages in liquor. It would be well into the 19th century before there was a law prohibiting the practice of requiring workers to collect their pay in public houses.

If you would like to read more about hazing, bullying, coercion, underage drinking, beatings, shunning (sent to Coventry) and extortion in workshops you can find John Dunlop’s book on “Drinks Usage” here.

The University of California at Santa Barbara has a database on English Broadsheet Ballads. You can read the text, or sing! along to “Have You any Work for a Cooper? OR a Comparison Betwixt a Coopers, and a Joyners Trade” from 1681 here.

Part 2 of The ‘Spirited’ Workshop will cover Saint Monday, a glimpse at how much alcohol was being consumed in the 19th century and a short discussion of temperance.

— Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Historical Images, Personal Favorites | 20 Comments

Lie-Nielsen Will be Here Tomorrow & Saturday


Oh my. You are looking a little ill. Are you feeling OK? Perhaps you should stay home from work on Friday and rest.

Lie-Nielsen Toolworks is putting on one of its Hand Tool Events in our workshop this Friday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.). This free event is an outstanding way to learn about handwork. All of the tools are sharp and set up. And you have expert instructors on hand who can show you how to use them.

It’s all very laid back. No high-pressure sales tactics. Just tools, wood and good information.

In addition to the Lie-Nielsen staff, there are guest demonstrators, which makes the event even better.

Andy Glenn from The Woodworking School at Pine Croft will weave a hickory bark seat at 2 p.m. Friday and will demonstrate chisel sharpening at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Members of our local chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers will demonstrate inlay and stringing.

Mark Hicks from Plate 11 Workbench Co. will have his travel bench there to show, plus some other items, including a low workbench he’s developed.

Jeff Hamilton from Hamilton Tools will also be here with some of his marking gauges (and I hope some of his marking knives)

We will have our full line of books and Crucible tools on hand. And we are going to give away one copy of the deluxe “Roubo on Furniture.” Measuring 12-1/4″ wide x 17-1/4″ tall by almost 2-1/4″ thick, “Roubo on Furniture” is the largest and most luxurious book we have printed – it sells for $550. No purchase necessary, and you need not be present to win.


Where is It? What About Parking?

Our storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky. 41011. We are in the middle of an old residential neighborhood, one block off Covington’s Main Strasse. Parking is almost never a problem and it is free (no meters!). If you do have to park a block or two away, the neighborhood is perfectly safe.

If the street parking immediately around our building is full, try Pike Street, which is one block over. There are lots of spaces there.

Where Should I Eat? Or Get a Beer Afterward?

Our shop is walking distance to dozens of great restaurants and bars. After you check out the tools, you can easily get a great meal or a nice drink.

On Saturday, Tuba Baking Co. is having its grand opening. They are at 212 Pike St., a five minute walk from us. Amazing authentic pretzels and other German delights.

We are also very partial to Libby’s Southern Comfort. They are the cure for anyone who has a fried chicken deficiency.

A more complete list of places to eat is here.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I am this Dang Clock


I bought an old Westclox school clock for the shop right before our building’s 2018 Christmas party. Why did I buy a clock for a party? Read this.

When I received the old clock I plugged it in. Nothing happened. So I did the natural thing with old mechanisms. I made sure it wasn’t heating up, and I walked away.

About 30 minutes later, the clock was running. After some testing, I determined it was losing 10 minutes a day (this model has no way to adjust its run speed). So I did the natural thing with mechanical devices. I corrected the error every morning and let it run.

Nine months later, the clock is running perfectly. I haven’t touched it in a month.

Unlike many digital products, mechanical devices tend to work better the more you use them. The more I use my laptop, the more disk errors accumulate, the processor slows and eventually something crashes and I have to restart. With my old machines, the more they run, the better they run. Yes, there is maintenance (lubrication, of course). But a squirt of grease while the machine is running is all it takes to keep things moving.

I operate the about the same. Mornings are hard. When I teach at schools where they want you working at 7 a.m., I warn my students that my mental capacity hovers at 40 percent until 9 a.m.

I’ve always been this way, even when I was 16. Coffee helps. But being awake and moving is the only real solution. By 11 a.m. I will talk your ear off (about woodworking). And I’ll go until midnight – until I pull the plug on my brain.

I was reminded of all this today because I had to buy a turntable. My old 1970s-era BSR finally crapped out for good. I tried some of the new turntables that have flashy electronics but few mechanical amenities (you want me to change the belt to go from 45 to 33 rpm like on a drill press?). I have not been impressed.

So I went to the local used stereo store where I’ve been shopping for 23 years. I’m not an audiophile. Vinyl is just the way I prefer to consume music. So I told them I wanted to spend $200 or $300 on a turntable. And they said: That’s not possible.

All the vinyl enthusiasts have scooped up the old and excellent turntables.

“So what have you got?” I asked.

“An old BSR,” he replied. “It might last you another 30 years.”

It looked like my old BSR with its fake wood-grain stickers, but this one is a tad fancier as it has pitch control. An upgrade.

I paid the guy (it cost almost nothing) and took it home. I plugged it in and turned it on.

Nothing happened.

You know the drill. I walked away.

Now I am on my fourth album, fine tuning the tone arm so it will neither skip nor wear out my old records, some of which I’ve owned since 1986 (R.E.M.’s “Chronic Town” on blue vinyl for one).

I know that Britt Daniels of “Spoon” sings “Don’t buy the Realistic.” But honestly, in this day and age, you should probably buy the Realistic.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’ is Done Designed


Minutes before I left town last week to teach a chairmaking class I completed the layout for the expanded edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” Megan Fitzpatrick is editing it (perhaps even as I type this). Briony Morrow-Cribbs needs to finish the illustrations. Plus we need a new index and the final slaying of the typos.

But we are on track to have it out by the end of 2019.

The expanded edition is a whopping 653 pages, up from 456 pages in the original edition. And given another year, I could have added a couple hundred more pages.

The point of me telling you this is that there is still a lot of ground out there for all of us to explore when it comes to staked and boarded furniture forms.

Here are just a few of the pieces I opted not to build for the expanded edition. All of them are exciting projects, but we are pushing up against the limits of our bindery.

Staked Workbenches: Yes, this would be exploring the low Roman form some more, but also getting into the Chinese variants and several staked workbench forms that are waist-high.

Ladders: I love ladders. And the staked joint is an idea way to build orchard-style ladders, plus I sketched up some library ladders, which we need for our shop.

Settee: I failed to design a staked settee that thrilled me. But I know that eventually I’ll get it right.

Boarded Settle: I’ve always liked the high-back settles common in the UK and in many Colonial American homes. They also offer options for storage beneath the seat.

Staked Dining Table: Beyond the trestle tables shown in the original edition, I have sketched up some full-size dining tables that are similar to the worktable.

Dining Chairs: I have a few side chairs in my sketchbook that are simpler than the armchair but more complex than the staked side chair in the original edition.

Boarded Doors: I had planned on a chapter about making simple boarded cabinets with boarded doors (what some people call “board and batten” doors). Basic clinched-nail construction.

Staked Lounge Chairs: After discovering the Irish Gibson chair and building one, I considered adding it to the expanded edition, but then I decided it should be a book on its own….

I could go on, but I’m already tired of typing and still have 20 emails to answer.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Last Call for the Free PDF with ‘The Solution at Hand’

sah_cover_mockupRobert Wearing’s “The Solution at Hand: Jigs & Fixtures to Make Benchwork Easier” has been printed and is en route to our warehouse in Indiana. As soon as it arrives, we will discontinue the special pre-publication offer where you receive a free PDF of the book when you purchase the hardback.

After Monday, purchasing the hardback and PDF together will be $30. If you order before midnight Eastern time on Monday, you will get both for $24.

“The Solution at Hand” is a great companion book to Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker.” While “The Essential Woodworker” gives you essential basic information on using hand tools, “The Solution at Hand” is filled with hundreds of jigs, fixtures and appliances that make handwork a little easier, especially for repetitive operations.

You can read all the details and download a free excerpt here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Essential Woodworker, The Solution at Hand, Uncategorized | 7 Comments