Public Service Announcement on the Stanley Tape Measures

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The cute-as-a-bird-butt 10’ tape measures for Stanley’s 175th anniversary can be difficult to find. They get snatched up by collectors as soon as they hit the shelves.

But now Highland Woodworking has them in stock for $8.99. Grab them while you can. They are compact, well-made and designed for woodworkers.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Welsh Stick Chair Details

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For the last week I’ve been studying the 200 photos I took at St Fagans and thinking about the 29 chairs that Chris Williams and I examined during our visit there. The chairs look a lot different to me now – they are somehow even more beautiful.

In this blog entry, I’d like to point out some of the details I’ve noticed in these 29 chairs. Please note that I am not trying to make any generalizations about these particular chairs or Welsh chairs in general. The more chairs I get to study, the more variations I encounter.

Instead, these are the details that stood out in this particular group of 29 chairs. Some of these details will be useful as I make more Welsh-inspired chairs in the coming months. Perhaps this discussion will be useful to you.

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Check out the variation in the shape of the sticks on this Welsh chair.

The Shape of the Sticks
Most contemporary chairs – or reproductions – tend to have sticks that feature “entasis,” a subtle swelling of the stick or spindle. This entasis, which is found extensively in the built world (especially Greek columns), is pleasing to the eye.

Many of the Welsh chairs I examined at St Fagans featured sticks that were dead straight, bent, slightly wonky and, yes, with entasis. What appears obvious after looking at hundreds of these sticks is that a fair number of them likely came straight from the hedge. And so they had some natural curve or bend to them.

Bottom line: There is no rule when making sticks for these chairs. Add entasis if you like. If you prefer dead-straight sticks, the furniture record will support that choice as well.

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This seat has been gently saddled.

Saddled Seats
Of the 29 seats we examined, 12 were saddled and the remainder were not. Almost all of the saddles were quite shallow. And only a few featured any sort of pommel. None featured a gutter between the sticks and the saddle.

The issue of comfort comes up time and again with these chairs. Are they comfortable? How can they possibly be comfortable? While we weren’t able to sit in any of the 29 chairs, I have enough experience with them to know that a chair with a lightly saddled seat can be sat in for hours. I’ve been sitting in one every evening for 15 years.

You can obviously improve the comfort of any of these chairs with a cushion, blanket or sheepskin. When we visited John Brown’s home at Pantry Fields, one of his chairs was decked out with a sheepskin, and it quite added to the handsomeness of the form.

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Undercarriages
Few of the chairs featured an undercarriage. Of the 29 examples, six chairs had an undercarriage (or the remnants of one). Some were H-shaped; others skipped the middle brace of the “H.”

I make chairs both ways – with an undercarriage and without. There are visual and structural advantages and disadvantages to each approach. What is my preference? To make what the customer wants. They are both valid approaches.

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A Welsh chair with a traditional H-shaped undercarriage and a one-piece armbow.

Armbows
I wasn’t prepared for the wild variety of armbows I encountered at St Fagans. It’s fair to say that the armbow seems to be the heart of a Welsh chair (whereas the seat is the heart of a Windsor chair). The arms varied widely in shape, from one that was V-shaped to one that looked like three sides of a box.

They also varied greatly in their construction. Some of the armbows were made from one piece of curved wood, but most were pieced together from two or three pieces of wood. The joints varied from simple butt joints to mitered half-laps.

The Wood
It’s clear that we moderns are spoiled with the wood we use. Many of these old Welsh chairs were made with wood that would never make it out of a modern sawmill, much less into a woodworking project. The seats were filled with knots and deep fissures. Stick were bent and twisted (and not from old age).

Despite the No. 6 grade lumber, the chairs were things of beauty. That is due to the chairs’ graphic forms, which trumped the grain at almost every turn.

There’s more to discuss – the shape of the hands on the armbows, the great variations in crest rails and the rake and splay of the legs, for example. This will have to do for now.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in John Brown Book, Uncategorized, Welsh Stick Chairs by John Brown | Leave a comment

‘The Intelligent Hand’ Now Shipping

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Today I received my copies of David Savage’s “The Intelligent Hand,” and I was so relieved I thought I might cry.

This has been one of the most emotional projects I’ve worked on. Apologies for discarding the veneer of normal blogging communication, but this book has been a crap-tastic lightning rod for this entire cruddy year.

When my father died in February, I was crushed for many reasons. We had so many plans for things we were going to do together – take a carving class with Peter Follansbee, visit St. Petersburg and finally master bread-making.

A few months after my dad died, we lost Jennie Alexander. The future of a project we had worked on for five years – the third edition of “Make a Chair From a Tree” – was thrown to the lawyers.

So when I dove into editing and designing “The Intelligent Hand,” I was hell bent on getting it published before cancer claimed David. And I wanted to equal David’s effort. He gave us everything – his original watercolors, his archive of photos and a manuscript that ripped my heart open. The design and editing had to match it.

Luckily, I had Megan Fitzpatrick to help me. We’ve worked together so long that she knows exactly how little I will compromise. And so she is as pigheaded as I am when it comes to making things look right and read right. And she knows when to say: %$&* it.

Our warehouse has begun shipping “The Intelligent Hand,” and if you ordered a copy through our website, you should have your copy soon. It’s not perfect. We compressed a year of editing and design work into about three months. But it is good. Damn good.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Intelligent Hand, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

New in Store: ‘Shaker Inspiration’ by Christian Becksvoort

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Christian Becksvoort’s new book “Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship” is now available for pre-publication ordering. The book is $43 and will ship in November 2018. All customers who order the book before it ships will receive a free pdf download of the book at checkout.

About the Book
Not too many woodworkers can claim five decades of business success, but Christian Becksvoort is among them. In “Shaker Inspiration,” he shares not only his woodworking knowledge and some of his best professional techniques for producing top-quality work, but also the business advice that helped him establish and sustain his long career in a one-man shop.

Plus, he shares measured drawings for 13 of his own well-known furniture designs and seven Shaker pieces that he’s reproduced. Whether or not you, like Christian, are inspired by the Shaker tradition, you’re sure to be inspired by one of the best-known names in woodworking.

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“Shaker Inspiration” begins with information that all woodworkers need – the nitty gritty of how to successfully make trees into furniture. This requires a firm grasp of wood movement – one of Chris’s specialties – and he shares many of the tricks he uses to ensure his pieces remain sound through the seasons and generations.

The lessons are both big and small, from the advantages to working with a single species to how to calculate how much a drawer front will move inside a house with forced-air heat. Every page of this section is filled with little shop tricks that Christian has used to become a productive woodworker, from how to remove dovetail waste to how to align a drawer front and drawer side perfectly when dovetailing.

After all the great information on the technical side of things, Christian dives into discussing the business side of things. He pulls no punches in discussing the difficulties of life as a furniture maker and designer.

Getting started, you do whatever it takes to pay the bills. We’ve all done our share of kitchens and built-ins, and replaced porch railings. After more than five decades, I can do the woodworking almost in the dark. It’s the business end that’s a constant challenge, and it keeps me on my toes.

He offers straightforward advice on setting up your shop, from the roof to the heat pump to the sign you use to announce your business to customers. Even how to set up relationships with suppliers and subcontractors. It is a sobering section, but if you ever want to set up a woodworking business, it’s the type of information that is almost impossible to come by.

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Finally, “Shaker Inspiration” dazzles you with three sections of photos and measured drawings. The last 60-odd pages offer a collection of Christian’s original designs, reproductions of Shaker pieces he’s made (and made famous) and photos of the original Shaker pieces that have inspired him the most as a craftsman and a designer.

In addition to a beautiful photo and details about the piece, Christian shares a construction drawing of each project that will allow intermediate woodworkers to produce their own version.

Shaker Inspiration” is 166 pages and produced entirely in the United States. The 8.5” x 11” full-color book is printed on heavy coated paper. The pages are sewn and glued for durability and covered in cotton-covered boards. A tear-resistant dust jacket completes the package.


About Christian Becksvoort
Christian Becksvoort has five decades of experience working in a variety of custom, architectural and furniture shops. In 1986, he opened his full-time studio. He works alone, designing, building, finishing and – in some cases – even delivering custom furniture.

Much of Christian’s furniture is inspired by the Shaker tradition, with clean, unadorned lines and fine craftsmanship. He typically works in native, sustainably harvested cherry, and he uses a simple oil finish. And while he is known for several signature designs, each of Christian’s finished pieces is tweaked at least slightly to be unique (with the exception of a set of chairs), and built specifically to meet his customers’ needs (while exceeding their expectations).

Since the mid 1970s, Christian has been privileged to do restoration work for the last active Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. He is also a long-time contributing editor to Fine Woodworking magazine.

Posted in Shaker Inspiration, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Cover Model for ‘Welsh Stick Chairs’

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When I first picked up “Welsh Stick Chairs,” I didn’t fall in love with the chair that John Brown built for the book. That chair had a steam-bent armbow that didn’t quite suit my eye. Instead, I fell for the drawings of the antique chairs that John Brown showed in the book, most of them from St Fagans National Museum of History.

John Brown’s later chairs, which were featured in Good Woodworking magazine, also enraged my chair lust and drove me to Cobden, Ontario, to take my first chair class in 2003.

So when I visited St Fagans last week, I was quite excited to see the chair that was featured on the original cover of “Welsh Stick Chairs” and survived as the frontispiece of later (but lesser) editions of the book.

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This chair is a stunner for several reasons. Take a look at the armbow. It’s made from two pieces of wood that are joined with a giant half-lap that terminates at miters at both ends. Call the chair primitive if you like, but that is a nice piece of work. The other interesting part of the armbow is there is no “doubler” that thickens the armbow where the spindles pass through. The lack of the doubler gives the chair a lighter appearance and makes it simpler to build.

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The wide seat is radically reduced in thickness at the edges, adding to the sense of lightness. The legs, which are round as near as I can tell, are thinner than is typical. And locating them closer to the center of the seat gives the chair an hourglass look. With these legs, it would be easy to make this chair look top-heavy, but the builder got the splay correct so the chair looks solid to sit on.

The seat shape and armbow are tidy. I think the person who made this particular chair had a good eye for proportion, curve and line. Interestingly, the chair had stretchers near the floor, which are now missing. If I made a reproduction, I don’t know if I would restore the stretchers.

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Finally, there is the crest rail (or comb). It has just a little curve to it and is gently pillowed on the front.

It really is a flawless chair and deserved its place on the cover. I’m quite happy that our edition of “Welsh Stick Chairs” put this example in its rightful place.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in John Brown Book, Welsh Stick Chairs by John Brown | 5 Comments

The Storefront is Open Today

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I’m still in Germany, but Brendan Gaffney and Megan Fitzpatrick will open the Lost Art Press storefront to the public today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is located at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky.

We’ll have our complete line-up of books available for sale, plus some blemished books (cash only on blems). As always, Brendan and Megan are happy to discuss any woodworking topic you might need help with, or to demonstrate a technique at the bench.

And if you want to talk smack about me, I won’t be there. So go nuts.

I’ll be back home on Sunday night and will definitely be in the store for the Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 open days. I hope you can visit.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Class Registration Now Live

IMG_7019 copyRegistration is now open for the following first-half 2019 Lost Art Press classes (do sign up for the waitlists if you don’t immediately make it in):

Staked High Stool with Christopher Schwarz, Jan. 19 & 20
Anarchist’s Tool Chest (full-sized English chest) with Megan Fitzpatrick, Jan. 21-25
Starting with Staked Furniture with Brendan Gaffney (simple staked bench and chair), Feb. 4-8
Staked High Stool with Christopher Schwarz, Feb. 16 & 17
Dutch Tool Chest with Megan Fitzpatrick, Feb. 22-24
Build a Staked Armchair with Christopher Schwarz, March 4-8
Build a Shaker Hanging Cabinet with Megan Fitzpatrick, March 16 & 17
Greenwood Post-and-rung Stool with Andy Glenn, March 23 & 24
Høj Footstool with Brendan Gaffney, March 30 & 31
Build a Boarded Bookshelf with Megan Fitzpatrick, April 6 & 7
Make a Roubo Bookstand with Roy Underhill, April 12
Make a Roubo Bookstand with Roy Underhill, April 14
Saw Sharpening 101 with Matt Cianci, April 25 & 26
Saw Sharpening 101 with Matt Cianci, April 27 & 28
Carve the Acanthus Leaf with Mary May, May 4 & 5
Build a Krenov-style Handplane with Brendan Gaffney, May 18 & 19
Build a Welsh Stick Chair with Christopher Williams, May 20-24
Build a Krenov-style Handplane with Brendan Gaffney, May 25 & 26
Dutch Tool Chest with Megan Fitzpatrick, June 14-16
Build a Traditional Plate Rack with Nancy Hiller, June 22 & 23

And if you have questions, please email me, not the LAP help email – my sig below is linked.

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