Finishing Up ‘Cut & Dried’


Richard Jones’s opus on wood technology – “Cut & Dried: A Woodworker’s Guide to Timber Technology” – is almost ready to go to the printer. There are just a few last-minute freak-outs to tend to today. And wrapping up the cover, which turned into a craft project this week.

“Cut & Dried” will be one of the largest books we’ve published (at about 400 pages) and covers every aspect of our beloved material, from how it grows, all the way to how it behaves when it’s in a finished piece of furniture. In between, Jones covers every aspect of the material, from fungi and pests to sawmills and kilns.

And, most importantly, the book is told from the perspective of a woodworker. Jones is a lifelong professional woodworker and instructor. While there are many other fine books on wood technology out there, Jones thought they were aimed more at a scientific audience than at furniture makers. And we agreed.

So Jones spent many years researching, writing, photographing and drawing this book to develop what we think is the most complete and understandable guide to wood.

We’ll be talking more about Jones’s exhaustive treatment of the topic in the coming days. But first, a look at how we developed the cover. It also involved woodworking.


“Cut & Dried” delves deep into the structure of trees and how that affects your work at the bench. And so I wanted a cover that displayed the structure without being too technical about it – this book is not written for wood scientists.

During my experiments with shou sugi ban, I became fascinated with how a torch can burn away the earlywood in some softwoods, leaving the hard latewood and exposing the pores that transmit fluid in the tree. I wondered if this could result in a woodblock-like print for the cover. After searching around, I became inspired by the work of Shona Branigan who does this sort of thing but takes it to a sublime artistic level.

This week, Megan Fitzpatrick, Brendan Gaffney and I spent a day messing around with different trees to make a block for the cover. In the end, Megan snitched an offcut of a neighbor’s Christmas tree – a Scot’s pine – that we cut, burned, brushed and inked. It took us about 25 tries to get the look we wanted.

If all goes to plan we’ll be offering this book for pre-publication ordering next week. When it’s released, we’ll have details on pricing and the ship date.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Cut & Dried, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Ingenious Mechanicks: Finding Saint Joseph

Alter of the Marienbaum Shrine, Germany.

Although Saint Joseph was a carpenter it can be a challenge to find him working as such in many paintings of the Holy Family. Prior to his rejuvenation during the Counter-Reformation he was often an ancillary figure, off to the side, as Jesus and Mary were venerated. In paintings of the Nativity is wasn’t uncommon to see Saint Joseph mingling with the livestock or peering over a wattle wall at the newborn Jesus. Sometimes Joseph was making soup.

Finding good workworking scenes was a matter of studying the details of the many paintings and manuscripts that were vetted for inclusion in “Ingenious Mechanicks.” First, I had to find Saint Joseph, then figure out what he was doing.

The painting above is a good example of how it can be difficult to find Saint Joseph. Take away the many decorative elements and look only at the painting. Two of the three Magi are in the foreground and in the center middle ground the third has just dismounted his horse. Where is  Joseph?

Adoration of the Kings, 1515, by Barthel Bartholomaeus Bruyn.

Oh, there he is, sqeezed off to the right side, holding a plane while standing at his bench. Without the bench and plane (and no halo) we wouldn’t know it was Saint Joseph.

The next three paintings were put into a timeline that I used to write my chapter (that would be Chapter 4).  The time line was used to determine possible patterns of when and where low workbenches were found.

The Merode Altarpiece, 1427-1432, workshop of Robert Campin. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Merode Altarpiece is legend among woodworkers. And it is fortunate that the three panels are still together for the viewer to see the entire story. The center panel depicting the Annunciation is the main event, however, Saint Joseph is not usually seen when the angel appears to Mary. Which makes me think if the panel with Saint Joseph was separated from the triptych would we know it was Saint Joseph? Anyway, I’m assuming Joseph lives in a different part of the house and has squeezed into his own mini-workshop. With incredible detail we can see his bench, tools, the two mousetraps already made and a work in progress.

Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1480 by the Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara (active in Brussels 1470-1500). Collection of the Palazzo Colonna, Rome.

This is a good example of how I might first encounter a painting online: someone took a photo of the painting hanging on a museum wall. It turns out this is a center panel of a triptych that has apparently been separated. After lightening this a bit the darkness to the left reveals Saint Joseph.

Detail from an article by Anne L. Williams in The Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, Vol. 10.1.

There he is. Not too far from the livestock, sitting on his staked bench, a finished mousetrap on his workbench as he starts work on another project.

Saint Luc Peignant la Vierge, est.1465-1493, by Colijin de Coter. Eglise Notre-Dame, Vieure, France.

Saint Luke is the patron saint of artists and is usually depicted writing portions of the Bible or painting a portrait of Mary and the Baby Jesus. This is a painting I put aside to study later for my own amusement, not expecting to find Saint Joseph. When I did take a closer look at the background it seemed there was a possible Saint Joseph, but the resolution was too low to make out the details. I went to the RKD database and found a photo of the painting.

Saint Joseph looking none too happy has been relegated to the garden while Mary sits for her portrait. A few tools on the ground, a plane and chisel on the workbench and he is working on ghe same project as the other two Josephs (or the same Joseph, but at different times?).

To satisfy my curiosity I had to find out what the three Josephs were making. I found the answer on a French woodworking forum: a chaufferette. If it was cold weather and you didn’t have a sixteen-pound heater cat to curl itself around your feet you needed a chaufferette, otherwise known as a foot warmer.

Chaufferettes: Right: detail from The Milkmaid by Vermeer. Left: detail from Joost Cornelis Droochsloot’s self-portrait.

A wooden chaufferette was a ventilated box lined with metal into which hot coals were put. It might have a hinged top or open side. Chaufferettes could also be made of other materials.

After Saint Joseph’s make over in the Counter-Reformation he became a more important, and often central figure, in paintings. Although he might not be engaged in woodworking in every painting he is always easy to find.

Next time I’ll tell you about two ‘Ah-ha!’ moments that we had during research for “Ingenious Mechanicks.” I believe one instance caused Christopher Schwarz to wet his pants.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Historical Images, Ingenious Mechanicks | 14 Comments

Ingenious Mechanicks: Proving It

Book of Hours, MS M.739 fol. 10r, Germany, possibly Bamberg. 1204-1219. Morgan Library & Museum, New York

While sifting through bushels of old images for the research for “Ingenious Mechanicks,” Chris and I would often come across some odd something or other that made us scratch our heads. To give you a look behind the scenes, I’ll show you examples of how we verified a workholding device was real and not a figment of the artist’s imagination. The first two examples are not in the book and are some investigations I did on the side.

Grasping Limbs
In the image above Noah is directing the building of the Ark. A board is held on two stands. I termed them “grasping limbs,” and Chris said it was a weird way to depict sawbenches. Plenty of images from the same time period showed four-legged sawbenches. Was this an anomaly? Could I find more images like this and, more importantly, find a description or photograph with the “limbs” in use?

Bronze bas-relief panel, 12th century, Basilica of San Zeno, Verona, Italy.

In fair Verona an even earlier example of the “grasping limbs” showed up in another scene of Noah’s Ark. But, more proof was needed.

Copyright Guédelon. Photo by F. Folcher.

In northern Burgundy the building of a 13th-century castle using traditional methods is underway. Here we see an actual example of the “grasping limbs.” They do exist.

“Die Hausbücher der Nürnberger Zwölfbrüderstiftungen” are a rich source for learning about the work of 15th and 16th-century craftspeople. In several paintings there are carpenters using various means to secure wood to sawbenches or other supports.

Hans Mathes, 1500-1585, “Die Hausbücher der Nürnberger” Amb.317b.2º folio 45v (Mendel II). German National Museum.

Brüder Hans prefers to use staked sawbenches for his work and is using sturdy metal kramps, or clamps for workholding. This makes sense for heavy work at a construction site. Were metal clamps such as this still in use several hundred years later and were they used by different crafts? Let’s go to Slovakia.

Trencianske Muzeum v Trencine, Slovakia. Photo by J. Hanusin.

Here we have a spoon carver drilling holes in the bowl of a very large spoon. He is using metal clamps to hold the spoon in place. The photo is dated 1954. With a little more research I’m sure many more examples can be found.

The Way of the Peg
Using a combination of early 20th-century photographs, some help from the “Die Hausbücher der Nürnberger” and the Old Testament (plus try-outs in Chris’ workshop), the power of the peg as a workholding devise was revealed. Pegs are covered at length in the book, below is a small portion of the discussion.

“Woodworking in Estonia” provides valuable information on how carpenters worked on the low Roman-style workbench. Pegs at the end of the bench were a common method to use as a planing stop.

Karl Schreyner, 1425, “Die Hausbücher der Nürnberger” Amb.317.2º fol 21r (Mendel I). German National Museum.

The “Schreyner pegs” were a key to using pegs as end and side stops on the workbench.

Bible Historiale, MS M394 fol 57r, Paris, France, ca. 1415. Morgan Library and Museum.

Moses guiding carpenters in the construction of an altar. The carpenter traverses a board with the pegs on two sawbenches serving as side stops. Using your sawbenches as auxiliary work surfaces to your low workbench is also featured in “Ingenious Mechanicks.”

A shot from Chris’ shop with end and side pegs securing a board on the low workbench.

A return trips to Estonia for edge-jointing a board. Adjust the height of the pegs to better hold the board. A peg at the end and pegs on either side hold the board in place.

Historie Biblie Figurate, Manuscripts of the Library of Raphael de Marcatellis, Sint Baafskathedraal, Gent, Belgium.

And we are back to Noah. If there is a gap between the board and the side pegs, a wedge will take care of the problem.

When Chris was looking for the right space to create his workshop he mentioned one of his goals was to have a woodworking laboratory. He wanted a place to exchange and explore ideas on work methods and design. “Ingenious Mechanicks” is one product of that goal. It is also an invitation to other woodworkers to join the conversation.

In the next behind the scenes look I go looking for Saint Joseph; he isn’t always easy to find.

— Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Historical Images, Ingenious Mechanicks | 25 Comments

A Trimming Trick and a Degree Change


Getting the lid, the dust seal, the carcase and the top skirt of the tool chest all working in tandem requires some care. Small errors compound quickly.

In the end, the lid should overhang the carcase by about 1/16” on its front and ends before you attach the dust seal. Sometimes you have to trim the lid. Sometimes you have to trim the carcase.

Trimming the lid is straightforward. Mark what you want to remove and plane it away.

Trimming the carcase can be trickier. On one carcase on my bench today, the lid was out of square by less than 1/16” over its 24” width. The best solution was to trim the carcase. But the wood that needed to be removed was a thin taper that started at less than 1/16” at one end and diminished to nothing at the other end.

To mark this out I use blue tape.


I first used a knife to mark where the taper should begin. Then I laid the tape down on the edge of the carcase. I put a shoulder plane on the carcase. Because of the tape, I can easily see the wood I need to remove (even with 49-year-old eyes). If I get any blue tape in the mouth of the plane, I know I’ve gone too far.


The Dust Seal
The dust seal is dovetailed at the two front corners and wraps around three edges of the lid. With these two particular chests, the dust seal is 1-3/8” wide. The problem here is the slope of the dovetails.

Usually I use a 1:4 slope for dovetails (about 14°). The problem is that the slope is a little extreme for a piece of wood 1-3/8” wide. So I use a less-radical slope, 1:8 or about 7°. This slope makes the base of the dovetail a good deal beefier.

While I’ve gotten away with a 1:4 slope on the dust seal, it looks like a pencil-necked chicken.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Hand Tool Immersion 101


A few years back, Christopher Schwarz taught a handful of what he affectionately calls “the baby anarchist’s tool chest class.” The premise was to help build the woodworking community by offering to young would-be hand-tool woodworkers a low-cost class to jump-start their skills. These classes involved an intensive week of tuning up old tools, then learning to wield them while building a simpler version of his “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” in which to keep them, and little sleep or showering (because: camping).

Since Chris has stepped back from teaching, Mike Siemsen has taken up the baby anarchist baton, and is (for I think the third year) offering much the same at his Minnesota school. The 2018 “Hand Tool Immersion 101” class is May 7-11, and costs $650 (materials included). Mike is offering free camping and communal dinner prep on site. And bathrooms and showers. Because Mike spoils his students.

Find out more at the Mike Siemsen School of Woodworking website.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Unto Others


I spent this afternoon installing five hinges made by blacksmith Peter Ross on two tool chests. And though I’ve installed a lot of them, I involuntarily marveled at their beauty and utility. They are that gorgeous.

In fact, one the best parts of my life is getting to work with other artisans, whether it’s a woodworker writing a book for Lost Art Press, a blacksmith making a chest lock, a foundry worker pouring a casting or a bookbinder making a deluxe edition.

While this statement seems obvious – who wouldn’t want to work with these awesome people? – I don’t think it is. It’s a damn challenge to work with others. Every piece of blacksmith-made hardware is different and requires extraordinary individual attention. Every woodworker who writes a book is different and requires individual attention. And so forth.

In fact, my work would be a lot easier (and profitable) if I simply wrote books, published them and ignored the work of other people.


But my life would be much less rich. And I would be a lesser person for it.

That’s why I have great respect for publishers such as Marc Spagnuolo and Joshua Klein, who have reached out beyond their insular worlds (we all have insular worlds – we’re woodworkers) to bring the ideas of other people to the forefront.

Marc, as you might know, has been filming the work of people such as Anne Briggs and Darrell Peart for The Wood Whisperer Guild. Joshua has enlisted an entire host of writers and builders to create new knowledge through Mortise & Tenon magazine.

Both of these guys could easily do their own thing, ignore the rest of the world and live handsomely. They both have magnetic personalities that would allow them to be the epicenter of their own universes.

But they haven’t. And my hat is off to them.


Your work will be better if you listen to a variety of voices. Don’t just listen to me. Learn what you can from all the other people out there. And pay special attention to the people who are also willing to listen to others.

Learning this craft from 100 teachers (instead of just one) is more challenging for you, the student. At some point you will need to say: “Wait, this particular bit of gospel is total BS to me.” But you will be a more resilient, informed and balanced woodworker as a result.

You will see the overall patterns in our craft, not just methods of a single teacher. And maybe, when it comes time for you to teach others, your mind will be open, and you will glady promote the work of others, even if it challenges the work you do every day at the bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Make Your Own Dang Shirts


Until we can get our act together and get Lost Art Press T-shirts back in the store, feel free to make your own T-shirts using our logo.

We don’t make T-shirts to make money (unlike some rock bands). We make T-shirts because people ask for them, and because we need something to wear that doesn’t have holes in it.


You can use these logos at a print-on-demand service, or even on an existing favorite shirt using an inkjet printer and special paper. Note: If you put our logo on thong underwear or a tube top, please don’t send us a photo.

I’ve put two logos – our main logo and our beehive logo – into a compressed file you can download and unzip. They are sized for T-shirts at 300 dpi.

LAP Logos

We can’t offer tech support on these (such as changing the ink color). But I’m sure a local 11-year-old could help you with that.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments