2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 8: Crubber


If you want to improve your workbench’s vises in an hour, just add Crubber. These thin sheets of cork and rubber add a good deal of grip to your vise’s jaws, and they also protect the workpiece.


After becoming a Crubber Lover, we began replacing the other options I’ve tried over the years with this great material. On many of our benches we have suede, which has survived fine, and adhesive cork sheets, which have not.


I prefer to use epoxy to stick my Crubber to wood and metal. Other adhesives I’ve tried have creeped a bit. (The Horror of Creeping Crubber – this stuff writes itself.)


It’s not bulletproof – nothing is. I’ve torn out a chunk or two of the stuff on my leg vise. But it does hold well and it takes a good beating.


Two sheets (5” x 9”) are only $9. Available from Benchcrafted.


— Christopher Schwarz


Disclaimer: We buy all of our tools. We don’t accept advertising or sponsorships. We are not part of any affiliate program. We don’t make any money if you buy these items. We just like these tools.

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Now in Store: Edwin Skull Chair Poster, Circa 1865


Our limited-edition run of Edwin Skull posters is now available in the store for immediate shipment. These are perfect for the chair nerd in your life (even if that chair nerd is you). Here are the details:

One of the most delightful images I’ve turned up in my research on historical chairs is a broadsheet printed by the Edwin Skull chair company in High Wycombe. The color image features 141 of the chairs offered by the firm, including the “Skull’s Patent Plectaneum Chair,” a famous folding chair.

The Skull firm traces its roots back to Charles Skull (1780–1851), who was a chair japanner in High Wycombe. Two of his sons, Edwin and Walter, started making chairs and because known for making high-quality goods. About 1865, the firm issued this broadsheet to show the wide range of chairs the company made and the awards it had received.

The firm survived into the 1930s but was acquired by rival Furniture Industries Ltd. in 1932. Furniture Industries is now called ercol and operates in the High Wycombe area. As a nod to its heritage, the chairmaking department at ercol is still referred to as “Skulls.”

The Skulls broadsheet has been published in a couple books by Ivan G. Sparkes, including “The English Country Chair” (Spurbooks), but the images were so small that it was difficult to study it in detail.

Where, I wondered, was the original? And could we obtain a copy of it?

Enter our researcher, Suzanne Ellison, who tracked down the original at the Wycombe Museum. After some negotiations, the museum agreed to produce a high-resolution image of the broadsheet that we could use for a limited-edition poster of 500 units.

In exchange for this, we helped pay for the new digital image and will donate a portion of the proceeds of poster sales directly to the Wycombe Museum.

Our Edwin Skulls poster is printed here in Cincinnati on heavy, #120 uncoated stock. The poster measures 13” x 19” and ships in a stiff cardboard tube. The price is $18, which includes domestic shipping.

— Christopher Schwarz

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2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 7: Allback Linseed Oil Wax Finish


When we need a simple and non-toxic finish, we reach for Allback, a combination of organic linseed oil and beeswax that is great for many woodworking projects. It’s great for chairs, small cabinets and turned objects. It’s not so great for stuff that sees heavy abuse (kitchen tables, for example).

The finish has the consistency of peanut butter. Apply it to raw wood with a grey 3M pad and rub it into the wood until only a thin film remains. After about 30 minutes, wipe off the excess with a clean cotton rag. It will have a low sheen but a nice, soft feel.

I usually wait a few days (if I can) and then apply a second coat. It will take a little longer to dry, but it will provide a little more sheen and protection.

Yes, you can apply it over film finishes, but it’s not as nice. A finish that has sealed up the wood (such as varnish, shellac or lacquer) will stop the oil in the Allback from curing quickly. In these cases, a soft wax is better as a topcoat because it doesn’t have any linseed oil.

One of the things I really like about it is how easy it is to renew or repair. If the finish gets scuffed or aged, you can wipe a quick coat of Allback on the piece and it is back to new.

Get a small amount of it to try – that will answer all of your questions about it. Then you can decide if it’s a good finish for your shop. (Also, ignore the odd photo on the ordering page. Really – Allback is great stuff.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Disclaimer: We buy all of our tools. We don’t accept advertising or sponsorships. We are not part of any affiliate program. We don’t make any money if you buy these items. We just like these tools.

Posted in Anarchist's Gift Guide, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 6: First Light Works Bevel Monkey


Setting a sliding bevel to an exact degree is difficult with a plastic protractor. Depending on the design of the protractor, you usually have to first draw the line you want and then set the bevel to that. So there are two opportunities for error. Plus, setting a bevel to a fraction of a degree is difficult with a plastic protractor intended for school use.

Enter the Bevel Monkey. It’s similar to several other tools on the market, but I like the Bevel Monkey because it is easy to read, is inexpensive and it does one thing only: Set a bevel.

You put the bevel against one edge of the Bevel Monkey and set it to the angle (or fraction of an angle) you want. As a chairmaker, this tool is always on my bench while drilling mortises.

It’s well made. Easy to us. And the perfect size.

— Christopher Schwarz

Disclaimer: We buy all of our tools. We don’t accept advertising or sponsorships. We are not part of any affiliate program. We don’t make any money if you buy these items. We just like these tools.

Posted in Anarchist's Gift Guide, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 5: Lie-Nielsen Dusting Brush


When Lie-Nielsen started selling this dusting brush (at the advice of David Chalesworth) I chuckled about it like when you see a guy wearing an ascot or pocket square.

Then I used it, and I bought one immediately.

Made with Chinese boar bristles, the brush is the perfect thing for getting crap out of the mouth of your handplane and from that tight spot on the plane’s sole between the body and the blade. It just works – better than a cheap paintbrush. And it’s just a nice thing. It’s the right size for the job, it is well-made and it helps support Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

Plus it’s $15, so it’s a great gift.

— Christopher Schwarz

Disclaimer: We buy all of our tools. We don’t accept advertising or sponsorships. We are not part of any affiliate program. We don’t make any money if you buy these items. We just like these tools.

Posted in Anarchist's Gift Guide, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Paint Buyer Beware

There’s a widespread belief that anyone who can hold a brush is capable of painting. What’s up with the spatters on the baseboard and floor? I asked a painter hired by the woman who’d rented my bungalow back in 2003. “You need to get used to owning a rental” was his response. Translation: Shoddy work is good enough in rental properties. (I strongly disagree.) Between peeling or chipping paint due to improper surface preparation, varying shades or sheens caused by insufficient stirring, drips, spatters and bugs – literal or figurative – in the finish, America’s houses bear witness to generations of humans who should probably never have been allowed to apply paint.

A recent job reminded me that the same goes for those who work in paint stores. There’s a big difference between pressing buttons based on a manufacturer’s formula and understanding color theory, along with the chemical components of contemporary coatings. After days of anxious deliberation and nearly $40 in samples, my client decided on a cabinet color. I called in the order for a gallon and drove to the paint store first thing the next morning to pick it up. Before leaving the store I asked the clerk to open the can – experience has taught me it’s worth taking a minute to check the color instead of waiting until you’re at the shop or jobsite to discover it’s not what you ordered.

Most of the time the color is spot on and I go on my way, but this time it looked off. I asked the clerk, Chris Slater, to compare it to the card. It was not the same color.


Ideal versus reality. The color on the right is close to what it should have been. The one on the left is what the formula actually produced.

Chris, who has worked at the store about 16 years, explained that the cause was likely the colorant; I was buying paint with a different base from that sold for samples, and although he had mixed the gallon with the formula designed for the product I was buying, on rare occasions the shades don’t match. Apparently we were dealing with one of those rogue, hard-to-match colors.

He said he would custom-mix a gallon. He began the process by using the computer to generate a formula for the match based on the color chip. The result still wasn’t quite right; he thought he could get closer with a custom match based on experience and his own eye.

The next morning I picked up the gallon of paint, which seemed perfect.


Chris’s first attempt at a color match is all-but perfect. Aside from the slightly higher sheen of the paint relative to the flat card stock, can you see the paint rubbed onto the “rich cream” chip?

I applied the first coat to the smallest cabinet, just in case it turned out not to be right. Once it had dried, my client said it was close…but still a little lighter and yellower than she was hoping for. Had I been working in Bloomington, I would have run the can back to the paint store, knowing the crew would do whatever was necessary to get it right. But I was 60 miles away. (Fortunately, this is the first time I’ve had this experience in many years.)

The following morning I asked Chris to speak with his rep at Benjamin Moore. This was not the paint store’s fault, but an error by the manufacturers, whose job it is to ensure that each of the subtle gradations in color they advertise is reproducible across the range of bases they sell.


Chris went through his paces, mixing three new gallons of paint at no charge, authorized by the Benjamin Moore rep.


Service with a smile from Chris Slater.

I brushed a sample of each on a section of wall that will be tiled and let them dry. Luckily, my client loved one of them and I was able to finish the job.


The Moral of the Story
This experience cost me several hours of productive work and meant that other customers in the paint store had to wait longer than they should have to be served, while Chris, one of a limited number of employees, was working to make our customer happy. Although it was frustrating for all of us, it was a great example of working together to solve a problem, demonstrating a level of knowledge and commitment you’re unlikely to find in big-box stores. The paint store I frequent, Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper, is family-owned and has been in business for almost a century. It’s still in business largely because, in addition to selling products of high quality, it has a strong service ethic and places a premium on training its employees.


Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper in its former location on the Downtown Square.

I’ve found this kind of service invaluable, so in an era that’s increasingly tough on locally owned businesses, I do my part to keep it going.

– Nancy Hiller, author of “Making Things Work”

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New Column at Core77: Embrace Your Staleness


Core77 has just published my latest column, which details how I generate ideas for books, furniture, tools and such. It’s free to read, as always.

Generating buckets of ideas (both good and bad) is an important part of my business. Plus, having a long list of future projects is what keeps me happy and motivated.

My methods, however, are odd. The way I generate ideas is a rejection of almost every “guide to being creative” that I’ve read.

Thanks, as always, to Core77 for publishing these columns, which allow me to stray a little further afield from woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Core77 Columns, Uncategorized | 13 Comments