Order ‘Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown’

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You can now place a pre-publication order for “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown” by Christopher Williams. The book is $49 and will ship in March 2020. If you order before that date, you will receive a free pdf download of the book at checkout.

The book is in three major parts. One part is a biography of John Brown, one of the most influential woodworking writers and chairmakers of the 20th century. It is one part philosophical treatise and features 19 of John Brown’s best columns from Good Woodworking magazine. And it is one part straight-up woodworking book, with Chris showing you how he and John Brown built Welsh stick chairs using simple hand tools and straightforward techniques.

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The book represents four years of difficult (and expensive) work, both here in the States and in Wales. It features essays from the people who worked with John Brown and lived with him – including David and Anne Sears at Pantry Fields and toolmaker Matty Sears. The book is filled with many never-before-seen historical photos of Welsh stick chairs and where they were made. We also commissioned original linocuts to illustrate the book from Molly Brown, one of John Brown’s daughters. And there are many new and gorgeous photos of stick chairs from Heather Birnie.

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We matched the hard work on the editorial side with excellent materials and high-end publishing techniques. The full-color interior pages are heavy and coated with a matte finish that makes them readable in any almost light. The binding is casebound – the signatures are stitched, taped and glued to last as long as possible. I know of no better binding. We wrap the book block with heavy, 98 pt. hard boards. The hinge is made with a custom endsheet. The exterior is charcoal cotton cloth with a silver diestamp. The dustjacket is a tear-resistant paper with a matte laminate. (I know these technical specs bore some customers, but there’s a reason most publishers don’t release them….)

Of course, all production and printing is in the United States.

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In the coming weeks we’ll release an excerpt of the book for people who aren’t sure about “Good Work.”

As always, we don’t know which of our retailers will carry “Good Work.” It is their call, not ours. If you want your local retailer to carry it, let them know. This works surprisingly well.

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And finally, a note of thanks to everyone who helped this book along its way. John Brown’s extended family and his friends were generous with their time and effort. People such as Drew Langsner supplied important background material and a wealth of photos. And many of you offered encouragement and advice – most of it great. And thanks, most of all to Chris. He embarked on this book – his first – with the desire to get it right and honor his mentor, no matter where that journey took him.

You can place a pre-publication order here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in John Brown Book, Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Alaska Hand-tool Woodworking Classes

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I’ll be in Anchorage, Alaska – at least hope to be – from Feb. 28-March 6 to give a presentation on Western Shaker furniture, then teach two hand-tool woodworking classes.

It’s expensive not only to fly folks in to teach, but to have the wood shipped in – so I need a few more students than usual to make it viable for the club.

The first class – the Boarded Bookshelf from Christopher Schwarz’s “Anarchist’s Design Book” – is a two-day: Feb. 29-March 1 ($425). The second class – the Dutch Tool Chest – is a three-day: March 4-6 ($450).

So if you’re in the Anchorage area, or want to take a trip that could involve not only woodworking, but the start of the Iditarod, please consider signing up! Note that the registration fees include the wood – which makes these incredibly inexpensive in comparison to classes in our shop (I dropped my cut to a crazy low rate because, well, Alaska! Iditarod!). For more information and to register, visit the Alaska Creative Woodworkers Association website.

—Fitz

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

‘Anarchist’s Design Book’ Shipping Soon

ADB_expanded_mockup_cover2Our printer has shipped “The Anarchist’s Design Book: Expanded Edition” from its docks and it is en route to our warehouse in Indiana. After it arrives, employees will insert an errata sheet into each copy and mail out all the pre-publication orders.

My guess is these orders will go out next week.

As a result, we have now eliminated the free pdf download for this book. The book is $49, the book plus the pdf is $61.25 and the pdf alone is $24.50.

Despite the fact that I am temporarily sick of this book (I get sick of every book after living and breathing it for several years), I’m excited to see the physical product. We did two new things with the manufacturing: We added a red bookmark ribbon to the book and we used a gloss black foil over the black cloth cover for the marriage mark diestamp. Black on black. The printer says the book looks great. I’m holding my breath a little.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book | 12 Comments

Our Shop Finish Recipe

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We use a lot of finishes in our workshop, from soap to shellac, but the one we recommend for beginning finishers is one we mix up ourselves.

It’s what Bob Flexner would label an oil/varnish blend. We just call it our shop finish.

During the last 20 years, I have developed some preferences as to the raw materials I use, but feel free to ignore those. Almost any brand of raw material will work. Here we go:

1 part Minwax Helmsman spar urethane, satin sheen
1 part boiled linseed oil
1 part odorless mineral spirits

Mix up the three liquids in a mason jar and you are ready to go. Apply it in thin coats with a clean cotton rag. Wipe it on and continue to wipe until the coat is as thin as possible. There should not be a visible puddling or pooling of liquid anywhere. You are wiping it almost dry.

Let the finish dry (it usually takes a couple hours). Use an extra-fine sanding sponge (usually #330 grit or so) to remove any finishing nibs. Apply another coat and repeat the process until you achieve the look you want. Two coats is the minimum for me and is what I use for workbenches and shop appliances. Furniture usually gets three or four. I have used as many as 10 for a customer who wanted a more plastic look.

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Why This Finish?

The varnish offers a bit of protection against spills and stains. It’s not a thick film such as lacquer or a built-up shellac finish. But it does offer enough protection for a chair, bookcase or cabinet. Tabletops, which live a hard life, usually need more protection.

The boiled linseed oil offers a little color and will continue to add color as the piece is exposed to oxygen and sunlight. I like this yellowing. It’s what old furniture looks like.

The mineral spirits thins the varnish and oil, making it easy to spread the shop finish out to a thin and even coat with great ease.

Why These Raw Materials?

I prefer the Minwax Helmsman spar varnish (satin sheen) for a couple reasons. It’s easy to get at most home centers and neighborhood hardware stores. Its major competitor (here in the U.S.) is Varathane Spar Urethane. The Varathane works fine, but it smells a little stronger and takes longer to dry (usually an extra hour or more in my experience). It also gives a milky appearance to the mixture, though that doesn’t seem to change the look of the finished object.

I don’t have a preference for which boiled linseed oil I use.

As to the mineral spirits, I always strive to use odorless mineral spirits. It costs more but has fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and almost no smell.

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The Results

Aside from the protection that this finish offers, I like the low-sheen, hardly there aspect of the finish. It looks like wood does when it has been freshly planed. To your fingers, it doesn’t feel like the wood is wrapped in plastic. And it’s difficult to mess up when applying it. I’m sure it’s possible to mess it up, but I haven’t seen it happen yet.

— Christopher Schwarz

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A shop stool. The seat is finished with our shop finish. The base is finished with two coats of General Finishes’ Milk Paint in Coastal Blue.

Posted in Finishing, Uncategorized | 66 Comments

OK, You Can Stay

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Anyone who has read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” or worked in my shop knows that I dislike French-fitted cubbyholes for tools. I prefer my tools to roam free and migrate amongst my tills as they rise and fall in importance to the job at hand.

I still think this way, but this morning I took a small step to both corral my pencils and tip my hat to my Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 block plane. I added a small oak divider to keep my pencils, knives and 6” rules in one spot. And I added a smaller divider for my block plane at the other end of the till.

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The pencil divider has been a long time coming. I hoard my mechanical pencils, rules and erasers and the like (you have to in a group shop or you will end up pencil-less). And like Nesquik or Tang, they soon dissolve into the rest of the till, hiding under the other tools and becoming invisible.

The divider for the block plane is simply an admission that this block plane has been with me for 23 years and isn’t going anywhere.

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The dividers are oak scraps that I secured with headless brads only. So if this turns out to be a bad idea, it’s reversible.

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One other small tip: to restrain and protect valuable tools, such as my sliding bevels, I keep them in small cardboard boxes. The boxes can migrate (a good thing) but they never become invisible (also a good thing).

OK, now to work.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Errata: Staked Low Stool in ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

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While building the Staked Low Stool this weekend during a class, I discovered a significant keystroke error in my text. I also noticed an inconsistency between the cutting list and the text.

So yesterday I rebuilt the stool to confirm there weren’t other errors (there weren’t).

Here are the two known errors:

  1. On page 92, the correct resultant angle for the stool is 21°, not 11°.
  2. On page 99, the correct size of the legs is 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”, not 1-3/4” x 1-3/4”.

We will include an errata sheet inside every copy of the expanded “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” That sheet will also include a url for downloading a corrected chapter. The chapter will be updated electronically for customers who purchased the pdf.

Posted in Corrections, The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized

Technical Updates to Our PDFs

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This week we pushed out updates to almost all of our books that are available via pdf. So…

No. 1: Please don’t worry, the emails aren’t a scam. They are indeed from us.

No. 2: What changed? This is a technical update – we didn’t change the editorial content. Instead, we added Bookmarks and interior navigation links to make the pdfs easier to use. When you open the pdf, you can click on the icon that looks like a bookmark on the left side of the screen and you’ll see all the chapters listed there. Click on a bookmark and you’ll jump to that point in the text.

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We also added interior links from each book’s Table of Contents. Go to the Table of Contents in any of the new pdfs. Click on the chapter you want to read. You will go there.

We also added the image of the book’s cover to the pdf (if it was missing). This is a cosmetic change.

No. 3: Why did you do this? To make the pdfs easier to use for you and us.

No. 4: I bet you added DRM or other sneaky stuff to watch me in the shower. No, we did not. We just made the pdfs easier to use. We also reset the counter for your downloads. So if you had reached your limit, it’s now reset to zero.

No. 5: What if I didn’t get an email for a pdf I own? Chances are that the notice was sent to an email you aren’t using now. You can log into your account at our store and you’ll see all your downloads that are available. If that doesn’t work, you can send a note to help@lostartpress.com.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments