Roubo With The Sound Turned On

Diorama of Plate 99

Diorama of Plate 99

Almost two years ago Chris sent me a pre-publication copy of “The Book of Plates” and gave me free reign to color, cut-out and otherwise manipulate anything I found in the plates. Yesterday I started work on the index for “Roubo on Furniture” and now get to read the descriptions of each scene, tool and work method in the plates. Most of the plates that I transformed into dioramas and collages are from the furniture book and seeing them again was a reunion with old friends.

The plates have tremendous detail but having the matching text is like have the sound turned on. Part of Plate 4 is a description of  proper storage of wood and protection from the elements. Roubo provides meticulous instruction on stacking the wood and how to achieve the angled “rain diverters” at the top of each pile.

Adding dimension to Plate 4.

Adding dimension and color to Plate 4.

In preparation for this indexing assignment I pulled my special china pattern out of storage. I like my china pattern to match the book.


Later in the week I’ll revive the Birds of Roubo and the trash-talking Chairs of Roubo.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible | 8 Comments

The Roman Workbench Begins


This afternoon I got a good start on my first Roman workbench – a knee-high bench with almost no workholding, aside from holes for pegs or holdfasts.

I’m building it using a red oak top from Will Myers, who dried the slab in his homemade kiln in North Carolina. The legs are some white oak stock that is sold at the lumberyard for making rustic mantles. (I was going to instead use some firewood I have in my shop, but that firewood is actually going into two upcoming commissioned chairs.)

The real fun part of the project is the measurement system. Thanks to Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney at, I have a Roman ruler to guide me as I design and build these two workbenches. I’m using his Cubitus Ruler, which combines several Roman systems onto one pretty stick.

So here is the cutting list for this first Roman workbench:

1 benchtop, measuring 3.4 thumbs x 14 thumbs x 4.9 cubits (or 87.8 thumbs)
4 legs, measuring 2.2 thumbs x 2.2 thumbs x 1.25 cubits (or 21.3 thumbs)

Before you do the math, just think of the cubit as the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. And the thumb as the length of the second segment of your thumb. That’s accurate enough.


Today I dressed the front edge of benchtop with my jointer plane, making sure it was square to the benchtop (the benchtop is the heart side of the slab, FYI). Then I marked the final width of the benchtop using a large square – my panel gauge is in my other shop.

That’s when I found that I had to remove almost 1/2 thumb of wood in places to make the front edge and back edge parallel.

I looked for my hatchet. Dangit. It’s also in my other shop.


So I decided to traverse the edge with my jack plane. After marking the final width of the benchtop, I use my jack to create a chamfer on the corner that touched the line that represented the final width of the benchtop. The chamfer acted as gauge – as the chamfer disappeared I knew I was closer to my finished width. It also protected the corner from spelching during the traversing.

This dodge worked surprisingly well.

Tomorrow I’ll dress the benchtop and start shaping the legs.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The book “Roman Workbenches” is unlikely to have any photos because we are printing it via letterpress, so I’m not sure why I’m documenting every step. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized, Workbenches | 25 Comments

Beat the Heat, Read the Forum


Summer is in full swing and where I live it is HOT. The best way around this is to stay inside and read the forum. Remember, if you have a question about our products, procedures in our books or anything related to Lost Art Press, the fastest way to get an answer is our forum. Check it out here.

Workbench is finally finished
I love showing off people’s finished projects and this one is perfect for that (above). I love the painted legs. Beautiful work Tyler.

Staked worktable is rickety
Christopher is finding his staked worktable to be a little rickety so far in his construction and is thinking of putting two aprons between the battens with screws to remedy the problem. Has anyone had a similar experience? And if so, what was your solution?

Suitable replacement for pine
David is looking for pine on the West coast and has found it nowhere. The question now is whether to build from 3/4” pine or switch to poplar. What are your thoughts?


Roubo bench green timbers – the waiting game
How dry does wood need to be to start a bench build? This is the question Jason is pondering while anxious to get started. Most are advising that as long as there is dry would for the legs, the top can be green. Do you agree?

Making a wider bookshelf
Thomas’s bookshelf is painted and in use. Looking good! (At right.)

Planting on a raised panel
Michael is getting ready to build a wall cabinet and is thinking he wants to approach his doors the way Peter Follansbee did the lid on his tool chest. (Below; the photo is from Peter’s blog.) The problem is that he is not sure how he attached his dust seal. Glue? Dowels? Dominos? Anyone able to help him out?


See ya next week!

Meghan Bates

Posted in Forum | 2 Comments

That’s a Three-barbarian Door


Yesterday I managed to hang my braced and ledged door for the stables at our storefront. The stables will eventually house my machinery, so I wanted the door to be nice and handmade.

So by following the instructions on these traditional doors from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years,” I built this massive (8’ tall) door from 1-3/8”-thick yellow pine that has been seasoning in my shop for four years.

Perhaps I should have used cedar.

I’m not sure how much the door weighs, probably close to 70 or 80 pounds with all the hardware installed. And hanging it by myself in the heat was sweaty business. But now comes the fun part: Today I’m going to trim out the door, add the lock and begin making the door’s handle. I have a piece of wood I’ve been hanging onto for seven or eight years for just this purpose.

I’m eager to rip out the crappy disintegrating drywall and stud walls inside the stables and uncover the loft area above (the loft has a floor and I haven’t found a way up there – yet). But it’s just too dang hot to ask my friends to do this miserable work. So I’ll probably put it off until the heat breaks.

I’ve still got plenty to do. This week I’m installing our new front entrance to the storefront, and Nicholas Mogely is going to gild our new logo on the door. Oh, and I have to install a new fence and repair the deck before it kills someone.

At least I don’t have any bats to battle.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Now Shipping: The Red Edition of ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’


To mark the fifth anniversary of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” we have published a single run of 4,000 of these books with a red cloth cover instead of the usual black. We have been shipping the red cover to our retailers as well.

The interior of the book is identical to all the other printings. Only the cover cloth has changed. After we sell out of the red edition, we’ll return to black cloth.

Why red? The last five years have been remarkable. I get up every morning when I feel like it. I work all day (and night) at things I love. No one tells me to do stupid stuff I disagree with.

So every day is a red-letter day.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

A Workbench Cleat from 1826


Check out the right leg of the workbench in this 1826 plate that Jeff Burks dug up from “Les Amusemens de la Campagne” (Vol. 3) by M.A. Paulin Desormeaux. Take a look at Fig. B there. It’s a small cleat used for edge-jointing.

Here’s Jeff’s translated text:

Fig 1. of the plate represents the workbench. A is the head of a screw clamping a strong board against the front leg forming a vise; when you want to work on a board, you take it from one end in this vise, and the other end is placed on the small cleat B same figure. And if need be is maintained with the help of a holdfast placed in hole C.

I’ve not seen a cleat exactly like this one before. But I have seen cleats that retract below the workbench’s top or are removable. Woodworker Yoav Liberman has a metal removable one on his bench that is made from some bed hardware I believe.

Here is an historical example, but it’s located up by the face vise.

Oh, and check out the cool fireworks displays you can build below. Danger on a stick.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 2 Comments

Caretakers of the Tool Cabinet


The only place Peter Hardwick had where the tool cabinet could be displayed was inside his unused fireplace surround in the cottage parlor. Appropriately, the surround was some of Studley’s handiwork from the Quincy house. (Photo courtesy of Sandor Nagyszalanczy)

This is an excerpt from “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Donald C. Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar. 

The Fan Frenzy Begins
In the late 1980s Peter installed a new chimney in his home, and, in doing what guys do on such a momentous occasion, invited a friend over to show off his newly completed project. This friend, an insurance agent, saw the tool cabinet, recognized its special-ness and encouraged Peter to insure it. This event, Peter said, “Opened a can of worms!”

Peter tried to figure out exactly what it was that he had and how much to insure it for, and so he turned to FineWoodworking, the Smithsonian and an antiques appraiser for answers. At FineWoodworking magazine, Senior Editor Sandor Nagyszalanczy took the call and carries the memories vividly.

In early 1988, Nagyszalanczy made arrangements to go visit it during another scouting trip to Maine. When he opened the chest, it was, and I am quoting him, “Jaw dropping to floor!” He set up to take the photographs that eventually entered directly into our collective consciousnesses via the back cover of that magazine.

At that moment, Peter’s life of stewardship of the tool cabinet changed forever. In an age before e-mail, the result of that single back-cover image – and the ensuing posters – was an onslaught of actual “fan mail” for the tool cabinet that overwhelmed him. He received so much mail that he rented a dedicated post office box just for the unsolicited correspondence being forwarded to him by FineWoodworking. Peter’s only regret from this period was that he did not save the fan mail.

The Smithsonian
One of the correspondents was the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History Curator David Shayt. While on vacation, Shayt visited Peter and they struck up a fast friendship based initially on their mutual interest in the tool collection, but it soon evolved to reflect the fact that both men were affable and genuinely good guys.

At the time, Peter had a dilemma. He owned a family heirloom that was also a monumental piece of Americana, and he was concerned about its security and preservation in a simple Maine farmhouse. Shayt proposed a temporary solution. What if Peter loaned the tool cabinet to the Smithsonian for a 10-year period, during which the Smithsonian would bear all the responsibility for it? Once again, Peter reached an agreement to foster the care and preservation of a genuine national treasure, a theme that has touched him throughout his life.


While at the Institution the cabinet was conserved and exhaustively documented, and included in a small vignette adjacent to the exhibit “Engines of Change:The American Industrial Revolution 1790-1860,” with several other tool chests and cabinets for various trades. Though the larger exhibit lasted almost 20 years (late 1986 to mid-2006), the Studley tool cabinet was included for perhaps only a third of that time, probably from about 1992-1999. No doubt seen by thousands of woodworkers there, the Internet has numerous accounts of woodworkers who were captivated by it. I spoke recently with one visitor, a woodworker, who recalls it “being displayed a long way back from the glass, and in the dark.”


During the time of the Smithsonian possession, the collection was photographed and documented, and underwent a thorough cleaning and some conservation treatment, as well as being included in the small exhibit. Meanwhile, the torrent of fan mail kept coming, becoming even more of an avalanche with the issuing of the poster, then a FineWoodworking article, a second edition of a poster and finally a third. The maelstrom of mail led Peter to reconsider his continued ownership of the collection.

And it was one of those letters that again changed the course of the Studley tool cabinet’s history.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley | 8 Comments