A Brain Dump on Upcoming Projects

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During the last few months we’ve all been working on a lot of projects behind the scenes that haven’t gotten much attention here on the blog. Here’s a quick update on all of our active projects.

‘Carve the Acanthus Leaf’ by Mary May
Meghan Bates, the page designer, and I have been working on finalizing the design for Mary’s book. It’s a complex piece of work – there are so many art and text elements that we are having to rethink how we design our books to get it right. Expect this book in the late spring.

Copperplate Engravings from ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’
Last year we promised we would sell handmade copperplate engraving prints from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” that were made by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. But then my calendar went to crap and I got bogged down in revising “Handplane Essentials” for F+W Media. On Feb. 1 we will offer all of the plates from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” for sale. And if you order the complete set you’ll receive a handmade book box from Ohio Book to hold them.

New Titles in the Works
In addition to the books coming about John Brown and by Jögge Sundqvist and Bill Rainford, we have some other titles in the works that we haven’t talked much about. Megan Fitzpatrick is finishing work on Peter Follansbee’s new book (tentatively titled “Joiner’s Work”), and I am thrilled to announce we will be publishing a boundary-pushing book by David Savage titled “The Intelligent Hand.” I’ll be writing more about all these titles in the coming weeks.

Letterpress Posters from ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’
I’ve found a significant cache of these posters in a box high on a shelf at our storefront. We’ll try to get there in the web store in the coming weeks.

Letterpress Book on ‘Roman Workbenches’
We are closing in on getting this book to press. We hope that it will be $77 for the letterpress version. The pdf version will be much less. And the standard offset version (due later this year) will be expanded and reasonably priced.

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event March 10-11
If you attended the Lie-Nielsen event in Covington last year, then you know it was one of the best hand-tool events of 2016. This year we are participating in the event again at Braxton Brewing. We’re also arranging an event at Rhinegeist Brewing that will involve barbecue, beer and (wait for it) Hammerschlager. Details to come.

As always, we don’t have updates on books that aren’t in our hands. So you’ll have to wait longer on Andrew Lunn’s book.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Sorry for all the product updates lately. Tomorrow I hope to post an entry on workbenches that will infuriate a lot of people.

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Roubo: From Start to Finish

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Here locally, I get asked the following question a lot: How do you stay in business?

It’s a good question. When I explain Lost Art Press to Covington, Ky., city and business officials, they look at me like John and I must have some sort of trust fund that supports our chicanery. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The translation of “l’art du Menuisier” is a good case in point. The project began entirely outside of our grasp. In 2005, I was building French workbenches and trying to translate sections of A.-J. Roubo’s “l’art du Menuisier” for my own use or to publish on my blog.

Then the phone rang. It was Don Williams. He said that he and some friends were working on a translation, too. He asked me how far along we were. The answer: About 10 pages out of 1,200 or so. He said they were further along. So I said: Fine. You win.

During that phone call we agreed to work together to translate the 18th-century books that we were both obsessed with. We thought it would take a few years of work. We were incredibly wrong. It’s now 2017. We are much older and finally on the cusp of publishing “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture,” the book I’ve dreamed about for years.

r2_cover_mockup3Unfortunately, it’s an expensive book – $57 is a lot of money.

When you set the price for a book you need to accommodate the price of printing the physical book. (And when you print it in the United States instead of China, that price is about four times the China price.) Then you have to sum up the hours that everyone spent on the book and assign some cost to that work.

For this book, I refused to calculate the price of the writing, translating and editing labor. Why? Simple. We would have done it even if we hadn’t been paid.

Everyone in this translation project, from Don Williams down to the editor, designer and copy editors believe that this is something that should be available to anyone who wants to become a woodworker. It’s not some piece of obscura – this book is the foundation of the legal aspects of what is quality woodwork in most countries.

And there has never been an English translation published.

So when I calculated the price of “Roubo on Furniture,” I discarded the cost of our labor. I flushed it, really. So the price is based solely on our costs to print it and bring it to market.

I know that $57 is a lot of money for some wood pulp bound in cotton cloth, fiber tape and glue. But know that if you buy “Roubo on Furniture,” you are buying hundreds – maybe thousands – of hours of unpaid work for the love of the craft.

Or don’t.

In the end, we really don’t care. Everyone involved in this project – Don, Michele, Philippe, Wesley, John, Megan, Suzo, Kara and many others – are happy either way. We’ve done what we set out to do many years ago. We have all absorbed the incredible woodworking knowledge Roubo recorded. We’ve packaged it in a gorgeous book we can refer to whenever we please.

And we now offer it to you.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Details on the Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture’

lap-roubo-pressmark-1With the impending release of the standard edition of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture,” we have received lots of questions about the deluxe edition of this book. We don’t know many details at this moment, but here’s everything I know.

The design process for the deluxe edition of “Roubo on Furniture” will begin shortly. Designer Wesley Tanner created both the standard and deluxe editions of “Roubo on Marquetry” – and he designed the standard edition of “Roubo on Furniture.”

The deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” will look and feel the same as the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry.” Same paper, same binding, same slipcase. We likely will use the same printing press and bindery. So it will be as stunning as the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry,” which was named one of the 50 “Books of the Year” in 2013 by the Design Observer.

Here’s what’s going to be different: the thickness of the book (it’s almost twice as long as “Roubo on Marquetry”) and the way we will handle pre-publication orders.

Once we get a feel for how many pages the deluxe edition will be, we will be able to set a price – I’m going to guess that it’s going to be be about $475. Then we will open up pre-publication ordering for both domestic and international customers. Everyone who orders a book will get a book (and will get their name listed in the book as a “subscriber.”) After taking pre-publication orders for a month or so, we will close down ordering and go to press. We might print a few dozen extras for ourselves and family, but we are not going to stock this book in our online store after the pre-ordering period.

Then, when the book is done, we’ll mail them out in a custom cardboard (repeat: cardboard) box to protect the book during shipment.

The books will *not* be numbered or autographed. In 2013 we had many people request that we have all the authors sign the marquetry book. We simply cannot do that. We are not in the business of creating collectibles. Apologies.

So now you know everything I know. We’ll get to work on the deluxe edition and update you when we have more information.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

New in Store: ‘With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture’

r2_cover_mockup3At long last, you can now order “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” from the Lost Art Press store. The price is $57 and the book will ship in March.

Customers who order the book before it ships will receive a free immediate download of a pdf of the book. This offer will end on the day this book ships. As always, the $57 price includes the cost of shipping to customers in the United States and Canada. International customers will be able to order the book from our retailers. (Sorry, but the offer of a free download is not available for international customers.)

Representing a decade of work by an international team (Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue), this book is the first English translation of the 18th-century masterpiece: “l’art du Menuisier” by André-Jacob Roubo. This, our second volume, covers Roubo’s writing on woodworking tools, the workshop, joinery and building furniture.

In addition to the translated text and images from the original, “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” also includes five contemporary essays on Roubo’s writing by craftsmen Christopher Schwarz, Don Williams, Michael Mascelli, Philippe Lafargue and Jonathan Thornton.

You can download the complete table of contents here.

“Roubo on Furniture” is filled with insights into working wood and building furniture that are difficult or impossible to find in both old and modern woodworking books. Unlike many woodworking writers of the 18th century Roubo was a traditionally trained and practicing joiner. He interviewed fellow craftsmen from other trades to gain a deep and nuanced view of their practices. He learned to draw, so almost all of the illustrations in this book came from his hand.

The above facts are important because many early woodworking books are filled with information that is not quite right and drawings that were made by non-woodworkers. Not so with Roubo.

No matter what sort of woodworking you do or your skill level, we think “Roubo on Furniture” will expand greatly your knowledge of how fine furniture was (and still should be) built.

Like all Lost Art Press books, “Roubo on Furniture” is made entirely in the United States with quality binding and materials. All of the acid-free pages are sewn together and then bonded with a fiber tape so the book will not fall apart. The cover is a heavy and stiff board covered with cotton cloth. The book is 8.5” x 12” (the same size as “Roubo on Marquetry”) and is 472 pages.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Roubo Workbench: By Hand & Power

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The massive French workbench we sold yesterday here on the blog is the subject of an upcoming video on building traditional slab workbenches. Woodworker Will Myers and I built the bench in only three days. And even though we both work on our feet all day, we are both whipped.

The video takes a different tactic than other presentations. Will and I show various ways to tackle each joint in the bench, from 100 percent hand tool to 100 percent power tool and the techniques between those extremes.

As Will and I have built a ton of workbenches (actually more like 132 tons), we also call out what we think are the best techniques for each joint. Some of our conclusions might surprise you, even if you’ve followed both of us for a while.

We also dive deep into strategies for working with wet slabs. This slab was cut only 12 months ago.

The workbench video will be sold streaming on our site and will be available for international customers. It also will include drawings, cutting lists and a list of supplies. I’m guessing it will be available in about seven weeks or so. No work on pricing yet I’m afraid.

We shot the video at the Popular Woodworking Magazine studio with a crew of three seasoned video and sound engineers. I have been 100-percent thrilled with F+W’s work on videos in the past, and so it was an obvious choice to hire them to shoot our video. So expect a lot of great close-up camera work and excellent sound.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos I took of the construction progress. I swear I did 50 percent of the work on the workbench; I was the guy who brought a camera to the shoot.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Workbenches | 19 Comments

Preparation for Bending Wood

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FIG. 127. Smoothing section edge before cutting board for sifter. Avinurme, Ulvi village, Photograph by author, 1947. Photo library 1089:98.


This is an excerpt from “Woodworking in Estonia” by Ants Viires; translated by Mart Aru.

MATERIAL USED. In Europe bent-board containers were made of various types of timber. The flexible and easily cut aspen was popular in Estonia, and was also widely used for that purpose in Russia, Finland and northern Sweden.35 In southern Estonia linden was also used. The sides of the sieve, sifter and “külimit” were all made of aspen. In the case of chests and hampers, birch and ash were often used (especially in the islands), as well as bird cherry. In western Saaremaa chests were mostly made of oak. Oak served as raw material for chests in southern Sweden and southwestern Finland.36 In some countries coniferous wood, pine or spruce, were used for the bent sides of the container, but this was not the case in Estonia. On the other hand, the base of many of these containers was often made of pine or spruce.

CUTTING. The boards were always brought in when still green. This was done so as to prevent them from cracking during the bending process. Furthermore, the board had to be split with an axe, not cut with a saw. The sawn board would easily crack or chip, whereas the chopped board retained the tree rings in good condition and facilitated the bending process. For chests, sieves and sifters, boards 5/16″–1/2″ (7-12 mm) thick were used: for hampers 3/4″- 1-1/2″ (2-4 cm). In western Saaremaa very thin (around 1/8″ or 2-4 mm) boards of oak were sometimes used for chests.

There were two ways of cutting boards for the bent container. The primitive method, used throughout the country, was to make use of the smooth surface of the barked tree for the surface of the container, cutting the log accordingly. This process required preliminary cutting of the log to the right size, i.e., into two or four sections. After that the inside surface was hewn out with an axe and a trough axe, until a curved board of the desired thickness was achieved. The inside surface was finally smoothed with a draw knife.  Such a board is easily bent. This method was also common in Russia and Finland.37

The author had the chance to follow the second method closely in Avinurme in the summer of 1947. Apart from Avinurme, this way of cutting is used also in the Nõva and Hiiumaa home industries. Here, again, the log was first cut into half and each half was further divided into thirds or halves, depending on the original thickness.


Two boards were obtained from each of the sections. The sharp edges of the segment were smoothed with an axe (Fig. 127), and a line was marked along which the cutting was to be done. The splitting itself followed with three wedges first driven into the edge: one in the middle,  and one at each end. Sometimes only one large wedge was used, placed in the middle. As the split formed, smaller wedges were driven into the wood to “guide the split” (Fig. 128). And thus, by driving the wedges even deeper, a double size board was obtained. It was then further split in two, using the same method (Fig. 129). The process is actually very fast, lasting no more than five to 10 minutes.


Both sides of the board are then scraped with the axe, the work being done on the bench. At the same time the bark is removed and the stroke of the axe has to fall along the rings of the wood. Then the curved surface on the outside is cut straight with a planing knife (Fig. 130) and the inside planed with a curved jack plane (Fig. 131). In Avinurme the latter job was done with a draw knife as late as the first decade of the 20th century (Fig. 132).

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FIG. 132. Inside surface of sifter board being shaved with drawknife. Avinurme, Laurisaare village. Photograph by Vittoff, 1921. Photo library 439:162.

Splitting with axe and wedges was typical in Sweden and central Europe and was also known in areas where home industry was prevalent (especially for smaller boards). Here they were cut straight, and not along the tree rings, as was the use in Estonia.38  The latter is more closely associated with the first, more primitive method.

35  Филиппов, p. 222; Granlund, p.115-116.
36  Granlund, loc. cit.
37  Филиппов, pp. 224-225 (Simbirsk Gubernia); Tруды XI, p.3158 (Vyatka Gubernia), Granlund, pp. 121-122. Karrakoski, p.144.
38  Granlund, pp. 118-120; Филиппов , p. 224.

Meghan Bates

 

 

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Roubo Bench for Sale – SOLD

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Will Myers working on one of the mortises in the base.

Note: This bench sold before lunch yesterday. Thanks for everyone’s interest.

This week Will Myers, John and I are building a massive slab workbench in the Roubo style for an upcoming video (more on the video later). We’re just about done with the shoot and are offering the finished bench for sale at a very good price.

But here’s the non-negotiable catch: You have to come get it (we’re in the Cincinnati area). We cannot ship this bench.

The bench is a massive single-slab oak top – 5-1/2” thick and 9’ long – made from red oak harvested and cut in North Carolina by Lesley Caudle. The joinery is all traditional. The base is all drawbored mortise-and-tenon. The top is joined to the base with the classic through-tenon and sliding dovetail joint found on French benches. The bench is 34″ high.

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The leg vise features a Benchcrafted classic vise screw with a Crisscross mechanism. The planing stop is handmade by blacksmith Peter Ross. The holdfast is from Crucible Tool. The bench is finished with boiled linseed oil.

Right now the bench components are still a little above equilibrium moisture content for the Midwest. Some bits are 12 percent; some of the thick bits are at 16 percent. But the bench will dry quickly in the next few months if stored indoors. Like all slab workbenches, you’ll need to flatten the top once it settles down. But Will and I think this slab is really mild – it was dead flat when we started with no twist.

The price is $3,000, cash or check. It goes to the first person to say: I’ll take it and I’ll come get it. If you want it, please send an email to help@lostartpress.com. If we don’t find a buyer, we’ll just throw the bench on the large pile of benches behind my shop.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 16 Comments