This June I’m returning to Germany to teach two classes at Dick GmbH, which runs a beautiful woodworking school in Bavaria outside Metten. My short course on sawing is fully booked, but there are still three two spaces left to build the tool chest from my forthcoming book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”
The class runs from June 22-26 and costs only 480 Euros, a bargain for a week-long class. The Dick facility is first-rate and very hand-tool oriented. All of the benches are massive, and each student is allotted a box of tools during the course, which are of excellent quality and sharp.
And the region itself is gorgeous. I stayed in the town of Deggendorf, a quaint river city with lots of nice little restaurants and far too much great gelato. Last year I went out to dinner with the students almost every night, a pattern I hope to repeat again this year. I learned a lot about European-style woodworking, weiss beer and venison.
For more details on this class, visit the Dick web site here.
Applying the finish to my projects is either super-simple (clear finish on the bare wood) or agonizing.
Because tool chests are supposed to be painted, I knew I was in for a dose of self-induced agony. The first question with a painted piece is: what color? Tool chests run the gamut, from dark brown to dark green, pea (pee?) green to baby-poo green. And there’s blue.
I already own a blue tool chest at work, and I don’t need another. So my first instinct was to paint it red, which would make it look good in pictures. But when it comes to painted furniture, my favorite finish is black milk paint over red milk paint, which is what I use on many chairs. To do this you paint the chair red, then you paint it black and then you let nature run its course. The black paint gets rubbed through, and the red emerges in the areas that see the most wear.
This looks great.
So I decided to paint the tool chest red and see how it looked. If worst came to worst, I could always, in the words of the Rolling Stones, paint it black.
So I applied three coats of red milk paint. I love milk paint. It’s like a mix between a paint and a stain. It doesn’t have a lot of body, so it allows the wood’s texture to show through. That’s a good thing. Unless you left too much texture behind during the construction process.
As this chest was completed by hand, I left a number of tool marks behind. In truth, I didn’t think I’d had left a lot of tool marks, but the first coat of milk paint revealed some plane tracks and saw marks on the edges of the lid’s dust seal.
A couple coats of oil and varnish over the red didn’t improve things, so I prodded my wife, Lucy, to offer her opinion. If you have been married for at least a spell (18 years in this case) then you know how this conversation works.
“It looks great,” she said of the chest.
“It sucks,” I replied, wondering how many time I had put this poor woman through this. “I can see these tool marks and it makes me nuts.”
Lucy looked at the chest for an appropriate amount of time so that one would term it a “thoughtful” gaze. Then she looked me square in the eyes.
“I guess you should figure out how perfect an anarchist would want it,” she said.
Editor’s note: The world of modern woodworking publishing is only a pale imitation of what occurred in England during most of the 20th century. And the primary source of the best woodworking writing of the 1900s was The Woodworker magazine, a publication that has been in continuous operation since the beginning of the last century.
For the last year, I have been actively collecting and consuming a lot of this amazing writing, and it has profoundly influenced the way I gather and disseminate information in my day job at Popular Woodworking Magazine.
One of the biggest discoveries of my research was that two of my biggest heroes – Charles H. Hayward and Robert Wearing – were acquainted. Hayward was the editor and one-man publishing phenomenon that was The Woodworker. And Wearing was one of his correspondents.
Wearing is the author of many landmark books on the craft, including “The Essential Woodworker,” which we have republished. “The Essential Woodworker” is, without a doubt, one of the best examples of workshop writing in the 20th century. It represents what I aspire to as a woodworking journalist. And it humbles me whenever I pick it up.
Inside Wearing’s volume is a concentrated course in how to become a high-quality hand-tool woodworker. Start at the beginning of the book and read it through, and it will change your life. It sure as hell changed mine.
Mr. Wearing was kind enough to sit down and write out his recollections of working with Mr. Hayward. It is with great pride that I present it here.
— Christopher Schwarz
In 1950 after completing a course as a craftsman teacher at Loughborough College, now University (where I was lucky to have been taught by Edward Barnsley, the most outstanding English designer craftsman of the last century), I was invited to teach in a Public School. These schools are a peculiarly English phenomenon, being fee-paying independent boarding schools, then not co-educational. I was to organise the workshops and plan a currriculum for the General Certificate in Education at Ordinary and Advanced level in what was then called Handicraft (wood and metal).
In the early 1950s my other son was given a toy woodworker’s tool set. This was obviously made in Germany as the little plane was modeled on the traditional wooden smoother. But what intrigued me was that the plane was built up, i.e. glued together. I had never seen or read of built-up planes. A number of my fellow students were very keen on the wooden jack plane. I was not, but this discovery tempted me to make a built-up wooden jack plane, using the modern glue developed during the war for the aircraft industry.
I made a lever cap similar to the Stanley and Record planes with the difference that instead of the lever I used a screw. This was from brass and once polished it looked very smart. I drew and photographed this and sent it off to The Woodworker. it was accepted and was my first step into writing.
Years later when at an annual Woodworker show in London I went to the organisers’ stand and there met Charles Hayward. I introduced myself and he immediately remembered the wooden jack plane and its built-up construction. That was the first of many meetings with Hayward. How he got into publishing, I never knew.
He must have served an apprenticeship before the 1914-18 war because he told me he had served in the Royal Artillery, my own regiment, as a driver and that being the smallest man in the battery, he was always given the largest horses to ride. The horses in the gun teams were were ridden, not driven like a stage coach, so he had two big horses to manage.
After the war I think he went to The Woodworker as an assistant to the editor. it would have been hard to find a better man, so vast was his knowledge of woodwork. I heard he had edited a magazine of the “hobbies” type, long extinct and moved from there to The Woodworker.
He was still there when war broke out again in 1939. This time England managed without him but on the declaration of war the editor of The Woodworker fled to a remote part of Scotland, never to be heard of again. Thus Hayward became editor of The Woodworker, which in spite of paper shortages, never missed an issue.
Post-war, Hayward had several assistant editors but the input was predominantly his. He was an amazing editor. The ideas for the projects were his. The pieces were most probably made in his own workshop. In the Evans Brothers building he had a photographic studio with a workbench which he used when photographing constructional details. The finished projects were photographed using a small 2” x 2″ plate camera. In a small darkroom he developed the plates and made the enlargements from the plates.
The drawings, both technical and illustrative, were his work. He then wrote the text. So he was virtually a one-man publisher.
Between running the magazine almost single-handed he found time to write a number of fine textbooks, aimed, I think, at the advanced amateur. Foremost in my mind are “Cabinet Making for Beginners,” “Light Machines for Woodwork,” “Woodwork Joints” and “English Period Furniture.”
Although at Loughborough Hayward’s books were never on the book list, and his name was never mentioned, I noticed several bright ideas given us by the lecturers had been lifted complete from his publications!
Hayward was a great encourager to young and first-time writers. He answered personally scores of Readers Questions as if nothing was too much trouble. His letters were old fashioned, courtly and formal. I regret I have not saved any. It was always “Dear Mr. Wearing,” with an equally formal ending. He never used rejection slips but always with returned work, sent a polite letter, often with a criticism and perhaps a suggestions for improvement.
After his retirement, there was a string of editors. I remember Zachary Taylor particularly, who later made a name for himself making replicas of ancient musical instruments. He was also a fine classical guitarist.
My last editor was Paul Richardson, a good craftsman who left to found Furniture and Cabinet Making for GMC publications. I moved over with him. Most of my work from then on went to GMC. Sadly he was killed riding his motorcycle.
I have fond memories of Charles Hayward. He had the gift of making you feel you mattered.
My relationship with him was purely business, so I know nothing of his private life or views. He was well acquainted with the work of the Arts and Crafts men of the Cotswold school as with period furniture.
I doubt if we will see his like again.
— Bob WearingWe have just received our second press run of the book “The Essential Woodworker,” which is printed in the United States on acid-free paper and is hardbound. We offer it for $23 plus shipping, which is a remarkable price considering that vintage copies of this book will sell for $100 at times. You can read more about this book here.