The good news: The U.S. Postal Service is delivering copies of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” at a quick clip. We dropped the first load into the mailstream on Saturday afternoon and already we are hearing from people who have received it.
That is remarkable considering we sent the book via Media Mail and that Monday was a holiday. I guess John Hoffman’s flirting with the postal workers on the dock really paid off (and yes, Pat, I can get you John’s number).
Today I dropped off two more huge loads of books – all my car could carry – and we are almost caught up on sending out all the pre-orders. The only thing stopping us is that we have depleted the local supply of boxes that fit our book.
• I’ll be getting estimates of the costs for our leather-bound version of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” tomorrow. If you are on the list, you will hear from us shortly with an update.
• I began milling the pine for the 6’ dividers we will have in our booth at Woodworking in America.
• I will find more boxes tomorrow, even if I have to go to an office products superstore and donate several pints of various bodily fluids. I’m a quart high on bile right now, anyway.
Lost Art Press is going to have a booth at the Woodworking in America show this year, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Covington, Ky. And as Eddie Murphy once said: “We need eye-catcher.”
So I’ve begun sketching out some booth furniture, including a set of wooden dividers that are almost 6’ tall. I based them on a vintage pair that I have in my shop at home. I don’t think they were manufactured – they look like the work of a blacksmith.
SketchUp is the perfect tool for this sort of silliness. I put the dividers on my scanner, took a 300 dpi scan of them and then imported that photo into SketchUp. Using the “Scale” tool under “Tools” in the menubar, I enlarged the photo until it was almost 6’ tall.
Then I just drew shapes over the photo. Less than 20 minutes later, I had templates that I could print out full-size on my cheesy laser printer and tape together. Then it’s all work on the band saw, followed by some drawknife and spokeshave work.
I’m trying hard to think how I could actually use these dividers – my plan is to make them a fully functional tool. Perhaps we can use them to step off where we are going to plant some more boxwoods in the yard.
The latest T-shirt from Lost Art Press is a little different than the five generations before it. Emblazoned on the front of the shirt is the silhouette of the English square in the shape of an “A” – the motif throughout “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” book that resembles the symbol used by anarchists. This “A,” however, has 19th-century style.
The rear of the shirt is printed with the title of the book, which I made with one of those crappy plastic label-making gizmos popular in the 1970s. I scanned the labels at a high resolution, then enlarged and distorted them in Photoshop.
All in all (and I rarely say this), I am pleased with this design.
So here’s the bad news. You know we won’t lie to you. For this run, we switched back to the 50-percent cotton, 50-percent polyester shirts made in Central America. It didn’t have to do with money — we are happy to pay for quality. It had to do with customer feedback. Customers were split on whether they liked the American-made shirts, which were more lightweight, or the Central American ones, which are beefier.
In the end, I made the call. I like the way the foreign-made shirts feel and age. My design, my choice. I am continuing to look for a good domestic supplier and have a line on a company that even grows its own cotton. I have high hopes.
The shirts are $15 plus $4 shipping. As always, we have to charge an extra $2 for the XXL size. If we do another run of these shirts, we will be sure to get a few medium and small sizes – another customer request.
Note: I am asked about once a week about how to become a better writer, especially by woodworking bloggers. So while the following entry isn’t entirely about woodworking, it is intended for woodworkers.
Writing is a trade skill, and it involves no more magic or mystery than cutting a mortise or planing a board’s edge.
I went to college to become a journalist, but it was a trade school through-and-through. In fact, there really isn’t much to the training needed to become a good journalist. Of the 60 or so classes I took in college, only 12 were related to the craft. And of those, only nine were related to its practice.
So I think that anyone can learn to write at my level, which is where you use an 8th-grade vocabulary, sentences shorter than 30 words and an active (not passive) voice. Here’s how.
1. Buy a copy of William Zinnser’s “On Writing Well.” It is dirt cheap – I buy used copies for friends for $1 at Half-price Books. This is the only writing book that I really like. There is zero navel-gazing (unlike another popular choice, “Bird by Bird”). It is about writing clearly and it is clearly written. It is concise. I read it every other year to refresh its core messages in my mind.
2. Practice. I write every day. Usually the results become a blog entry or a section of a future book. Nothing helps more than practice. And unlike practicing woodworking, you aren’t wasting wood. Words are cheap.
3. Use the phone. My iPhone is my favorite writing tool. When I see something interesting or funny, I make a note of it in my phone’s Notes application. I take a picture of it with my phone (or with my Canon G10, which I carry everywhere). You will never run out of ideas if you record the world around you in one-sentence blurbs.
4. Get a blog. I wish every woodworker had a blog and recorded his or her woodworking triumphs and trials. Blogs are free – like this WordPress blog – and they are great ways to record your progress, even if no one else reads it.
5. Try to write like you talk. Don’t pretend to be another writer. People who read your writing should feel like they know you when they finish a piece. Don’t use words or sentence constructions you wouldn’t say.
6. Pretend to be dumb. When you finish a piece of writing, go back and read it over and pretend to be an idiot about the topic you are writing about. Explaining stuff to people is hard. It’s easy to skip over an important fact or assume your readers know a lot.
7. Learn to use a hatchet. Most writers are too wordy. Try to remove every word you can from a sentence and have it still mean the same thing. Good writing is concise writing.
We got a few hundred orders boxed up Friday night after work (and barbecue) and spent all day boxing up the rest. Now it’s time for some tater-tot casserole and crispy pork belly. And a roofie.
If you are looking to buy this book from one of our retailers – Lee Valley Tools, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks or Tools for Working Wood – those books are on their way to their warehouses. We can’t say when the book will show up in the catalogs, but it should be soon.
We also had one walk-in customer. A local woodworker who had pre-ordered the book asked if he could pick it up.
And after promising that he wasn’t going to skin me and wear the dried flesh like a mask, we said OK.
Thanks to everyone who placed an order before we shipped. Your faith in us is heartening. And I’m glad we shipped before June, which is what we promised.
One special thanks from everyone goes out to Phil Hirz, who cleaned up the entire data base of pre-orders, and allowed us to push out these orders this weekend instead of next week.