Meet Rob ‘Young Thomas’ Campbell

Earlier this year, amateur woodworker Rob Thomas made a bold decision – to learn hand-tool woodworking using “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker” from 1839 as a road map.

And to hold his nose to the grindstone (and ensure he had the tools to do it) he started a campaign on to fund his tool and material purchases in exchange for items as small as a patch (see above) and as large as the full-on chest of drawers.

What’s Kickstarter? Visit Rob’s page here to read all about it.

Since launching his campaign, Rob has been busy building packing boxes – the first project from “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker.” Most readers skip right to “The Schoolbox” in the book, a sweet little dovetailed chest.

I think those people are missing out. The Packing Box project has four critical lessons that will enlighten any hand-tool woodworker.

1. Many times the ends of your stock can be left long in nailed work and then trimmed square after assembly. Yup, you don’t four-square everything before assembly. When I first learned this detail, I slapped my forehead repeatedly.

2. You learn how to make rub joints with hot hide glue. No clamps.

3. You learn to use cut nails in carcase construction. Cut nails are awesome.

4. You learn to clinch/clench nails.

When I started working with my daughter Katy on woodworking, the first project we built together was The Packing Box, which we sized to hold the DVDs for her class at school.

I encourage you to bookmark Rob’s blog, The Joiner’s Apprentice, to follow him as he builds his way through “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker.” It’s quite interesting to watch his thought processes and see the results.

And Speaking of Inspiration…

Since I first read about I’ve been thinking of starting a campaign to help fund the purchase of the Lost Art Press LLC headquarters. As some of you know, I’ve been actively hunting for 19th-century buildings in Covington, Ky., to house our book inventory (which has completely filled our basement and storage shed), house our workshop, mailing facilities and provide for a storefront for our publishing activities.

And on Tuesday, my dream building came on the market.

It’s the Covington Brewery Building, an Italianate building with three storefronts and six apartments above, all in pretty good shape. The building was the headquarters for the John Brenner Brewing Co. in Covington. And it was part of a long-gone campus of brewing facilities on Scott Street in Covington.

The price? Less than $200,000.

I’ve been working on selling the idea to my wife, Lucy, but she is the far more rational person in our relationship.

My plan is to offer classes in building custom workbenches and tool chests as part of the Kickstarter campaign. She (wisely) worries about the maintenance on such a huge building.

In any case, Rob Campbell has inspired me to grab the dice and shake them in my hands. We’ll see if I actually roll them.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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48 Responses to Meet Rob ‘Young Thomas’ Campbell

  1. Matthew Groves says:

    I already do virtually all my woodworking vicariously through you. It might as well be in a cool building.

    This is the kind of bed n breakfast men have been waiting for. Roll em.

  2. Tom says:

    Chris will need to grow a handlebar mustache, suitably waxed, to go with that building. He will also need to begin carrying an oaken stave at all times, with which to beat the apprentices when their work is less than perfect.

  3. Steve says:

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that a building like that selling for $199,000 is going to need some work.

  4. Hope you can swing the real estate deal. A lovely building. And a little brewing on the side should pay for maintenance….

  5. lorenzo says:

    that does it i am going to go for that LN scrub plane for Christmas and to do that little box with dovetails i will get the fishtail chisel. Now that i know the handle of the LN plane is smaller …yes that scrub will do. now i love my dewalt planer and my General International jointer but this exercise of doing it all by hand has given me a challenge. i was just reading Campbells blog…. now i am going back to it. ON MY cHRIStmas list is also that little red book. it is going to make for a good read. Very inspiring this lost art press is. Robert Wearing i have also put on my list. Might as well order up the Charlesworth chisel dvd. oh his dvd’s are a must if you want to learn handtools.
    i have the essential handplane book and oh yes the workbench book. oh i might have to get dowel plate soon … and oh yes bench pups … the list goes on. Maybe Lost Art Press will have some more books listed soon. There is nothing like the feel of the number 4 plane on a piece of oak. this could get dangerouly addicting and my poor disus might suffer. soon now soon a jointer will be added and then i will be lost …….. can’t wait for the little red book to arrive. has anyone come across a carpenters book by a woman dating back to the Victorian era ???? you know you can run a small bistro with some good stout in that building afterall the handtool shop goes well with a guiness. it would go well with a bookshop a small bistro/pup and then run woodworking classes downstairs.
    can anyone tell me where i can order a carcass saw with a smaller handle than on the western dovetail saw by lie nielsen. i have this saw but i would like a smaller handle?

  6. Rootertooter says:

    Let’s get to Rollin. Start a woodwork scool complete with housing. Call it lost art of working wood. I have to give you credit for me getting back to working by hand tools. As I recover from this last set back. I read up on hand planes an carve a little. Get to planing shoot get you a backer or partner

  7. Dave Jeske says:

    Oh, Oh Oh!…. Can I re-locate Blue Spruce Toolworks into it? I want a cool building too.
    I say go for it!

  8. Kelly says:

    That is one sweet building. Good luck.

  9. Josh says:

    Where can I donate to fund more subversive woodworking. Go for it!

  10. ben says:

    Go go go! I’ll take an upstairs office if any are available. 🙂

  11. John Cashman says:

    I see a woodworking school with bunkhouse, a used tool store, and a bar. The bunkhouse is a must. When i go to a class, lodging costs as much, or more, than the class. Might as well pay it to you.

    You have somw tough choices. Good luck.

  12. John Reichling says:

    In a few short years you will also be known as a visionary.

  13. Chris-

    I would certainly chip in towards your campaign, although you may wish to over some remote correspondence for those of use unable to travel for the workshops. My experience with Kickstarter is that its very important to have small-value premiums available. I was blown away by the number of strangers willing to chip in $5 or so for my vision. Not as many will be able to pay for a workbench or chest.

    Thanks for letting people know about my project – the reception has been very heartening and encouraging. What I thought was an esoteric backwater of our culture is in fact something passionately dear to a rather large percentage of the population. Many (non-woodworking) people are not aware that anyone is still doing this, but once its explained, the reaction is almost universally positive.

    I encourage you (and anyone) to go for it! I hemmed and hawed about diving into woodworking for years, always self-defeated defeated by the up-front costs. Once I was able to articulate my desires and needs, the floodgates opened and it all clicked into place. Your goal is a couple orders of magnitude larger than mine was, but I feel that with enough thought and passion– something you have in spades–, most anything is possible.

    Rob “Thomas” Campbell

  14. Jamie Bacon says:

    That is truly one awesome looking building for 200K. And with 3 store fronts and six apartments, sounds like the rental income would easily make your mortgage. Sounds like a no brainer. Has me thinking Covington, KY might be a good place for me. Of course, I’m really fond of Pittsboro, NC also.

  15. Sandy Navas says:

    I for one (female) stand behind you. I’ll even give you a little kick in the seat of the pants if it will help. Oh, how I like the idea of you with a waxed moustache.

  16. Scott S. says:

    Does the clock work?

    Details speak volumes toward owners upkeep of the place.

  17. Chris A says:

    I’d chip in too, although, could I take a class in chair making instead 🙂

  18. Duncan Dodd says:

    If OS supporters qualify, I’m in. Re Lucy”s understandable maintenance concerns, how about having one of the apartments rent free in exchange for x hours of maintenance a week!

  19. Bernard Naish says:

    Chris, I believe that you are on a very important crusade that will ensure the survival of hand woodworking skills, the rejection of money as the prime motivator (hence the insane desire for growing economies) and will help to develop sustainable and enduring trade. I will support you financialy albeit by a small donation and by promoting your work in UK woodworking magazines. I am writing a review of your bench and ATC books that I think may be published here. The building seems to be ideal and you seem to be drawing to you the support you will need. How about asking for practical help from the hand woodworking community to prepare and maintain this building. I am English but I understand that it was, still may be for all I know, common in America for neighbours to turn up and help with the building of homes and barns. Seems you should go for it.

  20. John J. says:

    I will take a class there for sure.

  21. robert says:

    Buy the place. If it works out, beautiful. If not, sell it to some other romantic bastard.

  22. tom crowley says:

    If it happens I will donate time.Think about it.

  23. Some of the persuasive statements heard during Chris’s conversation with Lucy…

    “Did I mention it was in a brewery?”

    “Well, the basement is completely full… who knows what room we’ll have to use next to store books…”

    “Did I mention it’s in an old brewery?!”

    “As you can see from my profit analysis, we’ll be living like French kings in no time! What’s that? Eh, no, not so much like Louis XIV… more like John I.”

    “It. Is. In. An. Old. Brewery!”

  24. joecrafted says:

    Old brewery turned into a new brewery now needs a wood-fired brick oven to become awesome pizza joint. Fired up each morning with wood shavings from the school. Oh wait, that’s my dream.
    But I’d surely take a class or two to help out with this idea.

  25. Lola says:

    This is a fantastic building. A good landlord makes for a good tenant, and when rents go up a little, you get a raise! I just got my ATC in the mail. I am so excited to read it that I started it before finishing “Bossypants”! Two inspiring autobiography’s (sort of) at the same time. I can’t stand it. As an artist that took 20 years to finally be one, I find it so inspiring to see people make change, make mistakes, and enjoy what they do every day. As a beginner woodworker, I have been enjoying your blogs since the August PW cover and the Roubo workbench. I love what Rob is doing and have thought of doing a blog – more like a beginners’s lament:)
    I hope you are able to buy the building and wish you success in the business! All of us little people on the sidelines are cheering you on and look forward to watching the pages you turn!
    btw – thanks for producing a decent printed and bound book make in the U.S., with sensible type and leading.

  26. David says:

    I forget how many lifetimes do you get? Go for it!

  27. Steve says:

    You’ll have folks lined up at the door for classes. If there’s a way to have craftsmen help with the rehab, so much the better. You’ve inspired a lot of us, this would be the icing on the cake.

  28. Mike Siemsen says:

    I like the IXL lager beer. IXL was also Pecos Bill’s Ranch and brand. Whenever I have a few beers I feel as though I X L. If the structure is sound the idea is sound. Good luck!! I see the building has 3 phase power should you need it to run your industrial printing presses.

  29. Mark says:

    Should you ever have a need for volunteer skilled labor in remodeling the place, drop me a line or send out an appeal. I’m there with tools and ready hands to help. My joiner’s skills are coming along nicely but I’ve got way more experience in building construction and remodeling that’s yours for the asking. Rock on brother.

  30. John Cashman says:

    There’s lots of items you could make for the Kickstarter campaign. I bet you could sell a billion roubo squares, straightedges and winding sticks. A little more work would be English layout squares and Moxon Vises. Gentleman’s tool chests or schoolboxes would be nice bigger items. For the top donors, you can offers dates with Megan. If it wouldn’t be stepping on Dave Jeske’s toes, you could have Katy make tool rolls. I’d rather have one from her than you. There’s lots of stuff. Get Infinity to make a new stamp so the collectors will know it’s genuine. Be careful where you stamp Megan.

  31. RobbL says:

    WOW. What a fantastic old building! And what a fantastic idea to bring apprenticeship into the internet era–Good luck too you both!!

  32. Brian Anderson says:

    One thing to think about a deal like this is the raw size of the building. If Lost Art Press and Chris Schwartz Woodworking can cover the overhead, then cool. If not then you will be adding a small and unpredictable commercial real estate business to the other two. How’s the roof? How much would it cost to replace it? A couple of weeks ago, my 5-year-old daughter, not finding toilet paper to hand, used some paper towels that plugged up the pipes, $200, and made a mess. Six apartments. Pallets full of books and a wood shop below.

    A storefront is good, but your business seems to be at this point online and traveling. How many people who are going to pay for your time are going to walk through the door, when they could just send you an email or order online? I went to UC just across the river there, and worked in a used bookstore in over the rhine, and wow, i didn’t spend much time discussing “Leaves of Grass” with the folks who walked in the door. And the guy that owned the store had a day job that payed him enough to hire a student to entertain the clowns that walked looking to scam something.

    I own an old and impractical stone house and am building a small business from home. I know the buildings you love because I lived there at school, and love them too. But looking at what you are looking at, I’d say you need to think of the time it would take to deal with tenants, plumbing, etc, and /or hire a receptionist/handyperson, as opposed to what you like to do, which is work wood, publish books, and teach.

    On the other hand, I lived in a building that was a slice of paradise for artists and artisans, owned by a guy who makes really high-end reproduction furniture in Youngstown, Ohio, so I would imagine if you give him a call, Jerry might have some good ideas about what you are looking to do. A good and interesting guy in any case.

    Cheers, Brian

  33. Jon says:

    I hope you can make the deal for the building. I saw another post that said you should include something like a brewpub/pizza shop (woodfired from the scraps) in one old the storefronts -for after class. It would be a new must visit woodworkers’ destination.

  34. Carlos Zenteno says:

    That is a great OLD building. Go for it Chris.

    I think you should buy it, and register the renovation project with
    This Old House. I can see Norm and his crew and you turning the
    buidling into an amazing restored complex with the “LAP” retail and
    offices in one storefront, the “Anarquist Woodworker” school in the
    second and the “Essential Ale” micro-brewery in the third. The second
    floor could be rented for tool-makers shops and/or a hand tool museum
    and the Schwarz residence would go on the Penthouse of course!

  35. Edward Suter says:

    You do realize that now that you’ve blogged about this property,the price will probably increase, right?…….

    Seriously, it looks like a great building, rental incomes will come in handy, but the big question is it a heritage building? Will your municipality make requests that prohibit changing certain aspects of the building?

  36. Paul Fowler says:


    Did maps search, 2369 miles from my front door……….
    I wish you Luck, will be there to support on Kickstart.
    Is Megan at LAP?

  37. Art Rogers says:

    Sounds like alot of fun Chris! I’m sure you’ll get alot of free help for a week here and there to do work.

  38. Daniel Graff says:

    If these cool kids ( ) can round up a 1/4 mil for an ink pen, you can make this happen.

    Go for it!

    Best of luck

  39. Christopher Hawkins says:

    “Build it and they will come.” You’ve got a tremendous amount of good will built up in the hand tool community and now might be the time to use this good will to advance your mission. What kind of help do you need to take the next step? Your blog would be a great way to test folks willingness to support you.

    As an alumni of your Handplanes, Handsaws and Hand-cut Joints at MASW this year and future participate in your 18th century workbench class, I’ll support you to the best of my ability.

  40. Christopher Hawkins says:

    Have you thought about having a wall with the names of donors or a “buy a brick” walkway like hospitals and other organizations sometimes have to raise funds? The funds could be used for renovation, upkeep, moving expenses, etc.

  41. Jack Palmer says:

    Chris if you swing it, it’s a beatiful building. I was working as a paid supervisor for Habitat for Humanity and got laid off last week. They have no money and no new work right now so I’d be willing to volunteer help with any renovation it may need.

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