After building a half-dozen versions of The Schoolbox from “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker,” I’m beginning to dial in the design of the small chest to suit my taste.
I am still enamored with the overall proportions and scale of the chest, but I’ve tweaked the decorative details. Here’s a summary of my alterations.
1. Instead of a flat chamfer on the mitered base moulding, I switched to a 3/8” square ovolo. Also instead of mitering the corners, I dovetail them and carve the corners with a chisel.
2. On the lid, I use a cove (made with a No. 6 round) instead of a chamfer. These two changes to the mouldings make the chest look more like a nice piece of furniture than a traveling chest for a kid heading off to boarding school.
3. I’ve not yet found strap hinges that I like that are the right size – the ones I used on the first version are too big. Until I get a blacksmith to make me some, I’ve switched to these gorgeous iron butt hinges from Whitechapel Ltd. They come with great old-school screws.
4. I added two small iron chest lifts. They look nice and make the chest easier to pick up and move. The ones shown on the chest are vintage, but Horton Brasses make lifts that look exactly the same and are the same small size. Click here.
I’ll be building another one of these Schoolboxes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking Sept. 4-8, so I’ll have another opportunity to try some other changes, perhaps to the dovetail spacing. There are still a couple spots open in the class. More details are here.
Matt Bickford’s book, “Mouldings in Practice,” sets out to remake the way you look at, cut and apply the mouldings to your projects.
It is quite unlike any other book we have ever encountered. Why? Bickford grapples with a core idea that has plagued woodworkers for generations: Cutting mouldings by hand requires years of practice, patience and the acquisition of high-level skills.
After reading this book, I think you will say about that old idea: “Wow. That’s crap.”
To kick-start your education in cutting mouldings, we are offering a free download of a critical chapter of “Mouldings in Practice.” This short chapter lays out the basic principles of the book and shows the landscape that it covers.
To download the chapter, simply click here. You don’t have to register, give up some special bodily cells or even your e-mail address.
If you like what you see and read, you can order “Mouldings in Practice” with free domestic shipping by clicking here. This offer of free shipping is valid only until Aug. 8, which is when the book leaves the printing plant in Michigan. After that, you’ll have to pay shipping, just like any other stiff.
Long-time customers can tell you that this is the only sort of promotion we run on our products. We don’t put stuff on fake “sales.” The price is the price. This pre-publication special is the only one you will ever see on this book.
So take a look at the chapter and decide if you really want to continue making mouldings with that spinning, noisy, dangerous machine in your shop. Or if you want to make any moulding you can imagine with just a few simple tools and the ideas in “Mouldings in Practice.”
Being a “Schwarz” really stinks at times. Most people in the United States misspell your name as “Schwartz.”
That’s actually OK with me because that’s how you say it (sort of) in German. Well actually, it sounds more like you are saying a bodily function onomonopia-style after a big dose of the “long chicken.”
Today I received my August/September 2012 copy of American Craft magazine, which I have been reading for almost a decade, and I am quoted in it. Yay!
My one paragraph of fame is in the “Voices” column, where the editors asked the question: “How important is history to your work?” The answers, from a variety of artists, were interesting. I’m not an artist, so mine wasn’t so interesting. But I was quoted! And they spelled my name correctly! Yay Schwarz! Oh, here’s my answer:
“History informs everything that I do in the shop or at the drafting table, whether I’m building an 18th-century workbench or an Eames table. But I don’t seek to replicate – that’s like using a phrasebook for a foreign language. Instead, I try to become fluent in ‘campaign furniture,’ or ‘French workbench’ and build things using those same rules of syntax and grammar.
“My guiding principle is from John Ruskin’s ‘Stones of Venice’ (1854): Never encourage copying or imitation of any kind, except for the preserving of great works.”
When I was in journalism school, the professors said you shouldn’t tell your competitors what you were working on. Ever.
Here is what we are working on this week.
1. “Mouldings in Practice.” This book ships from the printing plant in Michigan on Aug.8 and will hit the mail stream on Aug. 13. So here is the important news: Free shipping for “Mouldings in Practice” ends at midnight Aug. 8. After that, domestic shipping will add $6 to the price. If you want to save $6, place your pre-publication order before Aug. 8.
2. There will be 26 leather-bound and signed editions of “Mouldings in Practice.” These will be available for sale in the store in mid-August. The price will be $185, which includes domestic shipping. These books will be bound in brown calfskin and debossed in gold leaf – all by the good guys at Ohio Book in Cincinnati, Ohio. There will not be a waiting list for these books (please don’t ask). When they are available in the store, they will be available in the store.
3. There will be ePub and Kindle editions of “Mouldings in Practice” available in the fall. We are working on the conversions now.
4. The book “By Hand and Eye” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin is now in our hands and is being edited.
5. All of the essays and scans for the Roubo translation are complete. We are now editing the essays from Don Williams. Even if you have no love of marquetry, this is awesome and strong stuff. I shudder to think how much money we have spent so far on this project, and I am bewildered by how much time and money will be spent ahead. It will be worth every penny.
6. New projects on the horizon: A chair book from Peter Galbert. A book on EVERYTHING about saws by Andrew Lunn. A book on understanding wood by Chris Becksvoort. And a very special surprise for Christmas… a la Francais.
I recently had a conversation with a professional woodworker and carver who was shocked that other pros use dovetail jigs for casework when making high-end commissions. I pointed out the irony of his statement: He never makes mouldings by hand before adding carving to them.
Everybody sees the process differently. To each his own.
A lot of people get into this hobby through machinery and then add some sort of handwork. Dovetails appear to be most woodworkers’ transition point. Once you know how to make this joint by hand, your drawers do not have to be made to fit the jig. Even if the jig has variable spacing, dovetails done by hand are nearly unanimously seen to be more attractive than those done by machine. Additionally, the skill is recognized by even the most novice among us. If nothing else, it’s a way to immediately transmit our prowess to others who are in the know. It’s a secret handshake of sorts.
Like making dovetails with a saw and chisel, making mouldings with hollows and rounds has real advantages. You will make profiles that highlight a piece exactly the way you want. You will manipulate the light and shadows to fit the piece and your eye, not in a predetermined fashion made by a manufacturer. By making mouldings by hand you will dictate your results.
Unlike making dovetails by hand, the tooling, method, purpose and starting point for making mouldings with hollows and rounds is not always apparent. After all, any dovetail on furniture can be cut with a single saw. Every moulding cannot be made with two, four or even 10 moulding planes.
The good news is that most of us have no need to be able to make every moulding. Most of our work does not encompass the full range of furniture and decoration. We may all include ogees in our pieces, but not all of us make ogees that range from 1/4” in width to 3”. Most of us do not need a half set of hollows and rounds (nine pairs, 18 planes that range from 1/8” radius up to 1-½”) along with snipes bills, side rounds and plows.
The inevitable question of “where do I begin?” is one I’ve addressed a lot. The first answer is that you must have a way to accurately and efficiently make many varying rabbets. If you are not comfortable with making the following rabbets then you will need a method to do so.
I opt for a rabbet plane (often supplemented with a table saw) to make rabbets. A simple rabbet plane has no fence and no depth stop, which is an absolute advantage. No fence and no depth stop means no adjustments, which means that you can hop from one rabbet to the next in the course of a recoil from a forward stroke.
Like a rabbet plane, hollows and rounds also lack fences and depth stops, which, again, is an advantage to those making small runs of profiles. Hollows and rounds make a specific circumference – not a specific profile. “Mouldings in Practice,” my new book to be published by Lost Art Press, will walk you through the process from holding the planes and setting the irons to making large profiles composed of several different shapes.
With one hollow and one round and a method for making rabbets you are able to make a few dozen profiles. Each profile, however, will be derived from the same circumference. You will learn which tools you need as you learn the process of using them. I think you need at least two pairs to learn how to truly use them.
If you start with two pairs of hollows and rounds, you are able do far more than twice as much. With two pairs you will, of course, be able to make the same moulding profiles in two different dimensions. You will also be able to mix and match the concave with the convex to mimic profiles that are more representative of those that you will see upon the pieces throughout the ages. By adding a second pair of hollows and rounds you are also able to make ovular or elliptical shapes by using two different sized pairs.
With two pairs of hollows and rounds you are able to make multiple moulding profiles that complement each other and are not simply derivatives of the same circle. By adding that second pair of planes to your repertoire you are able to recognize the true versatility that these planes both allow and encourage.
If you do not know where to begin but you know you want to make one specific profile, find the various radii included in the profile with a circle template and you’ll have your answer.
If you still do not know where to begin then I often recommend starting with either pairs of 6s and 10s (radii of 6/16 and 10/16, respectively) or 4s and 8s (radii of 4/16 and 8/16, according to the numbering system to which I subscribe). If the largest piece on your “to do” list is a lowboy or small chest of drawers, then go with the 4s and 8s. If you want to make a high chest of drawers or something larger, go with the 6s and 10s.
These two pairs of planes may be all you ever need to execute the profiles of your choice. If you later decide to add more pairs you will know exactly where to go with the experience you have gained at the bench. Whether you end up with four pairs or 14, these sizes will certainly be included in your ideal set.
Moving the process from your computer to the bench is the most important thing to do in acquiring this skill. As you progress, you will learn to sharpen more accurately, lay profiles out better, and to design as you see the profile take shape knowing that you can change it at any point.
By using the methods I describe on my blog and in my book you will never get to the end of a profile and wonder what went wrong. The answer is always apparent.
But what do you do in a few months when you recognize that your first attempted profiles aren’t perfect? Tell anybody who notices that you once bought cheap router bits and didn’t have the control like you do now. And be content knowing that you’ve distracted them with the great work you have done on your dovetails. That’s the secret handshake that most people know. This one – hand-cut moulding – is still a secret.
— Matt Bickford, author of the forthcoming “Mouldings in Practice”