Build. Destroy. Rebuild.


After weeks of ripping the interior of our new building to shreds, we’re finally starting to put the pieces back together in an 1890 fashion.

Last month we ripped out 30 cubic yards of “improvements” to the Lost Art Press headquarters, including miles of wiring (that we completely recycled), rotted, black and crumbling subfloor (to the landfill) and ridiculous stud walls and 1995-era bar construction (mixed – we recycled what we could).

Today the plastering started.

We’re using a secret late-Victorian recipe that uses Plaster of Versailles (Versailles, Ky., not that cheap crap from Paris, Ky.) and Boba Fett tears. Plus a bit of Seattle Cement (Portland Cement is for weenies).

Lucky for us we managed to salvage about 95 percent of the original plaster on the walls. We had a small section that had to be drywalled because there was no lath. (And no money for lath.) So we expect to restore the interior as close as possible to the 1890 interior.

Meanwhile, I’m designing the entry door and transom windows that will replace gaping holes now filled with plywood and a cheap window AC unit. Because we are in an historic district, all my designs have to be approved by the city’s historic preservation staff and appointees.

Tomorrow we meet with window contractors to do some work that I don’t have the time for. I’m bringing my wife, Lucy, because buying windows is like buying used cars. I’ve had to chase off a few vinyl salesmen with a broom during the last 20 years. If you sell vinyl windows, I’m sorry (sorry that you sell vinyl windows).

I also need to meet with a kidney salesman. We need traditional solid-wood oak floors and I have an extra kidney.

And now back to editing and growing that third kidney.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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30 Responses to Build. Destroy. Rebuild.

  1. oldret1sg says:


    One piece of advice, be especially careful with those building inspectors. Maybe it would be a good idea to have your wife deal with them after she’s done with those pesky window contractors.
    My experience is that , if things don’t start off well, you may be working on this place in your golden years.


  2. tombuhl says:

    Your reaction to vinyl windows made me smile. And yes, pity those poor souls stuck trying to sell them and replacement/insert windows. We put in several windows and double doors a while back and every time I see them I smile and am so grateful for being a snob. Best to you and your team on the project and big thanks for sharing with us armchair laborers.

  3. fitz says:

    I would sell a kidney for window money, but I doubt that would cover the cost.

  4. The old windows and tall ceilings are nice!

  5. knewconcepts says:

    Having had to deal with the Hysterical District folks in the past, give your heart (and sanity) to God, and your wallet to them…
    I wish you all the best (and it doesn’t really what level of craftsman you are). Their primary focus is to make it not happen.
    Take lots of Valium.

    Lee (the saw guy)

  6. jdcook72 says:

    This looks like such an amazing project to be working on; I envy you. But, I suspect, it is in the same way grandparents relish the time they spend with grandchildren. I can enjoy all of your progress while not have to endure any of the headaches associated with this type of work and grandchildren eventually got home.

  7. Dane Johnson says:

    I hope that “Today the plastering started” is not code for beer… GDR

    Great progress, cant wait for the open house.

  8. I always have to laugh at the “historic district committee” approvals. You say you are replacing what sounds like duct tape fixes and a window unit AC … heck, even bubble gum and paper mache would be an improvement. BTW, did you ever look at the possibility of finding a large oak log and having it resawn into planking and doing the entire floor from log to finish?

    • tsstahl says:

      “heck, even bubble gum and paper mache would be an improvement.”
      Agreed. My first thought was did the committee approve the AC unit, too?

  9. waltamb says:

    I wish I was near you.
    There was a time I did all that rebuilding stuff and today I could teach it to volunteers.
    Imaging a nice Herringbone Parquet Oak Floor with an Medallion inlaid in the middle
    I live near a mil that makes hardwood flooring too, perhaps I can get you a deal.
    Nice Hard Clear White Oak, Quarter sawn would be the Bees Knees With Walnut accent trim.
    Sorry, I’m dreaming of the days when I installed those for others and still could use my knees.

  10. potomacker says:

    Have you done your own research into the specific 1890 appearance or has the historic preservation group provided that, or merely guidelines?

    • Both. We know from fire insurance records a lot of the details of when things were built and what they looked like. Newspaper clippings have provided clues as to the what the facade looked like. And other similar buildings in the town have also filled in some details.

      There is still more research to be done….

  11. If you were by Harrisburg Pennsylvania I have piles of old plaster lath that are in great shape. Yours for the taking.

    My hardwood floor supplier sells red oak in lengths up to 14 ft for $3 a sq. Ft. In widths from 2.5″ to 5″. About 7/8 thick.

  12. wldrylie says:

    No time to rive your own lath? I’m assuming that is what is in the walls of that age building, rived red oak or chestnut.

  13. proclus153 says:

    Are you going to veneer plaster the drywalled section? If you want to blend the drywall with the plaster that would probably be a fairly easy fix. My house was taken down to the studs in the early ’80s, and veneer plastering the drywall is the only cost-effective way I’ve come up with to make it look decent.

  14. leeboyz86 says:

    Oh, boy! That humorous comment about plaster of Paris, KY being “cheap crap” may land you in trouble with the Bourbon police. After all, “everyone” knows that the only “real” Bourbon is distilled in Bourbon County. I predict you’ll eventually be in need of some Bourbon to allay the pain of this remodel. So, make peace with Paris is my advice. = )

  15. Eric R says:

    The Historic Preservation committee are going to be dazzled by the results of your labor.
    Can’t wait to see it completed.

  16. Jay E. says:

    Best of luck on your renovations and restorations!
    Our Hysterical District Committee is run by people that (a) aren’t from around here, (b) don’t know anything about history or historical research, (c) have a “rule book” thicker than the telephone directory, and (d) can be bought for a price.

  17. For what it’s worth, I had a great experience with Weickerts when I refinished some floors while living in Cincy a few years ago.

    They seem to have operations in Northern KY as well. Best of luck Chris and keep the pics coming.

  18. Ain’t no future in the youth, no more culture within your crew, yes, all the facts that you knew, Come someone tell me what to do, Gotta Build then Destroy, then Rebuild and Destroy.
    Hanni El Katib: 2011
    I’m guessing there won’t be a need for the second Destroy, we know you build things to last.
    Good Luck!

  19. artisandcw says:

    When I was studying Architectural Preservation almost forty years ago, I concluded almost instantly that the presence of anything like architectural/preservation review boards (or HOAs) was symptomatic of urban Amerika’s comfort level with living under totalitarian collectivist regimes. Nothing I have seen in the subsequent four decades suggests I was wrong. I guess it is no wonder I live in a place where my nearest neighbor is a mile away, and that I wrote a letter of commendation to the village council for formally dispensing with their “historic” status.

    Still I am delighted you are living where you do and doing what you are doing. That way I don’t have to. See you soon with excitement to see the progress.


  20. ouidavincent says:

    “Dr. gave me a pill and I grew a new kidney.” Star Trek 4

  21. richardmertens says:

    There’s lots of oak out here in Illinois, on the prairie. I bet you could get some cheap from a small Illinois mill.

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