After considering several ideas (including a children’s book about a constipated snail), I’ve decided my next book will be a short 64-page folio on building Roman workbenches.
I’ve been researching these benches for many years, but thanks to some recent breakthroughs in research by Suzanne Ellison I have become obsessed with making two of these benches because I have questions that can only be answered by building the dang things.
Also, the physical book itself will be another big step for Lost Art Press. We’re going to print it via letterpress with Steamwhistle Press in Newport, Ky. You are going to be able to buy the book in three formats:
- Letterpress and unbound (maybe even uncut) pages, tied with a string. You can bind the book yourself or (shudder) put it in a three-ring binder.
- For a little more money, Ohio Book has agreed to bind the folio.
- And a pdf for people who just don’t like printed matter.
We are doing everything we can to make this book affordable (including me working at the press). I don’t have any prices as of yet. With any luck, this will be a quick project and we’ll be selling it by Christmas.
Work on the book is well underway. The wood for the two benches has been cut and is drying (I’ll pick it up in May). And blacksmith Peter Ross has just delivered two bits of hardware for the the bench from Herculaneum – a planing stop and a holdfast.
The holdfast is of particular interest for two reasons. It’s the earliest known (to me) image of a holdfast – 79 AD. And the shape is unusual. There is no flat pad at the end.
You can posit that the artist made a mistake. But a Roman grave inscription has a similar holdfast where the tip of the holdfast actually curves under. Again, you can protest and say it was an artist’s mistake, but all the other tools made by these two artists look right and proper.
So the only way forward is to make the darn metal bits.
The Herculaneum holdfast has been hard at work this weekend at my bench while I was building chairs. The thing works like crazy, though it really dents the crap out of the protective piece covering the work.
There’s much more to say – enough to fill half a book. And the other bench I’m building for this book is even wilder. Stay tuned.
— Christopher Schwarz