This chest is a close reproduction of a traditional joiner’s tool chest. Chris designed the chest and constructed the box portion during a course he taught with us several years ago. I (Jim Tolpin) finished it by building the lid and sliding till and applying the traditional milk paint. The hand grips (traditional sailor’s beckets of rope and leather) were made and donated by Keith Mitchell – a boatbuilder currently in Vermont. (You can follow Keith on his instagram feed @shipwrightskills). The chest is signed by Chris and me on the underside of the lid.
The box and lid are made from clear poplar boards. The box, the wrap-around skirt boards and the till’s corner joints are dovetailed and glued with hide glue. The bottom boards are set into rabbets and nailed in place with traditional cut nails. The lid’s frame is mortise and tenon, drawbore pinned with hewn, air-dried white oak. Chris and I did the work with hand tools beyond the initial surfacing of the stock to dimension. Dimensions are 20″ wide by 16″ high by 40″ long.
About the finish: Traditionally, these tool chests were always painted to protect the wood from moisture because they might occasionally be exposed to outside conditions. I went with three coats of black followed by two coats of red to create an “oxblood” hue. As you probably know, milk paint is one of the most durable paints available. I applied several coats of linseed/tung oil to build a sheen and to provide additional protection.
All the proceeds of this sale will go to the Port Townsend School of Woodworking youth-in-woodworking scholarship fund. A portion of the cost of this chest is tax deductible as the school is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit educational institution. To purchase, go to the auction site here on ebay.
I finished writing the first draft of “Roman Workbenches” and have been combing through the text to find all the “snakebites” – the little details that get missed when you are writing at the speed of a firehose.
One of the details relates to the only surviving Roman workbenches I know of: three workbench tops found at a Roman fort in Saalburg. The descriptions of these tops appear in many of the classic woodworking history texts, but none discuss how they were found, what species of wood they are or offer many details about the location of the holes for workholding.
I haven’t had any luck contacting Saalburg, but a German woodworking friend is on the case.
In the meantime, take a look at these two drawings from W.L. Goodman’s “The History of Woodworking Tools” (after J.M. Greber’s book on planes) and another image from Günther Heine’s “Das Werkzeug….” Both images of one of the Saalburg tops show it with two mortises in the front edge.
Goodman theorizes it could have been for a T- or U-shaped piece of wood for holding wood to the bench.
Sure. You could also put your Roman weed in it.
I’ve been thinking about these mortises for a long time. They show up on a few benches here and there from different time periods. But I have yet to find one that accompanies the appliance or device that used the mortise.
I have some theories. I’m sure you do, too. Here are a few of mine:
We’re looking at the back of the workbench and the mortises are for a chisel/tool rack, much like what you see on French workbenches.
The mortises are left over from when the piece of wood was used for something else. It could have been part of a timberframe construction that was laid out incorrectly. In other words, the workbench top is made from a scrap.
It could be part of a device where you drive in wedges against stops to saw tenons. Imagine that you put a stop in each mortise. Put your work between the stops. Drive a wedge in the gap to hold it for tenoning or whatever.
We are making the final pass through “Roubo on Furniture” during the next couple weeks. Kara Gebhart Uhl is looking for mistakes that have eluded us for the last three years, Suzanne Ellison is updating the index and I’m building the book’s table of contents.
We plan to go to press with the standard edition of “Roubo on Furniture” in early January with a mid-February release. We also will publish a deluxe edition, which design Wesley Tanner will begin working on shortly. Details to come on how to order the deluxe version.
In the meantime, take a look at the table of contents. Whew.
— Christopher Schwarz
A Key to the Text xiv
The Woods Appropriate for Joinery 3
Section I. The Different Qualities of Wood 3
Section II. Fashioning and Stacking of Wood 7
Section III. The Cutting of Wood 13
The Art of Assembly, its Uses and Proportions 21
Section I. Different Ways to Elongate Wood 25
Some Tools Belonging to Woodworkers, Their Different Types, Forms and Uses 29
Section I. Tools of the Shop 32
Section II. The Tools Belonging to the Workmen 33
Section III. Some Tools Appropriate for Cutting and Planing the Wood 34
The Plate 11 Workbench: How it (Really) Works 38
Make Roubo’s ‘Winding Sticks’ 54
Section IV. The Tools for Marking and Making Joints 59
Section V. The Tools for Fretwork, and those for Cutting the Straight and Curved Mouldings 76
The Art of Drawing 89
Section I. The Way to Take Measurements 89
The Way to Draw the Work on the Plan 93
The Way to Prepare Joinery to Receive Carved Ornaments 95
Section II. The Way to Glue Wood 99
The Way to Construct Columns in Wood; Bases, Capitals, Entablature and Pedestals 103
Section III. The Way of Gluing Curved Wood 109
Joinery in Furniture, in General, and the Different Types 112
Section I. The Tools and Woods appropriate for Furniture 114
Ancient Furniture in General 115
Some Different Types of Seats in Use at Present 119
Section II. The Description of Folding Chairs, Stools, Benches, etc. Their Forms, Proportion and Construction 120
Section III. Descriptions of all sorts of [side] chairs, their decorations, forms, proportions and construction 126
The Way to Prepare Seats to Receive Fabric Ornamentation 135
Roubo on Upholstery 137
Section IV. The Upholstery of Chairs with Caning and the Art of Caning in General 141
The Way to Prepare Seats for Caning 141
Selection of the cane, the way of splitting it and the caners’ tools 145
Various Methods of Weaving and Diverse Operations of the Caner 149
Different Sorts of Seating Forms, Proportions & Construction 155
Roubo, Meet Reality: The Making of A Classical French Chairmaker 164
Section I. Description of all the major seats, like canapés, sofas, ottomans, etc. 181
Section II. Description of Private Apartment Seats, like Bathing-tubs, Demi-bathing tubs, etc. 193
Of Beds in General and the Different Sorts 201
Section I. The Beds of France: Forms, Proportions & Construction 202
Canopies of Beds, Commonly Called Pavilions or Imperials; Their Forms and Construction 210
Section II. Description of Polish-style Beds, their Proportions, Shapes & Decoration 220
Section III. Description of different types of campaign Beds, their shapes and construction 226
Section IV. Description of Daybeds, some Cradles and Cots 235
Tables in General and the Different Types 239
Section I. Different Forms and Constructions of Dining Tables 245
Section II. Game Tables and their different types, forms and constructions 249
Description of a Billiard Table, its form, proportion and construction 249
Description of Gaming Tables, their form, proportions and construction 261
Section III. Tables for writing and their different types, forms and constructions 270
Description of Dressing Tables and Night Tables, and others 293
Description of Screens and Windbreaks; their forms and proportions 296
Case Pieces Known under the General Name of Large Pieces 301
Section I. Description of Armoires; their decoration, proportions and construction 302
Description of Buffets; their forms, proportions, decoration & construction 309
Description of Commodes; their forms, proportions and construction 315
Of Solid Cabinetry Or Assembly in General 325
Section I. Description of the Tools of the Furniture Maker, their assembly and how to use them 327
Section II. Basic Elements on the Part of the Art of Turning necessary for the Furniture Maker 331
Some Screw Taps and Wooden Dies used by Cabinetmakers 343
The Machines Appropriate for Making Fluting for Cylinders and Cones 347
Description of the Machine commonly called the tool for waves 358
Reproducing and Using Moxon’s ‘Waving Engine’ 366
Section III. Different Locksmithing Tools for the Furniture Maker 378
The Way to fit the iron work for cabinetry 392
The Manner of polishing iron and copper relative to cabinetry 402
Section IV. Different Kinds of Solid or Assembled Cabinetry in General 404 Description of different sorts of embroidery frames 405
Description of a printing cabinet 417
Description of Gueridons and Small Tables 427
Description of Different Forms of Desks 430
Necessaries and Other Types of Boxes 437
During almost every open day at the Lost Art Press storefront, someone asks the question: How do you endure the sniping, nitpicking and outright hostility toward your work? In response, I tell them one of six stories from my career in newspapers.
It started when Debbie, the city editor of The Southwest Times-Record, hung up the phone and called me over to her desk in the center of the newsroom.
That call, she said, was from the local Ku Klux Klan. They had called to complain about me.
The Southwest Times-Record is the newspaper in Fort Smith, Ark. I had grown up in Fort Smith, attended the segregated public schools there and left to go to college. That summer I had returned to work as an intern at the Times-Record and was assigned to write a history of segregation in the schools. Some of the local African-Americans who had been involved in lawsuits to desegregate the local schools were considering filing a new suit because the schools were de facto segregated again.
The Klan’s message was simple: Send the Jew ACLU lawyer writing these articles back to New York or we will shoot him. We know he leaves the side door of the newspaper every afternoon and drives a red Honda.
While the first part of the message was false, the second part was true. I left the office every afternoon, got into a red Honda and drove to the home where I grew up.
That day, I thought about leaving via another door. I remember that my hands were shaking as I gathered my stuff to leave work that day. But then I decided that if a group of heavily armed rednecks wanted me dead, there was little to do about it. For the rest of the summer I left the newspaper by the same door at my usual time.
So I have to say that on balance, a bunch of cranky old farts with keyboards and chronic back pain make me laugh.