The Letterpress Version of ‘Roman Workbenches’


We are quickly closing in on getting “Roman Workbenches” to press at Steamwhistle Press, and I would like to tell you this now: This is unlike any book we have done before.

The book will be printed letterpress on an old Vandercook proofing press – the same press we used to print “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” posters. To print the book we will first make special polymer plates that will be affixed to the bed of the Vandercook. Every sheet of paper will be fed by hand into the press and pulled for drying by hand.

Normally we print our books at Lost Art Press using a modern and highly automated offset process, which is (relatively) inexpensive and produces a nice result.

But letterpress printing is something else. It’s physical instead of chemical. Every character and every line makes an impression into the paper. The ink spread is regulated by hand. So a letterpress book is as much a textural experience as an intellectual one. If you have ever held a book from the 18th or 19th century and wondered why it spoke to you, my guess is you have sensed this manufacturing difference.


This week Brian Stuparyk at Steamwhistle and I pored over paper samples to find the right combination of brightness, weight and texture. Right now it looks like we are going to use paper from Mohawk, which made the paper for the deluxe edition of “Roubo on Marquetry.”

Also, Nicholas Moegly is now working on the 14 hand-drawn illustrations for the book (a draft of Figure 1 is at the top of this entry).

Once we deliver our finished layouts to Brian at Steamwhistle, he estimates it will take him an entire month of running the press to print the 500 books we’ve ordered.

After going over all the details of this book – handmade benches, handmade illustrations and a manual letterpress, I wondered: What the &^%* am I doing here?

But this weekend we had the Lost Art Press storefront open and we were busy from the time I unlocked the doors until I kicked the last two customers out at 5:15 p.m. Many of them were fascinated by the two Roman workbenches in my shop. How do they work? How did you find out about them? How did you make them? Can you use them to build furniture?

This short book – 64 pages and only 3/8” thick – will answer all those questions. And it will be a (for lack of a better word) sensual experience.

The downside? There will only be 500. That’s the absolute limit for the equipment, people involved, space and energy. We’ll sell it only through Lost Art Press (there really aren’t enough to ship them to retailers). But we’ll make special arrangements so international customers can buy them from us.

We’ll have a price for the book and more details later this week. Until then, I hope you dream of Perdix (shown above) and the tools he invented.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to The Letterpress Version of ‘Roman Workbenches’

  1. nrhiller says:

    Love it. Sending extreme fist bumps. You guys rock.


  2. bronzy935 says:

    Please book me as an international buyer.


  3. ctdahle says:

    My fear is that you are going to post the order link in the middle of the school day and will be sold out before I get a chance to order. Sigh…


    • We will announce the on-sale time and date in advance so everyone will have the same chance. The book will be pricey compared to our offset-printed books because of all the hand labor involved. So it might not sell as quickly as you think. (We printed about 500 deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry” books and had those for sale for two years.)


      • ctdahle says:

        I appreciate that. I am as excited about how this book is being made as I am about the contents. Book binding is one of the things I teach a bit of in my classes and I am eager to show the kids what a well crafted, artisan made book looks like, especially if I can also pry an interesting history lesson out of it.


  4. I figure this book will be around $65, a dollar per page is quite a bit but is probably about right given the work going into it. Although it could be $2 putting it in deluxe Roubo per page pricing. With only 500 going to print and it being Chris’s own work will PDF version be available?


    • Yes, there will be an inexpensive pdf version of this book. And there will be an expanded offset-printed version of the book with photography that will be very reasonable as well.


  5. abtuser says:

    Yeah, I’ve been waiting for this book and the way things go as noted by ctdahle, I’ll miss out too. Darn.


  6. Craig Diamond says:

    Hi Chris – please reserve a copy for me. We met at the Lie Nielsen event two years ago in Brooklyn and was telling you about my dad, Mitchell Diamond, we’re both RIT graduates and printers. I currently run my bar and restaurant and teach hand tool woodworking to children and make furniture and Bowls. Brooklyn Bowls & Furniture. You’re an excellent role model. And I really appreciate everything you’ve done with Lost Art Press and now Crucible.

    If you are ever looking for illustrations that are like no other, please look at American Silverpoint Drawing. My dad, Mitchell has two patents for a flexible stylus that lets him create gradients in his work.

    His work can be seen at

    Much appreciated,

    Craig Diamond 347-328-2506 Brooklyn Bowls & Furniture



  7. Jeff Hanna says:

    Any chance we will see a Roman style hand plane in use?


  8. shopsweeper says:

    If only I had hair like that Roman gent.
    If only I had hair.


  9. So…

    How come you haven’t taken a stab at the stool the guy is sitting on?


  10. Mark says:

    Speaking of fascination on at the store front. What kind of coffee machine was that?


  11. Chris one thing that would help your international customers out is if you included a descriptions of the (packaged) dimensions of all of your items as part of their description on the store. That way we could more easily make use of freight forwarders, and have a better idea of the cost before they spend the money. I was keen on the posters but missed out owing to the time it took to get that information. Without knowing the dimensions and weight of the packaged item, the cost is an unknown quantity. Normally it will be cheaper from me to buy it from a local stockist, but for items such as this, or the deluxe editions of Roubo, it will be easier than having to field emails from those of us keen on using a freight forwarding service.


  12. This is what makes Lost Art great. What organization run by a committee would do this?


  13. Could I put my hand up for a copy as an international customer please? I usually get the books via Lie-Nielson and this one looks like a must have.


  14. darrenhird says:

    Any news on the onsale date yet?


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