Roubo: From Start to Finish


Here locally, I get asked the following question a lot: How do you stay in business?

It’s a good question. When I explain Lost Art Press to Covington, Ky., city and business officials, they look at me like John and I must have some sort of trust fund that supports our chicanery. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The translation of “l’art du Menuisier” is a good case in point. The project began entirely outside of our grasp. In 2005, I was building French workbenches and trying to translate sections of A.-J. Roubo’s “l’art du Menuisier” for my own use or to publish on my blog.

Then the phone rang. It was Don Williams. He said that he and some friends were working on a translation, too. He asked me how far along we were. The answer: About 10 pages out of 1,200 or so. He said they were further along. So I said: Fine. You win.

During that phone call we agreed to work together to translate the 18th-century books that we were both obsessed with. We thought it would take a few years of work. We were incredibly wrong. It’s now 2017. We are much older and finally on the cusp of publishing “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture,” the book I’ve dreamed about for years.

r2_cover_mockup3Unfortunately, it’s an expensive book – $57 is a lot of money.

When you set the price for a book you need to accommodate the price of printing the physical book. (And when you print it in the United States instead of China, that price is about four times the China price.) Then you have to sum up the hours that everyone spent on the book and assign some cost to that work.

For this book, I refused to calculate the price of the writing, translating and editing labor. Why? Simple. We would have done it even if we hadn’t been paid.

Everyone in this translation project, from Don Williams down to the editor, designer and copy editors believe that this is something that should be available to anyone who wants to become a woodworker. It’s not some piece of obscura – this book is the foundation of the legal aspects of what is quality woodwork in most countries.

And there has never been an English translation published.

So when I calculated the price of “Roubo on Furniture,” I discarded the cost of our labor. I flushed it, really. So the price is based solely on our costs to print it and bring it to market.

I know that $57 is a lot of money for some wood pulp bound in cotton cloth, fiber tape and glue. But know that if you buy “Roubo on Furniture,” you are buying hundreds – maybe thousands – of hours of unpaid work for the love of the craft.

Or don’t.

In the end, we really don’t care. Everyone involved in this project – Don, Michele, Philippe, Wesley, John, Megan, Suzo, Kara and many others – are happy either way. We’ve done what we set out to do many years ago. We have all absorbed the incredible woodworking knowledge Roubo recorded. We’ve packaged it in a gorgeous book we can refer to whenever we please.

And we now offer it to you.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Roubo: From Start to Finish

  1. TrevorML says:

    as anyone living Down Under will attest to, US$57 (~AU$76) for such a book is TOTALLY reasonable… we generally have to pay through the nose for decent books here… LAP books are wholly worth every cent of the sweat that was put into them… thanks for bringing such brilliant books to life!

  2. I already pre-ordered my copy. You love your work, and it shows… and we love it as well…

  3. Seriously? 57$ is a ridiculously low price, not only for the work involved in the translation, but also for the huge amount of information the book contains.

  4. says:

    I also have pre-ordered, Having already thought of the work, time, etc. it is well worth the monies you have asked for. Thanks to all !! Ralph

  5. I happily would of spent more. But I greatly appreciate the price and all the work all of you have done.



  6. jdcook72 says:

    Does this, when considered with To Make as Perfectly as Possible, contain all of the illustrations from The Book of Plates, be it in a smaller format?

  7. Still less than 1/3 the cost of a typical textbook. Was 22299 the person-hours in this book?

  8. tpobrienjr says:

    Lost Art Press continues to amaze.

  9. Lee B says:

    When it comes to buyer’s remorse, I find that I never regret purchasing a high quality item due to the higher price, but I very often regret purchasing a low priced item due to the low price. Looking at the LAP books I’ve picked up, in terms of construction they are easily 10x the quality of a typical book for maybe 2 or 3x the price. In terms of the content they have been invaluable. It’s really a no brained. Thanks, folks.

  10. Chris and all involved. Thank you.

  11. jayedcoins says:

    Totally fair price to anyone that can rub two brain cells together… 😛

    Have to further take into account that in some indirect way, the book prices cover a bit of all the amazing, and otherwise free, information contained within these blog pages.

    So yeah, great price!

  12. Tommy Wolber says:

    Any chance of accepting PayPal in the future?

  13. ejcampbell says:

    I’ve been waiting for years for this one. Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone


  14. Salko Safic says:

    Well done Chris my heart goes to you as you do what you do out of true passion and not just to earn a living from it. Many out there should follow your example and I don’t feel it is expensive, but for the tight fisted who would ditch the lavatory if they could just to save on food it may be. I know once this book reaches Australian shores it will be a whopping $150 but that’s the price you pay for living on the a hole’s end of the earth.

  15. 57 dollars is a bargain at twice the price. To be able to have such a vast amount of not only historical information, but accurate and original information on a a craft and art form that has almost disappeared, is a joy to hold in your hands. For LAP and all those involved who “donated” their time, speaks volumes about the volume. Read it, touch it, feel it….. then pick up a few hand tools and make something.

  16. abtuser says:

    Yeah, agreed with others above, science textbooks run around $300 anymore. I’m not sure about history texts, which this seems to qualify for, but I’m guessing they’re not far behind. Fifty-seven dollars? Meh. Well worth the price given the high quality of the books here in general.

    I pre-ordered the day it was first made available.

  17. Thanks for getting me off my duff and ordering it today instead of my planned purchase date of 02/01. I knew I was going to buy it as soon as I first learned about it….but unlike the Stanley 150 Miter box I just paid $153 for….the project on my bench didn’t require the book but the heirloom I’m trying to create does require the vintage box to convey the honor of my passion to the recipient. This passion of mine feeds off that of others and, I hope, nourishes that of others. …..Quit laughing…you started this waxing philosophic…. with that “In the end we really don’t care.”
    Love you folks!! Got just about all the books LAP has published…..most value I’ve gotten for my money, ever!

  18. 57 bucks is a great deal! Finding a copy in french can be tricky, often more expensive! Has anyone seen the prices of books from Les Compagnons???

  19. nrhiller says:

    What a gorgeous book, inside and out. I love the textbook simplicity of the cover design. Congratulations and thanks to all of you who have brought this book into being.

  20. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    Buying it. No question. >

  21. smkindem says:

    I’ve already purchased my copy. I love what you guys do, and your overall approach to business, including Crucible. If I were a man of means, I’d get the Deluxe version. Keep up the great work!

  22. jayedcoins says:

    The textbook thing people make above is a great point. Even a smaller college text for a less dense course is easily going to run $100 new. Considering the importance of this text and the fact that it could very well function as a similar learning tool for woodworkers, $57 is an outright steal. And LAP frankly produces books of higher physical quality than any textbook I ever had in college…

  23. krexhall says:

    I can’t wait to receive the copy that I ordered. I really appreciate all the work you and the team put into this project. It is worth way more than the $57 cost. I believe that this will become the “textbook” of fine woodworking that returns some of the lost art of the craft to the world. Thanks so much for all your efforts.

  24. flatironjoe says:

    As many others have said above, this is a deal, if not a steal. I speak decent French and have translated a few sections of Roubo for my own purposes when I was curious and couldn’t wait for this book to be published. The amount of time and effort to go through 1200 pages of translation, plus the editing and layout and the rest, is almost unimaginable. Add in the quality of the finished product, and it is indeed a wonder that this can be sold anywhere near this low price. Thank you!

  25. neitsdelf says:

    Is there to be a combined hardbound/digital download price like for the first volume?

  26. “In the end, we really don’t care”. Nice way of letting your customers know you appreciate their business. You’re welcome.

    • Hey Steve,

      This has nothing to do with appreciating customers. It’s merely a statement that buying it or not buying it won’t affect what we do.

      Or, in other words, we’re not pleading with customers to buy something to keep us in business.

    • tsstahl says:

      Did you see this part? “So when I calculated the price of “Roubo on Furniture,” I discarded the cost of our labor. I flushed it, really. So the price is based solely on our costs to print it and bring it to market.

      I didn’t get the same image as you after reading the entire post. Just offering a counter point. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I will. Cheers! 🙂

  27. In 1977 in Quebec city I bought the entire works of Roubo for a bit less than $300 that included …furniture, architectural fittings, coaches and garden work…$57 is a bargain for the section on furniture….time will allow the rest to surface.In the mean time remember the entire works of text and plates are on line from Switzerland Worth the look.
    Richard O. Byrne

  28. Apparently you haven’t bought a textbook in awhile. You’ll be wishing their only $57.00

  29. Drew Lawson says:

    My Dearest Mr. Christopher,
    As one who has two computer science degrees, I can assure you that $57 is, to some, laughably cheap for a good book. In the early ’80s, 3/4″ thick textbooks were $75. And Nursing students out-bragged everyone on book prices.
    But, while the nursing books may have improved the world, mine didn’t really. They improved *my* world, but that is terribly small.
    I believe this project improves the world, at least the English speaking world.

    [blah, blah, about both makers and users being better off]

    I thank all of you taking this on.
    I stand with Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney at law, “I have a system — Books!”

  30. Simon Stucki says:

    thank you all so much for this translation and book, even though you say it could be much better if you all had 20 more years I’m pretty sure it came out ok :). I’m looking very much forward to it! and as many have stated before $57 is a very kind price for such a book.
    thank you!

  31. ewingda says:

    Why does one buy a BMW? (Set aside the jokes for a moment).

    Because it is an expression of the ultimate in automotive performance. The engine has the appropriate mix of torque and HP, the transmission is crisp, the gauges are utilitarian. There is a price premium for this sure. But when one prizes these characteristics – one pays the premium.

    The same can be said for other well crafted items from homes to a great pair of jeans….

    Lost Art Press has changed the level of excellence in woodworking publishing. The quality of the writing, the illustrations and the content pull us all in and never let go. The printing and packaging provide a tactile connection like a fine transmission – giving feeling to the power held within.

    Consider that LAP is not out to drive profits for the sake of doing so. Even with a responsible profit margin the price of their books is well UNDER the value which they provide. Are they leaving money on the table? Yes. But I feel that the LAP team is profiting from us – the engaged community.

    I have a suggestion – buy an extra book and give it to your local high school industrial arts program, tech school, maker space or the like. Give it to Chris, Mike Siemsen, Marc Adams, or Bob Van Dyke so they may pass it along to a new woodworker in one of their classes.

    Thanks for everything you guys do.

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