Details on the Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture’

lap-roubo-pressmark-1With the impending release of the standard edition of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture,” we have received lots of questions about the deluxe edition of this book. We don’t know many details at this moment, but here’s everything I know.

The design process for the deluxe edition of “Roubo on Furniture” will begin shortly. Designer Wesley Tanner created both the standard and deluxe editions of “Roubo on Marquetry” – and he designed the standard edition of “Roubo on Furniture.”

The deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” will look and feel the same as the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry.” Same paper, same binding, same slipcase. We likely will use the same printing press and bindery. So it will be as stunning as the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry,” which was named one of the 50 “Books of the Year” in 2013 by the Design Observer.

Here’s what’s going to be different: the thickness of the book (it’s almost twice as long as “Roubo on Marquetry”) and the way we will handle pre-publication orders.

Once we get a feel for how many pages the deluxe edition will be, we will be able to set a price – I’m going to guess that it’s going to be be about $475. Then we will open up pre-publication ordering for both domestic and international customers. Everyone who orders a book will get a book (and will get their name listed in the book as a “subscriber.”) After taking pre-publication orders for a month or so, we will close down ordering and go to press. We might print a few dozen extras for ourselves and family, but we are not going to stock this book in our online store after the pre-ordering period.

Then, when the book is done, we’ll mail them out in a custom cardboard (repeat: cardboard) box to protect the book during shipment.

The books will *not* be numbered or autographed. In 2013 we had many people request that we have all the authors sign the marquetry book. We simply cannot do that. We are not in the business of creating collectibles. Apologies.

So now you know everything I know. We’ll get to work on the deluxe edition and update you when we have more information.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

New in Store: ‘With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture’

r2_cover_mockup2At long last, you can now order “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” from the Lost Art Press store. The price is $57 and the book will ship in March.

Customers who order the book before it ships will receive a free immediate download of a pdf of the book. This offer will end on the day this book ships. As always, the $57 price includes the cost of shipping to customers in the United States and Canada. International customers will be able to order the book from our retailers. (Sorry, but the offer of a free download is not available for international customers.)

Representing a decade of work by an international team (Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue), this book is the first English translation of the 18th-century masterpiece: “l’art du Menuisier” by André-Jacob Roubo. This, our second volume, covers Roubo’s writing on woodworking tools, the workshop, joinery and building furniture.

In addition to the translated text and images from the original, “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” also includes five contemporary essays on Roubo’s writing by craftsmen Christopher Schwarz, Don Williams, Michael Mascelli, Philippe Lafargue and Jonathan Thornton.

You can download the complete table of contents here.

“Roubo on Furniture” is filled with insights into working wood and building furniture that are difficult or impossible to find in both old and modern woodworking books. Unlike many woodworking writers of the 18th century Roubo was a traditionally trained and practicing joiner. He interviewed fellow craftsmen from other trades to gain a deep and nuanced view of their practices. He learned to draw, so almost all of the illustrations in this book came from his hand.

The above facts are important because many early woodworking books are filled with information that is not quite right and drawings that were made by non-woodworkers. Not so with Roubo.

No matter what sort of woodworking you do or your skill level, we think “Roubo on Furniture” will expand greatly your knowledge of how fine furniture was (and still should be) built.

Like all Lost Art Press books, “Roubo on Furniture” is made entirely in the United States with quality binding and materials. All of the acid-free pages are sewn together and then bonded with a fiber tape so the book will not fall apart. The cover is a heavy and stiff board covered with cotton cloth. The book is 8.5” x 12” (the same size as “Roubo on Marquetry”) and is 472 pages.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Roubo Workbench: By Hand & Power


The massive French workbench we sold yesterday here on the blog is the subject of an upcoming video on building traditional slab workbenches. Woodworker Will Myers and I built the bench in only three days. And even though we both work on our feet all day, we are both whipped.

The video takes a different tactic than other presentations. Will and I show various ways to tackle each joint in the bench, from 100 percent hand tool to 100 percent power tool and the techniques between those extremes.

As Will and I have built a ton of workbenches (actually more like 132 tons), we also call out what we think are the best techniques for each joint. Some of our conclusions might surprise you, even if you’ve followed both of us for a while.

We also dive deep into strategies for working with wet slabs. This slab was cut only 12 months ago.

The workbench video will be sold streaming on our site and will be available for international customers. It also will include drawings, cutting lists and a list of supplies. I’m guessing it will be available in about seven weeks or so. No work on pricing yet I’m afraid.

We shot the video at the Popular Woodworking Magazine studio with a crew of three seasoned video and sound engineers. I have been 100-percent thrilled with F+W’s work on videos in the past, and so it was an obvious choice to hire them to shoot our video. So expect a lot of great close-up camera work and excellent sound.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos I took of the construction progress. I swear I did 50 percent of the work on the workbench; I was the guy who brought a camera to the shoot.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Workbenches | 16 Comments

Preparation for Bending Wood


FIG. 127. Smoothing section edge before cutting board for sifter. Avinurme, Ulvi village, Photograph by author, 1947. Photo library 1089:98.

This is an excerpt from “Woodworking in Estonia” by Ants Viires; translated by Mart Aru.

MATERIAL USED. In Europe bent-board containers were made of various types of timber. The flexible and easily cut aspen was popular in Estonia, and was also widely used for that purpose in Russia, Finland and northern Sweden.35 In southern Estonia linden was also used. The sides of the sieve, sifter and “külimit” were all made of aspen. In the case of chests and hampers, birch and ash were often used (especially in the islands), as well as bird cherry. In western Saaremaa chests were mostly made of oak. Oak served as raw material for chests in southern Sweden and southwestern Finland.36 In some countries coniferous wood, pine or spruce, were used for the bent sides of the container, but this was not the case in Estonia. On the other hand, the base of many of these containers was often made of pine or spruce.

CUTTING. The boards were always brought in when still green. This was done so as to prevent them from cracking during the bending process. Furthermore, the board had to be split with an axe, not cut with a saw. The sawn board would easily crack or chip, whereas the chopped board retained the tree rings in good condition and facilitated the bending process. For chests, sieves and sifters, boards 5/16″–1/2″ (7-12 mm) thick were used: for hampers 3/4″- 1-1/2″ (2-4 cm). In western Saaremaa very thin (around 1/8″ or 2-4 mm) boards of oak were sometimes used for chests.

There were two ways of cutting boards for the bent container. The primitive method, used throughout the country, was to make use of the smooth surface of the barked tree for the surface of the container, cutting the log accordingly. This process required preliminary cutting of the log to the right size, i.e., into two or four sections. After that the inside surface was hewn out with an axe and a trough axe, until a curved board of the desired thickness was achieved. The inside surface was finally smoothed with a draw knife.  Such a board is easily bent. This method was also common in Russia and Finland.37

The author had the chance to follow the second method closely in Avinurme in the summer of 1947. Apart from Avinurme, this way of cutting is used also in the Nõva and Hiiumaa home industries. Here, again, the log was first cut into half and each half was further divided into thirds or halves, depending on the original thickness.

Two boards were obtained from each of the sections. The sharp edges of the segment were smoothed with an axe (Fig. 127), and a line was marked along which the cutting was to be done. The splitting itself followed with three wedges first driven into the edge: one in the middle,  and one at each end. Sometimes only one large wedge was used, placed in the middle. As the split formed, smaller wedges were driven into the wood to “guide the split” (Fig. 128). And thus, by driving the wedges even deeper, a double size board was obtained. It was then further split in two, using the same method (Fig. 129). The process is actually very fast, lasting no more than five to 10 minutes.

Both sides of the board are then scraped with the axe, the work being done on the bench. At the same time the bark is removed and the stroke of the axe has to fall along the rings of the wood. Then the curved surface on the outside is cut straight with a planing knife (Fig. 130) and the inside planed with a curved jack plane (Fig. 131). In Avinurme the latter job was done with a draw knife as late as the first decade of the 20th century (Fig. 132).


FIG. 132. Inside surface of sifter board being shaved with drawknife. Avinurme, Laurisaare village. Photograph by Vittoff, 1921. Photo library 439:162.

Splitting with axe and wedges was typical in Sweden and central Europe and was also known in areas where home industry was prevalent (especially for smaller boards). Here they were cut straight, and not along the tree rings, as was the use in Estonia.38  The latter is more closely associated with the first, more primitive method.

35  Филиппов, p. 222; Granlund, p.115-116.
36  Granlund, loc. cit.
37  Филиппов, pp. 224-225 (Simbirsk Gubernia); Tруды XI, p.3158 (Vyatka Gubernia), Granlund, pp. 121-122. Karrakoski, p.144.
38  Granlund, pp. 118-120; Филиппов , p. 224.

Meghan Bates



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Roubo Bench for Sale – SOLD


Will Myers working on one of the mortises in the base.

Note: This bench sold before lunch yesterday. Thanks for everyone’s interest.

This week Will Myers, John and I are building a massive slab workbench in the Roubo style for an upcoming video (more on the video later). We’re just about done with the shoot and are offering the finished bench for sale at a very good price.

But here’s the non-negotiable catch: You have to come get it (we’re in the Cincinnati area). We cannot ship this bench.

The bench is a massive single-slab oak top – 5-1/2” thick and 9’ long – made from red oak harvested and cut in North Carolina by Lesley Caudle. The joinery is all traditional. The base is all drawbored mortise-and-tenon. The top is joined to the base with the classic through-tenon and sliding dovetail joint found on French benches. The bench is 34″ high.


The leg vise features a Benchcrafted classic vise screw with a Crisscross mechanism. The planing stop is handmade by blacksmith Peter Ross. The holdfast is from Crucible Tool. The bench is finished with boiled linseed oil.

Right now the bench components are still a little above equilibrium moisture content for the Midwest. Some bits are 12 percent; some of the thick bits are at 16 percent. But the bench will dry quickly in the next few months if stored indoors. Like all slab workbenches, you’ll need to flatten the top once it settles down. But Will and I think this slab is really mild – it was dead flat when we started with no twist.

The price is $3,000, cash or check. It goes to the first person to say: I’ll take it and I’ll come get it. If you want it, please send an email to If we don’t find a buyer, we’ll just throw the bench on the large pile of benches behind my shop.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 16 Comments

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

Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Drawer Making


Fig 471. Why a shallow drawer has greater side play than a deep one.

This is an excerpt from “The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing.

A well-fitting drawer can be likened to a piston working in a cylinder. For a drawer to fit well, not only is it important that the drawer itself is absolutely accurate on the outside, but equally important is the accuracy of the opening into which it must slide. Therefore, when setting out a carcase, great care must be taken to see that the drawer opening is as large at the back of the job as it is at the front. Indeed, to ensure a really good fit, it is better to allow a very slight clearance at the back, both in height and in width. This will make certain that the drawer will not wedge at the back, and will allow for any slight inward bowing of the carcase.


The amount of this clearance is directly related to the length of the drawer side (Fig 471) but on the longest side should never exceed 1mm (1/32 in.) on each side of the drawer; a greater amount would allow the drawer to wobble even when nearly closed. In the type of job where drawer guides are used, this clearance can easily be obtained (in width, but not in height) by adjusting the guides when the drawer is being fitted. Any twist in the carcase or framing will also cause a drawer to jam.

Test the accuracy of a job as it is being built. Take a small strip of wood about 3mm (1/8 in.) square, and cut it to length so that it just fits into the front of the opening into which the drawer will slide. Push it to the back where it should be a much slacker fit. This ‘feeler gauge’ test should be applied both horizontally and vertically, and should also be applied at the glueing stage when distortion caused by cramping may occur.


Fig 472. Note that the drawer front is grooved to receive the bottom. This groove must be contained within the bottom dovetail, otherwise it will show at the sides. If plywood is used for the drawer bottom it is unnecessary to make allowance for shrinkage.

The joints on the previous pages (above and left in blog post) show the various joints used in drawer construction. The front joints are normal lap dovetails and, as they are exposed to view when the drawer is opened, they should be decorative as well as strong, with the pins not too large, say 3mm (1/8 in.) thick at their thinnest point. It is the practice of some craftsmen to make this dimension as small as possible – in fact only the thickness of a fine dovetail saw. This causes the pins to appear ‘floating’ or detached from the rest of the front and so generally out of proportion with the rest of the joint.

The through-dovetails at the back have a particular arrangement to allow for the fixing of the drawer bottom. The top edge of the back is set down about 3mm (1/8 in.), and the bottom edge is raised so that the drawer bottom can be slid in beneath it. These spaces above and below the back allow the air to flow in and out as the drawer is moved. A larger space at the top would allow papers and other flat objects to fall over the back; 3mm (1/8 in.) clearance is ample.


Fig 473. Methods of holding bottom.

Drawer bottom: The method of fixing the drawer bottom to the side usually depends upon the material being used, or on the quality of job. Three commonly accepted methods are shown in Fig 473. Method A is used in the finest quality work, and with this method solid timber should be used for the bottom. If plywood were used, the top layer of veneer would be liable to chip along the shoulder. This method is suitable for desk drawers where papers and flat objects are housed. B is used in large drawers for housing linen, etc. It is somewhat stronger than A having a larger groove and is therefore capable of bearing more weight. Method C is simple and direct, but the absence of a drawer slip will cause the edge of the side to wear rapidly. This is usually countered by increasing the thickness of the side, but this gives the drawer a heavy, clumsy appearance. This method is used in carpentry, joinery and kitchen furniture.


Fig 474. Screw fixing of bottom to allow movement.

The bottom has an important function in the construction of a drawer. Its front edge is tongued and glued into the drawer front so that the bottom will hold the whole drawer framework true and square (see inset Fig 472). It also keeps the sides straight, thus helping the drawer to run evenly. Where solid wood is used the grain should run from side to side of the drawer. The bottom must not be glued along the slips since allowance must be made for shrinking. To secure it along the rear edge the bottom is either slot screwed (solid wood) or screwed (plywood) to the underside of the drawer back (Fig 474). Where solid wood is used the back edge is left protruding about 3mm (1/8 in.). When the drawer is very large (e.g. in a chest of drawers) the bottom is not made of just one piece because this would tend to sag or split in the centre. It is divided into two, or even three parts, and muntins are fitted between them. These are like very wide slips, except that they are not quite flush with the bottom edge of the drawer. They are morticed and tenoned into the drawer front and fastened up under the drawer back with screws.

Meghan Bates

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