Last week, Jerome Bias led a woodworking class of six black woodworkers as they built a six-board chest by hand in our workshop. It was one of the more memorable and enjoyable classes here at our storefront.
In addition to woodworking, every day of class was filled with explorations of the past led by Jerome, who worked as a tradesman at Old Salem Museum & Gardens and now explores African-American foodways by preparing open-hearth historical meals at plantation.
The chests were made entirely by hand, and each student personalized their chest with the decorative cutouts, the mouldings and the milk paint they applied on the last day.
This remarkable class was possible because of Jerome’s fearlessness and desire to encourage young black woodworkers. And it was possible because of your donations of cash and tools. Thanks to your help, the wood, the food and the kits of tools we prepared for the class (which they took home) were all covered, gratis.
I feel certain you are going to see these faces again, both here at Lost Art Press and in the world at large. The enthusiasm and drive of these students was infectious.
Thanks to everyone who helped. We hope we can do this again. First we all have to rest, but not for too long. Tomorrow at 10 a.m., Megan and I begin a new project that we hope will plant a seed for future generations. More details to come.
When saw sharpener Tom Law died in 2012, he left behind more than a thousand vintage saws that he had fixed up and filed – ready for use. Some of the rare saws went to collectors. But many of these saws would not interest a collector. They were vintage but common working saws – like the Disston D-23.
Josh Clark, the all-around-good-guy tool seller at Hyperkitten, has obtained these saws and is now selling them at user prices on his website.
If you just want a saw and not the whole backstory, go here. Don’t walk, run.
All of the saws are sharp and ready to use. And because it’s Josh with Hyperkitten, you know the tools are going to be well-packed and sold at a more-than-fair price. The saws range from $20 to $55, with most going for $30 to $40.
And did I mention they were sharp?
How did this happen? Here’s Josh:
When Tom passed away in 2012, he left behind more than 1,000 handsaws, all restored, sharpened and ready to use. For years his wife, Sandra, would bring boxes of saws to the yearly PATINA tool meetings in Damascus, Maryland. Over the years I got to know her and we’d joke about her saw horde. I always looked forward to seeing what saws she would drag out of the stacks to sell.
Tom didn’t discriminate between the rare and the common, they were all just good sharp working saws which meant there was always something interesting to discover. It was clear there was something different when I saw her this past spring. Sandra told me she was ready to get rid of all the saws and reclaim her living room. She wanted to find someone who would buy all of the saws and get them into the hands of people who would use them. It was a tough project because of the scale (500+ saws) and the fact that the collection had been cherry picked over the years leaving behind nothing collectible or sexy, just good quality working saws.
These are just the type of saw I love to sell so I committed to buying the collection. We came to an agreement on a price and she was pleased to allow me to sell them as “Tom Law” saws. Earlier this fall I rented a moving truck and brought the collection home (driving ever so slowly, dreading every pothole). Sandra was equally happy to have her living room back, and to know that these saws would be put to use again.
So if you want to do a good deed, and get a good saw in the bargain, visit this special sale page that Josh built.
We have six of these saws here in the shop, and I can attest that the sharpening is excellent.
While visiting the Rochester Guildhall to see the Benjamin Seaton Tool Chest, I had to pass through some other exhibits (the tool chest is way at the back). The Rochester area was known for its prison “hulks” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The hulks were decommissioned ships – some damaged – that were moored and used as overflow to house prisoners, especially prisoners of war. The hulks in Rochester housed many American and French prisoners of war.
During their time on the hulks, the prisoners would spend their time in a variety of ways, from carving bone to making straw work marquetry.
This surprisingly intricate craft involved making a pine box or cabinet then veneering it with pieces of straw, some of which had been colored.
The Rochester Guildhall had several examples on display, and they were a beautiful almost folk type of marquetry. Check out the photos.
The tour at the High Wycombe Chair-making Museum begins almost the moment you arrive. You ring the bell on the front door. Robert Bishop answers and welcomes you into a room filled with chairs, tools and photographs. You sit down, and bam – he begins telling you a story.
You are hooked. And for the next two hours you live out the trials, highs and lows of the chairmakers of High Wycombe.
The Chair-making Museum is unlike any museum I’ve visited. Yes, there are amazing original objects from High Wycombe’s past. There are documents laid out everywhere on the tables for you to examine. The walls are covered in tools and historical photographs.
You could easily spend an hour just looking at the materials. But then you’d miss the delightful tale of High Wycombe as told by Robert Bishop.
Robert is an accomplished turner, and his work is sold in the galley upstairs from the museum. But he’s also a historian of the people who produced 4,700 chairs a DAY in this beautiful valley in the Chilterns (about 28 miles outside London).
What is most delightful about Robert’s presentation is that it is told from the perspective of the people who made the chairs and owned the chairmaking shops.
He begins in the beech woods surrounding High Wycombe and explains the day-to-day life of the “bodgers” who harvested the stands of lumber to make legs and stretchers for the chair shops. Robert doesn’t offer a romantic view, which we’ve heard before. Instead, it is a purely practical explanation of the work as told by the bodgers to Robert.
It’s the tale of a fascinating micro-economy. The bodgers were accomplished green woodworkers who could turn a billet into a leg in about 3 minutes on a pole lathe. They were efficient. They helped their fellow bodgers. And they lived in town.
Robert’s stories spanned the history of 19th-century High Wycombe. He tells about the life of the 11-year-olds pressed into work at the chair factories – detailing their duties and the things they learned before they turned 17 and were sent to work at the bench.
He recalls the beginning of the chair industry in High Wycombe – acting out the voices of the main characters. Then tells the tale of shops who defied the High Wycombe chairmakers (it isn’t a good end). And explains the details of how difficult it was to get chairs to London for sale.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the story. Even if you have no particular interest in chairmaking, Robert tells a great tale.
But for chairmakers, there are interesting delights in the details.
The collection of Windsor chairs is well-curated. Robert has picked out good examples – chairs that the V&A Museum in London should display (but they don’t). He has a gorgeous Forest Windsor – an early chair that (of course) I fell in love with.
Aside from the chairs, there are the tools. Robert has two working lathes acquired from local bodgers – a pole lathe and a treadle lathe. Both in perfect working order. There’s a tool chest filled with tools from a chairmaker. Plus walls of tools that Robert has himself collected from area chairmakers.
I was struck by so many things during the visit. Here are just two details to consider.
Bending wood without steam. Robert showed photos of how bodgers would make bent armbows using a beech sapling and a form. Each day the sapling was bent a little more on the form and held in place with pegs. By the seventh day the armbow was fully bent. Then a batten was affixed to the armbow to hold it in place while it dried. Robert had an example there with the bark still on it.
2. An English shavehorse with bite. Many of the tools in the museum were acquired directly from the bodgers as the trade wound down in the 20th century. Robert acquired the shavehorse of one of the last working bodgers. It is your typical English horse, but the jaw features iron teeth that hold the work. Obvious, yes, but also amazing.
I can’t say enough good things about the tour. It is worth the journey from London and the 4 pounds. After the tour, I had to catch a train back to London to meet my family for dinner, so I couldn’t pick Robert’s brain or have dinner at the Bird in Hand.
Starting now, when you buy one of my seven titles from the Lost Art Press website, it will be signed by me. We’re able to do this now that our fulfillment operations are here in Covington, Kentucky. We hope to make this offer permanent, but until we figure out how much work it will require, we are committing only until the end of the year.
Offering signed copies is one of the many things we have been eager to bring back now that we are running our fulfillment operations here.
I apologize that we will not be able to personalize these books or offer haikus, drawings of marsupials or signatures in blood. Signing all my books is already a time-consuming task, and adding another layer of complexity isn’t possible.
We also cannot offer signed books to our wholesale or overseas customers. Offering signed copies is one of the few advantages we have in the marketplace, and we have decided to reserve it for books we sell at retail.
What if you just bought a book and are now disappointed it’s not signed? We can mail you a signed signature plate if you send us a Self-addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE).
Here’s what you do: Write your address on an envelope and put a stamp on it. Put that envelope in a second envelope and mail it to:
Signature Bookplate Lost Art Press 837 Willard St. Covington, KY, 41011
We are not going to sell signature bookplates. We did that years ago, and the internet called me a narcissist (it’s not the worst thing I’ve been called, but still…). If you are an international customer, you can still get a signature bookplate, but you’ll need to have a USPS Global Forever Stamp on it. Yes, I know that’s a pain. But this is the best we can do. Yes, some of you will try to strong-arm Fitz into doing it for you, but she says she’ll resist.