Lost Art Press Stickers Now Available

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We’ve long wanted to offer Lost Art Press stickers to decorate your tool chests, machinery and guitar cases. But it was difficult to fulfill them without losing our shirts on warehouse fees or spending our days stuffing envelopes (when we should be making books and furniture).

My oldest daughter, Maddy, has agreed to take on the task of managing the stickers and fulfilling the orders; she’ll also make a few dollars on the side as a result. She’s an animal science major at Ohio State University, so every penny helps because we’re paying out-of-state tuition.

We’re eventually going to offer a way to order these on the web and send them to international customers. But until we can work that out without getting swallowed by fees, we’re going to do it a real old fashioned way.

Send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with a $5 bill to the following address:

Stick it to the Man
P.O. Box 3284
Columbus, OH 43210

Maddy will take your SASE and put three high-quality vinyl stickers – one of each design – in your envelope and mail it to you immediately. These are the nicest die-cut stickers we could find and should even be suitable for outdoor use, according to the manufacturer. The stickers are made in the United States, of course.

We’ve made 500 of each design. When we run out, we’ll issue three new designs.

Note: We don’t have any of these stickers at our Lost Art Press warehouse. Heck, I have only one set (it cost me $5). So asking for special favors from our customer service department won’t work (or help them do their job). We hope to roll out this sticker offer to everyone on earth soon, but these things take time. So please be patient with us.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Stickers | 27 Comments

‘The Woodworker Vol. III, Joinery’ Ships this Week

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I picked up two cases of “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years, Vol. III, Joinery” in Indiana today so we’ll have it at the Lost Art Press storefront on Dec. 10 – our final open day for 2016.

The book looks spectacular. Crisp and tightly bound. I won’t bore you with the measurements of the fore edge or discuss paper weights. (We hear you, it’s boring.)

This week the warehouse will begin shipping out all the copies that were ordered before the publication date. You should receive an email when that happens, and the book should be in your hands within a week after it ships. Of course, the weather, sunspots and coyote malfeasance could delay that.

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The next book in the pipeline is Vol. IV of “The Woodworker” series. This final volume is on workshop stuff (workbenches and tool chests), furniture and its details, plus a few philosophical surprises at the end.

Kara Gebhart Uhl, our managing editor, has finished up her edit of this book. Then Megan Fitzpatrick and I will give it a final once-over before it goes to press. My guess is it will be out in late January.

Also in the works is Mary May’s book on carving the acanthus leaf. That book will go to the designer on Saturday. It might take a while to design the book because the book is quite complex, with hundreds of photos and illustrations.

And finally, “Roubo on Furniture” is dilated at 9cm. Designer Wesley Tanner needs to make some repairs to the layout (don’t ask; it’s painful) and we need to rebuild the index. We are still gunning to get that to the printer before the end of the year and out on the streets by February.

Those are all the books for which I have updates. If you ask: “But what about XXX book?” my answer will be: “Sorry, I don’t know.” All the other books we’ve discussed are being worked on by their authors and are out of our hands.

What I do know is that we have four new book projects to announce in the coming week. Some of them are ridiculously ambitious, plus translations and books that should have been written long ago.

I’m still hoping for a 16-page picture book on happy snails.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Carve the Acanthus with Mary May, Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Lost Art Press Storefront, Roubo Translation, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 7 Comments

Waking up Your Eye

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This is an excerpt from “By Hand and Eye” by Geo R. Walker and Jim Tolpin.

On the southern shore of Lake Erie lies a narrow strip of cottonwood bramble called Magee Marsh. It’s the last bit of shelter for migrating songbirds before they take flight across the open water. Stiff headwinds can cause a massive pileup with thousands of birds hunkered down, and hundreds of bird watchers converging to witness the spectacle. It’s called a fallout. To a birder, a fallout is an event on par with a solar eclipse.

The first time my wife, Barb, and I stumbled into one, I wasn’t prepared for it. The air bristled with brightly colored warblers as we stepped under the shelter of the tree canopy. I felt a puff of air on my cheek as a blur of yellow feathers darted close to my ear. Veteran birders around me ooh-ed and aah-ed, “There’s a black-throated blue, and just above it, 5′ back at 2 o’clock is a redstart!”

But my eyes weren’t quick enough and I didn’t know how to look, or what I was looking at. Over and over I just missed something wonderful and rare. A 9-year-old boy wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Birding is not for Sissies” tried in vain to help me, but after a few minutes, politely slipped away. That first morning I wondered to myself if I’d ever get this. I didn’t seem to have the eye for it. In spite of early doubts, gradually my eyes and brain started to mesh. As the day wore on, I began to see clearly those winged jewels I’d only read about in books.

This book is the equivalent of a “fallout” to awaken your designer’s eye. Despite any doubts you might have, you already possess the inherent ability to see with your inner eye. It is, in fact, simply waiting for you to awaken it. You’ll see what once seemed impossible and quickly gain the condence to spread your creative wings. With some practice, the ability to see and unpack a design will become as natural as breathing.

Looking for Clues in all the Right Places

We live in a media-saturated world filled with images bombarding us every waking moment. Yet, as Vitruvius observed, we’re still plagued with a common dilemma: A layman looks while a designer sees. My own craft background, molded by modern industrial practice, left me dependent on measured drawings. The ability to visualize seemed beyond my grasp in spite of a lifetime of building things with my hands. Granted, I had strong opinions about furniture, art, cars and guns, and I knew immediately what I liked or considered ugly. But truth be told, I could only detect the glaringly obvious. Even then, I struggled to pin down what caught my eye. I could admire a masterpiece, but could not explain what tipped the scales in its favor. I’d look at a chair and think, “It’s off; there’s something awkward or clumsy about it,” but rarely could I voice with certainty what looked awry. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but even if I started a project with clear pictures and plans, the image I formed in my head never seemed to match the actual parts as they came together. This reinforced the feeling that I couldn’t trust my eye. Not that I couldn’t “make to print”; I couldn’t “see to print.”

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Fig. 1.2.2. Is this just a small writing desk or something more? My untrained eye would have said, “Nice work, nice lines,” with little more meaningful comment to add.

Our modern industrial approach doesn’t awaken the eye. It’s just the opposite; the aim is duplication, and that’s achieved by removing the human element. I started my professional life in the trades as a machinist. Blueprints were my world and point of reference; drawings, measurements and tolerances were my comfort zone. Mistakenly I assumed that’s what artisans had always relied on, just with a more primitive set of tools. I had no idea that the artisan age used drawings in a completely different way than anything I’d been taught.

In spite of my misconceptions, my own background in the trades gave me subtle clues that something had been broken. My apprenticeship as a machinist began in the 1970s, right at the sunset of the hand-drafting era. Apprentices got a taste of drafting in the engineering shop, a massive open room with row upon row of tilted drafting tables. Just a few years passed and those big drafting boards disappeared as computer-aided design (CAD) technology emerged. Down in the factory, those dog-eared paper drawings were stored away in a vault and replaced by crisp, freshly printed computer drawings with immaculate graphics. A few years later, machines came equipped with a monitor, eliminating the need for a paper drawing. The next step allowed machines to download the drawing directly into the machine controller and eventually, no image of the actual part was required, just data. Oddly enough we still called them “drawings” even though they contained no pictures, just code. Industrial drawings reached a new pinnacle; they could speak directly to machines in their own native tongue. What a success. It took nearly 200 years from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution for technology to finally and entirely remove the human worker from the equation.

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Fig. 1.2.3. You can learn to see what lies beneath the surface. This is what we are talking about!

Now don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a rant against technology. The ability to mass-produce and duplicate things with precision is crucial to our modern society. From safe baby food jars to fail-proof landing gear on an airplane, our world today is unimaginable without it. But at its core, measured drawings and the way we use them in our modern industrial approach focuses on duplication. It removes human error but at the expense of creativity by limiting choices and dictating rigid commands. Worst of all, by emphasizing measurements and ignoring proportions, it masks relationships between parts and how they relate to the whole. We look at a historic drawing and conclude the details shown to build it are sketchy. Conversely, an artisan-age craftsman might conclude that our modern drawings contain everything but the kitchen sink, yet they obscure the essence of the design. The creative spark requires a different set of conditions to ignite. It feeds on choices, options and the ability to see. In short, it needs the human element restored so that a dance can emerge between the play of hands, eye and the wood itself.

Meghan Bates

Posted in By Hand & Eye | 11 Comments

Where to Find a Good Hammer

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A good hammer is like a good folding knife, it should stay with you forever and act as an extension of your will.

I’m not a big fan of hammers from the hardware store. In general I find them ill-balanced, poorly heat-treated with odd-shaped handles (but other than those details, they are fine). Or maybe I’m wrong and just have a thing for old hammers.

If you have a similar thing, here are some thoughts on how to find your end-of-days hammer.

The best way to buy a hammer is in person at a Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. meet. (You aren’t a member? Fix that here. It’s only $25 a year, and they do great work.) A good tool auction is also an excellent place to visit. Or join the Early American Industries Association, which also has good tool swaps. Heck, I’ve seen good hammers at antique malls.

Inspecting a hammer in person will tell you everything you need to know.

  1. Has it been rehandled (usually poorly)?
  2. Is the head loose?
  3. How’s the balance?
  4. Is the striking face slightly domed?
  5. Is the handle comfortable and the right length for you?
  6. Does it say, “Take me home?”
  7. Are the head or claws chipped?

All those things are more important than the brand. Some of my favorite hammers were made by companies no one has heard of. If you prefer a top-shelf brand, look for Maydole, Cheney or True Temper. But know that you’ll be up against tool collectors.

What size hammer? I use a 16 oz. for most chores. A smaller hammer is also nice to have for delicate work. Your mileage may vary.

Buying hammers on ebay is a crapshoot in my experience. There are some sellers who specialize in selling hammers (and weasel pelts). And though their prices are higher, you are much more likely to get an accurate description and decent packaging. (One ebay seller wrapped a hammer I bought in Saran Wrap and stuck a label on it.)

Plus, on ebay, you aren’t going to be able to tell if the hammer feels balanced or comfortable. So you might have to kiss a lot of toads.

One more option: Buy one from Seth Gould or another blacksmith. Seth makes runs of nail hammers and then sells them on his site. The best way to snag one is to follow his Instagram account. Seth’s hammers are outstanding in every way. I’m sure other blacksmiths make great nail hammers, too. I just don’t have any experience with other hammer-making smiths.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Things That are Not

Shiny is not sharp
Smooth is not flat
Shaker is not simple
Tools are not skills
Ornament is not beauty
Nails are not cheap
Polyurethane is not a finish
Grinding is not hard
Design is not art
Dimensions are not necessary
Sharp is not visible
Paint is not evil
Micrometers are not woodworking
Form is not function
IKEA is not benign
PVA is not necessary
Dovetails are not the goal
Glue is not joinery
Accuracy is not precision
Anarchism is not violence
Aardvarks are not anteaters
Keyboards are not woodworking tools
Forums are not magazines
Branches are not lumber
Shakes are not fatal
Pocket screws are not the devil
Workbenches are not a certain height
Handplanes are not a religion
Bevels don’t give a crap if they are up or down
XXXXX will not affect the finish

— Christopher Schwarz

You can download a pdf of this (thanks to Jared Tohlen) here:

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Posted in Yellow Pine Journalism | 59 Comments

Lost Art Press Storefront’s Paint Job Complete

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Today the painters finished their job on the Lost Art Press storefront. There were a lot of details to manage, and a lot of cold weather to weather. But a crew of six guys spent the entire day going over every nook of the building, calling to each other to rework a detail or cover up a bare spot.

I’m quite pleased. And my neighbors are even more pleased – they’ve been interrupting the painters all week to tell them what a good job they are doing.

While I’m happy, I’m also trying to keep up. Today I built a new transom window for the side of the building that faces south. And I have two more transom windows to make. I also have to add a coat of wax to the front door and seal up the threshold below the new front door. And… the list is endless. Old buildings are fantastic obligations.

Despite my long to-do list, the next couple days will be all about cooking and eating for me. Thanksgiving is the only holiday I take seriously. It’s not about commerce. There are no greeting cards or gifts to buy. It’s just about getting together with the people you like and sharing a meal.

I hope you have the same sort of day – no matter where you live.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 36 Comments

Seeing Red

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Sometimes I think my taste in furniture comes from the fact that I’m easily startled. I’ll sometimes spit a mouth full of toothpaste onto the mirror when my wife appears behind me in the bathroom.

I don’t want to be alarmed or injected with adrenaline when I look at a chair, table or a sideboard because of its car-like surface finish, carving, inlay or dizzying grain patterns.

Furniture should be as natural as your fingers. Your hands are logical, unadorned and familiar. Yet when you choose to examine them closely you will be amazed at every aspect of their mechanics and form.

So when I look at furniture, I mentally divide what I see into pieces that are “red” and those that are “green.” This is all standard color theory stuff that you can learn about in an introductory psychology class.

Colors in the “warm” spectrum – red, orange and yellow – tend to excite us. Colors in the “cool” spectrum – blues and greens – tend to relax.

The first time I visited Winterthur Museum – Henry Francis du Pont’s amazing collection of high-style furniture from the entire timeline of American history – I felt like I needed a stiff drink afterward. While there are some fine vernacular pieces in the collection, the entire experience left me wrung out and on edge. That was a red day.

Seeing one carving by Grinling Gibbons inspires awe. Seeing an entire room of his work induces nausea.

I don’t mean to pick on Winterthur. It’s one of the most fantastic furniture collections on the planet. To be fair, I get the same unpleasant blood buzz in European castles and manor homes. There is only so much of the stuff I can endure.

Contrast that with my first visit to the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, S.C. The 1820 house is opulent in many ways, but much of that is muted by the fact that many rooms were empty of furnishings during my visit. For me, what’s most remarkable about the house are the slave quarters and work areas on the building’s ground floor. And the work yard.

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Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book | 8 Comments