What is a ‘Loose Tenon?’

Loose tenon disassembled

Some readers seemed confused by my description of assembling a benchtop with the help of a “loose tenon.”

The expression doesn’t mean that the tenon rattles loose in the mortise. Rather it means that the tenon is not integral to either piece being joined. It is like a Domino or a biscuit. It enters mortises in both pieces.

I drew up two illustrations to show how this works. The drawing at the top illustrates the joint when it is apart. The loose tenon is shown floating between the two components of the benchtop.

Loose tenon ASSEMBLED

The second illustration is an “X-ray” view of the assembled joint with 1/2”-diameter pegs piercing the benchtop pieces and the loose tenon.

“Loose tenons” have many other names, including “slip tenons” or “floating tenons.” All these terms are accepted in woodworking journalism.

Hope this helps.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Workbenches | 25 Comments

Loose Tenons & Workbench Tops

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We think of loose tenons as a modern joint, but it is far from it. Early Greek and Roman boats were made with loose tenons that were pegged to keep the hulls together.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that Richard Maguire also used this same technology to glue up his benchtops (read all about that here). I’ll be honest, I’ve always relied on glue alone (when I didn’t have a monumental one-piece slab top).

But my view changed a couple years ago when we got a bad batch of epoxy and several benchtops delaminated. If I ever have to glue up a slab benchtop again, I’m adding loose tenons.

Interestingly, Maguire doesn’t drawbore the loose tenons in his tops. He states: “a draw bored peg here would have been much weaker than this straight through approach.” I do believe I will be experimenting with this joint – both drawbored and not – to see for myself.=

Maguire wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of loose tenons in a benchtop (though I heard it from him first). Recently I got to inspect an early 20th-century French workbench from La Forge Royale that used the technology.

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This commercial workbench was surprisingly rough in manufacture. Joints were deliberately overcut throughout to make the bench easy to assemble. The “breadboard” ends were merely nailed or screwed on. No tongue. I could go on and on. It’s still a great workbench (and still standing after 100 years), so I’m not knocking it. But I was surprised.

Despite the rough construction, the builders took the extra time to add loose tenons in the benchtop’s joint. That fact says a lot to me as to how important a detail they thought it was.

So it’s worth a thought for your next workbench.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 13 Comments

The (Almost) Final Step with the Horse Garage

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I have never been so happy to hear from a roofer.

After 10 weeks of waiting for my number to come up, Brian the Roofer called to say his crew will begin the job Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Barring rain or a visit from the Angel of Death, I’ll have a new roof by the end of the week and will then set up my machines. That should take a day at most. I don’t have a lot of machines, and they (with one exception) are easy to move.

The only thing left to do is install the mini-split to control the climate in the workshop. The wiring for it is ready – so it’s a one-day job. (And until the mini-split gets installed, I’ll simply freeze my butt off when I work.)

Ever since moving my workbench to the storefront almost two years ago, I’ve been slowed down by having two shops. Though I don’t do a lot of machine work, there were times that I had to drive home to use the drill press for a very particular hole and then had to drive right back to the storefront to continue working.

Though I don’t live far from the storefront (4.2 miles), the route always has a chance of jackknifed semis or cornholed motorists on the stretch that locals call “Death Hill.”

When I was planning out my new shop, I half-considered writing a series of articles about the process. Then I realized that I think most people make it a lot more difficult than necessary. And by putting a lot of effort into the shop, they actually make it more of a pain to use in the long-term.

If you’d like to read my brief thoughts on setting up shop, check out my entry at my other blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Here’s the link. (Side note: I’d like to offer a huge thank-you to all the people who read my blog there – the monthly pay I receive is an important part of our family budget. And according to the traffic numbers, 2017 was a good one for my blog there.)

Now back to dreaming of my membrane roof.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

The Highlights and Lowlights of Writing About Trees and Wood

Editor’s Note: Richard Jones’s book on timber technology is designed, and Chris, Richard and I are working on final edits. The book will be available early this year.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

In almost every project one can find good elements and bad elements in the process.

I’ll get the lowlights of working on this book out of the way first. I found there were times I struggled to put words on the page. Many things can hamper creativity, for that’s what writing is, even with factual subjects. Trying to get information across in a readable form requires finding the right words allied to illustrations so, yes, creativity matters.

It’s frustrating to complete a piece of text and ‘red pen’ it – literally printing the page, marking all the bloopers, jotting corrections (in red) and then going back to the word processing. I can’t properly proofread on a computer monitor, so printing it is. ‘Red penning’ helps me find the repetitions, awkward phrasing, spelling mistakes and bits so badly composed I need to start again. It’s frustrating, time consuming and wastes paper because on average I print and proofread five times before I’m happy, and even then I miss errors.

Other things that frustrate the writing flow include too many work commitments in my full-time job, illness in the family, and just becoming fed up with the whole thing. Why am I doing this? I don’t even have any idea if it’ll get published, and it could all just sit in big stored digital files no-one except me will ever see.

Ah, but the highlights outweigh all the frustrations. The kindness and generosity of people throughout the UK and overseas: Kiln operators, timber (lumber) yard owners, entomologists, mycologists, engineers, wood scientists, meteorologists, woodworking forum participants and so on all came up trumps with suggestions, guidance, photographs, participated in discussions face-to-face, by email and phone, and were willing to peer review sections I’d written suggesting improvements and approval when I’d got it right.

Two things surprised me. First, apart from the essential wood knowledge I chose to cover, I found the secondary information the most fun to write: tree history, ancient deforestation, forests and climate, balanoculture, the special place of oaks in the role of human development and The Baltic Problem from the point of view of the UK. The second surprise was the discovery that the supply of wood from the world’s forests currently teeters on the balance of just about enough at our level of usage – it could go either way, probably depending on future human ingenuity, or, perhaps, our greed and stupidity.

— Richard Jones

Posted in Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Shaker Table Class with Will Myers at Our Storefront

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Build an accurate reproduction of an icon of American furniture with Will Myers during an Oct. 6-7, 2018, class at our Covington, Ky., storefront.

Will has spent years researching Shaker design by measuring the actual pieces in the Shaker communities. His careful work has resulted in measured drawings for this table that result in a true reproduction. (Will was shocked to discover that none of the published plans available were exact reproductions.)

During this intense two-day class, you’ll build a reproduction of this beautiful table and learn:

  • History and details of the three original candle stands of this style that I have examined.
  • Why this table is not as simple as it first appears, and how many small details contribute to look of the table as a whole.
  • Layout and cutting of sliding dovetails on a cylinder, to join the legs to the spindle.
  • Shaping the legs, using spokeshaves and card scrapers.
  • Turning the spindle to final shape.
  • Shaping the top support with planes and spokeshaves.
  • Shaping and smoothing the edges and faces of the round top.
  • Why you need a metal “spider” (and how to make one) to reinforce the leg-to-spindle joinery.

Registration for the class is free. Registrants will be invoiced for the $300 class fee and additional materials fee (which will likely be around $100). Attendees at this class should have some woodworking experience. While no turning experience is required, it will be helpful.

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These classes are are limited to six students led by Will (plus me as an assistant). That’s why we can tackle such ambitious projects.

Register for the class here. After you register, you will receive an invoice for the class plus a tool list. Any student looking for a place to stay or eat near our storefront can get full details here.

As I’ve mentioned before, these classes do not benefit me or Lost Art Press. All proceeds go to the instructor. If you’ve ever met Will (or seen any of his videos) then you know he is a skilled woodworker and excellent instructor. We are thrilled to have him teach here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Woodworking Classes | 5 Comments

Vintage Kitchen Splendor

To start the new year off with a bang, feast your eyes on this gobsmackingly gorgeous kitchen.

Joe Oliver 1

I don’t even remember how Joe Oliver and I became acquainted, but I’m so glad we did. Joe operates Retro Stove & Gas Works based in Chicago and shares my love of old kitchens. Two days ago he sent some snapshots from a recent repair job in a kitchen that’s a treasure trove of original detail. I’m hoping Joe’s customers will allow me to include their kitchen in the book I’m writing for Lost Art Press. In the meantime, here are a few photos provided by the homeowner to whet your appetite.

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Although the range hood, island and microwave are not original, the Sellers cabinets are. Check out that tiled arch over the window. My heart! I am mad for this kitchen. Joe points out that the yellow tiles are not ceramic, but a sheet material such as linoleum.

Joe Oliver 4

Joe identifies this as a pre-World War II Roper. Those control knobs have me swooning.

You can read more about this kitchen and Joe’s approach to repair work at his blog. My favorite quote:

Not all 7 1/2 hour service calls take the same amount of time to prepare for, thank God.  Most take between 30 to 60 minutes.  Occasionally, however, the needs of a vintage stove push your friendly service technicians to extremes.  So when you require help for that 3/4-century old stove which hasn’t required a dime for repairs all the years that you’ve owned it, please grant us some understanding when we charge a service fee to show up at your door.  We have probably earned it.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

New Year’s Eve

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“Fig. 1 An Archer In Action” from “Making a Long-Bow,” The Woodworker magazine, January 1953

“There is always something solemn about the passing of the Old Year. When we were young and the years were very, very long, each New Year’s Eve was an event, the more enthralling for its rarity, and the year ahead still so closely wrapped in the mists of time was full of enticing mystery, something to be explored, one more step forward in the exciting and rather bewildering process of growing up. Breathlessly we listened to the bells, feeling suddenly a little sad as they tolled out the last moments of the dying year, awed into silence in the hush that followed and all the world seemed to wait. Then the lovely, changing peals ushering in the New, and how they rang, those bells of our youth! Is it fancy or have they lost something of their clamorous zest, or is it we who have changed, we who no longer greet them with the old bright-eyed eagerness? Yet there are few men who will not feel a ghost of the old thrill still knocking at their hearts, that here is once more a new beginning, one more opportunity to be seized, as our ever shortening, speeding years are warning us, and turned to account.

“‘Life wastes itself whilst we are preparing to live,’ Emerson once wrote. To live we have to jerk ourselves into action and convert our pleasant pipe dreams into sober realities. The man who has a creative urge to make things, with the vague feeling that he could if once he got down to it, has determinedly to set his hand to a job. So has the man who can make and mend in a plain, competent fashion, but has a hankering for something more, some finer, more ambitious work. If we set ourselves to do the thing, then the power and ability will grow with the doing. If we only keep on vaguely wishing then life will slide away from us and we shall have lost something that might have given us infinite satisfaction. The plain fact which sometimes we are chary of facing is that no atom of good or satisfaction can come to us than by the work we put into this job of making ourselves. Here we are, men with creative instincts, hidden or only dimly realised potentialities, and until we put ourselves to the task of developing them they will remain for ever dormant. No one but ourselves knows what we can do and we ourselves do not know until we have tried. Often, indeed, we scare ourselves off by over timidity. The only way is to start. Tell ourselves we are no worse than the next man: what he can do we can do, and so we can. For steadily and surely those submerged instincts turn into practical ability as we learn by doing.

“It is extraordinary how opportunities come our way for learning once we have started. There seems to be some hidden law governing it, making us aware of new possibilities, new avenues of interest to be explored while we are pegging away at the job of turning ourselves into first-rate craftsmen. It may be only our new awareness, making us see and seize the opportunities, and yet it seems more than that. As if, like the man in the parable, when a man buried his talent he loses even the little he has but, using it, not only is it increased a hundredfold by his own enterprise but more is added unto him, sometimes much more.

“In my time I have made many good resolutions on New Year’s Eve and broken them all. Now, after the passage of the years, there is only one I would make, and that is more a prayer than a resolution. It is for the gift of perseverance. Whatever kind of job of creative living to which we have each put our hands, as good craftsmen, homemakers, as men of integrity and faith and good hopes let us persevere in it, putting our best into it, keeping our interest and enthusiasm alive by the study of good work whenever we can find it and setting our standards by that alone. There are so many things which conspire to turn us aside from the path we want to follow, fascinating things, distracting things, like television, the importunities of our friends, and our own moods and difficulties. We are each of us assailed from this side and that with ever possible temptation to take the easy way and to content ourselves with the minimum necessary effort. But there is not much satisfaction to be got in the long run out of living like that. ‘A man,’ says Emerson, ‘is relieved and gay when has put his heart into his work and done his best: but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver.’ Haven’t we all experienced it? The nagging uneasiness which follows an imperfect or hastily finished job, the blemish which will always catch our own eye if others do not notice, on the other hand the glow of satisfaction when we know our work is good. Those are the moments which are worth living for – the moments which pave the way to solid achievement.”

– Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, January, 1953

Posted in Honest Labour, Uncategorized | 6 Comments