Meet Poppy and Guy

Note: I haven’t posted here in a while. But for those who haven’t read Making Things Work and will be visiting the Lost Art Press storefront this weekend (you lucky dogs; I am dying to meet Suzanne Ellison), you can buy the book there.

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Guy and Poppy were a pair of retired business professors who had traveled the world. Judging by what I saw as they showed me around their home during my first visit, they’d brought a good bit of it back home with them.

They had been referred to me by a contractor who assured them I’d be ideal for their project. “We just bought a reproduction of a piece of sculpture,” Poppy wrote in her introductory email.

The first photo shows the original swan at the S. Museum, and the second is the reproduction in the museum shop, just like the one we have. We need to have a cabinet built to display the statue, ideally with a couple of doors in which we can store other items. Please give us a call if you’re interested in helping us with this.

It wasn’t the type of job I ordinarily do, but since they’d been referred to me by a professional whom I like and respect, I called Poppy and arranged a meeting.

Their house was stunning: a classic of modernist style, inside and out—not that I would have guessed as I pulled up to the windowless façade, a gray stone rectangle apparently modeled after a freight container. But no sooner had I set foot inside than the scales dropped from my eyes. All of the other exterior walls were glass, spectacular in the house’s wooded setting.

Works of art filled the interior. Here a Coptic embroidery flanked by a pair of Yoruba masks, there a threesome of prints by Warhol, Schiele, and Kandinsky. A sixteenth-century Japanese screen formed a movable divider between the living room and the kitchen, itself a perfectly preserved marvel of original Sixties design. Clearly these people had excellent taste and understood the value of art and craft. I made myself a mental note to send the contractor a letter of thanks for the referral.–Excerpted from Making Things Work by Nancy Hiller

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Registration Now Open for 7 New Classes

You can now register for seven new classes at the Lost Art Press storefront via the links below.  Note: Registering for the class or the waiting list is free – no credit card needed to register. After the dust settles, instructors will invoice students.

Chip Carving Class with Daniel Clay
July 7 & 8
Cost: $300, materials included (Click here to register)

Dovetailed Shaker Step Stool with Megan Fitzpatrick
July 28 & 29
Cost: $340, which includes all materials. (Click here to register)

Build the Cabinetmaker’s Sector with Brendan Gaffney
August 18-19, 2018 ($300, includes all materials)
(Click here to register.)

Boarded Bookshelf with Megan Fitzpatrick
August 25 & 26, 2018
Cost: $340, which includes all wood and Rivierre nails. (Click here to register)

Build the Cabinetmaker’s Sector with Brendan Gaffney
September 15-16, 2018
(Click here to register)

Dutch Tool Chest with Megan Fitzpatrick Sept. 22 & 23
September 22 & 23, 2018
Cost: $340, which includes the wood and nails/screws. (Click here to register)

Make a Coffin-Shaped Bookcase…for use Now & Later with Megan Fitzpatrick
October 20 & 21, 2018 (just in time for Halloween!)
Cost: $340, which includes all materials. (Click here to register)

For questions on the classes, send us an email at covingtonmechanicals@gmail.com.

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Coming Soon: The LAP Bandanna/Battle Flag

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We use bandannas constantly. We use them as a dust mask, napkin, oil rag, tourniquet, loincloth, clamp pad, battle flag on the War Rig and – in extreme cases – as a way to blow our noses.

The Lost Art Press Bandanna is designed, sewn and printed in the USA. It features our proud skep logo plus busy bees, as every woodworker ought to be. The hem is a “rolled-hem overlock seam.” (No complaints from the purists, please. A true double-fold hem, as on vintage bandannas, would have made this one cost about $50.)

It’s printed with water-based discharge ink for a durable image. Give it a wash before using it, and it’ll soften up beautifully.

Some statistics:

22″ x 22″
100 percent cotton
Sewn in South Carolina
Printed in Oregon
Skep logo designed by Joshua Minnich

Price? We’re still working that out – likely $20 to $25 delivered.

When? As soon as possible.

— Christopher Schwarz

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LAP Open Day on Saturday will be a Big One

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This Saturday we are opening the doors at Lost Art Press, and there is a lot of stuff going on. Here are the parts that I can remember:

  1. Tools. Brendan, Megan and I are selling off our excess tools. I’m still digging stuff out of the basement. Everything will be priced to move. None of us own junk. All tool sales are cash.
  2. Book-release Party. Suzanne Ellison, the Saucy Indexer and LAP researcher, is making her first appearance here. Suzanne and I are going to present our unexpurgated history of workbenches on Saturday night. At the party we will give you drinks. Suzanne has party favors for everyone that she has made. We have a few spots left for this free thing. Sign up here.
  3. Special guests. Jameel and FJ Abraham from Benchcrafted will be there to poo upon our Roman workbenches. And they have cool Chatoyance stickers to sell.
  4. Another special guest – Mark Hicks from Plate 11 Workbench Co. – will be there with shavehorses. (We bought one and he is bringing an extra one I believe). Give them a spin and talk workbenches with Mark, Jameel and me (if you dare).
  5. Books. As per usual, we will have the complete line of LAP books available for sale, plus T-shirts.

Finally, a couple food notes. If you are here on Friday, go to Braxton Brewing and get yourself a fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit from Bakers Table’s pop-up shop. And when you are here, make sure you eat at Main Street Tavern. It’s right around the corner from us. We eat there way too much. The brunch is cheap and incredible (it’s offered both Saturday and Sunday).

Looking for a place to stay? Definitely Hotel Covington. It’s a seven-minute walk from our store. The restaurant there – Coppin’s – is outstanding.

Alright, enough of my unsponsored blathering. Hope you can stop by on Saturday.

— Christopher Schwarz

 

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The Unvarnished Brilliance of Jonathan Fisher

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Editor’s Note: In addition to making the last edits to the book, we’re working on some final approvals from museums, the index and the cover. We hope to offer pre-publication ordering in August.

Late into the nights and early in the mornings before my class at Port Townsend School of Woodworking last week, I was working through my review of “Hands Employed Aright: The Furniture Making of Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847).” Until now, Fisher’s complete woodworking story has existed only in my mind. Because no furniture researcher has known of Fisher, the way all the tiny pieces and rabbit trails come together has never been put to paper.

I have, of course, several binders jammed with notes and papers and countless documents and images on my computer that contain all the little pieces I’ve gleaned on this journey. But it’s taken me years to put it all together into a coherent narrative. As I’ve made my way through this material, I’ve managed to clench it at the forefront of my memory but this story has been burning in me for years and so I couldn’t wait to see it in its final form.

When Kara sent me the PDF for author review, I was ecstatic. Reading the book in this final presentation (photos and all), it’s almost as if I was experiencing this story for the first time. I cannot express how delighted I am to be working with Lost Art Press on this book because there is no other publisher I would trust with this material. From the very beginning, Chris put his faith in me as a researcher and author, recommending minor editorial changes only for clarity. This freedom allowed me to dive deep in Fisher’s life and to present him in the way I think he deserves to be presented: in his unvarnished brilliance. My goal in this book was to allow Fisher’s life and work to emerge unfiltered.

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Even though I’ve known the significance of the survival of his tools, furniture, house, and journal records for a long time now, seeing it all together in the book blew me away all over again. I’ve had the same conversation time after time with furniture researchers – when I tell them Fisher’s story, they all say, “Wait. How come no one has ever heard of this before?” This is a good question. A handful of Fisher biographies have been written but because each book had a different focus, his woodworking activity appears as little more than, “Oh. And he even made his own furniture! How neat!” Yet there in the Jonathan Fisher House and Farnsworth Art Museum archives sat one of the most complete survivals of a pre-industrial cabinet and chairmaker’s story unidentified and undisturbed.

When I was in Port Townsend last week, I spent a few evenings visiting with Jim Tolpin. As I told Jim of Fisher’s story, we discussed how not only is the completeness of the artifacts important, but the fact that it documents a rural craftsman’s work makes it particularly exceptional. Most furniture research focuses on the most successful and prolific master cabinetmakers in the big cities but not just because of a lack of interest in rural work. The tragic reality is that very few rural artisans documented their work and even fewer have two centuries of descendants that carefully preserved their artifacts. Their life’s legacy has long been discarded and their stories are gone forever.

Jonathan Fisher’s story is an incredible exception to this.

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Reading through the book, I’m reminded of how spending this time with Fisher has profoundly changed me as a craftsman. Five years ago, when I began crawling under that furniture to read and understand his tool marks, my perspective on the way woodworking can shape our lives began to broaden. In Fisher, I saw a man that knew no boundaries. He made chairs, tables, chests, agricultural items, hats, picture frames, tools, paintings, and even his own wind-powered sawmill and workshop.

There are many questions about Fisher’s woodworking career I was able to resolve but many still remain. The one that nags me the most is, “What was it in Fisher that made him so boundless in his pursuits? What was it that gave him the confidence to pursue activities that were yet outside his skill set?” Throughout his whole life, Fisher continually explored new trades, in most of which he found success. Jonathan Fisher has inspired me to loosen the shackles of specialization that today’s consumer culture tries to bind us with. I do not believe we need experts to hand us pre-packaged products fit for immediate consumption because Fisher exemplifies a compelling alternative. Jonathan Fisher teaches us to boldly explore new craft vistas to build a life with our own two hands.

Joshua A. Klein, http://mortiseandtenonmag.com

Posted in Hands Employed Aright, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Now Available: ‘Welsh Stick Chairs’

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Welsh Stick Chairs” by John Brown is a small but mighty book. At just 104 pages long, this book can be read in an afternoon, but it has changed the lives of thousands of woodworkers all over the globe.

John Brown (1933-2008) was a chairmaker in Wales who specialized in Welsh stick chairs, a vernacular form of furniture that was typically made by the end users. Compared to Windsor chairs, Welsh stick chairs are masculine, lively and even sometimes a bit aggressive.

They are built with simple hand tools and (when made properly) are designed to last for hundreds of years.

John Brown made hundreds of these chairs, and in 1990 he published a small book that explained how he made the chairs at that time, plus some history of stick chairmaking in Wales and a critique of the Windsor chairs they were sometimes confused with.

The book electrified woodworkers everywhere. Even those who weren’t chairmakers were fascinated by John Brown’s approach to the craft. His disdain for measured drawings. And his honest and forthright writing style.

Welsh Stick Chairs” has been out of print for some time. But thanks to the efforts of Matty Sears, one of John Brown’s sons, and the rest of the heirs, we are pleased to present a beautiful and well-made edition of this important work.

The book is now available for pre-publication ordering in our store. It is $29, which includes free domestic shipping. The book will ship to customers in late June 2018, which is the 10th anniversary of John Brown’s death.

Using first-edition examples of “Welsh Stick Chairs,” we reset the entire book in the original font to ensure the text was crisp. We rescanned and processed the photos and drawings and cleaned them up. And we spent weeks researching the paper stock of the original in order to capture the same earthiness and perfection of the first edition.

We also made a small but invisible improvement – we sewed the signatures together to ensure the book will last for lifetimes.

The book is a softcover, covered in heavy card stock like the original. The book measures 7-1/4″ x 9-5/8″.

Our version includes John Brown’s original introduction to the book, plus the additional introduction he wrote for the third edition and an updated essay on John Brown by Nick Gibbs.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Pondering Polygons

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Detail from Albrecht Durer’s “Melencolia 1,” 1514,

There are a number of geometric constructions that allow us to create regular (i.e equal-angle and equal-facet length) polygons. Most of those for squares, rectangles and triangles are quite straightforward, requiring  but a few steps. However, those dealing with five or more sided polygons get quite tedious involving numerous exacting steps.

Traditional artisan’s constructions are far simpler and each work in the same way to create polygons of any number of sides. The caveat is that they do not generate perfect vertices and therefore do not form regular polygons – i.e. they are approximations. Their products are so close, however, that we cannot see the difference in most drawing and furniture-scale applications. In constructions such as building foundations or landscape layouts, the deviation is a bit more evident. The constructions can, however, easily be “tuned” to near perfect by making small adjustments in the step-out procedures. Here’s a look at three trade-practice methods to create a seven-sided “heptagon.” More details and full instructions for executing these methods are available as a download (free for the next 10 days) at our www.byhandandeye.com shop page.

We use this construction when we know the length of one of the facets of the polygon we wish to generate. Basically, it gives us the focal point of the inscribing circle:

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We use this next construction when we know the radius of the inscribing circle. In both of these methods, we are segmenting  a line into the number of facets required by our polygon. (In the first, we are segmenting a half-circle circumference line, in the one below, the diameter):

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The fastest method, however, is attained through the use of the sector (which you can download for free in the form of a paper template at www.byhandandeye.com).

Using the “line of polygons” (which we derived from another traditional calculator called a “scale of chords”) we start by setting the dividers to the radius of the inscribing circle at the line’s  “6” index point:

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Then we reset the dividers to the number of facets we want – in this case at  “7” for producing our heptagon:

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When we step this span around the circle, we have our construction. Again, because this is just an approximation, we will likely have to make a tiny adjustment to allow the dividers to return to the exact starting point. Be assured, though, that you will be so deep in the ballpark with any of these traditional methods that you’ll be able to smell the hot dogs.

— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com

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