Origin of the Lump Hammer

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While the lump hammer appears in English workshops in the mid-20th century, I suspect its origins are much earlier. Read more about this topic on the Crucible Tool blog.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Be Your Own Dang Publisher

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We get a lot of unsolicited manuscripts and book ideas at Lost Art Press – way more than we could ever hope to handle. As of now now we have 18 upcoming books under contract, which is more than five years of work for us.

So when potential authors come calling, I am quick to encourage them to publish their book themselves. (If they embrace the idea, that tells me something about their dedication to their project. If they reject the idea, that also tells me something about their dedication to their project.)

These days, it’s easy to print a decent-quality book using a “print-on-demand” (POD) service. These POD products aren’t permanent books. The pages are merely stacked and glued. With traditional books, the pages are folded, sewn and glued, which makes for a much more durable product.

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But the POD option is a good one for guerilla publishers. Or people who want to make only a few books at a time. There are many companies that will print and sell your POD book (Amazon and Lightning Source are two of the bigger players). But there is a smaller and sometimes cheaper option.

Local libraries often have “Maker Spaces” that have POD machines, such as the Espresso book machine, a $185,000 technological wonder. The Cincinnati Public Library has one, and I’ve been using it for the last year to print off workshop manuals and personal publishing projects with great success.

Yes, it sucks that its book blocks are glued and not sewn. But there is a solution: Sew the book blocks yourself. It’s not all that difficult, and I’ll demonstrate the process in a future blog post.

Lately I’ve been printing up the 70-page manuals that I’ll give to students who take my staked furniture classes. Compared to other photocopied and stapled manuals, these POD manuals are nice. And they don’t cost much more than a trip to Staples or Office Depot.

So, if you have your own publishing project in mind – “The Baptist’s Tool Chest” or “The Democratic Design Book” – you might want to first give your local library a call to see if it has a POD machine. You might just put me out of business some day.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Another Award for the Deluxe Roubo Edition

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At Lost Art Press, we don’t enter contests or seek awards for publishing, design, woodworking or… anything, really. (The reason we don’t do this is complicated. Buy me a bucket of beer some time, and I might tell you.)

Despite this, we are gratified when our books are recognized. And so today I am particularly pleased to announce that our deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” has been named one of the 50 best books of 2017 by the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts).

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This recognition is due entirely to the work of Wesley Tanner, who was the art director and designer of both the deluxe and standard editions of our Roubo volumes. Wesley went to enormous personal lengths when designing these books. They are, as I have said before, the nicest modern books I have ever held or seen.

We spared no expense in making these deluxe editions, and I doubt we will ever embark on a project this complicated or elaborate again. In short, this book is insanely nice. Printed on thick paper made by Mohawk using wind-powered turbines. The printing is at a line-screen resolution that our other printing facilities cannot match. The books are bound halfway across the country at the only place that can handle the 11” x 17” page size. And this same facility makes the custom slipcases by hand.

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And here’s the kicker – the contents of this book are as exquisite as its manufacturing. This book isn’t a reprint of some public-domain classic. “Roubo on Furniture” is the first English translation of an 18th-century French masterwork on woodworking that is still used in court cases on workmanship. “l’Art du menuisier” by A.-J. Roubo is one of the foundations of Western woodworking. I consider it required reading for anyone who values traditional practice — as told by a traditional practitioner.

But enough of my blather. Congrats to Wesley on a job well done. Someday this $550 book will seem a steal to the collectors of the day.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in With All the Precision Possible | 13 Comments

Own a Piece of Jennie Alexander’s Library

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The only thing better than a good book is a good book owned by someone special.

Peter Follansbee is selling off Jennie Alexander’s woodworking library via his blog. There are lots of rare and wonderful texts. All useful and well-loved.

Here is the link.

One of the highlights is the 1976 anniversary edition of Roubo’s complete “l’Art du menuisier.”

Act fast. And stay tuned to Peter’s blog for more books.

— Christopher Schwarz

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‘All Hail the 863’ – Chapter 5, ‘The Intelligent Hand’

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I had the great privilege of working on David Savage’s new book, “The Intelligent Hand” – yet I confess it flummoxed me on my first several editing passes. After years of writing and editing straightforward, linear woodworking how-to articles, I couldn’t from a dispassionate technical viewpoint wrap my mind around what I eventually came to know as a weird and wonderful book. To realize that, I had to turn off at least in part my left brain and approach the book mostly with my right brain (the side that hears music real and metaphoric, and absorbs art emotionally rather than analyzes it). Doing just that is a lesson David imparts throughout. It took me a while.

So I got through the technical sentence structure/grammar/English spellings stuff, then read it again with my literary, not technical brain. And there it was: A book that forces you to consider your own motivations/reactions/work as it reveals in a sometimes-coquettish style the thought and design processes of its author. Like David’s furniture work, it is altogether unexpected, yet altogether delightful and inspiring.

I don’t think I’m yet among his 863 (see below); I’m still too scared by my lack of a corporate safety net (with its attendant health insurance and regular paycheck). But I’m getting closer; books like David’s help.

— Fitz

I need to take you back in time to the beginning of the 20th century. I need to do this in order to explain what I think has happened to us, and why.

As Henry Ford set up his first production line in America in 1913, the Arts & Crafts Movement was being established in the sunny fields of England. Ford developed an existing (brilliant) idea to “bring the work to the worker.” In truth, it was more complex and more revolutionary than that. What Ford was did was to create a system of activities.

Until then, vehicle manufacture occurred in small workshops and factories with relatively skilled engineers doing varied and various work – the stuff we celebrate. What Ford did was analyse that work and break it down into a series of steps. Each step could then be carried out by a relatively unskilled person. The steps were put in sequence, and the partially complete vehicle was brought to the worker.

This is one of the most famous examples of what was to become a major management process in 20th-century industry, not only in the factory but also the office. The “Knowledge Engineer” systematised skills and created processes that became the management’s property. All that was left after their passing was the script and the process.

To fill 100 jobs on his new production line, Ford was forced to hire 963 skilled workmen and women (863 did not stay on). And he had to double his wages to achieve his goals. Rather than hissing and spitting, Ford described this as one of his best business decisions. The extra cost for wages was recouped straight away by increasing the speed of the production line, instantly doubling, and later trebling, production. This was new. Before this, paying extra for piecework didn’t increase production and may in fact have decreased it. Ford had workers working at a speed he could choose. This could not have been achieved just by paying people more money.

The 863 who could not stomach Ford’s new factory are, for me, the interesting ones. Where did they go? History consigned them to the rubbish dump of the past. Like buggy whip makers in the age of the automobile, they were no longer needed. But my hat is removed in honour to their instincts. I would have been amongst them. For they knew that their skills and knowledge were part of a balanced and well-lived life.

This was called “scientific management” and was outlined in the monograph “Principles of Scientific Management” (1911) by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor writes:
“The managers assume the burden of gathering together all the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by workmen and then of classifying, tabulating and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws and formulae…. All possible brain work should be removed from the shop and centred in the planning and layout department.”

In this way, Taylor, whose work was hugely influential in the early 20th century, was able to encourage the concentration of scattered craft knowledge into the hands of “the process managers.” The “time and motion analysis” was born. The objective was to create a process that, once designed, needed no further thought or tinkering. In that situation, skilled workers could be replaced at machines by unskilled ones. Labour and cost were thus reduced as production increased. Skill once observed and analysed was no longer needed.

Soon after this, the age of consumer spending was upon us. Thrift and avoidance of debt – a mark of prudence and good management – was to become a thing of the past. Consumption engineers such as Claude Hopkins, one of the early leaders of marketing, sought to bring consumption under the hand of scientific management. Now we could earn money building cars, and maybe, if we paid over 10 years on the “Never Never” (aka an installment plan), we could drive one as well! Aren’t we smart all of a sudden! All we needed to do was to give up the personal skill we earned over 10,000 hours. Plus, the personal pride in the achievement of making, of doing something complex and difficult and doing it well. For there was no real skill required on Ford’s line – just hard manual work, day after day, after day, after day. The 863 who could not take up Ford’s offer could not do that. All hail the daft old 863!

Who can deny the enormous prosperity and economic comfort that this scientific management has brought us? We work, we earn money, we have holidays and we pay taxes. Then we get a pension and die. And don’t think that being a smarty in an office will save you. The same “expert systems” are coming your way. In the book “The Electronic Sweatshop: How Computers are Transforming the Office of the Future in the Factory of the Past” (1989, Penguin), Barbara Garson writes:

“The modern knowledge engineer performs similar detailed studies, only he anatomizes decision making rather than bricklaying. So, time and motion study has become a time and thought study…. To build expert systems, a living expert is debriefed and then cloned by a knowledge engineer. That is to say, an expert is interviewed, typically for weeks or months. The knowledge engineer watches the expert work on sample problems and asks exactly what factors the expert considers is making his apparently intuitive decisions.
“Eventually, hundreds or thousands of rules of thumb are fed into the computer. The result is a program that can ‘make decisions’ or ‘draw conclusions’ heuristically instead of merely calculating with equations. Like a real expert, an expert system, should be able to draw inferences from ‘iffy’ or incomplete data that seems to suggest or tends to rule out. In other words it uses (or replaces) judgment.”

My wife, Carol, worked recently in an office in Bideford. She spent her day on the telephone reading prepared scripts to prospective clients, who were owners of holiday cottages. Carol has a degree in economics; she has worked on the trading floors of some of the world’s most famous investment banks. Carol could sell ice to Eskimos. But their scripts were what the company wanted spoken; Carol was only a mouthpiece. Her ideas of what they were doing wrong and how it could be improved were of no interest to the company. She was cheap local female labour that came and went while the system controlled by the company remained intact. Its image as a small family company remained unchallenged, but the truth is very different.

I do not suggest that this is bad. I cannot ague that this systemisation, this splitting of thinking and doing, has not resulted in huge economic benefit. We are all vastly more wealthy and more secure than previous generations. This is good; nobody can argue with that. But there is a type of person – and I see them coming to Rowden year after year – who does not quite fit this pattern. Someone who wants a bit more from life than a job, money, holidays and a pension. She wants something else; she wants to use her head and have responsibility for what she makes. She wants to make a thing about which she can say, “That’s mine; I made that.” And she wants to sell it for money, decent money.

All hail the 863.

— David Binnington Savage, from “The Intelligent Hand

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Door Construction: Five-Panelled Door

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FIG. 1. ELEVATION WITH SCALE The same construction could be used for other panelled doors

This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume II” published by Lost Art Press.

Although the five-panelled door described in this article may interest only a small section of our readers, the construction is applicable to most other panelled doors. With small doors, such as are used in cabinets and cupboards, stub tenons would be employed, that is to say the tenons would not be taken right through the stiles

Before commencing work on a door such as that shown in Fig. 1, the careful worker will prepare a “rod,” (Fig. 2). This comprises a clean, unwarped board on which are set out vertical and cross sections of the door in full size. A rod is very useful since the work can be laid on it and the various dimensions quickly marked off.

Stiles. In preparing the stuff for the stiles, it is imperative that the edges should be square and the faces out of winding. If only one stile or rail is slightly twisted it will cause the whole door to wind—a defect that cannot be easily rectified. Assuming that the stuff has been trued up and the face sides and face edges marked, lay one of the stiles face downwards on the rod and strike up the sight lines for the rails on the face edge, the lines being made with a pencil. The stile is then rested with its face edge upwards and the mortises marked with pencil lines, allowing 1∕2 in. where necessary for the plough grooves.

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FIG. 2. ROD WITH DOOR SET OUT IN FULL SIZE

These lines are now squared over to the back edge where further lines are squared across on either side of the mortises for the wedges. For hardwood, 1∕4 in. wedges will suffice, but for a softwood the wedges should be 3∕8 in. It is as well to arrange that the face-edge marks of the members of the frame should be towards the inside of the frame since this will enable the frame to be put together without having to mark the various joints. Having set out one stile, pair the other with it, placing the face edge marks upwards and the face side marks to the outside. It is as well to clamp the stiles together with G clamps while they are being marked out so that they will not shift. The lines marked on the first stile can be squared across the second stile and the setting out completed.

At this stage, lay each muntin in turn on a stile and mark the shoulders, the marking being done with the knife. The shoulder lines should be made a little full so that when the door is put together the shoulders will be hard up against the rails.

Rails. The middle rail is laid on the width rod and the sight lines of the stiles and muntins are marked and squared across, the shoulder lines for the tenons being knifed. This done, the mortises are set out, allowing 1∕2 in. for the plough grooves. The proportions of the tenons are indicated in Fig. 3. The other three rails are clamped together with the lock rail and the lines squared across, the shoulder lines being squared all round. In setting out the top and bottom rails, it should be arranged that the face edge marks will be towards the inside of the frame when assembled. A mortise gauge is now set to a chisel having a width approximating 1∕3 the thickness of the stuff, and the mortises and tenons gauged.

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FIG. 3. VIEW SHOWING JOINTS

Care should be taken not to allow the gauge lines to go beyond the sight lines, otherwise they will show when the door is put together. The widths of the tenons should be gauged and the haunches marked with the knife.

Cutting the Tenons. It would seem that the work can be made easier by cutting out the haunches before sawing the tenons, since by so doing the saw cuts are made through a smaller width than otherwise would be the case. It will be apparent that if the haunches of the top and bottom rails are cut first, the side gauge lines will be cut away. This is of no great consequence to a skilled worker who will be able to cut the tenons having the end gauge lines and those on one edge to guide him, but the inexperienced worker will find it necessary to start sawing the tenons by making oblique cuts on either side and finally finishing each cut by sawing level. He will therefore need the gauge lines on both edges.

For one who is not accustomed to cutting tenons, it is as well to saw down for the tenons before cutting away for the haunches. The whole success of the job is dependent on cutting the tenons parallel with the face sides. If one is out, it is almost sure to put the frame in winding. As the mortises will be chopped out from both edges, in the case of the stiles, there should be little chance of their being out of parallel.

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FIG. 4. TESTING FOR LEVELNESS


Testing the Joints.
When the joints have been made, individual joints should be tested for levelness with a straightedge as shown in Fig. 4. It will also be found if any of the shoulders require easing. The frame can then be knocked together in the following order. First the muntins are fitted in the rails and these are stood on end and a stile is knocked on. The frame is then inverted and the other stile fitted. A test for winding can now be made and any faults corrected.

 

Fitting the Panels. Some workers prefer to cut the panels 1∕8 in. narrow in their length and breadth, but it is only necessary to make this allowance in the widths.

In gluing up, the muntins should be first clamped to the rails commencing with the lock rail. The stiles are then knocked on and clamps applied as shown in Fig. 5, the clamps being positioned as close to the tenons as possible. The wedges should be cut so that they pinch harder on the inside.

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FIG. 5. DOOR BEING ASSEMBLED

By so doing, the stiles will tend to move from the outside towards the shoulders when they shrink. The wedges of the frieze and bottom rail tenons should be driven in harder on one side than the other so that the muntins pinch the rails.

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FIG. 6. SECTION SHOWING BOLECTION AND PLAN MOULDINGS


Mouldings.
Typical door mouldings are shown in Fig. 6. The lower “planted in” moulding is fixed by bradding to the frame. If the mouldings are attached to the panels they will tend to draw away from the frame when the panels shrink. In order that the mouldings should make a good fit against the panels and frames, it is a good plan to clean up the square faces of the mouldings so that the corner angle is a shade greater than a right angle. This will ensure the mouldings coming hard up against the panels and frame.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker | 1 Comment

We Are Open Today (and Tonight)

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The Lost Art Press storefront will be open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And then we’re having a book-release party for “Hands Employed Aright” with the author Joshua Klein – all the way from Maine. The party starts at 7 p.m. and all are invited.

The storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky..

Joshua has prepared a presentation on his research into the life of Jonathan Fisher, the subject of “Hands Employed Aright.” He’ll also be answering questions about the book (and Mortise & Tenon Magazine) and signing books.

The Jonathan Fisher story is a fascinating one, and “Hands Employed Aright” uses diaries, historical records and loads of physical evidence to paint a surprisingly complete and vibrant picture of what it was like to be a woodworker in 18th-century America. The book is a gripping read and is filled with inspiring photos of Fisher’s work and tools.

Other Stuff at the Storefront
As always, Brendan Gaffney, Megan Fitzpatrick and I have been busy in the shop. I just finished a couple stools and a Welsh stick chair in maple with a soap finish. Megan is working on some sawbenches and Brendan is building a coopering handplane.

You can come check out the Crucible Lump Hammer (I have only my personal one, which is not for sale – sorry) and hit some things with it. Plus we have some blemished books to sell for 50 percent off list (cash only). Plus the whole line of Lost Art Press titles – and bandanas (cash, credit or checks). Plus free stickers and coffee.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Hands Employed Aright, Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 2 Comments