Caretakers of the Tool Cabinet


The only place Peter Hardwick had where the tool cabinet could be displayed was inside his unused fireplace surround in the cottage parlor. Appropriately, the surround was some of Studley’s handiwork from the Quincy house. (Photo courtesy of Sandor Nagyszalanczy)

This is an excerpt from “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Donald C. Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar. 

The Fan Frenzy Begins
In the late 1980s Peter installed a new chimney in his home, and, in doing what guys do on such a momentous occasion, invited a friend over to show off his newly completed project. This friend, an insurance agent, saw the tool cabinet, recognized its special-ness and encouraged Peter to insure it. This event, Peter said, “Opened a can of worms!”

Peter tried to figure out exactly what it was that he had and how much to insure it for, and so he turned to FineWoodworking, the Smithsonian and an antiques appraiser for answers. At FineWoodworking magazine, Senior Editor Sandor Nagyszalanczy took the call and carries the memories vividly.

In early 1988, Nagyszalanczy made arrangements to go visit it during another scouting trip to Maine. When he opened the chest, it was, and I am quoting him, “Jaw dropping to floor!” He set up to take the photographs that eventually entered directly into our collective consciousnesses via the back cover of that magazine.

At that moment, Peter’s life of stewardship of the tool cabinet changed forever. In an age before e-mail, the result of that single back-cover image – and the ensuing posters – was an onslaught of actual “fan mail” for the tool cabinet that overwhelmed him. He received so much mail that he rented a dedicated post office box just for the unsolicited correspondence being forwarded to him by FineWoodworking. Peter’s only regret from this period was that he did not save the fan mail.

The Smithsonian
One of the correspondents was the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History Curator David Shayt. While on vacation, Shayt visited Peter and they struck up a fast friendship based initially on their mutual interest in the tool collection, but it soon evolved to reflect the fact that both men were affable and genuinely good guys.

At the time, Peter had a dilemma. He owned a family heirloom that was also a monumental piece of Americana, and he was concerned about its security and preservation in a simple Maine farmhouse. Shayt proposed a temporary solution. What if Peter loaned the tool cabinet to the Smithsonian for a 10-year period, during which the Smithsonian would bear all the responsibility for it? Once again, Peter reached an agreement to foster the care and preservation of a genuine national treasure, a theme that has touched him throughout his life.


While at the Institution the cabinet was conserved and exhaustively documented, and included in a small vignette adjacent to the exhibit “Engines of Change:The American Industrial Revolution 1790-1860,” with several other tool chests and cabinets for various trades. Though the larger exhibit lasted almost 20 years (late 1986 to mid-2006), the Studley tool cabinet was included for perhaps only a third of that time, probably from about 1992-1999. No doubt seen by thousands of woodworkers there, the Internet has numerous accounts of woodworkers who were captivated by it. I spoke recently with one visitor, a woodworker, who recalls it “being displayed a long way back from the glass, and in the dark.”


During the time of the Smithsonian possession, the collection was photographed and documented, and underwent a thorough cleaning and some conservation treatment, as well as being included in the small exhibit. Meanwhile, the torrent of fan mail kept coming, becoming even more of an avalanche with the issuing of the poster, then a FineWoodworking article, a second edition of a poster and finally a third. The maelstrom of mail led Peter to reconsider his continued ownership of the collection.

And it was one of those letters that again changed the course of the Studley tool cabinet’s history.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley | 8 Comments

Behind the Scenes at the LAP Warehouse


Last Thursday John told me he was heading to the warehouse and asked if I wanted to tag along. I jumped on the opportunity. I was glad to get a chance to meet people that I was emailing with regularly. Also, the more I get involved in the business the more I am curious about what happens in the process once we are finished on our end. John happened to be going to review the systems in place with those who do our shipping so I knew I would get a great look into their side of things. It was worth the trip. They are great people and looking to make our shipping processes better than ever.

So, In case you want to know what it looks like being the scenes, here are some pictures of where your Lost Art Press orders are coming from. Lots of beautiful books!


Nothing fancy but there it is. Now both you and I know where the books are coming from when we put an order in the system.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Come Help Make Roubo ‘As Perfect as Possible’


During our next open day for our storefront, Aug. 13, we’re throwing a special “reading party” for the forthcoming “Roubo on Furniture.” You’ll get an advance look at the book and get to read some of the great stuff the authors have dug up from “l’Art du menuisier.”

At the party, we’re going to have the translated text for all 97 plates of “Roubo on Furniture” printed out plus a big jar of red pens. To help, we’ll also have a bunch of copies of “The Book of Plates,” the original 18th century French volumes and my library of woodworking books, which includes a French woodworking dictionary.

Oh, and we’ll have free beer and snacks.

The storefront is located at 837 Willard St., Covington, Ky., 41017. Our hours for that day will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you can attend, we’ll set you up to look for typos or other errors in the text (we have found multiple cases where Roubo refers to the wrong figures in the plates and we are trying to clean that up). The text for each plate takes about 30 to 40 minutes to read carefully.

For every plate that you edit, we’ll give you a nicely printed commemorative postcard. And a free beer.

The text for this book has already been edited many times by the authors, Megan Fitzpatrick, Wesley Tanner and me. But we haven’t performed a final copy edit on the text where we root out all the nasty language gremlins. So your help with this will be greatly appreciated.

If you can attend, leave a note in the comments section so we know how much beer to bring.

I’m afraid we cannot do this over the Internet. We are not ready to send out this text into the unknown, where people can post it before it’s ready for the public. Apologies, but we’re immovable on that point.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Hulot’s ‘Twin Press’ for a Workbench


Five years after the 1770 publication of “L’ Art Des Expériences” by Jean-Antoine Nollet, came M. Hulot’s “L’art du tourneur mécanicien,” an influential book among turners especially.

In it, Hulot describes a “twin press” for a workbench in some detail. Jeff Burks offers this translation on what Hulot wrote about the press.

XI. Description of a press that is attached to the side of the joiner’s workbench; & which serves to hold the wood while we prepare it for turning.

AB, fig. 11, same Plate, represents a twin Press that attaches to the side of the Joiner’s workbench: it is about 3 or 4 feet long, two inches thick, and 4 to 5 inches wide; make 2 holes entirely through [the bar], through which pass all united, without threading, the wood screws C or D c d, fig 12; the ends of the screws D, enter into a threaded hole in the side, and in the middle of the thickness of the workbench Pl. 31, fig. 5. (Editor’s note: the twin press is not visible in this plate.) The nut  E G F is tapped, and rotates freely on the screw; the middle of the nut G is left thicker than the ears E F, e f, fig. 11 & 12, so that these ears do not rub on the bar A B. G E F, c D, fig. 11, represents the screw and nut seen in perspective; Figure 12 shows the same screw and nut in profile: I, represents the end of the bar A B. It is an accepted usage in drawing and engraving that wood seen by their end are marked with two diagonal lines, as we see them here.

This Press is very convenient for holding workpieces that we can not put in a vice (étau); the large gap that exists between the two holes through which pass the screws, gives the freedom to place parts of large diameter: it is easily seen that the side of the workbench forms one side of the Press, & the bar A B makes the second. We will have the opportunity to speak often about it in the subsequent portion of this work.

This press is remarkably similar to Nollet’s vise (check it out here), with the exception of the length of the screws. Nollet’s screws look at least 2’ long. If I made one of these twin presses (and I probably will), I’m likely to make the screws similar to Hulot’s, which are shown about 8 pounces (French inches) long.

Next up: More unusual German workbenches.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 2 Comments

Be Fox Mulder, Not Cotton Mather


My favorite T-shirt. I used to wear this to the first day of class when I taught at woodworking schools.

The best thing I can say about graduate school is that it taught me to think.

When someone presents an idea to you that is the opposite of everything you’ve read before and everything you believe is true, how do you react? Most people reject the new information like a kidney grafted to the place where the liver should be.

I used to be like that until I started reading Noam Chomsky’s criticisms of how mass media works.

Here’s the dime-store paperback version: Look for information that doesn’t match the conventional wisdom. This new information may not be correct either, but you should examine it closely because it will teach you something.

Here’s how this plays out in the workshop.

In 2007, we re-published Joseph Moxon’s “The Art of Joinery” – the first English language book on woodworking – with some commentary from me. In the book, Moxon discusses “traversing” a board with a fore plane to clean it up and remove twist. I demonstrated this operation in the book and readers on the discussion forums howled.

Sadly, posts on the forums expire, so digging up the discussion is difficult. But here’s the gist:

  1. “Traversing” doesn’t really mean working across the grain.
  2. You never work across the grain with a plane. You work “with the grain,” that’s why we have this expression in our language.
  3. Moxon wasn’t a woodworker so he’s wrong.
  4. You interpreted Moxon wrong.
  5. You are wrong.
  6. Please die.

Ten years later, it seems funny that this conversation ever happened. That’s because enough people (the Fox Mulders of the world) tried Moxon’s techniques and were able to discredit the Cotton Mathers.

After 20 years in this business, I’ve seen this happen time and again.

  1. A.J. Roubo’s workbench from Plate 11 is for carpentry. Not furniture making.
  2. The bark side of a board cups and the heart side bows? Ridiculous.
  3. You have to finish both faces of a board or it will warp.
  4. You have to alternate growth rings in a panel glue-up or the panel will warp.
  5. Hide glue is outdated.
  6. Paint is for covering poor workmanship only.
  7. Nails are for carpentry, not fine furniture.
  8. Workbenches need a tail vise.

I could go on and on. And it would soon sound like I’m giving you a list of things to believe, or not to believe. All I really want to say is my favorite Russian paradox: “Disobey me.” And I’d like add one more bit of information to that: There is a way out of the paradox, but you have to find it for yourself.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, Uncategorized, Yellow Pine Journalism | 34 Comments

Yup, This is How You Clamp It


I’ve gotten some questions (and derision) about a photo we posted on Instagram from “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” that shows assembling a six-board chest with rosehead nails.

In the photo I have the clamps oriented to prevent splits. And that’s where the questioning begins.

Question: Why aren’t the clamps oriented across the width of the top board? That would seem to prevent splits.

Answer: I’m not trying to prevent the top board from a splitting. A properly sized pilot hole will do that. I’m trying to prevent the bottom board from splitting.

When you use cut or wrought nails, the depth of the pilot hole should be only half or two-thirds the length of the nail. This makes the nail do some of the work and is what gives these nails their excellent holding power.

However, in soft woods (such as this white pine) you can sometimes rupture the fibers because – and this is important – the fibers can do one of two things: They can compress or they can split.

If I apply a clamp across the bottom part of this joint, the fibers will compress when I drive the nail in. If I don’t, they are likely to rupture.

After I remove the clamps, the fibers remain intact. The fibers around the nails are compressed and the bonds between the fibers remain.

Compression is your friend, not only in nailing, but in dovetailing, drawboring and in making joints for stick chairs.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Download an Excerpt from ‘Woodworking in Estonia’


FIG. 125. Traveling chest (reisikast), Pöide, ERM 16601.

I’ve prepared a 56-page excerpt from “Woodworking in Estonia” that you can download and (I hope) enjoy. The excerpt includes Peter Follansbee’s introduction to the book, plus a section on axes and a chapter on making containers from multiple boards (it’s like cooperage, but also not like it).

Here’s the pdf download: Woodworking_in_Estonia_excerpt

The book is available for pre-publication order for $29 in our store – copies should start shipping the first week of August (though factory schedules, inclement weather and postal delays can always delay us).

Don’t forget that we are now shipping to Canadians from our Canadian warehouse (details on that here). And that all prices include shipping.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Downloads, Uncategorized, Woodworking in Estonia | 9 Comments