Popular Woodworking Acquired by Woodsmith’s Parent Company

250_Nov_2017_PWM_CoverPopular Woodworking Magazine was purchased this month by the parent company of Woodsmith magazine, a division of Active Interest Media called Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. The purchase price was $1 million, according to court records.

We’ve received a lot of questions from readers. Should I renew my subscription? Will the magazine continue? What will happen to the staff and contributors?

I talked with a well-placed source at AIM today, and he said there have been no decisions made as to what to do with Popular Woodworking Magazine. All options are on the table at this point: Keep the magazine going as-is, fold it into Woodsmith, maintain it as an online entity or other options.

The magazine will continue on in some form, he said. They didn’t simply buy it to kill it. AIM just has to evaluate the situation and decide on the correct path. Woodsmith itself was acquired by AIM in 2015 and was kept in its hometown in Iowa. Since the purchase there have been changes to the magazine’s content and cuts to the staff, all typical results when a magazine is purchased by a new owner.

Popular Woodworking has substantial legacy content that came with the deal, including the intellectual property of American Woodworker, Woodwork magazine and Woodworking Magazine.

Also notable is that Meredith Corp., owner of WOOD magazine, was a bidder in the bankruptcy auction but lost to AIM/Cruz Bay, according to Folio magazine.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 47 Comments

A New Saw from a Familiar Face

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Here’s an interesting piece of news for those who might remember the early days of the internet. Pete Taran, one of the founders of Independence Tool, has begun making new dovetail saws again under the Ne Plus Ultra line.

ITADThe Independence saws were the first premium saws on the market in the mid 1990s, well before Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley and all the individual makers started cranking up their files. Pete founded the company with Patrick Leach, who now sells antique tools. You can read the entire history here, which is from an interview I did with Pete in 2008.

Short version: Independence Tool was sold to Lie-Nielsen and those saws became the first handsaws produced by the Maine company. The Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw still has the same lines as the Independence tool, which are gorgeous.

Pete, one of the most knowledgeable saw people I know, has remained active since selling Independence. He runs the VintageSaws.com site, where he sells refurbished saws and dispenses advice on saw filing.

And now he’s making new saws again. If you never got a chance to buy one of the original Independence saws, this is probably about as close as you can get. I have no plans on testing them (those days are thankfully behind me). But knowing Pete, they will be nothing shy of perfect.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

ALL SOLD. Good Prices on Good Tools

DeWalt 745 with folding mobile base and an extra rip fence; $200 (pick-up only)

John Hoffman – the co-founder of Lost Art Press – is divesting himself of some tools he no longer needs – and we’ve a handful remaining in the shop after the last open house (plus a few from me and Chris). So, I’m making them available here, for the listed price, plus USPS Priority Flat Rate Shipping (that cost will vary, based on the size of the box into which I can pack it – but a “large” box will be less than $20). The one exception is the DeWalt table saw above; it is pick-up only.

All tools are in good working order (blades may require sharpening…but you know how to do that!).

If you want one of the tools, send me (Megan) an email – fitz@lostartpress.com. Do NOT email the LAP help desk (that’s Meghan, who is 100 miles away and cannot answer questions about these tools). Payment will be via PayPal to the tool owner (plus the shipping), then I’ll pack and send the tool. These are available for shipping only to U.S. addresses.

– Fitz

SOLD Early Curve-cutting Saw (Sharp); $20
SOLD Cosman Marking Knife; $20
SOLD Lie-Nielsen No. 5; $240
SOLD BearKat Chair Scraper; $5
SOLD Veritas Burnisher; $10
SOLD Veritas Chairmaker’s Scraper and Blade Set; $40
SOLD Glen-Drake #4 TiteHammer; $45
SOLD Veneer Hammer; $10
SOLD Chalkboard Protractor; $10
SOLD Top, Disston D8; $40. Bottom Disston D23; $20
Posted in Uncategorized

SOLD: Leather-bound ‘Mouldings in Practice’

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In an effort to reduce all the things sitting around, I’m offering this leather-bound copy of “Mouldings in Practice” for sale for $250. Domestic shipping is free. International shipping is at cost. Note: This item is sold.

The book is a first edition of Matt Bickford’s landmark book. The boards are covered in calfskin that has been hand dyed. The endsheets are handmade as well. All the work was done by the artisans at Ohio Book, who have created all of our leather-bound editions.

To buy it, send me a message through my personal website via this link.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Furniture Doors

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Splined-and-battened closet door. It’s somewhat primitive, but it gets the job done.


This is an excerpt from “Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship” by Christian Becksvoort.

Even before frame-and-panel doors come into widespread use, larger doors had to accommodate seasonal wood movement in one way or another. The most common method was to use a series of individual boards, rabbeted, splined or shiplapped, with small spaces in between to allow movement. These doors, sometimes two or even three layers thick, were held flat with battens on the inside. The battens were nailed, “clinched,” or killed (yes, dead as a door nail). Nowadays, screws are often used instead.

Almost all furniture doors are made with frame-and-panel construction. Let’s go over some of the options. For cabinet doors, a 1/4″ (6.4mm) groove is run into the top and bottom rails, and likewise the two stiles. Panels can be flat, flush on one or both sides, raised, carved, moulded or inset. In any event, if the panel is solid wood, it is allowed to move, or “float,” in the grooves. Some woodworkers purchase small rubber balls to keep panels from rattling. I find that a cheaper and easier method is to center the panel, and drive a small brad (from the inside of the door) through the middle of the rails, close to the edge through the panel tongue, and into (but not through) the front of the frame. A bit of filler, or a tiny wood plug makes it all but invisible.

On fine furniture, the corners of doors are usually mortised, tenoned and pinned, for maximum glue area and strength. On tiny clock or desk doors, a bridle joint can be substituted for increased glue area. Kitchen cabinet shops often use stick-and-cope construction. A moulding profile is run along the stile and coped into the rail end, forming a snug, yet relatively weak corner joint. Alternatively, many woodworkers use dowels in the corners, while biscuits are another alternative. Although stronger than a stick-and-cope joint, these methods don’t have much glue area and are therefore not as structurally strong as a full mortise-and-tenon joint.

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Dovetail batten, visible only from the sides and interior.

So what about slab doors? As stated above, battens are necessary to keep the slab flat. However, I find them cumbersome and gawky looking, and I have been using several alternative techniques. The first is the fairly traditional fitted dovetail batten. It’s flush with the inside of the door, and anchored with a small brad at the center.

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Door with breadboard ends – just like a tabletop.

The second is to make breadboard ends. After all, if you can use breadboards on tabletops and desk lids to keep them flat, why not on doors?

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Hidden breadboard batten, visible from the top, bottom and both edges.

The third procedure is a bit trickier: the hidden breadboard. Cut a groove into the top and bottom ends of the door, and insert the breadboard, or batten, inside the groove. Again, anchor it in the middle.

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Totally invisible batten. Lots more work, but really cool.

Finally, the coolest of them all: the totally invisible batten. Make a core of the same wood as the rest of the door, and rip off strips on both sides. Then cut off both ends of the center section, and groove the edges you just cut. Make a batten of the desired width with tongues along both long edges, and cut it slightly shorter than the center of the core. Glue the whole back together and flatten it. Then glue a face veneer, 1/16″ to 1/4″(1.5mm to 6mm) thick, depending on the size of the door, to both sides. Edge all four sides and you have a stable slab door. Nothing showing.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Shaker Inspiration | 4 Comments

Four Zilm Family Chairs

‘Full hand’ armchair. Collection of the National Museum of Australia.

My first thought on seeing the photo of this chair was, “that certainly is an armchair.” It turns out that was the maker’s intention – to make a visual pun of an Armstuhl.

The chair was made by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Zilm, known as Wilhelm, when he was in his late 60s. Three of the four chairs were later repainted and decorated by one of Wilhelm’s youngest sons.

A Very Short Zilm Family History in Australia

After King Frederick William III mandated a new Lutheran church service many “Old Lutherans” rejected the change and, to avoid persecution, decided to migrate to other countries. Groups of Old Lutherans migrated under the leadership of their pastors with many going to Australia and North America. Five members of the Zilm family left their town of Goltzen in the Brandenburg area of Prussia in early 1838: Johann Christian (known as Christian), his wife Anna Dorothea, their sons Wilhelm and Friedrich and Christian’s brother and sister.

The family sailed on the ship Bengalee and arrived at Port Adelaide in South Australia in November 1838. The Zilms and about 50 other families helped to found the town of Hanhdorf (about 28 km southeast of Adelaide). On arrival in Australia, Wilhelm was weeks short of his 11th birthday and his brother Friedrich was 7.

From Hahndorf2019.org.au. Date estimate 1860s?

By 1853, the much larger Zilm family decided to go north to the Barossa Valley and helped found the community of Nain. In 1875 Wilhelm, now age 48, moved with his wife and nine of his children further north to Booleroo. He had acquired 450 acres to clear and to ultimately grow wheat.

Wilhelm (center) his wife Luise (on the right) and some of their many children, date unknown. Collection of the National Museum of Australia.

The Zilms named their Booleroo homestead Pantakora, and in addition to the family home, there was a workshop for the farm (originally the first house they built) used for equipment repairs and blacksmithing and another small building for carpentry work.

Wilhelm and his sons had both the metal and woodworking skills required to run a farm. They were able to make and repair farm equipment, furniture and other wares for the home.

When Wilhelm arrived in Australia he was of an age when a boy might enter an apprenticeship. He certainly helped his father as the newly arrived families built homes and made serviceable furniture. Wilhelm would have had ample opportunities to observe and help men who, although they originally migrated to farm, had trained as carpenters and cabinetmakers (some of whom would later resume their former occupations). Finally, he was a member of a community that migrated together and worked together for the benefit of all. Passing along needed skills, such as metal working and woodworking, was a value to the entire community.

Chairmaking at Pantakora

The woods used to make the chairs were red gum and other eucalyptus species. According to Noris Ionnou’s research, the carpentry bench was essentially a huge table with a thick red-gum top (about 20 cm) and splayed legs. With this basic setup, Wilhelm and his sons made staked tables, chairs and stools (all of which readers of this blog will be familiar).

‘Knuckle or closed fist’ chair (#1) with outward curving arms. Collection of the National Museum of Australia.

The chairs seats average 4 cm in thickness and to lighten the weight of a chair (except the “full hand” chair in the topmost photo) the central part of the underside of the seats were carved out. Seats were not saddled. Chair legs were squared or rounded and staked and wedged to the seat. The back slats all have the same shape: narrow at each end tapering to a wider middle. Two of the four chairs have two round spindles (or sticks) in the back rest. The crest rails are a tablet form and have a slight curve. Screws were used to attach the crest rail to the back slats.

Wilhelm used well-known construction techniques to make his chairs. Was a similar style made by other branches of the Zilm family or other Old Lutheran families? Did he develop the look of his chairs, or was it learned from one particular furniture maker? We don’t know, but there is a consistency in all the known chairs he made.

The carved hands aside, his chairs were a local style, made for daily use and to meet the needs of the family. The carved hands were his unique addition for his and his family’s enjoyment. In other words, Wilhelm made true vernacular chairs.

Decoration and a Few Other Details

Full hand with fingernails on the left. Knuckle or closed fist (chair No. 2) on the right.

Wilhelm made two types of chairs with hands. The “full hand” has four fingers including fingernails! As related by family members, Wilhelm carved the hands to replicate the natural action of hands draped over the end of the chair arm. He was also fashioning a visual pun: he put “arms” on an Armstuhl (armchair). This chair is also heavier than the other three and was the chair he sat in.

The other three chairs have small knuckles (or closed fists) at the end of the chair arm. The arms of one chair curve outward (chair No. 1 in the large photo above) and there are only three knuckles. This is the chair Wilhelm’s wife sat in.

‘Knuckle or closed fist’ chair (No. 2). Photo from ‘The Barossa Folk-Germanic Furniture and Craft Traditions in Australia’ by Noris Iannou.

The other two “knuckle” chairs each have four knuckles with chair No. 2 having the addition of two back spindles.

‘Knuckle or closed fist chair (No. 3). Photo from ‘The Barossa Folk-Germanic Furniture and Craft Traditions in Australia’ by Noris Ioannou.

The four chairs are dated 1895 and the original paint color was yellow. A nice, bright accent in a pre-electric and dark home interior.

There is some thought that the chairs are gendered. Wilhelm and his wife each had a specific chair and perhaps each family member had their own specific chair. It is very common for the parents to have specific chairs and the kids to each have their own until they grow up and move on (and then a younger sibling grabs that chair). I really don’t see a lot of difference between the knuckle chairs. It is one thing to make a chair for your wife, a lovely sentiment, but that does not necessarily give the chair a specific gender. Also, when the chairs were originally made they were all the same color and did not have the decorative designs we see on them today. So, I don’t see a gender factor.

Wilhelm Zilm, about 1895, State Library of South Australia.

At the time of Wilhelm’s death in 1906 (at age 78) his three youngest sons were living at Pantakora: Christian, Jack and Paul. Christian, a bachelor, inherited the farm and later left it to Jack. In 1937 Jack (also a bachelor) gave the farm to the married Paul.

Paul, the youngest son, is responsible for the designs on chairs. About 1910 the chairs were painted black. White, orange and red-brown paint was used to decorate the knuckle chairs. Other chairs he may have decorated are either in private hands, destroyed by later family members or otherwise lost.

The crest rails and the shaped back splats were outlined in orange. Legs were painted with concentric orange circles and the seats were given curved lines in orange and white. Swirls, leaf shapes, flowers and suns were in white. Dots were added to fill in the background. On his mother’s chair (chair No. 1) hearts, a common German motif, were painted on either side of the seat. (Note: design details on chairs Nos. 2 and 3 are difficult to see due to the low resolution of the photos.)

According to his family, Paul painted and decorated furniture and woodwork in the Zilm home. He also liked to carve. His designs incorporate both German motifs and elements often used in aboriginal rock, bark and body painting.

Top: detail of an X-ray style of rock painting, ca. 6000 B.C. photo from NIH, Washington, D.C. Bottom: stone hatchet, no date, acquired by the National Museum of Australia in 1987.

Outlining the shaped back splays and chair arms and then adding a central line simulates a skeleton and has similarities to the X-ray style of aboriginal painting. Outlining a figure and filling in spaces with dots are also a familiar part of aboriginal painting. Paul’s use of orange, red-brown and white, colors that can be obtained from the earth, are another element in common with aboriginal painting.

When the Zilms moved into the Booleroo area, well before full European settlement, there were still aboriginal peoples living nearby. How much contact Paul may have had with them we don’t know. But he was a creative sort and seems to have appreciated the colors and designs he saw.

Paul Zilm standing near the family home Pantakora. On the veranda is one of the chairs with carved hands (left of the blue arrow). Circa 1940. National Museum of Australia.

When the early German migrants arrived on the frontier of South Australia the first concern wasn’t to make beautiful furniture, but to build shelter. Furniture had only to be serviceable. Later, serviceable could be replaced with the familiar styles formerly made in Prussia. But as time and distance from the home country lengthened different chair styles developed. Regional differences also developed (consider the numerous variations in Welsh stick chairs). Influences from the new homeland were also absorbed by the furniture maker.

These four chairs were made when the Pantakora homestead was well settled and Wilhelm had several grown children to run the farm. After a half century of arduous work he had some time to enjoy making chairs that where a little different, a bit whimsical. He had time to indulge his sense of humor. Fifteen years after the chairs were made, Wilhelm’s youngest son, born and raised in Australia, repainted the chairs and joined symbols of the old home with the new and permanent home.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Furniture Styles | 13 Comments

How it Began

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Every month in the late 1990s, an oversized manila envelope would land on my desk at Popular Woodworking magazine. When that happened, I’d finish editing the sentence I was working on, put down my red pen and rip into the package.

Inside was the newest Good Woodworking magazine with the latest John Brown column. I would read the article several times. Photocopy it for my records (I still have those photocopies). And then pass the magazine to one of my fellow editors who would read it for the tool reviews or how-to-make chopsticks article.

I adored John Brown’s column for two reasons. One, his writing was outrageous, even by the typically wilder U.K. standards. This gave me confidence and license to loosen up my own woodworking writing so I didn’t sound like an instruction manual for a toaster oven.

Two, the chairs. Gawd, I loved the chairs he showed in the articles. While I adored the chairs shown in his 1990 book, “Welsh Stick Chairs,” the chairs in his magazine articles were far more interesting because John Brown had learned so much in the decade since writing his book.

Today I went to the mailbox and there was an oversized manila envelope with a U.K. postmark waiting for me. I put down my satchel and ripped into the package. Inside was a mint August 1999 issue of Good Woodworking magazine. And on page 50 was the John Brown article titled “Of All the Works of Man.” One of my favorites.

We’re collecting these vintage magazines to help illustrate the upcoming book by Christopher Williams titled “The Life & Work of John Brown.” The book will feature 20 of JB’s best columns. We purchased the rights to reprint these articles for the book, but the publisher who now owns the rights to the articles doesn’t have the images from the columns. So I need to invoke some digital trickery to illustrate John Brown’s columns for the book.

It’s a bit weird to see this article again after 20 years and in mint condition – like encountering an old friend who hasn’t aged a day. (And who is still a dang interesting guy.)

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in John Brown Book, Uncategorized | 14 Comments