Build a Guitar on a Roman Workbench

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Reader Marcello Kozik sent us a fantastic video of guitars being made on Roman workbenches in Brazil. Take a look at all the ingenious ways the bench is used – including resawing.

Be sure to watch to the end when he plays the guitar.

https://www.facebook.com/porteiradovioleiro/videos/1927487927482811/

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized, Workbenches | 15 Comments

Last Call for Subscribers

LAP-Roubo-PressmarkThe opportunity to be listed as a subscriber in the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” ends at midnight tonight. After midnight, that door is closed.

During the last few weeks we’ve received some pushback about the price for the deluxe edition. It’s $550, which includes domestic shipping (international shipping is extra).

I know this seems a lot for a book on woodworking when birdhouse books can be had for $20. Here is our perspective on the price.

We wanted to offer the book, which represents thousands of hours of work during the last 10 years, in a variety of ways so everyone can benefit from it. You can buy a pdf of the book for $27.50. It has all of the information contained in the other editions of the book. The standard edition of the book is $57, which we think is a bargain for what you get. This standard edition is 472 pages, printed in the United States, the binding is sewn for long-term durability and the paper is bright and thick.

Finally, there is the deluxe edition. We are printing only 1,000 copies of this edition. It is offered in the original 11” x 17” size – same as the original Roubo books from 1774. This deluxe edition is printed to the absolute highest standards using the best materials we could find.

And yes, it’s $550.

For a book collector, that is a laughably low price. Vintage books (and high-end modern editions) that are $550 are at the low end of the spectrum. I gladly paid $2,000 for a vintage copy of Felebien (in French). And I routinely spend $500 to $1,000 for 19th-century books from England on carpentry and joinery for the Lost Art Press reference library.

What John and I sought to do with this book is give you a “period rush” – an inexpensive look at what high-end publishing is like. We both had that rush in 2013 when we received our copies of the first deluxe edition of “Roubo on Marquetry.”

When the truck dropped off the copies at John’s house in Fishers, Ind., we slashed open a box and each pulled out a copy. We each slid it out of the slipcase and then opened it. For the next 30 minutes we gaped at the copies in John’s garage. Honestly, unless you are a book collector, this book is unlike anything you’ve seen.

I know the above sounds like a hard sell. It’s not. We’ve sold only about 30 percent of the press run. So we’re going to have this book on hand for the next few years. If you can’t afford it now, maybe you can afford it after you sell that extra spleen you have hanging around.

But mostly, we’re just happy that we were able to offer this sort of book. Maybe it will take another year for us to break even on the project. That’s OK. But I know that everyone who buys this book will get more than they bargained for – from the authors, the publishers, the designer, the pre-production staff and the printers and binders on the front line.

This is as good as it gets.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Roubo Translation, Uncategorized, With All the Precision Possible | 7 Comments

Bringing Jonathan Fisher Back to Life

Editor’s Note: One of the many exciting books in the works at Lost Art Press is Joshua Klein’s book on Jonathan Fisher (more on Fisher here). Fisher was an ingenious American colonial polymath and woodworker who could fashion almost anything out of wood – a clock, a lathe turned by a windmill, his own tools, furniture for his town, convertible beds and on and on.

This project will be in our hands for editing soon and you’re going to hear a lot more about Fisher and Klein’s personal journey of discovery in researching Fisher. In the meantime, here’s a crazy story about the lengths Joshua is going to for the book.

— Christopher Schwarz

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I remember talking with Don Williams about his struggles working on the H.O. Studley book, “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley.” He said the challenge was unearthing information about who H.O. Studley was. Don searched far and wide to understand the story of this man and his legendary tool cabinet. Studley left no paper trail of letters describing his work, little if any of his other woodwork has been identified and much of the research required extensive traveling. Talk about a complicated project!

When Don visited my wife and me in Maine a few years ago, I took him through the Jonathan Fisher house. As we walked around the house looking at artifacts, we discussed the fact that the Fisher story has the opposite problem. Fisher’s house (five minutes from my own) is full of furniture, tools, paintings, journals, letters, etc. The archives are brimming with tiny little notebooks full of 18th- and 19th-century script, most of which was written in a shorthand he developed at Harvard. There are boxes of drawings, historic photographs and archaeological findings. Digesting this enormous body of information in order to discern a cogent furniture-making narrative would be an enormous task. If Studley was about accumulation, Fisher is about distillation.

As I was writing the chapter about Jonathan Fisher’s barn workshop, I was presented with the task of bringing together all of these artifacts into one scene. I know them all so well and am so immersed in the journals that I could picture it in my mind. His “tool closet” of planes, his lathe in the background, the sheep in the corner, his bald head and the “grave” demeanor on his face. It was almost like I was there. The problem was to describe it to the reader. Although I explained the setting as best as I could, I realized that looking at photographs of objects was not going to be enough. I wanted the reader to see things in context.

To my knowledge, no one writing a historic monograph on a pre-industrial furniture maker has ever commissioned an artist to recreate a workshop scene. Usually, there just isn’t enough information to create such a thing. But because almost everything from Fisher’s shop is either extant or we have paintings or photographs of it, I knew it was possible.

Is it necessary? No. Is it awesome? YES!

Fortunately, I’m working with Chris and John on this book so, of course, they were game. I contacted my first-choice artist, Jessica Roux, from Brooklyn, N.Y. I’ve admired Jessica’s work since seeing it on the covers of Taproot magazine. It struck me right away because it reminded me of Fisher’s own balance of academic training and folk whimsy. Also, the way she uses color and texture reminded of the many 18th/19th-century workshop paintings we all drool over. Her aesthetic vision seemed just right for this.

When I explained the project to Jessica, she was interested. I expressed how important historical accuracy was and she assured me she was used to several rounds of back and forth with authors to make sure things were conveyed correctly.

With the green light, I assembled images of the tools, historic paintings and Fisher himself and sent them along with a rough compositional sketch as a starting point. Then the back and forth began. During the last three weeks, Jessica has been refining a sketch that Chris and I will approve before she creates the final image. The color will happen in a magical digital process I look forward to learning more about.

We hope this artwork will bring Jonathan Fisher to life for you as you read this book. His life was one full of beauty, drama and lots of wood shavings — I can’t wait to share this unbelievable story.

The manuscript will be in Chris’ hands in a matter of weeks. Stay tuned.

— Joshua Klein, Mortise & Tenon magazine

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

‘Roman Workbenches’ on Press

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Brian Stuparyk at Steam Whistle Letterpress is cranking up his Vandercook proofing press today to print the 500 copies of “Roman Workbenches.” I spent some time with him this morning as he adjusted the press for the run – tracking down an odd squeaking noise and adjusting the rollers to get the right spread of ink.

Printing the four signatures for the book should take about a week. Then the pages head to the bindery in Massachusetts. We’re still on track for shipping the book in April (though crappy weather, a trucking strike or a mutant squid attack could always throw us off).

Our customer service line, help@lostartpress.com, has been buzzing lately with questions about this book. Here are answers to the two most common questions:

Question 1: Is there a waiting list if people cancel their orders or there are extra books available?

Nope. No waiting list. If we have extra books or unbound copies become available, we’ll figure out how to sell them after all of the 500 people who ordered the book have an undamaged copy and are happy.

Question 2: Are you going to print a standard edition that is less expensive?

We hope to. I’m off to Italy next week for some additional research. And I really need to get to Germany for some important sleuthing – probably in June. If these trips are fruitful, I’ll probably expand the book with photographs and the additional information.

I think these benches are fascinating and have a lot to teach us. But I also don’t want to end up insulating my house with unsold copies of “Roman Workbenches.” We have been taking a lot of financial risks lately (deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” for one), and so I’m in a cautious mood.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Last Chance to Be a Subscriber

lap-roubo-pressmark-1The deadline to be listed as a subscriber in the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” is midnight on Wednesday, March 15. No exceptions. We need to send the list of subscribers to the printing plant to keep this project on track for a June release.

Also, a reminder: Subscribers’ names will be listed using the name on their order form unless they send a note to meghan@lostartpress.com with alternative instructions by March 15.

Several people have asked: Can I list my company or organization instead of my name? Yes, if you let us know by March 15. Other have asked: Can I list my business address and website? No, this is not an advertising section.

Other customers have inquired about how the book is selling. I just checked and we still need to sell 60 copies to break even on the project as a whole, including the press run, trucking charges, boxes, and editing and designing fees. So John and I are still holding our breath, but we haven’t started selling our plasma.

— Christopher Schwarz

A Tour of Deluxe Roubo from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

Posted in With All the Precision Possible | 18 Comments

‘Kids Today…’ (Oh Shut Your Pie Hole)

 

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Dahlgreen Hall, South Boston, 1892

One of the things that makes me nuts about woodworking shows is listening to older woodworkers complain about 20-year-olds and how they (among other vices) have little interest in woodworking.

This weekend’s Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event was no exception. What was exceptional is that I listened to much of this drivel while people in their 20s and 30s wandered around Braxton Brewing, used the hand tools and talked to the makers.

A lot of our customers are young adults, and the only difference I see between them and the older generations is the younger woodworkers are apt to use materials in addition to wood – metal, plastic and ceramics. And they are more likely to adopt technology into the things they make – robotics, 3D printing, CNC, laser cutting.

Historically, interest in woodworking goes up and down a little bit but remains fairly steady through time. (Unlike interest in scrapbooking or personal journaling, which peaked at crazy heights and then almost disappeared.)

The urge to make useful things is an important part of the human experience.

Woodworking has long been dominated by people older than 50 because they have more money and aren’t chasing around their kids or changing diapers (generally). Younger woodworkers don’t have the same kind of time to devote to the craft. But they are out there. And when their kids get older, they buy a place with a garage and they have some disposable income, they are going to buy a handplane or a table saw and build a workbench.

Yes, it sucks that many schools have eliminated shop class. And it’s stupid that we now encourage kids to go to college who would be happier in a trade.

But despite all that, people find a way to learn woodworking. It’s just not the way you did it (see also, YouTube). And they might not build the same things you like to build. And they might use different kinds of tools. And they just might not like hanging out with old dudes who complain about the younger ones.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, Uncategorized | 46 Comments

‘Hammerschlager’ – the Local Rules

 

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Tonight we’re playing a variant of the Hammerschlager game made popular by Mike Siemsen at Woodworking in America. We’re playing at Rhinegeist brewing. Schlaging starts at 8 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m. The prize: The last of our “With Hammer in Hand” letterpress posters.

Hammerschlager is a game of skill played with a stump, a cross-peen hammer and nails. Two opponents take turns attempting to sink a nail using the peen side of hammer. The first one to sink the head flush or below the surface of the stump wins.

Here are the local rules for the game tonight.

  1. If you break or abuse any of the equipment (especially the hammers), you’re done – disqualified.
  2. You may face a particular opponent only once. Period. In other words, you cannot play against a person more than once. Once only you shall face a particular opponent. Don’t cheat.
  3. You start the stroke with the peen of the hammer resting on the stump.
  4. If the nail is knocked crooked, your opponent may straighten the nail to vertical before taking his or her turn.
  5. The loser of the round marks the winner’s forearm with a slash using a marker (provided). The person with the most marks at 10:30 p.m. wins the poster.
  6. The winner of the round is allowed to face the next opponent immediately. The loser has to return to the back of the line and find another opponent.
  7. All disagreements are settled by the judge (me). Decisions are final. It’s just a stupid game. Don’t make me hate you.
  8. This is not a drinking game. You may drink while you play if you like, but drinking is not required, requested, suggested or smiled upon. It’s just a dumb game.

See you tonight.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments