Order, order!

Order in the House!

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As a woodworker trained in furniture making, I’ve designed and built many a kitchen over the past 39 years. Blame the first guy who employed me in 1980; he taught me a lot about business and design, but one of the most valuable gifts he gave me was an appreciation of making kitchens.

Until I started my own business in 1995, my work for kitchens never really took me into the rooms my work would furnish. In almost every case, I was working to plans drawn (often on the backs of envelopes) by others. After I’d built the cabinets to spec, someone picked them up and drove them away for installation. Beyond a dim awareness that the scribe rails I built into face frames would somehow allow the cabinets to be fitted to the walls around them, I had no inkling of what transpired at the job site.

Things are different when you’re the one responsible not only for building the cabinets, but designing the room and putting the whole thing together. You soon realize that there’s an order in which the different pieces of the puzzle should fall into place.

Writing a book about kitchens is a daunting task. (The book related to this post is planned for publication in the summer of 2020.) We all know that the hardest subjects to write about are those with which you’re most familiar. Where to start? With writing, as with building a kitchen from scratch (or remodeling one for people who will be living in the house while the center of their home undergoes an inevitably disruptive transformation), a systematic approach helps ensure a high-quality result.

So here’s a quick list of the order in which such work is typically done.

1 Demolition

2 Insulate exterior walls as appropriate. If you have gutted the room to the studs, joists and rafters, shim or plane down framing parts to make ceiling, walls and floor level and plumb. Add blocking for cabinet (and other) installation.

3 Rough plumbing (sink supplies and drainage, gas for stove) and electrical wiring (lighting, appliances, dishwasher, fridge, stove, undercabinet lighting, switches, etc.)

4 Patch or replace ceiling, walls and subfloor as necessary. Tape and finish joints.

5 Prime and paint at least one coat of color

6 Floor finish (lay tile or sheet flooring; sand wood floor and finish)

7 Install cabinets. (With the overwhelming majority of contractors, this means the whole shebang. Numbers 9 and 10 below aren’t relevant.)

8 Measure and make templates for counters

9 Fit doors and drawers

10 Remove doors and drawers for finishing in shop

11 Install counters

12 Install backsplash or tile

13 Install sink and faucet

14 Finish electrical—install the light fixtures, disposal, appliances, switches, etc.

15 Final painting.

Sure, you can mess around with the order of work, depending on circumstances and materials. But in general this is a reliable guide.

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Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

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Sometimes You Have to Say it

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For the most part, I try to live by the mantra: Show, don’t tell.

But when people ask me questions about the business side of Lost Art Press, I sometimes have to straight up tell people how we work. The following paragraphs might sound like a screed or manifesto. They are not intended as such. They are just an effort to answer people’s frequently asked questions about our business.

Here we go.

John and I started this company by loaning it $2,000 each from our savings accounts to pay for our first press run of “The Art of Joinery” – plus to pay a young kid to design our online shopping cart so we could accept credit cards.

The company paid us back in about three weeks. Since then we’ve never taken a business loan (we have a couple tiny auto loans).

We don’t have investors or benefactors, silent or otherwise.

Our business has never been funded in any way by our spouses. We have never received money – gifts or loans – from family members to fund the company.

We have never sought or received grant money (public or private) to fund any of our research, books or operations. We have never sought or received tax credits or government benefits for Lost Art Press in any form. We simply pay our taxes, and we don’t argue with the accountant.

We have never accepted money or goods from a manufacturer. We pay for our own tools, whether they are digital or steel.

What about the storefront?

I bought the place in 2015 with my own money. It is owned entirely by me, not Lost Art Press. Lost Art Press didn’t pay for my home.

Also good to know: I do not charge Lost Art Press rent. Why would I? John and I are Lost Art Press (yes, I know there are tax issues and the like, but I don’t care).

What about authors?

We treat our authors better than any publishing house I’m aware of. We split all profits 50/50, and our authors receive sizable royalties every quarter (thanks to you, the customer).

I know this is a dumb way to run a modern business. John and I don’t care. We have attempted to structure Lost Art Press so it is nearly impossible to put us out of business while we are alive. And we hope to keep it that way.

Sorry for the overly declarative sentences and lack of animal idioms. All criticisms of our business can be lodged here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Seasoning or Drying of Wood

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Air drying of European oak. A neatly stickered pile of timber air drying at Nidd Valley Saw Mill, Dacre Banks, North Yorkshire, England.

This is an excerpt from “Cut & Dried: A Woodworker’s Guide to Timber Technology” by Richard Jones.

Seasoning and drying of wood describe the same thing: reducing the moisture content of boards or planks thus bringing them into a dry-enough condition to use.

Acclimatising already-dried wood (acclimating in U.S. parlance) to the conditions in your workshop, or bringing it to a condition where it suits its final location as a piece of furniture or woodwork, is a different process to seasoning or drying wood. This subject (is) covered in section 6.12, Allowing for Changes in Wood Moisture Content.

There are several advantages of using dried wood.

Drying wood:

• Reduces its weight.

• Increases its strength and stiffness.

• Pre-shrinks it.

• Makes it more pleasant to handle.

• Reduces the chance of insect pest infestation leading to wood damage.

• Reduces warp and distortion of the wood in service because the drying process largely reveals any such tendencies in advance of constructing furniture and other wooden artefacts.

• The resin of resinous softwoods is hardened during higher temperature stages of the drying process in conventional kilns, making the resin less likely to weep out onto the surface of finished work.

• The end result of most machine and hand-tool operations are more predictable.

• Paints and polishes adhere better to dry wood.

• Modern adhesives formulations, in nearly every case, work best on dry wood.

• Wood preservatives and fire retardants penetrate dry wood better.

• Dry wood doesn’t spread damp to adjacent materials and objects.

• There is no fungal activity in wood dried to below 22 percent MC.

 

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Cross section of a board illustrating the three zones used to describe a moisture gradient, i.e., the core, intermediate zone and the shell. This is convenient but there aren’t actually distinct lines between each zone.

Apart from traditional green woodworking briefly described in section 6.9, there are some situations where undried wood has distinct advantages:

• It’s easier to drive screws, staples and nails into undried wood, and the wood is also less likely to split during nailing, although wood shrinkage may later lead to splitting.

• Screws, staples and nails driven into wet wood go rusty and this increases their holding power. Pallet and potato box manufacturers use partially dried wood for this reason.

• Cutting, shaping and working the wood requires less power, a characteristic often taken advantage of by carvers, turners, in steam bending, green woodworking etc.

The preferred moisture content of wood varies with its planned end use (see section 6.10) but to summarise, about 19 percent MC suits outdoor wooden artefacts; wood for internal furniture in the U.K. should generally be made out of material between about 7 and 12 percent MC. This MC range suits typical seasonal RH values for most British habitable buildings, i.e., about 35 percent RH in winter to 65 percent RH in summer. These numbers are similar to those experienced in coastal regions of North America. On the other hand, in central and northern areas of North America, the typical RH of habitable buildings tends to be somewhat lower at about 20 percent RH in winter (which assumes no artificial humidification system is installed in the building to maintain higher RH values) to 50 percent RH in summer, equating to wood MC values of 5 percent to 9 percent MC. Wood at various moisture contents between 12 percent and 18 percent is suitable for a variety of construction work and joinery in heated sheltered locations, sheltered unheated locations and for exterior joinery.

The two most common methods for drying wood are air drying and kiln drying. The methods are often used in conjunction. For example, it’s a common practice to partially air dry and follow up with a kiln-drying cycle. Within the two broad categories of air drying and kiln drying there are sub-categories. Air drying, for instance, breaks down into traditional air drying, accelerated air drying, forced air drying, low-temperature warehouse pre-drying and drying in climate chambers.

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End racking. Sycamore planks “end reared” and well-spaced apart. Sycamore is very prone to fungal growth if surface moisture is present so this practice of rearing the planks immediately after conversion into boards is quite common. Stickering the planks horizontally in piles straight after conversion may lead to the stickers trapping water and staining is the likely end result. Sticker-stained planks are unusable for show parts of furniture and sell at much-reduced prices to the upholstered furniture market.

Kiln dryer configurations and types are varied. Conventional medium-temperature kiln drying is the first and predominant form. Conventional kilns, by definition, operate at temperatures below 100 degrees C or 212 degrees F. The second most common kiln type is the low-temperature dehumidification drying kiln. The smallest versions of this type can generally only reach a high temperature of about 115 degrees F (46 degrees C), but large units will easily achieve 150 degrees F (65.5 degrees C). Thirdly, there is solar kiln drying. Lastly there are progressive kilns, which are uncommon – the only working ones I am aware of in the U.K. at the time of writing are owned by BSW Timber. With the exception of progressive kilns, a kiln is loaded and closed. A drying cycle is run through and then the kiln is emptied, ready for another batch.

Meghan Bates

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We Are Open Saturday – Come Learn About Non-Toxic Finishes

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Soap finish being mixed.

The Lost Art Press storefront in Covington, Ky., will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, and we hope you can stop by to say hello.

The special (and free) lecture for that day will be about the non-toxic finishes that we use all the time in the shop. I’ll be mixing up some soap finish, plus I’ll show you the beeswax/linseed oil finish we use on chairs, how to use a polissoir for a burnished finish and demonstrate shou sugi ban – a charred finish (weather permitting).

And we’re all happy to answer your questions about finishing. The lecture starts at 2 p.m. and is free.

As always, we’ll be working at our benches and are happy to discuss or demonstrate any techniques that you have been struggling with. Want to learn to use a beading plane? Just ask. Sharpen a travisher or auger bit? We know how.

On the commerce side of things, we now have stock of the special historical reprint of “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker.” It’s as cute as a bug’s ear and is just $12 American. We also have Crucible lump hammers and scrapers in stock. Plus all our regular titles.

If you are looking for a good place to eat during your visit, we can’t get enough of Libby’s Southern Comfort. The fried chicken is aces. The bourbon slushes are dangerous. And the staff is wonderful. Also, the Covington Farmer’s Market is a great place to pick up baked goods. It closes at noon, so be sure to stop by the North South Baking tent and get an almond croissant.

Gawd, I’m making myself hungry.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Last-minute ATC Class Opening

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This is what an ATC looks like after seven months of use and little dusting.

Update: The spot has been claimed.

We’ve a last-minute cancellation for Kieran Binnie’s Anarchist’s Tool Chest class, Sept. 23-27 at the Lost Art Press Storefront. The class is $900 plus $500 for materials (which we got today – gorgeous sugar pine from California).

To claim this spot, send an email to me: fitz@lostartpress.com.

Here’s the description from our now-defunct Eventbrite page:

Join Englishman Kieran Binnie to build a full-size English tool chest (a.k.a. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”) with his assistants Christopher Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick.

This class is all about the dovetails (and building a traditional chest to hold around 50 hand tools) – you’ll get plenty of practice hand-cutting this joint on the carcase, skirts and dust seal, plus you’ll build a bomb (and butt) proof raised-panel lid to top it off. Though we will have time to build only the outside of the chest, you’ll see some options in the Lost Art Press shop for outfitting the interior.

Kieran Binnie is a woodworker and writer. Kieran’s love of hand tool work started when he enrolled at renowned Totnes School of Guitarmaking in Devon, England, and his interest expanded from lutherie to furniture making following classes with Christopher Schwarz and Roy Underhill. He writes a weekly woodwork blog (overthewireless.com) and is a regular contributor to Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine and to Popular Woodworking. He is also working on a forthcoming book on the history of books and bookcases for Lost Art
Press.

* Apologies in advance for the comic stylings of Christopher Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick, who will be on hand to assist as needed, and translate from rebate to rabbet, cramp to clamp, centimeters to inches and so on.

Fitz

 

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New Core77 Column: Chair Comfort

chair comfort

I think that some of the modern rules for making a comfortable chair are inflexible, misinterpret the human body and ignore the needs of people on the shorter half of the bell curve.

I wrote up my thoughts for my column for Core77, and you can read it for free here.

Most of my ideas on chair comfort come from making chairs since the 1990s, everything from frame chair, Morris chairs, Windsor chairs and vernacular chairs, which is where my interest is right now.

After years of making chairs based on historical examples, I encountered modern design rules for them. I gobbled them up. But I found them at odds with my own experiences. This column is my attempt to reconcile them.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Lump Hammers Now in Stock

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We delivered a big load of finished lump hammers to the warehouse this week and they are now available for purchase in our online store. The cost is $85 plus shipping.

These are machined, assembled and polished here in Kentucky using domestic materials.

We also will have a batch of these hammers here at the storefront for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event on Sept. 20-21 at our Covington, Ky., storefront (in case you miss them online).

— Christopher Schwarz

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