A Beehive Hoodie for the Spring

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My oldest daughter, Madeline, has been hard at work in graduate school in Pittsburgh and hasn’t had much time for selling stickers and the like. But recently she really wanted a hooded sweatshirt with the Lost Art Press beehive logo to wear while winter ends.

She made some using American Apparel hoodies and they looked good. So she (with my permission) is now selling them in two colors (black and dark grey) through her etsy store. They’re $55 plus shipping. Printed in America.

Note these are American Apparel, so they run a little slim. Here’s a sizing chart.

sizing chart

Maddy also still has some stickers for sale (including the drawing of Bean, our three-legged shop cat) and the “Nothing Without Labour” shirts.

— Christopher Schwarz

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For the Lost Art Press Men’s Room

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If you’ve ever visited our storefront, you might have noticed that we wallpaper the men’s room with all manner of woodworking paraphernalia, from posters to old advertisements to poems.

I haven’t put anything up in the women’s room except a portrait of Juliette Caron. Every time I think to hang something in there, I ask Megan: “Is this too creepy for the women’s room?” And the look on her face says: Yes.

Case in point this vintage German newspaper I just purchased after a tip from Suzo “the Saucy Indexer” Ellison. Do I want this guy smiling at me when I do my business? Probably not, but it’s going in the men’s room anyway.

I hope (government mandates permitting) that you can come see the bathrooms for your own self. We still hope to open the doors to the public on June 13, 2020, for a special open day.

What’s going to be special? Blemished books. We are trucking 14 boxes of damaged and returned books to the storefront for the occasion. They will be 50 percent off of retail – cash only. (No, we cannot put them online. Sorry.) I don’t yet know what titles we’ll have. When I get them here I’ll post a list. But I do know we have a significant number of the now-discontinued “Book of Plates.”

We’ll also have our full line of new books and all the Crucible tools. We can take any form of payment for new books and tools – cash, check or credit.

So get healthy and hope for the best. If June doesn’t work, we’ll reschedule the open day for as soon as it is safe for everyone.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. What’s the image above about? Not sure. The blocks of text below it are from an unrelated article. The caption on the image is, according to a translation from Rudy Everts, basically, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Even so, I’m not hanging this one above the Lost Art Press urinal.

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A Kitchen Remodel in Real Time, Part 3: Design

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Elements of this kitchen’s design. The subway tile is not definite yet but is among the elements Ben and Jenny have had in mind from the start.

The big picture

As with methods of building cabinetry, there may well be as many potential takes on designing the kitchen for a particular house as designers who might be hired for the job. My own starting points include the clients’ preferences and the architectural context.

This kitchen is for a 1959 ranch originally built for a middle-class family. While decidedly modest (not shouting Hey, I’m cool! Look at me!), it incorporates some classic mid-century modern features. There’s an asymmetrical façade and stepped roof with generous overhangs at front and back. Inside, the kitchen cabinets are set into bulkheads. There’s streamline casing on windows and doorways. The floors are a mix of plain- and rift-sawn oak. The layout is split-level, with public rooms (living room and kitchen) on the main/entry floor, a short flight of stairs going up to the three original bedrooms and a full set of stairs to the walk-out basement, which has a laundry room, bedroom (added several years ago) and storage.

I don’t have access to pictures of the original kitchen, but in this case the missing information is immaterial. The clients didn’t want to recreate the kind of retro kitchen typical of local mid-century modest ranches.

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A mid-century classic. Most of this cabinetry is original to this kitchen, whose owners hired me several years ago to help with a few repairs and missing details. The original counters had been replaced; these red laminate counters with period-authentic metal edgings were fabricated by Laminated Tops. (General contractor: Golden Hands Construction)

Instead, as I’ve described in previous posts (here and here), they hoped to integrate the kitchen at least somewhat with the living room, as well as make it feel warmer and lighter. Replacing the hard, cold tile floor with oak run continuously from the living room will make a huge difference in perceived warmth. Skylights will bring in more natural light, and replacing the barely functional dark cabinets with clear-finished white oak will further enhance the warming and lightening effect.

I give clients all the pros and cons I can think of concerning every detail, from hinges to toekicks, and then I give my own opinion, assuring them that the decisions are ultimately theirs to make. I also think it’s important at least to broach the subject of resale appeal in kitchen design discussions. (Whether or not you have this discussion, you can be sure your clients’ family or friends will bring it up; at least if you’ve already run them through it, they will be better able to stand their ground in the face of know-it-all second-guessers.) Real estate agents and other pros have reams of advice, but I find the overwhelming majority of it useless (not to mention boring; who wants to live with a room designed for the lowest common denominator?). You can’t read the minds of future buyers. The fact is, an awful lot of people — perhaps the majority, these days — are determined to redo the kitchen when they buy a place, even if the existing kitchen was recently done; it’s a way of making their own statement. So if you’re jonesing for a kitchen based on the original cabinets of your 1915 bungalow, or your heart is set on a vision of teal, aquamarine and green…well, you can probably tell where this is going.

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Kitchen in a 1915 bungalow, Indianapolis. Newly built cabinets based on a surviving original built-in, reclaimed heart pine counters, a reproduction sink and faucets and refinished original maple floor. The leaded glass windows are also original. (No cries of complaint about the beer bottle, please! It was not mine, but the client’s from the night before.)

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My business did this kitchen for Carol and Roger Parks in 2006. Daniel O’Grady and Jerry Nees worked on the job with me. Carol chose the color scheme, which includes emerald-green glass cabinet knobs, in response to the original glass wall tiles; she had the floor painted with a quilt-inspired pattern. The base cabinets are cherry, the uppers finished with milk paint sealed with oil-based polyurethane. Regarding the durability of the finish, when I had the kitchen photographed in 2018, thanks to gracious permission from the current homeowners, the cabinets and floor of this hard-working, well-used room were in excellent condition. (General contractor: Golden Hands Construction Photo: Spectrum Creative Group)

Cabinet design

Jenny and Ben have three children and really use their kitchen, so when considering materials, I put durability at the forefront. White oak faces would be fairly bullet-proof, and the grain’s a champ at distracting the eye from scratches, dents and other signs of wear. I suggested straightforward lines for the cabinets in the main preparation area. But wanting to distinguish the cabinets from the ubiquitous take on mid-century style produced by the more commercial shops in our area, I suggested a few tweaks: Instead of fully recessed kicks, we’d have a more “carpentery” design, with stiles going to the floor to accentuate the cabinets’ structure. Using adjustable European hinges and drawer slides, I could fit the cabinets with inset doors and drawer faces while staying within the budget. For optimal durability, I’ll have the cabinets sprayed with conversion varnish by my finishing subcontractor.

When it came to designing the shallow cabinets for the opposite wall, which forms the transition between entry area and living room to kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to repeat the same design. I wanted these cabinets to be less “workerly,” more appropriate to this liminal space. I have a vivid memory of a stacking set of small, circular wooden boxes my parents had in the early 1960s; they may have been Japanese. I was mesmerized by their form and finish — enamel paint in mid-century versions of yellow, red and green, each with a rounded black rim. This built-in — part kitchen, part entry area — seemed an ideal place to incorporate such an aesthetic.

Milk paint

I suggested milk-paint for this cabinet because it lends itself to so many textural finishes. For the carcases, blocks of different colors will be framed by narrow solid lippings painted black. Full-overlay doors and drawer faces will have black edges. The kick will be fully recessed and painted black. The clients will choose a mix of colors and finish effects — perhaps single-color, perhaps layered — and I will have the whole thing sprayed with topcoats of conversion varnish for durability.

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A few of the possible colors, all from Real Milk Paint: Beachglass, Boardwalk, French Gray and Granny Smith green.

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Another possible color combination

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The textured two-layer treatment in the red/gold sample recalls similar effects in this painting by Paul Klee.  What does a 1922 painting have to do with mid-century design, you wonder? I was born in the year my current clients’ house was built. In the early 1960s our parents had a print of “Senecio” in the living room. Many expressions of “high culture” in the pre-internet 20th century (such as works by artists and architects) did not become widely known and influential on popular style until decades after their original production. This is another aspect of kitchen design that gets a workout in the section of my book on period kitchens. (Image: Phaidon)

Cabinet hardware and counters

The door and drawer pulls (in the picture at the top of the post) are from Schoolhouse. Hanging open shelves over the sink area will retain the openness between the kitchen and living room while adding extra space for storage and decorative objects. The counters will likely be a dark gray soapstone.

— Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

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A Kind of Order — from ‘Honest Labour’

Editor’s note: For the next several weeks, we will feature some of our favorite columns from “Honest Labour: The Charles H. Hayward” years, along with some thoughts about why these particular columns hit the mark.

This column from 1960 is so timeless and relatable. There’s the inner nagging we all experience when a workshop or tool chest or pantry or closet has become disorganized, full and unmanageable. And then there’s the quiet scolding we all feel while organizing — “I will never let this happen again.” Next, the sweet satisfaction that accompanies the completed work. (Have you ever, later, stepped into your workshop or opened the closet door just to admire the tidiness?) Then the promises, the resolutions. But seemingly always, life gets in the way, as life does, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Another reason I love this column? In it, Hayward peels back the gloss and reveals something he struggles with and even discloses some enviousness. For as much as I adore Hayward and his Chips from the Chisel columns, sometimes, especially if I read many in one sitting, I feel, well, exhausted. How could one person be so good at all the things? But here, Hayward recognizes his more human side, allowing him to pass along a lesson with empathy.

Finally, there’s his bit of jealousy. How wonderfully perfect is his discovery that all is not as it seems when comparing his workshed to that of his friend’s? And how often do we all do that, tenfold, now that we have social media showing us only the best of the best of everyone’s lives? For every beautiful piece of furniture shown there was the hidden heartbreaking split. For every organized workspace posted on Instagram you didn’t see what it looked like three days prior. For every smile, you didn’t know about last week’s anguish. And yet, Hayward recognizes the importance of reality — “after that I felt much better” — but also uses the experience to ever-push himself — “although the vision still leads me on, not so much now with a feeling of guilt as of an objective to be attained.”

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

A Kind of Order

We need to achieve a kind of order—that will enable us to keep an eye on things

There are few things more immediately rewarding than having a grand old turn out. It produces a feeling of satisfaction that is positively Jack Hornerish, if it was indeed that nursery-rhyme character who said “What a good boy am I,” at least in anyone like myself who never clears up his workshed until driven to it. When I can find no more space for anything or, more shameful still, when the right size screw of which there should be plenty somewhere simply refuses to come to hand, then I really start in. It is an event more or less annual, usually at this time of the year when home activities are getting well under way again. And never, never does it happen without my passing good resolutions to do this more often in future and, what is more, when dirty, tired but happy I stand back to survey the spick and span result, that at least I will in future keep everything in its place and a place for everything. Alas for good resolutions! Sooner or later one comes up against the time factor; things have to be put away in a hurry, odds and ends accumulate, and the whole business starts all over again.

I can confess this the more openly because for years the standard of tidiness always nagging at the back of my mind was the one glimpsed in the workshed of a friend who had recently moved into a new house. As I stared at the tools neatly ranged in position, garden tools hanging on appropriate nails near the door, carpentry tools in racks above the workbench, I felt awed. For John is an artist as well as a first-rate craftsman, a man whose creative gifts keep him in a state of almost perpetual ferment so that time ceases to have any meaning for him. And yet he could achieve this. What a beauty there was in such order and what a lesson there was in it for me. He beamed when I said as much.

The memory remained with me like a conscience, giving me a dismayed feeling of “What would John think of this!” when my own lot got out of hand. But it was not altogether without fruit. Little by little, after every grand turn out, small improvements began to creep in: there would be an additional shelf, extra hooks, even partitioned trays for those elusive screws and nails and small tools (cheap wooden or plastic cutlery trays, with partitions added as desired, are handy for this when time is lacking, as it usually is over this kind of job), so that at least a certain order began to persist through the bad periods. But how it lagged behind John’s I had ruefully to admit. And then, after an interval of some years I met him again and somehow the subject cropped up. He and his wife stared at one another in blank astonishment. “John’s workshop tidy!” she cried. “Oh it can’t have been his you saw. Why, it’s always in a hopeless mess.” Firmly I recalled the time and circumstances of the vision I had seen and they both burst out laughing. It must, they said, have been the one and only time it had ever been tidy.

After that I felt much better, although the vision still leads me on, not so much now with a feeling of guilt as of an objective to be attained. Common sense says that order in one’s work surroundings is an excellent thing, time saving and making for efficiency, in its own way carrying with it an inspiration to good work. Hard fact says that in an imperfect world where time is short and the demands on it fairly heavy, it is not always possible to do things the perfect way and, as always, we have to compromise. We need to achieve a kind of order, something that will enable us to keep an eye on things in general so that nails and screws are to hand if we want them, tools are kept in good, rust-free condition an oddments of wood protected from woodworm. It is no good storing those small choice pieces over the years if, when the time comes to use them, they are riddled with woodworm, liable to spread the pest all around and fit only to be burned. One of the “mucking out” precautions is a quick lick of wood preservative over any pieces that are likely to be stored for some time, and this is the time of the year when extra vigilance is most certainly desirable. 

Everything will not get done at once, but keeping at it, little by little and bit by bit, we do more or less keep pace. The high-lighted moments when we can look round at the perfect picture as we should like to keep it are few and far between, but how good when they come. And how good that we should have them, rather than let good materials go to ruin and the good tools deteriorate which our old faithfuls and the companions of our hands. 

— Charles Hayward

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Back in Stock: Moleskin Vests and Pinch Rods

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We have just restocked our Moleskin Work Vests and our Crucible Pinch Rods. Both are available for immediate shipment from our warehouse in Indiana.

If you want a vest, don’t delay. These are time-consuming to make, so this is likely the last batch until fall 2020. They are worth the wait. I wear mine almost every day and have thoroughly broken the thing in. It’s soft, pliable and impregnated with sawdust. I love it. Be sure to measure yourself before ordering to avoid disappointment.

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We have had more luck scaling up production of pinch rods. But there is a tremendous amount of hand-finishing with these (like our lump hammers), so we’re still struggling a bit to keep up with demand.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Chair Chat with Rudy and Klaus: Try Tri Again

Editor’s note: This is the second Chair Chat with Rudy and Klaus where today we discuss a chair that was sold by a Welsh antiques dealer represented as being from Bronant in Cardiganshire. We don’t authenticate chairs – we just talk about what we like and don’t like. This one is another three-legged thing measuring 22″ wide, 15-3/8″ deep and 41″ tall.

I adore all three-legged chairs (it might have to do with my three-legged cat) but this one is especially special.

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Chris: What I love about this chair is it’s so simple below the seat and has a lot going on above the seat. Like wearing a tux and a Speedo.

Klaus: Good analogy. Everyone can relate to that, Chris. It’s incredibly beautiful. First of all, I love the wear on that finish.

Rudy: Funny how it’s worn on all sticks.

Chris: Yeah. Do you think the wear is authentic?

Rudy: Maybe, maybe not…

Klaus: Looks like it’s rubbed off. Not by buttocks, I mean.

Rudy: If the sitter had a large enough back to reach those outer long sticks…

Chris: That’s what first jumped out at me. The wear on the back looks right. But it must have been a fat dude wearing a 120-grit T-shirt to get the sticks that way.

Rudy: Exactly!

Klaus: How common is it to manipulate a finish in antique furniture?

Chris: Very. But aside from that, I love the boxy top.

Rudy: Yup, me too. The crest adds a lot to the overall appearance too.

Klaus: Very compact and perfectly proportioned. If the back was longer, it would tip the balance, I think.

Chris: Totally agree. I tend to like compact backs. Though they are much harder to make comfortable.

The three-piece armbow shows great skill. I think the ends of the joint are beveled in. But it’s a bit tricky to see with the photos.

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Rudy: What is funny though is that one stick that protrudes on the right arm. Was that a repair?

Chris: A repair or a stick that has come loose from the mortise below. Odd how they antiqued it….

Klaus: If it was a repair, then why let it protrude like that?

Rudy: …and somehow it has the same wear as the sticks around it…

Chris: Exactly! Anyway, getting away from the CSI Wales, I also adore the comb.

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Rudy: It is a thing of beauty in its simplicity.

Klaus: I like that that subtle bend to the comb. A good crest can really top off a chair

Chris: And the ends. Not an obvious shape until you see it. Like a stone worn by a river.

Rudy: Or by a fat back.

Klaus: Oooh, poetic analogy again, Chris!

Rudy: And there is no doubler.

Klaus: The scarf joint eliminates the need for that, I guess.

Chris: Indeed. Bent arms and the scarf allow you to get away with that. I gotta think that the arms are bent branches or roots – like what Emyr Davies and Chris Williams say.

The top of this chair is just perfect. The unusual stuff is in the seat.

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Klaus: That seat grain pattern looks like the universe itself.

Rudy: What strikes me is that the seat is so thick, yet it doesn’t appear clunky or out of balance.

Chris: I LOVE the chunky seat. But I don’t have a butt, so perhaps I am just jealous.

Klaus: Very nice. And no bevel on the underside? Wait, there IS a small bevel actually… And this is what John Brown called a modified seat, isn’t it?

 

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Chris: Yeah. And I REALLY want to know more about those.

Rudy: Yup! With three pegs going through the added piece from the front. Do you think the maker used glue in addition?

Klaus: I recently asked chairmaker Chris Williams about this subject. He pointed out that the arms always dictate everything. Which means that the front short sticks would come too close to the edge if the maker hadn’t made that add-on. And rather than shortening the armbow – if he only had that particular piece of ash seat available – he’d have to extend the seat. And there likely was no glue available when that was built.

Chris: I agree. But what about when the modification looks later than the chair? I assume these were added for comfort or another reason.

Klaus: If added at a later stage it must have been for added comfort, I agree.

Rudy: Part of the seat could have snapped off, but that is not so likely with a seat this thick…

Chris: I assume so. But we don’t know. What we do know is that it appears on chairs. Sometimes it looks original. Sometimes not. This one could be original. But I’ve seen some that look too recent. And by a different hand.

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Rudy: Did you guys spot that big knot right in the seat right next to the back leg?

Chris Schwarz: Yes. I would have hated to drill that back leg mortise. I wonder if the maker was aiming for the knot (assuming he/she drilled from below).

Rudy: The maker could have made it a four legged chair, but instead drilled his mortise right next to a knot… puzzling. But the chair survived fine!

Klaus: Haha. Good point. And what happened on the back corner there? You think it split when he hammered in the stick or drilled the mortise? Or did some drunk Welshman throw the chair out of a window, perhaps?

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Chris: I thought it was a defect in the seat. A loose knot?

Klaus: My wife says I’ve got a loose knot, too.

Chris: I think we are much pickier about wood for the seat than earlier makers.

Rudy: But going back to the fact that the chair has three legs: Three legged chairs were usually made to be stable on uneven floors. But this chair does not look primitive enough to me to be living in a barn somewhere. I could be wrong of course, but most three-legged chair examples I have seen were stools, backstools or lowbacks.

Chris: There are some nice three-leggers out there. But you are correct in general.

Klaus: Good point, Rudy. This one is perhaps one step above so-called furniture of necessity. What strikes me though, is how hard it would be for me to make a “primitive” chair like this.

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Chris Schwarz: I agree, it’s a trick to have a chair that is so simple, balanced, elegant and rustic. I want to make one. This one just nails it down below. I love the splay on the front legs. Aggressive, but not overly. The maker had a good eye.

Rudy: Indeed. I love the general appearance, very balanced and a great form overall!

Klaus: I also love that the arm tilts ever so slightly upwards.

Chris: I hadn’t noticed. Nice catch! If that’s the case, it allows you to put the back of the armbow closer to the lumbar region. And get the hands up. It shows skill and thoughtfulness.

Rudy: Yeah, and it makes the chair very inviting to sit in.

Klaus: Definitely. It probably pitches the sitter a bit back. The slightly tilted arm adds an upward movement to the look of chair, too. And the sticks are also slightly longer above the arm, than under, which adds to that same upwards movement.  I like that. Makes the whole chair stretch upwards.

Rudy: True. And all this is balanced by the thick seat.

Chris: Agree. I want to sit in it and see how it feels. So, anything bad to say about this chair? Any misses?

Klaus: Hm. well, about the turned legs? I mean, I like them, but..

Chris: They could be shaved. Look at the reflection on the front leg. It suggests a facet to me.

Klaus: Actually, they fit the rest of the chair. I’m not sure hexagonal or octagonal would fit here.

Rudy: My eye is distracted by the nice splay. But I agree, I don’t think hexagons or octagons would have worked as well here.

Chris: Lots of round legs were shaved I think. I really like doing that on Gibson chairs. Looks better than lathe work. Or my lathe work, that is.

Klaus: So the conclusion is that the chair is perfect, then!

Rudy: Do we want to give this chair a name?

Chris: How about Try Tri Again? …after last week’s three-legger?

Klaus: Yeah, that sounds good!

Rudy: Perfect!

Chris: Cool. Thanks guys. These chats are fun. Especially the parts we can’t print.

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Work Apace…the Rest of Thomas Dekker’s Poem

After reading the recent post “Honest Labour – the Column that Named the Book,” I wanted to recent the whole of Thomas Dekker’s poem. Did you? Here it is.

In case you missed the original post you can read it here.

Not sure if Chris Schwarz had read the poem, so I forwarded it to him. A copy of the poem now hangs in the art gallery that is also known as the men’s restroom at the Lost Art Press Storefront (sigh).

— Suzanne Ellison

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