Chair-a-thon This Weekend

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Chris and I have been as busy as Santa’s elves over the past few months, building all manner of chairs. A month or two ago, faced with the dilemma of wanting to build more chairs but already having a through-the-roof “chair-per-capita” count in our homes, we thought we’d put together a little show and sale at one of the Lost Art Press Open Houses – and this weekend is the one!

To further entice your presence at the show, here are some of the chairs that I’ll have in the show. With the holiday season approaching, we thought we’d combine a gallery-style show with a furniture sale – many of the pieces below will be for sale, as noted, and all will be available for examination and sitting!

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Tage Frid inspired stool: This three-legged stool, in the style of Frid’s classic design, was my first chair, made while I was a student at The Krenov School (then the College of the Redwoods) from some lovely curly tanoak. It is not for sale – some lucky Arkansas-born anarchist has got it at his house and is kindly bringing it to the shop for this show.

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Staked Dining Set: This four-piece set of white-oak staked furniture (two chairs, a bench and a table) were my first foray into staked furniture, with milk-painted accents and solid joinery. The set makes a nice breakfast nook setup, which had been its use in my house until I started down the rabbit hole of building far too many chairs. This set will be for sale, as a complete unit, for a handsomely low price.

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Settin’ Chire: This greenwood ladderback chair was made in the style of Chester Cornett, with carved pegs, octagonal posts and rungs and a three-slat design, all made from green red oak from Eastern Kentucky earlier this year. It’s seat is woven with Danish cord in a plain weave. It will be for sale.

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Jennie Chair: This Jennie (or “JA”) chair was built using white oak posts, rungs and slats that were salvaged from Jennie Alexander’s garage last month during our trip a few weeks ago. It has a simple Danish cord seat. I’m just finishing it up today and tomorrow, so this will be the newest piece from me in the show. This piece is not for sale.

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Twin Bookmatched Stools: This pair of three-legged, braced-back stools made from a single slab of olive ash were just finished, with a unique bookmatched pair of slab seats. These are low stools, akin in seating style to the classic “cockfighting” stools popular in 19th-century Britain. They’ll be for sale as a set, it would a shame to split them up.

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Five-legged Staked Chair: This is a new design that I came up with for my upcoming class at the storefront and at Port Townsend School of Woodworking later in 2019. It has a braced-back crest with flying supports akin to the bookmatched stools, and a massively sturdy five legged stance, made from some mighty red oak. It, too, will be for sale.

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Høj Footstool: This simple footstool, made from red oak and Danish cord, is a blending of Danish modern and Appalachian post-and-rung styles, thus the name, “Høj,” a rural word in Denmark for a hill. This stool will be for sale at the show.

I’ll also be showing various projects and tools I’ve been working on, have a few other small items for sale and demonstrating some of the techniques used in the construction of these chairs. We’ll also have a variety of fun activities, including some “Chiremaker Crown” craft activities. And, a “Chairmaker’s Sighting Square” might just be getting raffled off…

So, I hope you can find the time to come join us!

— Brendan Gaffney

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Make Your Own Dang Shirt (or get it Forwarded)

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We get asked on an almost-daily basis why we don’t ship things overseas. The answer is: We do. We ship our books to our international vendors so they can sell them to customers with a reasonable shipping cost.

But what about T-shirts, bandanas, chore coats and the like? That’s where it gets complicated.

Shipping directly to Europe is a tax nightmare for us (thank you, EU). And on advice of our attorney and accountant, we have decided to sell only through our international vendors so that we don’t end up doing a lot of paperwork.

Shipping to Canada, Australia and other countries is a different kind of problem. It’s insanely expensive. Even with a fully automated, high-tech warehouse with accounts with all the international carriers, we can’t get shipping rates that are even close to reasonable. The cost of shipping a book is usually more than the retail price of the book or bandana or sweatshirt.

We have tried many schemes (too many to list here) to sell shirts and the like outside of the U.S., but they all failed or were too complicated to maintain.

Lost Art Press might look like a big company at times, but are only two guys who run the thing. There are physical limits to what we can do – and publishing books will always be at the top of the list.

I offer a couple solutions for those outside the U.S. who want some of our specialty products:

  1. Use a parcel forwarding service. Many LAP customers have had great success with these services. Here is a list of five recommended by Huffington Post. I wish we could get rates as reasonable as they get. It must be magic.
  2. Print your own shirts and sweatshirts. You can download our logo file here. There are thousands of services all over the world that will let you print your own shirt, jacket or (shudder) thong with the logo.

I wish at times we were a big company that could have a person dedicated to shipping. And that we shipped a million parcels a year so we could qualify for the dirt-cheap rates. And that I had to attend marketing meetings three times a week to get harangued to sell more of the things that suck. And then I had to meet with the executive types above me to explain why we needed a $500 digital camera to continue making books. And that I had to fill out performance reviews and attend classes on how to harass your employees legally. And then I wake up from the bad dream.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Anarchist’s Gift Guide Supplement No. 2: IKEA Tapes

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Today I had to return to IKEA to buy some sheepskins to outfit the stick chairs I’m building, and I was stopped cold by one of the company’s displays.

It was a bunch of 36” plastic flexible tapes, offered for free like the ubiquitous IKEA pencils. These tapes were plastic, marked in both inches and centimeters and were dispensed like you remove a page from a desk calendar.

I grabbed two (by accident). They are exactly what you need for measuring along unusual curves in the workshop. When I make chairs, I’m constantly trying to determine the length of a curve without resorting to math. Bending a metal tape measure around a curve is a crap idea. And so I usually steal a flexible cloth tape from Lucy’s sewing kit to do the job.

Now I don’t have to.

These silly free tapes are an absolute boon if you work in curves. And the price (free) is beyond fantastic. To thank IKEA, be sure to buy one of its $1 cinnamon rolls (and feed it to the birds outside) or sample the free cookies (they are made from the same material as the furniture, I suspect).

— Christopher Schwarz

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Custom Cabinetry, Part 1

Making Things Work

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The word “custom” gets stuck on virtually anything these days, often as little more than a marketing device. Sometimes it means personalized, as with the socks in the illustration above; sometimes it’s intended to connote exclusivity, as a result of which the object in question will seem more desirable (at least, to those who want to feel special). But when you consider some of the stuff that’s sold as “custom,” you may find yourself questioning the meaning of the word.

What, for example, is custom drywall? Sure, drywall can be finished in a variety of textures, but that variety has been part of the mudder’s art for most of the six-plus decades during which drywall has been North America’s go-to covering for interior walls and ceilings. This historical fact has not kept drywall businesses around the country from incorporating “custom” into their names. Custom vans? I thought…

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Chisels Needed for Dovetailing

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Here is a trusty Marples chisel that I have tuned up for dovetailing. I filed the chunky side bevels until they met the flat face of the chisel.


This is an excerpt of “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” by Anon, Christopher Schwarz and Joel Moskowitz. 

After years of dovetailing, I noticed that two of my chisels were seeing almost all the action: the 1/4″-wide and a 3/4″-wide tools. I use the narrow one for removing waste between the tails and the larger one for removing waste between pins.

If you are like Thomas and have limited funds for high-quality tools, these two chisels would be my first purchases.

But what about the so-called dedicated dovetail chisels you see in catalogs? As a beginning dovetailer, I had a crappy set of plastic-handled chisels, a newspaperman’s salary and a copy of the Japan Woodworker catalog. All three things conspired to make me miserable.

I wanted to cut dovetails with bold angles, but my crappy chisels had side bevels that were as big as Cheddar Mountain at Bonanza. So every time I went to clean out the waste between my tails, the side bevels would wrench a bite out of my tails.

I wanted to buy a sweet dovetail chisel from Japan Woodworker that didn’t have side bevels. That would allow me to sneak into the corners with ease. But I had a newspaperman’s salary, which made me want to sell drugs to the local Junior Leaguers.

Luckily, I met some clever people in my travels. Dovetailing demon Rob Cosman showed me his hot-rodded chisel on which he ground the side bevels down to nothing (and he shaped the chisel with a fishtail sweep). Woodworker Lonnie Bird showed me how he lopped the end off a plastic-handled chisel and reshaped it so that it was easy to strike.

And what did I bring to the equation? I figured out chisel geometry (like most woodworkers eventually do), which allowed me to make the tool take a beating like a rented mule.

Here’s What You Do
So let’s say you have a nice four-figure salary and can spring for one of the nice $1 chisels at the flea market. Here’s how you can make it into a sweet worker in about 30 minutes.

Step one: File the side bevels. The side flats below the side bevels on cheap chisels are too big for dovetail work. You need to file the bevels so that there is absolutely zero flat area on the long sides of your chisel’s blade. When you are done, the chisel’s blade should look like a decapitated pyramid in cross-section.

You can do this with a grinder, a stationery belt sander or a disk sander. Or you can take the cheap (and safer) route and use a Multicut file. This style of file, which is generally used for shaping metal, can dress the side bevels of a typical chisel in about 10 minutes.

Secure the chisel in a vise and work the side bevels with the file. Hold the file with two hands: one on the tang and one at the tip. Cut only on the push stroke. And stroke the file so your hand is never (ever) right over the cutting edge of the chisel. One slip and you are (blood-soaked) toast.

After filing the side bevels so they extend to the flat face of the chisel, clean up your work with light strokes of the Multicut file. Then clean up your work (if you like) with a fine file or sandpaper.

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Hacksawing the handle makes the tool less top-heavy and easier to balance. It also makes striking it easier than hitting the rounded surface provided by the factory.

Step two: Adjust the handle. If the striking end of the handle is rounded and plastic, it is likely too top-heavy to wield comfortably. The chisel should feel like a pencil, and the rounded end is probably difficult to strike without your mallet glancing off the end oddly.

Take a hacksaw and cut off the top 3/4″ of the handle. Try the balance. Still feel top-heavy? Lop off a bit more. Make sure you leave enough handle so you can grasp the handle in your hand to strike it without striking yourself.

Once you get the balance right, file the top of the handle flat and dress the sharp corners to remove any odd burrs.

Step three: Sharpen the edge correctly. Grind the primary bevel of the tool at 25°. Then grind a 35° secondary bevel on the tip. It will be a tiny secondary bevel, which is a good thing. The advantage of this steep bevel is that your tool will be durable through a lot of chopping. A steeper honing angle increases edge life. And the steep angle isn’t a detriment to chopping out waste – it scarcely feels different than a 25° chisel.

Then you are off to the races.

Meghan Bates

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Lost Art Press on ‘The Highland Woodworker’

 

Charles Brock and Stephen Price from “The Highland Woodworker” stopped by recently to film a segment on Lost Art Press and our storefront. That day, Brendan Gaffney was teaching a class on building a sector, and Megan Fitzpatrick was editing Christian Becksvoort’s new book, so it was quite a circus.

You can view the entire episode here if you like.

Personal note about my performance: I know that I am likely somewhere on the spectrum when it comes to autism. I have difficulty looking people in the eye (always have). Feel free to make fun of me on this (Megan does). Also, I attended a special school when I was 5 for some of these developmental problems, so I’m easily mocked for that as well (Brendan does).

Suffice to say, I’m not sensitive about it.

Aside from the fact that I look and act like a freak, the episode is excellent! We tour the Covington, Ky., neighborhood where the storefront is located and show Charles the bench room, the research library, the biergarten and the Electric Horse Garage (the machine room). And we chat about three of our newest titles: “Hands Employed Aright,” “Welsh Stick Chairs” and “The Intelligent Hand.”

Thanks to Charles, Steve and Highland Woodworking, which sponsors the show. I am now crawling back into my spider hole so I can build a couple more chairs in peace.

— Christopher Schwarz

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This Saturday: The Chair Show at Lost Art Press

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The Lost Art Press storefront will be open this Saturday (Nov. 10) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with our full array of books available to purchase, including our newest title “The Intelligent Hand.”

In addition to that, Brendan and I will show a wide variety of chairs. Many of them we made and will be for sale. But we’ll also show chairs from other makers that we have collected. If you have any interest in chairs (Windsor, Welsh, ladderback etc.) this show will be a great opportunity to try out a variety of them and talk about the construction process.

The two most interesting (and beautiful) chairs in the show are the chair Larry Barrett built for the forthcoming edition of “Make a Chair from a Tree” by Jennie Alexander, and Chris Williams’s four-stick Welsh stick chair in the show, which is about as wondrous a chair as you can imagine.

We’ll post a full list of chairs in the show later this week.

If you haven’t been to Covington, Ky., recently, the town continues to clean up its act. For some reason all of the prostitutes have left our area (we don’t know why; maybe it was something Brendan said). We’ve also gotten a few more interesting and independent restaurants.

One of our favorites is Peppe Cucina at 39 W. Pike St. It’s a great deli that makes its own bread. And it has a pizza oven – slices are $4 on homemade focaccia. It’s a nice spot to eat lunch. Or you can take your food across the street to Braxton Brewing and get a beer to go with your sandwich or pizza.

Of course, our favorite place in town is still Main Street Tavern. Brunch there is about as good as you can get (right now I am fixated on the breakfast biscuit sandwich with fried chicken, egg and cheese).

The storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky., and we hope to see you there.

— Christopher Schwarz

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