More Scrapers on the Way & Other Crucible News

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This was my fun activity yesterday – hand-stamping 1,000 envelopes for the next batch of card scrapers.

We’re working on the next batch of Crucible Card Scrapers this weekend and will have them in the store in the coming week. We ran into a production snag at the waterjet cutter, but we’ve gotten that fixed so things are moving smoothly again.

As to Lump Hammers, Brendan Gaffney is planning on assembling another big batch this week. We’re also working on a way to greatly increase our output (believe it or not it has to do with tool paths on the milling machine).

As I’ve mentioned before, we are quite grumpy when things are out of stock and are working at this every day. We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience and hope this is a short-term problem.

Website Change
As a way to streamline our lives, we’re moving all the Crucible tools into the Lost Art Press store. When the move is complete, we’ll close the dedicated Crucible website and redirect all the traffic to Lost Art Press.

Consolidating the websites will save us loads of time, which is the primary reason for the switch. We’ll also save a little money by having only one website.

I am certain there will be some chatter out in the world that this consolidation is “the beginning of the end” for Crucible. I assure you, it is absolutely not. In fact, I’m planning on getting a Crucible tattoo on my forearm – my first – to match John’s. That’s how dedicated we are to growing the tool business.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Should Drawers Project, or Should They be Recessed Slightly?

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FIG. 1. DRAWER WITH PROJECTING MOULD The reference letters in the various sketches are as follows: DF, drawer front; K, kicker; B, bearer; P, dustboard; T. B., top bearer; R, runner; C, cocked bead; V, veneer.


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume II” published by Lost Art Press

One of the perplexing questions which the cabinet maker appears to have never settled definitely is: should drawer fronts stand out slightly in front of the carcase and the bearers, or should they stand back with a slight break? Here are a few notes which may assist readers in deciding the question.

At Fig. 1 the drawer projects beyond the bearers and at the same time forms a rebate or lap around the drawer proper which is more or less dustproof. In cheap work the projecting front is applied, in which case the drawer is through dovetailed at each corner and, when completed and run into position, the 3/8 in. or 1/2 in. front piece is applied and glued in position. If shrinkage occurs in the drawer boxing, the applied piece hides the joint owing to its overlap.

There is, however, likely to be one defect when the drawer is open. Owing to atmospheric changes, and the continual opening and shutting, the polished front edges of the bearers are apt to become marked by the overlapping portion of the drawer front (see arrow).

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FIG. 2. DRAWER RECESSED. The reference letters in the various sketches are as follows: DF, drawer front; K, kicker; B, bearer; P, dustboard; T. B., top bearer; R, runner; C, cocked bead; V, veneer.

At Fig. 2 the drawer front stands in about 3/32 in., and this method is the one most generally used. The usual trouble with this type is that the polisher neglects to fill in, stain and polish the inside edges of the bearers and carcase ends to the same degree of efficiency as the drawer fronts, etc. (see arrow). The result is that the continued use of the drawer quickly wears away the polish on the break and the job appears shabby.

The moulding around the drawer front is worked in a variety of shapes and the drawer front has the appearance of a fielded panel. If the face of this fielded panel happens to be veneered there is very little fear that the edges of the veneer will chip away, because it does not come in contact with the bearers.

If the drawer front has square edges and is not fielded, the veneer is liable to chip at the edges which come in contact with the bearers.

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FIG. 3. DRAWER PROJECTING. The reference letters in the various sketches are as follows: DF, drawer front; K, kicker; B, bearer; P, dustboard; T. B., top bearer; R, runner; C, cocked bead; V, veneer.

Fig. 3 is a very successful method for drawer fronts. Here the drawer front stands 1/16 in. to 1/8 in. forward and the break (see arrow) on the drawer front does not rub against the bearers or the carcase end. The polisher rarely neglects to obtain a good finish on this top edge of the drawer (which usually carries the lock) and when filling in and staining the front of the drawer sufficient material creeps over the ends of the front to ensure a decent finish on the end grain. This appears to be a fairly satisfactory method and the edge of the polished drawer front is not worn away by the continued opening and closing action. The idea, of course, works out the same even if the drawer front is a square edged one; that is, without any moulding around it.

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FIG. 4. THE USE OF THE COCKED BEAD. The reference letters in the various sketches are as follows: DF, drawer front; K, kicker; B, bearer; P, dustboard; T. B., top bearer; R, runner; C, cocked bead; V, veneer.

At Fig. 4 we come to what is probably the oldest and best method of protecting a veneered drawer front. This is known as the cocked bead method and is frequently found on Queen Anne furniture. Around the drawer front a rebate is formed and into this the beads (C) are glued. In some cases they are also pinned. The beads have one rounded edge and are mitred at each corner. The projection when polished is not defaced by friction and the edges of the veneered front do not come in contact with the bearers or the carcase ends during the travel of the drawer.

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FIG. 5. MOULDED BEARERS. The reference letters in the various sketches are as follows: DF, drawer front; K, kicker; B, bearer; P, dustboard; T. B., top bearer; R, runner; C, cocked bead; V, veneer.

A somewhat unusual method is given at Fig. 5. It is costly to produce and calls for very fine craftsmanship. The edges of the bearers and the inside edges of the carcase ends have a mould worked upon them. The bearers are twin-tenoned into the ends (see Fig. 6) and all the moulded edges are mitred together. Thus we have the mouldings worked upon the solid portions of the carcase and bearers instead of working the moulding on to the drawer fronts. The drawer front usually forms a break with the mouldings by an inset of 1/16 in.

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FIG. 6. DETAILS OF FIG. 5

Drawer fronts may be stopped in their required positions by fixing two rectangular pieces about 1/8 in. thick immediately behind the lower edge of the drawer front; or they may be stopped by fixing suitable pieces of wood to engage the back ends of the drawer sides. In either case the worker should arrange the stops so that no shrinkage will take place.

Meghan Bates

 

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A Charming Kentucky Windsor

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During my visit to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., last week I got to examine a few interesting chairs (surprise!). This little black number from Franklin County (likely Frankfort), was one of my favorites.

Built about 1815 from poplar and other woods, the chair features simple bamboo turnings and an almost-circular seat. Some of the details I particularly like:

  1. The feet taper like the neck of an upside-down Coke bottle. This leg shape is something I see on a lot of Kentucky post-and-rung chairs from the mountains. (Note: I’m sure this shape is also found elsewhere – I just come across it a bunch here.) Chester Cornett’s simpler chairs have a similar, but much more dramatic, curved taper.
  2. I like the tilted armrests. So often the armrests are horizontal to the seat, which can be a bit dull. I have no idea how these feel to the body in service (too many watchful guards…).
  3. And I adore the little black patch on the end of the worn armrests. Why is this paint not worn away? I wondered if there was some sort of dark wood plug inset into the end of the armrest. All I saw was paint. The wear pattern is unexpected – I’d expect the front to be quite worn.

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Anyway, this wasn’t my favorite chair at the Speed. Perhaps another time.

— Christopher Schwarz

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This Saturday: Roy Underhill at the Lost Art Press Storefront

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We are honored and thrilled to welcome Roy Underhill to the Lost Art Press storefront on Saturday where he will sign books and willingly accept your adoration.

As you know, Roy is the host of “The Woodwright’s Shop” and runs classes at the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, N.C. He also is the author of a bunch of great books on hand-tool woodworking and our favorite woodworking novel, “Calvin Cobb – Radio Woodworker!

Roy will be at the store from 10-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-5 p.m. (even legends need to eat lunch).

The rest of us (Megan, Brendan and I) will be there, too.

Our storefront is at 837 Willard St. in Covington, Ky. There is plenty of free parking within a two-block radius of the storefront. If you can’t get a space on Willard Street, try Pike or Main streets.

— Christopher Schwarz

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In Praise of Kentucky-style Furniture

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I first encountered Kentucky-style furniture when I visited the workshop of Warren May of Berea, Ky., in the early 2000s. While working with Warren on an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine, he invited me to his barn to see his collection of unrestored Kentucky pieces.

I was skeptical that it was a true regional furniture style. At the time I thought it looked like Ohio Valley Furniture that had gotten some airbrushing at the boardwalk. I said something along those lines. That elicited a scowl from Warren.

But it is a real style. And it is something to behold.

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Today I spent the afternoon at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., which has the largest collection of the stuff to my knowledge. There’s not a lot of published and public scholarship on the style out there. Some magazine articles. Some data at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). And a book called “Collecting Kentucky.” So the best way to experience the style is a visit to the Speed.

It has been years since I last visited the Speed, and the museum has been through an extensive and impressive renovation. There’s a good permanent collection of paintings and objects that make it a legit city museum (Mummy – check. Chagall – check. Assorted Dutch masters – check). But it’s the museum’s Kentucky floor that is the crown jewel. This gallery offers an open floor plan. Not only does this allow you to examine the objects from many dimensions, it lets you to get behind and under the furniture pieces. Photography is encouraged.

The truth is that Kentucky furniture does share a lot of structural characteristics with Ohio Valley furniture, which I see all the time because that’s where I live. It’s a slightly heavy frontier style. The Kentucky element is that many pieces feature simple and beguiling inlay. The inlay can mimic high-style furniture, such as bellflowers. But it also can be playful and step outside the norms of what you might find in a furniture pattern book. Also interesting: The woods are local – nothing terribly exotic as near as I can tell (though it’s difficult to say for certain with some of the inlays).

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I think it befits the state. It’s not flashy. From a distance, it’s easy to underestimate it as a simple vernacular-style piece. But get close, and it reveals its true charms.

Next time you are on your way to our storefront or points beyond, I recommend you take a couple hours to check it out.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Design at the Point of a Tool

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Two Newport, R.I., cabinetmaking families, the Goddards and Townsends, built in a restrained style that reflected their Quaker beliefs and still exudes a vibrancy.


This is an excerpt from “By Hand and Eye” by Geo. R. Walker and Jim Tolpin. 

Afternoon sunlight streamed across the wide pine flooring and up over a small Newport table. I turned my head and paused a moment, taking in the glow of the red mahogany top. With a pencil and a clean strip of pine to act as a story stick, I carefully nudged the small board against the table apron and began recording transition points, marking carefully where each element stopped and started.

This Newport table made by Al Breed is an exact reproduction of one of the true masterpieces of American craft. Originals sell in the seven-figure range, and this was as close as I might hope to get with a sharp set of dividers in my hands (museums tend to frown on that). My aim wasn’t to record the table’s dimensions to make detailed plans. Instead, I searched for a hidden song or harmony woven in the form, hidden in plain sight. I’d often read about the mindset of pre-industrial designers, how they loved to play with proportions and create frozen music in built objects, and I wondered if this table might contain a song. Sound far-fetched? Since antiquity, designers understood that a small handful of simple ratios had a correlation with our musical scale. They spoke a design language built around simple whole-number proportions and applied them to a wide range of designs, from a tiny salt shaker to the entire layout of a city, and everything in between, including furniture.

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Small cabinet shops used simple proportions to create pleasing designs. This sideboard uses the simple ratio of 2:3 to govern the form and organize the smaller details.

With a square, each tick mark became a line on my story stick, transforming it into a map I could explore with dividers. My hands paced the divider points back and forth, adjusting the tool again and again, crisscrossing and retracing my steps. Then it happened. Like taking a pencil rubbing on the carved face of a weathered tombstone, a small series of overlapping notes appeared, running across the apron supporting the top: octave, fifth, fourth, fifth, octave.

Not some grand symphony meant for a cathedral, just a subtle cello or flute piece with a few notes and a quiet rhythm. I’d been “looking” at that table for days but now I was “seeing” it. As I walked around it, the frozen music stood out clearly to my eyes. It was a moment of clarity, like when you spot a familiar landmark and the feeling of being lost vanishes. It also was a moment of connection, a rare glimpse into the artisan age. Connection, after all, is what design is all about: building things that connect and ring true. I want to be careful here and not romanticize this. It’s not about going back in time and idealizing another age or being awestruck by period styles that were once the height of fashion. It’s about drawing from our rich legacy of woodcraft to see what it offers the modern woodworker. That’s the string that pulled Jim Tolpin and me together and got us so excited about what we call “artisan age design.” Both of us marvel at the sheer simplicity of it, how it flows from hand and eye intuitively.

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Something simple hid just beneath the surface. After my dividers smoked it out, I marveled that I hadn’t seen it earlier.

This is a gateway into a design language practiced in small cabinetmaking shops prior to the mid-19th century (though there are hints that it may have survived into the early 20th century). Lessons from that artisan age are still powerful and relevant because they are intuitive to our core. Do you remember when you first learned to sing as a child? Admit it, none of us can. It was so natural it sprang out of the mouth of babes. In the same way, this design language is a way of seeing and building that connects with how we are wired, tapping into roots deeply embedded in our makeup. It relies on proportions found in our own bodies as well as woven throughout the natural world around us. This powerful organic connection from nature is at the core of why these ideas hold sway (even if in the subconscious). We react differently to the song of a meadowlark than to the din from a nearby highway.

Let’s be clear, though: Traditional design is not a list of “Thou shalls” and “Thou shalt nots” etched in a pair of bookmatched mahogany slabs. Instead, it’s a collection of observations about how we relate to our environment. Because it’s based on more than 2,600 years of human experience, some inescapable patterns emerge. We tend to connect to visual compositions that convey a sense of harmony and movement. We also react intuitively to designs that can be easily read by our eye and tell a story. Our eyes avoid, or react with apathy, to designs that give a sense of aimlessness or lack a spark of life.

Meghan Bates

Posted in By Hand & Eye | 1 Comment

Lump Hammers are SOLD OUT

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I just dropped off another big load of lump hammers at our warehouse and they are ready to ship – $85 plus domestic shipping. Click here to order.

SORRY. We sold out in two hours.

These hammers might sell out quickly (they might not). So two words of advice:

  1. If you want one, don’t wait.
  2. Just because you put it in your shopping cart does not mean it is yours. We have had some customers put a hammer in their shopping cart and then leave the website for a couple days. When they came back, they could not check out. Then they wrote a Nastygram to poor John and Meghan Bates. Products are removed from our inventory when you check out – not when you put it in your cart.

 

And yes, we’re working our butts off on scrapers today as well.

 

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 12 Comments