Bootstrapping – End game

The bench is finished.


It’s not the prettiest bench around, but I think it will get the job done (and it only has to last until December, anyway).

The top is 6′ long and 21″ deep. I had planned for it to be 38″ high, of course, but somehow it ended up being 34″ instead. Not sure how that happened.

It is extremely solid (better than my bench at home in that regard). It has only four legs, but what legs it has! I’ll pit this bench with its four elephantine legs against any 8-legged (or even 11-legged) arachno-bench any day.

I had to plane out about 1/8″ of twist in the front apron (no, I don’t know how many thumbs that is), but other than that it’s reasonably flat and square.

I still have to make the “stick” that fits in the center slot to keep tools from plunging to their deaths, and I need to make a couple of other appliances, like a bench hook and shooting board. But other than those, I’m ready to start real woodworking.

That is, after my arms recover from boring all of those holes.

–Steve Schafer

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Cheeky Chairs and Brazen Birds

imageAs I work on the index for “Roubo on Furniture” my appreciation for Monsieur Roubo continues to grow. Through the efforts of the translation team Roubo’s voice comes through and he certainly has opinions. Between explanations of how to use tools and make chairs, tables, desks and beds for all occasions he expresses his disdain for chairmakers and exasperation with carvers. Especially the carvers.

Back in the autumn of 2014 I put together several projects to help publicize “The Book of Plates.” Many of the bits and pieces I used are from plates you will see in “Roubo on Furniture.” One project was a short story about Chris’ encounter with some unruly chairs. You can read “Cool!” here.


The next project combined the many tools drawn by Roubo with a crow. “Mine!” brought together the crow’s use of tools, ability to innovate and its well known behavior for “I want, I take.”


Other bits and pieces became the “Wingnut Ducks.” The “cattails” and the flying squadron of “bugs” are all from the plates.


Congratulations to the translation team for the extraordinary work you have done on this second volume of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible.”

Now, it is back to the index for me

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 4 Comments

Raney Nelson, Crucible’s Machine Head


Crucible Tool simply wouldn’t exist without Raney Nelson. Raney, a planemaker and woodworker who works under the name Daed Toolworks outside Indianapolis, approached John and me last September about starting some sort of tool-making enterprise.

After talking about it for about an hour, all three of us knew it could work because we’ve known each other for many years – since before Raney was a professional planemaker and before John Hoffman and I had started Lost Art Press.

So before the idea for a tool company even came up, we knew Raney had the same business ethics as Lost Art Press. We knew that he worked his butt off. And we knew he was a wizard when it came to hand- and machine-based processes with metal and wood.


Though Raney isn’t much for talking about the quality of his output, it is stellar. Ask anyone who has owned or used one of his planes and you’ll get the same story: He makes gorgeous planes that function at an extremely high level that also have a fully realized design.

So when Raney proposed starting a tool company, I said yes without thinking. Heck, I said yes without even telling my wife.

During the last eight months, Raney has transformed his three-story machine shop into what we call Crucible Lab – a fully equipped toolroom that can handle the prototyping and early production of metal and wooden tools that require precision milling and finishing.

(My part, as mentioned earlier, is working with the foundry, running the website and providing the historical design perspective on tools from Roman times to present. John’s job is to provide the administrative backbone of Crucible – getting orders to customers and fixing any hiccups along the way. I’ll focus on John’s role in a future post.)


Today I visited the lab and was amazed at how far things have progressed. We’ve installed a Haas CNC milling machine (about the size of an SUV), a precision belt sander, a Roll In band saw for cutting metal plus an incredible array of tooling and fixturing for the first tools on the design board. These machines are additions to Raney’s already well-equipped metal shop with milling machines, lathes and a surface grinder.

Though the Haas has only been up and running since April, Raney has mastered the thing and is cranking out both metal and wooden components.

So if you think it’s dumb that a writer started a tool-making company, you’re wrong. A writer didn’t start a tool company. Crucible Tool is an equal partnership of three guys who are passionate about woodworking and all bring skills to the table that we hope will make for a company that is successful at both making tools and staying in business for a long time.

— Christopher Schwarz

I don’t want to say too much about Crucible Lab because I’d like Raney to tell it from his perspective. He’s a reluctant blogger. Let’s hope he makes an extra pot of coffee this week and cranks out the story of the Lab.

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 27 Comments

The Use of the Plow


Lefty plow? This plow plane is a mirror image of a plow, and is different than what Moxon describes in his text. So we’ll have to show you some other plows.

This is an excerpt from “The Art of Joinery” by Joseph Moxon; commentary by Christopher Schwarz

Moxon’s plow is widely reported as a mirror image of the same tool in Félibien’s work. And that is why this picture of this plow is like a Gucci bag for sale on an urban street corner. It looks OK from about 10 feet. But on closer inspection, this is not the plow you’re looking for.

Unlike many tools in Moxon, the plow has evolved quite a bit since his description. And you’d be unlikely to find a plow as he describes. Let’s look at the differences between the Moxon plow and some ultra-contemporary (19th-century) ones.

1. The posts or staves. Moxon states that the staves move through the body of the tool to adjust the fence. The fence is fixed to the staves. This kind of wooden plow was common in England and North America but not Europe. In typical European plows (which is what is shown in the accompanying plate) the staves are fixed to the body and the fence slides on them.

2. From many plows, one. Moxon states that the mechanic would have a different plow for every size groove. Modern plows have interchangeable irons in a range of sizes.

3. How the fence is set. In Moxon’s book, the staves and fence are friction-fit into mortises. So you tap the fence and staves to move the fence closer to or farther away from the cutter (with wedges to help).

Modern plows use something mechanical to secure the fence, from thumbscrews to screws to far, far more clever mechanisms.

4. No depth stop. All but the most primitive plow planes have a depth stop that stops the plane’s cutting action when you reach your final depth. No mention of a depth stop is made in Moxon.


Familiar plows. These plows are more typical in English and North American shops. On metal plows, the fence moves on fixed posts (which Moxon calls staves). In Moxon’s description, the staves move through the body of the plow to adjust the fence, as shown in this screw-arm plow.

As to actually using the plow, Moxon merely states that you set the fence and thrust it forward like the other planes. This would imply that you start planing at one end and take a shaving to the other end. This can work. However, many craftsmen use a different technique.

Many start near the far end of the board and take a short stroke with the plow to start cutting a groove just a few inches long. Then each following stroke is a little bit longer as the woodworker backs up along the length of the board.

You can indeed do exactly what Moxon suggests, but the chances of your iron wandering by following the grain of the board are greater.


Begin at the end. The first strokes with a plow are typically taken at the far end of the board, and the work progresses with longer and longer strokes. This helps keep the groove as straight as possible by reducing the chance that the iron will wander in a long cut.

By taking short, advancing strokes, you can keep the plow’s fence against the work during the part of the cut that is new, then the cutter drops into the already-made groove and the tool won’t jump out.

Plus, if your plow plane does wander, it will be for a shorter distance, and you’ll get an opportunity to make a correction before the tool wanders so far that your work is ruined. Here’s another tip on use: Give each of your hands only one job to do when working with the plow. Use one hand to thrust the plane forward. Use the other hand to press the fence against the work. Don’t try to make both hands do both jobs.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reminder: We Edit Roubo on Saturday


This Saturday we’ll be opening up the Lost Art Press storefront for business and for making a little bit of history.

We are in the final throes of editing “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture” and are asking anyone who can rub two participles together to help. Come to the storefront (837 Willard St. Covington, KY 41011) at any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

We’ll give you some pages to edit and a red pen. You’ll get to read the text, look for typos and help us make this project as perfect as possible. Everyone who helps with the project will get free coffee, doughnuts, beer and pizza. And for every plate you edit we have a special Roubo postcard for you.

You are welcome to help edit the text for just one plate or even edit all day (that’s what we’ll be doing).

As per usual, we’ll also have all our books there, plus blemished books (50 percent off – cash only), T-shirts, posters and free stickers. Plus you’ll be able to check out the new Roman workbench I just completed and tinker with its workholding.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation | 14 Comments

Free Videos for ‘The Joiner & Cabinet Maker’

The Packing Box from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

When we published “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker” I had a large number of images that didn’t make it into the book for space reasons. So I put together three narrated slideshows – one for each of the projects in the book: the packing box, the schoolbox and the chest of drawers.

We sold these (along with some other assorted extras) on a CD. As CD-ROM drives have disappeared, we considered offering these as streaming video. Then we said: Nah, let’s just give them away for free.

The Schoolbox from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

The Chest of Drawers from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

So now you can watch all three narrated slideshows for the book on our Vimeo channel with no advertisements or other garbage. I’ve also embedded them here for your convenience.

— Christopher Schwarz

Buy The Joiner and Cabinet Maker

Posted in The Joiner & Cabinet Maker, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Hancock: Behind the Scenes

As a kid one of my favorite things to do was poke around the attics of my grandparents’ houses. Dark and dusty with all the relics of life past stored away. When I was young most of the ghost stories seemed to always begin with noises from the attic or basement. At that age a ghost seemed much more of a possibility than it does now, so that definitely added to the thrill.


The most interesting parts of old houses and buildings are often times for me the parts not usually seen. In these places construction details such as tool marks, Roman numerals on the joints between timbers and sometimes even mistakes can be found uncovered by plaster or sheeting. Of course there are also the things that did not get thrown out that tend to accumulate in these places, saved for whatever reason and are still lying around that often have their own stories and history as well.

Saturday I managed to slip off for a while and go on the attics and basements tour at Hancock Shaker Village. What an experience!  Of the 20-plus buildings at Hancock many have areas closed to the public that can only be seen on the tour.


A few of the highlights for me: The upper stories of the machine shop. All kinds of lathes, belts, pulleys and various other equipment are stored here. An old drill press with its flat belts that run through the floor below, looking as if someone had just stepped away from using it but has not run in decades.


The upper floors of the brick dwelling where many of the artifacts not on display are stored. This area looks like time stopped completely in the many rooms, staircases and hallways.


Of course there is also the basement of the trustees building where there dozens of tombstones are stored.  These were removed from the cemetery at some point and replaced them with a single large monument.  The Shakers, being utilitarians, used some of the tombstones later on as ironing boards.


This is just a very, very brief summery of the tour. If I tried to write about all the things we saw it would be a volume too large for a blog post! The attics and basements tour cost a few extra bucks on top of regular admission price, and I highly recommend it.

— Will Myers

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment