No words necessary


Several weeks ago I received the image above via text message from Megan Fitzpatrick. Just the picture. No accompanying words.

I knew immediately that she was copy-editing the book I’d written about English Arts and Crafts furniture.

“Trust Megan to find one of those,” I thought with a pang of guilt.

Find one of what? you ask. A Stonehenge-themed key fob.


A couple of years ago, Megan gave her colleague Scott Francis my name. Scott was the books editor at Popular Woodworking, and he was looking for someone to write a book about English Arts and Crafts furniture. He called me. I was certainly interested; by that time I had done a fair bit of research on one particular English maker of Arts and Crafts pieces, and my enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts movement went back many years. Writing the book would also give me an opportunity to build some exciting work in the shop.

If I was going to write a book about English Arts and Crafts furniture, I sure as heck was not about to regurgitate what everyone else and his brother or sister have written about the movement, most often from a superficial perspective. We’re all familiar with the typical formulation:

Ruthless exploitation of workers by industry + essential William Morris quote “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” = The Arts and Crafts Movement.

I wanted to go deeper. Fortunately for me, Scott and Megan approved my proposal.

I dug out my 1985 Penguin Classics edition of John Ruskin’s Unto This Last and Other Writings, one particular section of which, the essay on “Moral Elements of Gothic,” had been simmering in my consciousness for approximately 25 years. Lovely stuff: a singeing take-down of Victorian industry and culture, in response to the countless hypocrisies of which Ruskin called for a renewed embrace of hardy medieval values.

And there was a bonus: Ruskin’s English differs so dramatically from that of our time as to constitute a semi-foreign language — one that happens to offer rich potential for humor in its translation into contemporary terms. I didn’t want to write an academic treatise likely to be read by three or four people. I wanted to speak to fellow woodworkers and those with a general interest in material culture, as well as the Arts and Crafts movement. So in writing the book I took every reasonable opportunity to indulge in the kind of humor I hoped would bring the content alive.


And now we return to that key fob.

I was on a tear, contrasting the way Brits just get on with life, surrounded by landscapes, art, and architecture formed by their ancestors over thousands of years, while we Americans feel the need to celebrate every minute of our own nation’s drop in the metaphorical bucket.

Drive southwest from London to Somerset and you’ll
glimpse an arrangement of large rocks surrounded by
scattered grazing sheep: Stonehenge. Today a small sign
indicates your entry into a UNESCO world heritage site
shortly before the stones come into view, but 35 years ago,
when I first drove down that road, there was no advance
notice. Unlike monuments of similar significance in the
United States, Stonehenge is not heralded by 20 miles of
billboards urging you to get stoned at the nearby truck
stop (blessedly, there seems to be no such establishment),
have lunch at the Bronze Age Bistro (ditto), or buy druid
fridge magnets and key fobs (these I don’t know about;
they may exist). The landmark is just there, on the horizon
to your right.

It was a throw-away line. A gag. But Megan is that kind of editor: She digs through the trash. Thanks to her curiosity and warped sense of humor, I now know that druid-related key fobs are a thing.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work

English Arts & Crafts Furniture: Projects & Techniques for the Modern Maker is due to be published in May by Popular Woodworking Books.


Contemporary druids celebrating at Stonehenge. Image: wikimedia commons

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Another Chester Cornett Rocker (or When Routers Attack!)


Today Brendan Gaffney and I got a rare up-close look at one of Chester Cornett’s rockers during a preview for an antiques auction in Cincinnati.

The walnut rocking chair was one of Cornett’s later pieces. And after a close examination, Brendan and I suspect that the rocker was made during Cornett’s brief embrace of power tools.

The biography of Cornett, “Craftsman of the Cumberlands,” discusses a brief period of Cornett’s career when he purchased a table saw, drill press and router (among other machines) to speed his production of chairs as he became more well known.

It did not go well.


Though Cornett was skilled with hand tools, machines made him nervous, and the book recounts several serious injuries Cornett suffered while using them. The book also documents Cornett attempting to use a router to make the incised lines on the posts and rungs of his rockers.

Brendan and I suspect this rocker exhibits these routed details.

The V-shaped incisions were curved, irregular and even had chatter marks upon close inspection. Some of the incisions looked OK. Others looked like Cornett was having a heck of a time using the router freehand on a narrow octagonal post.

These wandering incisions looked nothing like the crisp incisions on other Cornett chairs we’ve inspected.

Part of me thought: Perhaps this is just one of Cornett’s lesser works. But that ignored all the fantastic handwork on the chair, from the shaped arms to the finials. Ah, the finials.


At the top of the posts are two gorgeous pieces of handwork – tapered and octagonal finials that are just perfect in every way. Crisp, evenly faceted and perfectly symmetrical – something no router would be capable of making. But they are doable with a drawknife.

So the piece, while still extraordinary, made me a little sad. The routed details reflected a man who was clearly uncomfortable with his electric tools, yet struggling mightily to control them. The mistakes didn’t ruin the piece, but they did lessen it.

— Christopher Schwarz


Posted in Uncategorized, Yellow Pine Journalism | 6 Comments

Ghosts Who Like Brushes?


During my occasional free evening, I research the history of our storefront at 837 Willard St. in Covington. While I’ve learned a lot by digging through official records, I’ve learned more by talking to the neighbors – many of whom have lived on our street for 60 or 70 years.

The juiciest story? There were a couple murders in our bar, and neighbors and former employees say the place is definitely haunted.

I haven’t been able to confirm the murders, despite several evenings of looking through newspaper archives. But I am half-convinced the place is haunted.

Recently we had a scrub brush disappear from the slop sink. And I really mean disappear. One moment it was there, and shortly after it was gone gone gone. We looked for it for weeks. Last week I bought an identical replacement, which is shown above.

Last week, Megan Fitzpatrick reported that her favorite paint brush had similarly disappeared. She’d had this brush for 15 years (yes, I know that’s odd). She brought it to the shop to paint a tool chest for a customer and put it in the chest. The next day it was gone.

What kind of ghost steals brushes? I hope I catch them cleaning things up or painting the gutters. Otherwise, I’m going to pay a visit to

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 36 Comments

What Happens Inside a Mortise and Tenon Joint?

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

Readers will recall that in January WOODWORKER we gave on page 8 an article “Wedging Mortise and Tenon Joints.” The following letter is from a reader who does not agree with the view expressed in it, and we publish it here as the subject is of considerable interest. Possibly readers may have other opinions about it, and if so we should welcome correspondence.

If your contributor would conduct the following experiment, he might be induced to modify his views concerning the gluing of a mortise and tenon joint as described in his article in last month’s WOODWORKER. Cut two or three inches from the end of a wide board. Repeat this, so that there are two pieces of exactly the same width and of a similar texture. Mark the width exactly on a board and soak both pieces in water until saturated. Measure this against the previous width. The wood will have expanded to a degree depending on its original water content.


AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT IN SHRINKAGE Piece A is cramped at ends only, centre remaining free. At B cramps are fixed along the width.

Fix piece A firmly down on a board with handscrews at each end so that, although the centre is loose, the extreme edges cannot move during drying. Fix piece B to a board with handscrews all along its width so that it cannont move at any point during drying. Place both pieces in a warm atmosphere and leave to dry. In the process of drying piece A will split, but piece B will dry out without shrinkage, and will retain its new width permanently. Contrary to what might be expected, it will also be largely unaffected by small atmospheric changes. The cells of the wood seem to be permanently stretched. This experiment proves that wood will be largely impervious to atmospheric changes and will lose its customary tendency to shrink or swell, if it is held at every point.

To turn to the mortise and tenon joint, it will now be appreciated that if the whole of the sides of the tenon and the sides of the mortise are in contact and are glued, no shrinkage can take place at these points. It also follows that if part of the tenon and mortise is unglued, shrinkage and consequent movement will take place in the unglued portion, while the glued portion will remain stable if it can withstand the pull of the unglued portion so close to it. So far as strength alone is concerned, it is obvious that a completely glued joint must be stronger than one partly glued.

The conclusion seem to be: That there would be a loss of strength in a joint only partly glued.

That the unglued portion puts an added strain on the glued portion.

That a joint properly fitted and glued will not move at the shoulder any more than any other part of the joint.

Meghan Bates


Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker | 8 Comments

Tool Chest Details – Dovetails


This isn’t a tutorial on dovetails. The world needs another one of those like we need another portal to hell below an abandoned Chi-Chi’s.

Instead, this blog entry is about some of the details that are specific to making a tool chest. So not all these bullet points apply to drawers or other casework.


Gang Cut Your Tails
I’m indifferent as to which part of the joint I cut first. It really depends on the type of dovetail joint. When I cut massive dovetails for a tool chest, I cut my tails first because I can gang-cut the tails. When I introduced this idea to my classes on building tool chests, we saved almost a day.

The only downside to dovetailing through 2” of pine is that the sawdust can pack into the gullets of your saw and stop the cutting action. Here’s how to avoid this problem with the flick of the wrist. Once you are about 1/8” deep into the kerf, begin lifting the saw a smidge on your return stroke. This allows the sawdust to fall from the teeth and clears your gullets.

Also, here’s a tip when gang cutting: Clamp the boards together as shown above when inserting and removing the boards in your vise. This makes it effortless to keep the boards aligned throughout the cutting.


A Joint in the Tails
Many old books on building tool chests recommend you stagger any glue lines in your panels for a tool chest so that the entire chest doesn’t split in the middle if/when your glue fails.

I have seen many pieces of messed-up old furniture, but I have never seen a glue-line failure on four panels. So I generally don’t worry about this advice.

I do, however, try to bury the glue line in the middle of a tail. If your glue is sub-optimal you don’t want it running through the sloping wall of a tail. A piece of your tail could break off during assembly. This I have seen.


Chop to the Side of Your Chisel
If you stand at the end of your panel while chopping then you have no clue if your chisel is 90° to the surface of the panel. You need to stand or sit to the side so you can see if the chisel is 90° or some other angle if you are undercutting the floor of the joint.


Good Marks
Finally, I recommend you use traditional marriage marks on the edges of your panels. By looking at these marks you can instantly see if you have your panels messed up. I have watched hundreds of students ignore my advice and use their own A-A, B-B, C-D system and mess things up royally at glue-up. No marking system is perfect, but marriage marks are the best method I’ve found.

Plus, it’s a universal language. I can see if someone is screwing things up from across a room and attempt to save them if they are using marriage marks. If your marking system involves emojis, Pokemon and the compass rose, only Squirtle can save your butt.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 22 Comments

‘Slöjd in Wood’ Printer Proofs


I’ve been approving printer proofs for more than two decades, yet I find myself inordinately excited (and not a little bit anxious) about the proofs for Jögge Sundqvist’s “Slöjd in Wood,” which arrived this morning. I suspect it’s because this is the first book I’ve ever handled on which there wasn’t a production department between me and the press – so if there are mistakes, they are mine alone. And because if I let John and Chris down in any way, on this, the first Lost Art Press project I’ve shepherded from beginning to end, the guilt would crush me.

But they look good – thanks to Kara Gebhart Uhl’s copy edit and Meghan Bates’ design skills, and, of course, to Jögge’s words, Jostein Skeidsvoll’s photographs and Annika Nordin’s illustrations.


This project started with light edit as I flowed the translated text into the templates. Then a heavier edit and a few turns to Google translate. It turns out that English takes more words than Swedish to convey the same meaning, plus Jögge added some text to make the tools and tree species more easily accessible to North American readers, so Meghan had to shift things around in the layout to make sure the words and images all ended up on the correct pages.

But the most significant change in this first English edition is the gathering of all the knife grips into one chapter, instead of explaining them only alongside the projects to which they relate (though we left them there as well). So it serves not only as a slöjd projects book (there are 17-20…depending on how one counts), but as an easy-to-navigate primer on the tools and techniques for any type of green woodworking project that can be accomplished with an axe, a few knives and perhaps a drawknife (it’s optional).


But the most attractive thing to me about “Slöjd in Wood” is not the lovely photography, fun projects or the easy-to-follow instruction – it’s Jögge’s philosophy of slöjd, which comes through clearly on every page: Make; don’t buy. Use; don’t waste. Learning is a lifelong process. “Traditional slöjd is a survival kit for the future.”

It is in every way a lovely book.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Place a pre-publication order for Jögge Sundqvist’s “Slöjd in Wood” in the store. The price is $37, which includes domestic shipping. The book is scheduled to ship in early April 2018. We don’t know which retailers will opt to carry the book (we hope all of them will), but we will update you here when we have more information. Note that on this book, a translation, we do not have electronic rights (so we cannot offer a PDF version).

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Storefront is Open this Saturday


The Lost Art Press storefront in Covington, Ky., will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 10.

This weekend you’ll see the shop in full-production mode (which is our way of saying “excuse the mess.”) Brendan Gaffney is finishing up a gorgeous and extremely complex bookcase that involves a lot of interesting techniques, including recording and veneering.

Megan Fitzpatrick is just finishing up a Dutch tool chest for a customer – it’s being painted right now. And I’m deep into two full-blown Anarchist’s Tool Chests for customers. These both use Peter Ross hardware. Come check out the crab lock Peter makes. It is stunning.

We also have our full line of books, plus you can look through the printer’s proofs of “Ingenious Mechanicks” and “Slöjd in Wood.”

And we’ll be here to answer any woodworking questions you might have. Our address is 837 Willard St., Covington, KY 41011.

Some Food Options to Consider
If you are looking for a bite to eat, Lil’s Bagels has opened a walk-up window, which is a short walk from our storefront, on Greenup Street. Great bagels – the best in the city – and bagel sandwiches.

For lunch, take a walk over to Wunderbar, which has dang good German food and fantastic pretzels and beer cheese. Or try Guiterrez Deli (right across the street from Wunderbar). Guiterrez is a Mexican grocery that will make you an outstanding burrito.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 1 Comment