These are THE Guys

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We have two upcoming classes in July at our storefront that should – by all rights – be filled and have a long waiting list. But they aren’t.

If you can attend these classes, I encourage you to do so for two reasons. One, in both cases these classes are being taught by the premier instructor on the topic. Two, we won’t offer a lot of classes next year, so these opportunities will dry up in December.

Here are the classes:

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French Polishing With Derek Jones
July 11-12
Most people know Derek as the editor of Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine. But Derek is way more than that. He’s a time-served professional woodworker who has an affinity for toolmaking and French polishing. His classes on French polishing sell out quickly in the U.K. and Europe because Derek has distilled the process so it contains 0 percent garbage. I’ve watched Derek teach it, and it’s brilliant. In fact, the reason I wanted him to teach the class here is so I could take it (as luck would have it, my Germany trip was extended, so I cannot).

Honestly, if you want to up your finishing game (or just establish your finishing game), this weekend will do it. Period. This class is for beginners. Intermediates. Experts.

Make a Carved Oak Box with Peter Follansbee
July 29-Aug. 2
Yup, we managed to lure Peter Follansbee west of the Allegheny Mountains for this class, and he is bringing primo red oak for the students to build and carve their boxes. Follansbee is one of my favorite woodworking writers, instructors and builders (I said it so right here). He’s also the author of our newest book, “Joiner’s Work.”

This class is the gateway drug to 17th-century-style construction methods and carving. You get to make this beautiful little box with traditional joints and then cover every surface with the geometrical carvings. Even if you’ve never carved a block of soap or a ham, you’ll do great. I’ve been amazed by what Peter’s students turn out their first time holding a gouge.

About Next Year
This year has been nuts. We offered so many classes that I found it difficult to keep up with the shop’s commission work and work on future books. While I loved having people teach here from all over the world, we’re going to dial things back – way back – for 2020 so we can regain our footing and catch up on commercial furniture work and toolmaking.

We’ll still offer a weekend class or so each month. Maybe a two or three week-long classes during the year. And we’ll bring back Chris Williams for another Welsh chair class. But for the most part, we’re going to hunker down and build stuff.

So if you want to take a class here, you might want to comb over the current list of classes for 2019. Next year is going to be quiet.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Two ways you can learn from my education in the school of hard knocks

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Image from Library of Congress

For the past two years I’ve been posting at Fine Woodworking’s Pro’s Corner blog. Web producer Ben Strano’s invitation to write for the blog came shortly after the publication of Making Things Work, and while I don’t know whether the content of that book prompted the invitation, I can confirm that the blog posts are closely related to it.

There’s one big difference: While serious lessons I’ve learned about making a living as a woodworker form the subjects of most of the book’s chapters, I addressed them in the context of stories drawn from real experience. The narrative is meant to be as entertaining as it is instructive. You could read the entire book without noticing the pedagogical dimension, were you so inclined.

My posts at the Pro’s Corner blog are pretty much straight-up—about as close as I want to get to putting myself in the position of a counselor at a branch of SCORE, the Senior Corps of Retired Executives. (Please note that I am not retired, and probably never will be.) Over the years, I’ve consulted a few counselors at SCORE. It’s an invaluable source of business guidance, though I’ve found that most of the counselors, and so, their advice, come from companies that are radically different from a single-person craft micro-enterprise such as mine, where profit is understood more richly than in terms of a number on a bottom line and there’s no secretary or executive assistant to whom you can delegate the stomach-wrenching tasks that every business has to deal with once in a while. My hope is that my posts will give professionals and aspiring professionals the kind of perspective, and in some cases advice, that I wish I’d been able to find.

Of course, businesses, like shops and woodworkers, vary greatly. I’m writing about what works (and doesn’t) for me, given my experience, interests, values, and capabilities. Ideally readers will expand the posts into more of a conversation in the comments.

Here’s today’s post, on facing “failure.”

There are other types of content in Making Things Work, among them the blasting apart of certain widespread fantasies about woodworking and woodworkers. You’ll find those addressed occasionally at the Pro’s Corner, too. I’m honored and delighted that Lost Art Press is in the process of publishing its own edition of Making Things Work; it’s on track for publication around October.

Finally, I’m always grateful for suggestions about topics. The comments section is the place to put them.

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First Look: Lost Art Press Work Vest

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Despite some slow fabric shipping and a booming business at Sew Valley, our sewing contractor, we’ve just taken delivery of the final prototype of the moleskin work vest. It came out great – the fabric is amazing, the fit is spot-on (a smidge boxier than the LAP chore coat) and the pockets are useful without being bothersome. The inner pocket has sewn divisions, which means that you can lean over without your 6″ ruler and pencils falling out.

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Chris asked if the mole’s blood was still on the fabric, but I had to disappoint him. Moleskin is just plain heavy cotton, often woven in a very dense sateen. The British nearly always brush one side of their moleskin, resulting in a soft-handed but super sturdy and long-wearing fabric. It was a traditional workwear material for miners, carpenters, farmers and just about everyone else doing heavy work in the British Isles.

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I truly don’t know why, but the French seem to rarely brush either side of their moleskin. Our first Chore Coat was in a Japanese woven French-style moleskin (le moleskine, en Français), thus the shiny surface on both sides. Our work vest is British style, and you can see the brushed and non-brushed surfaces in the above photo. The stuff is awesome – wind and abrasion resistant, warm and long lasting. We’re getting the real stuff, woven and brushed in England by Brisbane Moss. It’s expensive fabric, but so, so nice. And hey, you don’t have to pay for sleeves!

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This sample has just been approved. Now starts the wheel turning – importing the bulk fabric, getting in line at Sew Valley, and cut, sew and QC. We’ll definitely have these available by early fall, which is good timing – summer woodworking, in my experience, calls for cutting your hickory shirt sleeves off like Dick Proenneke. Quantities will be very limited, and we’re only doing this lovely olive drab color. We’ll have more details, especially sizing, closer to the date of release.

Tom Bonamici

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Upcoming Book Projects: June 2019 Edition

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It’s been too long since I’ve updated everyone (including my fellow editors) on the projects that are about to bear fruit. Plus other projects that are in fruit cocoons, which is totally not a real thing but should be.

These are in the order in which you’ll likely see them. As always, if I haven’t listed a project that you are lusting for, that’s because I don’t have any news on it. Here we go.

“Making and Mastering Wood Planes” by David Finck
Likely release date: August
This book is a classic. I wore out my first copy and even wrote a gushy blurb for it when it was on the imprint of a competing publisher. That’s how much I love it. David was self-publishing the book and asked if we would like to take it on. I said yes, as long as Lost Art Press could put it out in a high-quality domestically printed hardback. David agreed. Everyone wins.

“The Solution at Hand: Jigs and Fixtures to Make Benchwork Easier” by Robert Wearing
Likely release date: October
Here’s another book we’ve been working on but haven’t been talking about. We love Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker,” and so we asked him if we could compile about 150 of his best jigs and fixtures that he’d published in various forms during his career. He agreed. This book is hand illustrated, like “The Essential Woodworker,” and is as tricky as a Vegas magic show.

“Making Things Work” by Nancy Hiller (the Lost Art Press edition)
Likely release date: October or so
Nancy considered letting this book go out of print (she’s a damn busy professional woodworker). We thought that would be bad for readers. So we offered to bring it into the Lost Art Press fold. Our new edition will have a new cover and will feature one extra short story at the end that elegantly twists the knife as you laugh….

“The Anarchist’s Design Book (Revised & Expanded)” by me
Likely release date: January 2020
I tried to finish this book at the end of 2018, but my father became very ill. So I put aside all my personal writing projects to help take care of him at the end of his life. With his estate now settled, I have the time to finish this revision. I’m building the mule chest for the revised edition now. There are two additional projects to build after that (which are already designed). And then we’ll have a new book.

“The Life & Work of John Brown” by Christopher Williams
Likely release date: March 2020
Chris should be done writing this book in the fall. Then I just have to design it. This book has been filled with many twists and turns – like the life and work of John Brown. I promise it will be worth the wait.

“Make a Chair from a Tree” by Jennie Alexander
Likely release date: As soon as I can manage
This book has been a lodestone for me. I have lots of excellent people helping me with the text, illustrations and technical side. But in the end, I have to ensure the book is true to what Jennie wanted and helps you build her chair. I work on this project whenever I can. It’s slow going, which is totally my fault.

That’s the list. There are lots of other projects that are eyeing the birth canal. When they get closer, we’ll post an update.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Just Thanks

BK-ATC-1Today I signed off on the 11th printing of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” Since 2011, we have printed nearly 30,000 copies of this book. In big-boy-pants publishing terms, that number represents a total and utter failure. Also a failure: Telling the world how many books you’ve really printed.

But <expletive omitted> that.

Those of you who purchased that book are responsible for laying the foundation blocks for what we do here with Lost Art Press. Had I published that book with another publisher, I’d have made about $10,000 (and would be working in retail by now). Because John and I published it ourselves – and you bought it – we made a publishing company instead.

The 10th anniversary of the book is coming up in 2021. We might have to do a revision or (at least) a redesign….

— Christopher Schwarz

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Why Read ‘The Difference Makers’

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STEINWAY FIBONACCI PIANO 7 by Frank Pollaro. Macassar ebony and bronze with inlaid synthetic ivory. 600,000th Limited Edition Steinway & Sons Fibonacci Piano

It might seem a bit out of character for Lost Art Press to publish “The Difference Makers” by Marc Adams. Unlike many of our titles, this book is filled with furniture that scratches at the stratosphere. These are pieces that you would see in a modern art museum or a gallery in Milan. And not the lineup of a publisher that wallows in the nitty gritty of historical handwork.

The way I see it, publishing “The Difference Makers” is just another way for us to challenge both ourselves and our readers.

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Number One Chairs by Michael Fortune (photo by Michael Cullen)

And it begins with a confession: All too often I end up searching out furniture that looks somewhat like the furniture I now build. I focus on historical vernacular forms and their connection to 20th-century design. So the majority of the books in my library touch on those topics in one way or another.

It’s a lot like eating Southern food. Sure, you can survive on fried chicken, grits and collard greens for the rest of your days. But wouldn’t it be sad if you never had your mind blown by Ethiopian food?

No matter what sort of furniture you build, “The Difference Makers” is designed to shock your palate. It might be the negative space of Binh Pho, the textures created by Michael Hosaluk, the astonishing realism of Julie Bender or the visual trickery employed by Silas Kopf. You might not like all of it. But it will challenge you as a designer and builder. As we spent the last year editing this book I kept looking at the photos, wondering, “How was that built? And what possessed them? (In a good way).”

And that’s where the text of the book comes in. Marc knows all of these makers personally. They have taught for him at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. He’s watched these people work – sometimes over decades – and grow. These 30 people are the best who have passed through his school’s giant garage doors.

To package up all this beautiful work, we decided to challenge ourselves on the manufacturing and printing size. We wanted to create the most beautiful largest-format book possible without cracking the $100 mark. This took a bit of math – finding a paper with a roll size that would produce a minimum of waste and a maximum amount of surface for ink. We also wanted to push the boundaries on the paper. This book is made with a heavy and bright paper we’ve never used (or thought we could afford).

Then we added our normal high-quality binding, which we haven’t been able to improve on.

Why So Quiet?
We know that some of you might have been surprised to see the announcement of “The Difference Makers” with very little run-up to the launch. This was due to some chaos at our printing plant (three words: private equity takeover). As a result, we’ve been done with this book on our end for months but it wasn’t certain until late last week when it would go on press. And then we got the news: It would be shipped in mid-July.

We’ll be talking more about the book in the coming weeks. We’re all very excited to see it, and I know you’ll like it. We’ll release an excerpt in the coming weeks, but until then, take a look at these two short features from the book. One on Frank Pollaro and the other on David Franklin.

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Pollaro

Neither is someone whose work I would have followed or enjoyed until I read “The Difference Makers.” But now, wow.

— Christopher Schwarz

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New: ‘The Difference Makers’ by Marc Adams

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“Number One Chairs” by Michael Fortune (photo by Michael Cullen)

Editor’s note: I haven’t been able to talk much about “The Difference Makers”  by Marc Adams because the printing plant’s schedule has been quite messed up. We weren’t sure when it would go on press. Well we now know the book will be delivered in mid-July. If you order before the book is delivered, you will receive a free pdf download of the book at checkout.

The book is $72 and you can place a pre-publication order here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Thanks to the internet, you can see a lot of interesting work with ease. But it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of the images on your screen are of pieces that are derivative, merely acceptable in their craftsmanship and were made by people at the beginning of their journey.

When you encounter true greatness it is shocking, inspiring and a bit humbling. The hair on your neck might stand on end. Your stomach might lurch like you were on a roller coaster. You might want to quit your job.

Encountering this kind of greatness is also an incredibly rare experience these days.

Since 1993, Marc Adams has invited hundreds of the best craftsmen and women to teach at his woodworking school in Franklin, Ind., which has grown to become the country’s (if not the world’s) largest. Every year, thousands of students soak up the instruction from a who’s who list of woodworkers and artists in multiple disciplines.

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“Fall Front Desk with Cat” by Silas Kopf (photo by David Ryan)

Every year, Marc has expanded the school and brought in a different mix of new instructors and veteran ones. As a result, he has figured out who is the best. He’s seen their work. He’s seen them at work.

Now Marc has selected the 30 best men and women makers that he’s worked with for his new book, “The Difference Makers: 30 Contemporary Makers; 30 Remarkable Stories.” It’s a sweeping journey into the work and lives of a diverse group of people, from pure traditional woodworkers to people whose brain is from the future. Furniture makers. Toolmakers. Luthiers. Sculptors. Engravers.

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“Inferno” by Michael Hosaluk (photo by Trent Watts)

Each chapter reads like a short biographical novel – recounting the person’s life and how they became the artisan they are today. Then Marc offers an analysis and interpretation of their work – why it’s special – and tells a few stories about what they are like in the workshop.

And then there’s a gallery of the person’s work. Even if you never read a single word of “The Difference Makers,” we think you will spend hours poring over the photos.

All of this is wrapped up in a beautiful and huge book – 11” x 11” and 260 pages long. The large and square format of the book allowed us to reproduce the images as large as possible. The book is printed on a heavy and coated #100 stock – the nicest and smoothest paper we could find. Like all our books, the pages are sewn together and bound with fiber tape so the binding will outlast you. The book is hardbound with the boards covered in cotton cloth. And the entire package is wrapped with a long-wearing full-color dust jacket. It is made in the United States (Tennessee) using domestic materials.

We are honored to have worked with Marc and the 30 outstanding people featured in this book. Collecting their stories took Marc decades. Writing it all down took more than two years. And we are proud to present it to you so you can be inspired by it for many years to come.

This book will ship in mid-July.

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