3 Stick Chairs and a Pig Bench


It’s a good day when I find three new images of stick chairs. Researcher Suzanne Ellison sent me the September 2015 issue of Antique Collecting recently, and I devoured it this morning while juggling some technical publishing problems.

Inside the issue were three stick chairs – two likely Welsh and one labeled as Irish. All are notable for one reason or another. Let’s take a look.

The chair above was listed for sale by Suffolk House Antiques and has a burr ash seat that is 2-1/2” thick. There are several things I like about this chair. Its spindle layout and armbow are similar to the chairs I’ve been building recently, but the crest rail and back spindles are quite eye-catching. I like the way the crest rail is curved along its top edge – very graceful.

The three back spindles look delicate and fragile, though I doubt they are. I really like how the maker bent the two outside spindles outward. It’s a nice contrast with the density and verticality of the lower spindles and seat.


The second chair was featured in an article on auction results. Though it’s not specifically called out as Welsh, it looks it to me. This chair has a charming lightness to it, despite its 14 spindles. Also, take a look at the “hands” of the armbow. They end in a nice semi-circle. Finally, the ogee on the ends of the crest rail is a nice classical surprise on a folk chair. Who knows if this detail is original to this chair. But it works.


The third chair is listed as an Irish fruitwood chair from the 18th century. I’m charmed by the low seat and the overall boxiness of the thing. Also, if you look close at the seat you can see there is a hole that is plugged at the rear of the seat (it could be a knot but I think that’s unlikely). This chair might have started off as a 3- or 5-legged chair.


Finally, a fascinating pig bench from Suffolk House antiques that might be from the Middle Ages according to the magazine. This bench proves that sometimes warped wood can be your friend.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in John Brown Book, The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A 2,400-year-old Heart-shaped Box

The Ma’agan Mikhael, a 5th-century BCE Cypriot merchantman, was found off the coast of Israel in 1985. The wreck was an important find in learning more about ancient shipbuilding techniques and trade practices. After excavation and preservation the reconstructed hull was placed in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.

Three wooden boxes were found in the wreck: one in a heart shape with a pivoting lid and two violin-shaped boxes. There is plenty of evidence in the archeological records that these boxes were of a type used for cosmetic pastes and creams.

In 2004 Yigal Sitry published, “Unique Wooden Artifacts: A Study of Typology and Technology” part of a series of research articles in “The Ma’agan Mikhael Ship – The Recovery of a 2,400 Year Old Merchantman” by Yaacov Kahanov and Elisha Linder.

In his article Sitry provides a full description of the heart-shaped box and outlines, with illustrations, “the order of operations” in the making of the box (and easy for a modern woodworker to follow).

The box, before conservation that caused uneven shrinkage, measured 110 mm x 109 mm x 34.5 mm (about 4.3″ x 4.3″ x 1.4″) and was made of oak. One note: the heart-shaped box has been renamed the ivy leaf box as that shape was more consistent with shapes found in contemporary pottery and art.

The link to Yigal Sitry’s article is here.

For the “recently spurned:” Put Nirvana’s “Heart-shaped Box” on a loop, make the box, burn it, repeat.

— Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Historical Images, Personal Favorites | 18 Comments

Moravian Work Bench in South Korea

In the years since I wrote about and hosted a video on building the knockdown workbench from the collection at Old Salem, N.C., folks have sent me hundreds of photos of the benches they have built. I absolutely love getting these. I am always interested to see the different  vise set-ups, materials and alterations different people have done with the design.


I few days ago, Luther Shealy sent some photos of a Moravian work bench he has nearly completed. Shealy is in the U.S. Army stationed in South Korea. He had to leave his Roubo bench behind when he was deployed overseas.


Fortunately the Army base has a morale and welfare shop the servicemen can use, and he decided to build a bench for use while in Korea. He was able to source the pine parts of the bench on location, but the oak part proved to be problem. Undeterred, Shealy had friends back home mail him enough white oak for the short stretchers. He brought the oak vise chop over in his luggage; that must have been interesting trip thru TSA!



I very much admire Shealy’s determination to make this happen in a less-than-ideal situation.

— Will Myers



Posted in Workbenches | 4 Comments

Update: Hayward, Roubo and the Romans


We have new information on these three Lost Art Press projects for you this Monday:

The Woodworker, The Charles H. Hayward Years, Vol. IV, The Shop & Furniture
The final book in our series from “The Woodworker” is supposed to finish up at the bindery this week and be put on a truck to our warehouse on Friday. If we don’t run into any transportation snags, that means we’ll start shipping the book to you next week.

With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture
The standard version of this book is still in production at the printing plant and is on track to ship to our warehouse in mid to late March. In the meantime, designer Wesley Tanner is laying out the deluxe version of this book and it should be ready for the printer by the end of the month.

The deluxe version is going to be printed at the same plant that printed the deluxe version of “Roubo on Marquetry” and we are trucking the entire press run to New Mexico to be bound and have the slipcases made by hand. The deluxe edition of “Roubo on Furniture” will be the same width and height as the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry,” but it will be much thicker. “Roubo on Marquetry” was 248 pages; deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” will be 472.

We have ordered 1,000 copies of deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” and the price will be $550 for U.S. customers. The book will be available for Canadian and international customers with an additional charge for postage. It will not be sold through our retailers.

Like the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry,” all customers who order the book early can opt to have their name listed in the book as a “subscriber.” Also like the deluxe “Roubo on Marquetry,” this book is a significant financial risk for us. We know it will be a fantastic piece of work, so we’re happy to do it.

Because of all the handwork involved in this book because it is oversized, my guess is we will open ordering in about a month and the book will ship in June.

Roman Workbenches
We have sold out of the 500 copies of the letterpress version of “Roman Workbenches.” What happens now? You can still buy the pdf of the book for $15. After we print and ship all the copies that have been ordered, we might have a handful of extras that we will sell online. We also hope to have some unbound copies for sale.

I know this all sounds vague, but it really depends on how many copies are destroyed during the binding process. Commercial binding can destroy up to 30 percent of your press run (I know that sounds crazy).

Several people have asked if we’re going to offer a standard offset-printed version of “Roman Workbenches” and the answer is: We hope to.

I have two research trips coming up this year. If they are fruitful and people seem interested in the topic, we’ll print an offset version that is expanded with lots of photography and the additional information from Italy and Germany.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Roman Workbenches, Roubo Translation, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Almost Out of Stickers (Again)


My daughter Maddy has almost run out of our second batch of Lost Art Press stickers. So if you want some of these three recent designs, don’t tarry.

You can order the stickers one of two ways. For customers in the United States, you can send a $5 bill and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to Maddy at:

Stick it to the Man
P.O. Box 3284
Columbus, OH 43210

Maddy will take your SASE and put three high-quality vinyl stickers – one of each design – in your envelope and mail it to you immediately. (If you send $10, she’ll send two sets; $15 will get you three sets). She also has been throwing in some bonus stickers….

For customers outside the United States (or those who don’t want to use an SASE), you can order stickers through Maddy’s etsy store. Stickers there are $6 for domestic customers. Because of the international postage, sets are $10 for international (sorry, but there are fees and this and that).

Maddy came home last weekend from Ohio State and we talked about how her sticker business was going. If you have ordered stickers from Maddy, you have made a huge difference in her life. This might sound corny, but now she can afford name-brand granola bars instead of the generic ones (this is a big deal). Also, she and her boyfriend could afford to attend a rodeo last month and saw a monkey ride a sheepdog that was herding sheep. She’s an animal science major (and animal lover) so this was really sweet (and kinda strange).

So thank you all. This little sticker business means I don’t have to sell my plasma so baby can go to the rodeo.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Please note that the puppy shown in the photo above has not been drugged or harmed by the sticker. He was running around trying to eat some garbage and then fell asleep in Maddy’s lap.

Posted in Stickers, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Planes and Curves

I was flattening some panels by hand the other day (too wide for my machines), and that got me thinking about plane blade camber. If you search online for discussions of blade camber, you’ll find that a great many electrons have been spilled on the topic. One common thread in these discussions is frequent confusion over the fact that a bevel-up blade requires more camber (i.e., the center of the blade needs to protrude further beyond its corners) than a bevel-down blade to have the same effect.

On the one hand, everyone seems comfortable with the notion that as the blade’s bedding angle decreases, the effective radius of curvature of its edge increases. This is easy to see. First, find yourself a thin disk (e.g., a CD or DVD) and hold it up at arm’s length:

When the disc is perpendicular to your line of sight, the apparent radius of its lower edge is equal to its actual radius (2-3/8″ in the case of a CD/DVD). But start tilting it from perpendicular, and the curve flattens; its apparent radius increases:

Tilt even more, and it keeps increasing:

From the point of view of the wood fiber that’s about to have its head chopped off by an oncoming blade, the greater the tilt from vertical, the greater the apparent radius of curvature, and consequently the less the depth of cut at the center of the blade. And since the blade in a bevel-up plane is tilted further from perpendicular, its apparent radius of curvature is larger than that of the bevel-down blade unless we make its actual radius of curvature smaller (i.e., increase its camber). Easy.

On the other hand, we’ve also all seen diagrams of bevel-down vs. bevel-up planes seated on their respective frogs:

The resulting cutting geometries in the two cases are identical. The blade’s cutting edge comprises two intersecting planes, one formed by the back surface, and the other by the bevel. The only difference between the two configurations is that these two planar surfaces switch roles.

This is where I think some people get confused. If the two setups are equivalent, why can’t we measure the blade camber in the same way with both? In truth, we sort of can, but there’s a difference between the bevel in a cambered blade vs. a straight blade. When the camber is small, that difference is also small (and negligible), but with a strongly cambered blade, such as one we might use in a fore or scrub plane, it’s not. With a cambered blade, the bevel is not planar. In fact, the bevel is a section of the surface of a cone:

That’s where the equivalence breaks down, as it’s no longer possible to directly superimpose the cutting geometry of a bevel-up blade onto that of a bevel-down blade. And so we go back to always measuring the camber with respect to the back of the blade.

Anyway, is any of this important? Only to the extent that you get a feel for how the different parameters interact, so that you’ll know how much to camber your blade to achieve a given depth of cut.

I’m avoiding the math here, because it’s been covered before (such as here and here), but I did put together a little online app that lets you plug in some numbers to see how this all works. Here’s a screenshot:

You can find the app here. To use it, enter your bed angle and blade width, and one of the other three values. The app will compute the other two corresponding values for you, dynamically updating the display as you modify the values. The bed angle is in degrees; the other values can be in whatever length units you choose, as long as you’re consistent (inches, millimetres, furlongs, it makes no difference).

Now, I know that someone is going to read this and then get out their micrometer and measure their blade camber to three decimal places, to which I say,


The point of the app is intuition, not prescription. The precise value of camber that you end up with is largely irrelevant, as long as you’re in the ballpark.

Don’t worry, plane happy.


–Steve Schafer

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Roman Workbench Build-along


If you have been interested in the low Roman workbenches I’ve been writing about, here’s your chance to follow along while two woodworkers build them. You can even join in and build your own with home-center materials and firewood (more on that in a minute).

Joshua Klein and Mike Updegraff of Mortise & Tenon magazine are each going to build Roman workbenches and blog about the experience starting on Feb. 20. You can read more details about their plans here.

When starting with rough materials, these workbenches take me about 10 hours to build (that includes the time to document the process with photos and notes). But I have an electric lathe. I think that balances out the equation – I think anyone can build this bench in about 10 hours.

If you don’t have a slab on hand, here’s what I would do: Buy a 12’-long 2×12. Crosscut it in half. Glue the two halves face to face. That’s the benchtop. For the legs, go buy some firewood from the grocery store if you don’t have a big firewood pile already. Split the legs out of firewood billets.


The low Roman workbench is a lot of fun to build. But it’s even more fun to use at the end. You get to sit while you work – nice!

It’s also funny how the low bench has become the community center for my workshop. When I have visitors, they naturally gravitate to the low bench and sit there (I’m the only one who sits on my Roubo bench).

If you’d like more details on why the Roman bench is a marvel of early technology and workholding, check out the article I wrote on it for Issue 2 of Mortise & Tenon magazine.

I’ll definitely be following Joshua and Mike’s progress that week. But I won’t be building along. I’ve already got one….

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized | 1 Comment