EDIT: Sold. (But I’d be happy to build another if asked!)
With my extra time during the lockdown, I was able to complete this hand dovetailed sugar pine Anarchist’s Tool Chest. Its exterior dimensions are: 39-3/4″ wide x 23-1/2″ deep x 24-1/4″ high (including the battens – aka rot strips – on the bottom). It has hand dovetailed bird’s-eye maple tills with quartersawn white oak shiplapped bottoms affixed with cut nails. All three tills are 8-1/2″ from front to back. The top two tills are 2-3/4″ high with 1/2″-thick bottoms; the bottom till is 5″ high with a 5/8″-thick bottom. The top till is 36″ wide, the middle till is 35-1/2″ wide, the bottom till is 35-1/4″ wide.
The remainder of the interior fittings – the slides for the tills, the tool rack and the moulding plane corral – are of figured hard maple.
The tool rack is slightly different than what is shown in the “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” book; I bump it out from the front chest wall to allow for the hanging backsaws behind the chisels, screwdrivers and other tools in the tool rack. (I find this not only protects them, but makes the saws easier to grab than from a bottom-mounted saw till.)
The chest bottom is tongue-and-groove pine boards affixed with forged Rivierre nails. The hand-forged hardware is the new “Anarchist’s Tool Chest Re-forged kit” from Horton Brasses.
The chest is $4,200 as is (including your General Finishes milk paint color of choice); that also includes crating (LTL shipping is paid by the buyer; it’s typically less than $250). Add-ons (real milk paint, an iron crab lock, casters (either new or re-conditioned vintage), custom interior fittings, etc.) are available as well. First one to respond with a definitive “yes” gets it. (My signature below is linked to my email.)
If you’d like to see more (including entirely too much on dovetail how-to) and outfitting the interior, check out my Instagram feed.
Bench.Talk.101 has just posted my “Chairmaking for Flat Woodworkers” talk on its YouTube page. Click here to watch it. I gave a 25-minute presentation (with props) and then took questions for another 30 minutes.
It was a fun format, and it was very kind of them to invite me.
For the last nine years I’ve experimented a lot with “cold-bend hardwood,” which is also known as “compwood.” It’s basically wettish wood that can be bent radically when it’s at room temperature. And when it dries, it keeps its shape.
I first learned about the stuff from furnituremaker Jeff Miller, who showed it to me during a shop visit. Since then, I’ve purchased it from a variety of sources, including one local place that used to make its own (now they don’t) and Pure Timber LLC.
I don’t want to repeat the basic information you can get from Pure Timber. If you read the company’s descriptions and watch the videos you’ll get a good idea of what this stuff is capable of.
Instead, this blog entry is to talk about my experiences with the material and why I use the stuff.
First, let’s get the economics out of the way. Cold-bend Hardwood is expensive when compared to green wood that you’ve split from a log or lumber that you’ve bought from the yard. However, the math works for me.
Obtaining, moving and storing green lumber when you live in a dense urban area is possible. I’ve done it many times. But my supply is sporadic. The tree service I work with keeps its eyes peeled for me, but street trees are not always the best for splitting.
Then there’s labor and time of splitting it out and containing the mess in our small garden. Then there’s the agony when a bend goes sideways. The stick breaks or delaminates – or cracks when drying.
With Cold-bend Hardwood I’ve had only one bend fail in nine years. And there is almost no waste. It shows up in a box. I cut it to shape on the band saw and bend it in the form without a windlass or hydraulics. I then put it in an insulated box with a couple lightbulbs for a day (sometimes two days for big pieces). It comes out of the form ready to use with no springback.
For a chair, I need about $70 to $90 in Cold-bend Hardwood to make the armbow and crest. The time I save makes this expense work for me.
Before you use the stuff, please read all the directions. Don’t try to machine the stuff on a jointer or planer when it’s wet. It will self-destruct. Cut it to size on the band saw. I use a single-point fence on my band saw for ripping. You can crosscut it by hand or with any power saw with no problem.
If you have a drum sander, you can use that to clean up the band saw marks before putting the stuff in the form.
After it’s dry, I have had decent luck working with it most electric and hand tools. I plane and scrape the stuff. But have your handplane prepared as if you are working curly stuff – you need a tight mouth or a tight chipbreaker. If you run into trouble, rasps and sandpaper will get you out of trouble.
My No. 1 recommendation: Start with a light cut with any machine or hand tool. See what it gets you. Learn from there.
It finishes fine – just like regular wood.
All in all, I like the stuff. I also like steambending furniture components when I can get the right wood. I don’t see the two techniques as mutually exclusive. Instead, it’s another option that is open to all of us. And there are some projects where Cold-bend Hardwood is the best solution for highly unusual bends.
— Christopher Schwarz
Disclaimer: As always, I purchase all my materials and have never received anything of value from Pure Timber (or any other manufacturer). This post is not sponsored by anyone.
One of the many ways you can judge a person’s woodworking experience is watching them at the bench. Beginners move a certain way – too fast, too slow or they look like me at a junior high dance.
Not all professionals glide like swans. After years of working with and observing woodworkers, I can quickly tell who spends most of the day at the router table when they hold a block plane like it’s a radioactive turd.
In the end, of course, what’s important is the result – what you make – and not what you look like at the bench. But I love watching people and their different ways of moving.
The most graceful woodworker I’ve watched is Nancy Hiller (author of the forthcoming book “Kitchen Think”). I spent two days last year observing her class on building a plate rack and was struck by her work at the bench. It was similar to watching T’ai Chi being performed. No motion was wasted. No sudden bursts of activity. Just flow.
Kelly Mehler has a similar grace at the bench. He never seems to be working hard but suddenly he is done.
Peter Follansbee is my second favorite instructor to watch. Follansbee (the author of “Joiner’s Work”) is a walking, talking, mortising and carving machine. Watching him plane a board is almost shocking. He goes from completely still, tapping the iron and wedge here and there. And then he’s in 100 percent attack mode, moving at a speed that seems impossible (it’s one of the many joys of planing white pine). And just as soon as he’s started, he’s done.
But this is the fun part. He hasn’t stopped talking at any point. After years of working at Plimoth Plantation, it’s like his mouth is independent from the rest of him.
Frank Klausz moves similar to Follansbee. I once watched him using a moulding plane and felt sorry for the wood. It was like Frank was willing it into shape, and the wood had no say in the matter.
In the book “Good Work,” Chris Williams describes John Brown sawing to the cadence of a mechanical watch. That image has stuck with me for years. I wish I could have seen it.
And finally there is Mike Siemsen (the “Naked Woodworker”). He’s like the Columbo of woodworking. His Midwestern aw-shucks attitude and corny jokes belie his incredible talent, both at the bench and with his machines. It almost feels like a magic trick or a con job.
If any woodworker could pick your pocket or sell you a bridge, it’s Mike. Watch out for that guy.
This Thursday, July 23, I’ll be appearing live on Bench.Talk.101 to talk about “Chairmaking for Flat Woodworkers” and take your questions. The event is free and should last about an hour.
The event will occur at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday – 8:30 p.m. U.K. time. You can join the conversation by going to Bench.Talk.101’s profile 5 minutes before the event begins and there will be a link to join. Or send them a Direct Message (DM), and they will send you a link to join the Zoom meeting.
If you can’t join the live event (do you have a job or family or something?) you can watch the whole thing on Bench.Talk.101’s YouTube channel. Nancy Hiller, the author of the forthcoming book “Kitchen Think,” was on last week, and you can hear the whole thing here.
I’m looking forward to the chat and hope to not make too much trouble for the hosts.