The Storefront is Open this Saturday (June 8), 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

As on every second Saturday of the month the Lost Art Press storefront is open this Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., for all your book-browsing and woodworking-question needs.

We have the entire line of books on display (as well as a few card scrapers), and they can be purchased with cash, check or credit card. We’re also available to answer questions, demonstrate woodworking techniques and even teach you a skill or two. Kids and pets are always welcome. And for cash or check only, we have available a couple of lump hammer and holdfast “blems” (they work just fine – they’re just not aesthetic perfection) and one or two “blem” books.

Plus, we’ve some quality used tools to sell as well, some of which are pictured in the gallery below. These are cash or check only, and must be inspected/paid for/picked up on site; no shipping, I’m afraid.

If you need some sweetener to get your family to come along, we have one word for you: brunch.

Saturday Brunch in Covington

We are surrounded by some of the best brunch places in the city. Here’s a quick list of our favorites.

Ottos’s. Getting in for brunch at Otto’s is tough on Sundays. Not so much on Saturdays. The lemon ricotta pancakes are amazing, as is the breakfast casserole.

Commonwealth Bistro. We recommend the chilaquiles and the red flannel hash.

Main Street Tavern. As we are furniture makers and writers, we love the bargain brunch at Main Street. Really, everything is great. The waffles are fantastic. The hash special is always good. My personal favorite is the biscuit sandwich with bacon.

Libby’s Southern Comfort. This place just opened. We tried it for lunch and we cannot wait to try brunch.

Coppin’s at Hotel Covington. Breakfast and brunch at Coppin’s is a real treat.

Hope to see you Saturday. We are located at 837 Willard St., Covington, Ky., 41011.

— Fitz

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‘I Was There’

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Some people say I work too hard. But whenever I look at the above family photo, I think: I’m not working hard enough.

The photo is one of my favorites, and I first saw it as a young child. It shows my grandfather, Joseph T. West, at left. At right is my great uncle, John W. West. And in the center is my great grandfather. They’re about to begin a hike at Vermont’s Lincoln Gap on the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in the United States.

The photo was taken at 2 p.m. on Aug. 29, 1932.

That day, my great grandfather died on the hike from a heart attack. My grandfather instructed his brother John to stay with body while he climbed back down the trail to get help.

My great grandfather was 45 on the day he died.

My family has a history of heart problems. My grandfather endured bypass surgery and then collapsed from a stroke while on a walk to the local market in the 1980s. My uncle, Tom West, died of a heart attack – way too young – in 2011. And that’s for starters.

So every time I encounter this photo I am reminded of two things.

  1. Watch my numbers. I’ve closely monitored my cholesterol and blood pressure since I was in my 20s. Exercise, diet and pills keep my numbers in check. This might not be enough (ask my cardiologist about my gene pairs) but it’s better than fatalism.
  2. Do not delay. I kind of assumed I’d leave this world at age 45. Not for any good reason – brains are funny and stupid – but merely because of the photo and the family story behind it. So I worked like hell to get “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” out before my 45th birthday. Every other book I written since has been a gift.

None of us know when we’re leaving this earth. But this photo always reminds me that my days are numbered. So I don’t sit around. I tell myself: build something. Write something. Get the next book published. Get everything out of your head and onto paper before your head is a cinder in a cremation furnace.

Is this morbid? I don’t really care. I do know that this photo has kept me going since age 11 or so, and so I am weirdly thankful for it.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. In regards to the title of this blog post, my mother’s copy of this photo has a handwritten note on the back from Uncle Johnny. “The day dad died. Aug. 29, 1932. 2:00 p.m. Lincoln Warren Gap. I was there!”

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One-stop Tool Shopping for the Beginner

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When people start venturing into hand tools they struggle mightily with what tools to buy and where to get them. As far as what tools you need, I’ve tried to cover that with “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

When it comes to the question of where to buy the tools, my usual response is to attend a Mid-West Tool Collectors Association meeting. Or a meeting of the Early American Industries Association. I’m a member of both organizations and am so glad they exist. The tool tailgating at these meetings is epic.

But not everyone can plan their lives around these meetings. Or they can’t wait for a meeting to roll around to get started. Or something something something don’t wanna.

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If you live in America’s Great Middle, I suggest you plan an excursion to Colonial Homestead in Millersburg, Ohio. I’ve written about Dan Raber’s tool store before for Popular Woodworking and discussed their classes yesterday on the blog.

But I just want to say here, on this blog, one more time, that Colonial Homestead is a Midwestern jewel.

What is so good about this place? The depth and quality of the stuff on his shelves. He has more woodworking and metalworking vises for sale than I’ve seen anywhere. Need dividers? There’s a whole section of them. How about a tool chest? Yupper. He’s got a bunch with prices starting at $275. There are drawers filled with spokeshaves, beading tools and Perfect Handle screwdrivers. A glue pot section. Boxes of complete sets of auger bits (in the bit section). So so so many saws. A wall of chisels, arranged by size.

After years in the craft, I’m pretty jaded by tool stalls in antique malls, which are usually filled with stuff that should be melted down. Buying stuff on eBay isn’t much better (unless you know the seller). And amassing a kit from people such as Josh Clark at Hyperkitten or Patrick Leach at Supertool can take a long time as you wait for the right stuff to come up for sale.

Colonial Homestead is a way to get a good working kit in one long visit.

To be honest, I haven’t bought much from Dan. I already own a complete kit of hand tools. During my most recent visit I bought a bunch of blacksmith-made rosehead nails (yes, they sell those). And I found a gorgeous cast-iron Defiance utility knife to replace the crappy zinc one in my chest. But I love to look over his wares when I visit. He’s got great taste in tools.

As always, I’m compelled to mention that this enthusiastic post isn’t sponsored. I am simply an admirer of what Dan has built in Millersburg. And I think you will be a fan as well.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Hand Tool Classes in Ohio’s Amish Country

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There’s a new school for hand-tool woodworking, blacksmithing and long rifle making in Northern Ohio that is definitely worth checking out.

Called Colonial Homestead’s Artisans Guild, the school operates out of a storefront in Millersburg, Ohio, a vibrant old town with some beautiful architecture and even a working inn. There’s nothing quaint about the town. It’s just a 19th-century town that never got the memo that small towns are supposed to be dead.

In the heart of downtown is Dan Raber’s tool store, called Colonial Homestead. It’s the best-stocked tool store I’ve seen outside the East Coast (and rivals Hull’s Cove Tool Barn). Raber is the spearhead for the school, which is across the street from the store.

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The last time I visited Millersburg, Raber was still working on the building. Now there are workbenches, a forge and lots of natural light from the storefront window.

There are a wide variety of instructors and the prices are very competitive. Check out the current class list here.

The school has a lot going for it. Raber is a tireless advocate for hand tool use. His tool store is a huge candy store for woodworkers. And the school is in Ohio’s Amish country. There’s great food, cheese, quilts, lumber (Keim Lumber and Yoder Lumber) and lots of beautiful rolling hills. It would make an excellent family vacation spot.

Check it out – I hope this school thrives.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Crucible Lump Hammers (SOLD OUT)

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Megan FItzpatrick and I finished up two big loads of Crucible lump hammers during the Memorial Day weekend and they are in the store now. Sorry, we sold out. More on the way next week.

We have greatly increased production (yay) thanks to bringing on some more help with assembly. I’ve built some new jigs that improve the handle production – some of the slots for the wedges weren’t perfectly centered. We’ve also changed the way we add the Crucible logo to save on tooling costs (and it looks crisper). And we modified the shape of the hammer head’s eye (it’s a right nutty shape) to cut out a step with handle assembly.

It’s crazy. We’ve made so many of these lump hammers that I can grind heads in my sleep now. But we’re still finding ways to improve the process and the product.

The Crucible lump hammer is $85 plus shipping. You can purchase yours here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Oh Yeah, Journalism

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This week Chris Williams and I have taken tons of photos for his forthcoming book “The Life & Work of John Brown” and things took an interesting turn, visually. As we’ve recorded the construction process of his chair for the book, I’ve put away my tripod and recorded the process with a handheld camera and natural light, journalism style.

It’s what I did for most of my early career as a writer and photojournalist for newspapers and small magazines before I landed at Popular Woodworking magazine. I shot full manual for many years and processed my own negatives and prints. The tradition at Popular Woodworking and F&W Media, Inc., however, was to shoot transparencies and do it with a tripod and strobes. Which I embraced.

But if you have a little skill with a camera, you can capture some nice moments. The only problem is that you have to make sure you are capturing usable how-to information and not just emotion or a nice composition.

Today I started reviewing the 941 photos I took this week and kept (I trashed several hundred images that were obvious garbage). I have to admit, I’m a little excited by the frames I kept. They are unlike the photography you see in approximately 100 percent of woodworking books and magazines these days.

I love what I see on my screen, but I hope it’s good enough.

I’m sure you will let me know when the book comes out.

— Christopher Schwarz

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When is it Done?

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When I make things for sale – chairs, hammers, tool chests, workbenches, whatever – I struggle with when to let the things go out of my hands and into the world.

Sometimes I think I have two choices:

  1. Perfection first. I first need to get all the details perfect no matter how long it takes. Then I’m going to get faster and faster at it.
  2. Speed first. I need to get this project done so it makes money and is acceptable to a customer. Then I’ll achieve perfection as I get better and better at it.

I’ve found the truth is something entirely different. When I make an object for the first time or the 10th time, getting it “just right” is impossible because I have no conception of how good the thing can become in the end.

For example, when I started making lump hammers in our shop, I made them slowly and to what I thought was a high standard. The problem was that my eyes couldn’t conceive of what a really good hammer looked like. So my first hammers were made slowly and weren’t anything like they look like today – to my eye. (Note: Even my early ones were good. I’m not asking to be swamped with returns.)

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Same with chairs. When I invited Peter Galbert over for dinner one night I had to look him in the eye and say: I can afford to own only my early and prototype chairs. These things horrify me. Please don’t judge me by them. He smiled broadly and nodded. (I know in my heart he was judging me.)

I’ve concluded that speed and quality are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to choose one over the other. Instead, I start with neither and end up with both. It just takes time at the bench, the lathe or the belt grinder.

This week I have this Irish chair prototype (above) sitting around the shop while Chris Williams teaches two classes stocked with experienced chairmakers. I honestly wanted to hide the chair somewhere. It’s a mess. But Lucy and I are moving house right now and there is no place to stash it.

Though it pains me to look at the chair, its presence also forces me to see it and develop an eye for what it can become. And that’s the first step to getting it right.

— Christopher Schwarz

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