Sneak Preview of Upcoming Classes

SilverwareClassShopShotFirst, I’m not yet committing to an on-sale date for the classes below (with one exception – the Dovetailed Silverware Class at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks), but it will be soon – before the end of April. (I’ll announce the go-live date/time here first, with at least two days’ notice.) I’m currently navigating the setup of my new online storefront (and popping lots of ibuprofen as a result), and integrating therein course registration while also making the process simple for you, for me, and for class offerings from other instructors at the Lost Art Press storefront. It’s proving a bit of a challenge.* Plus, I’m busy working on a few other yet-to-be-revealed projects for said store.

But I promised an update of new classes I’m offering later this year, so here it is (along with my eternal thanks to Christopher Schwarz for allowing – nay, encouraging – these classes, and for helping out with them):

stepstool-e1524365957842.jpgDovetailed Shaker Step Stool – July 28 & 29
At Lost Art Press, Covington, Ky.

Learn how to cut dovetails by hand as you build a classic Shaker step stool (with two steps) that will withstand decades – lifetimes, really – of use.

The cost is $275, plus a materials fee (likely around $40).
Limited to 6 students.

ADB Bookcase copyBoarded Bookshelf – August 25 & 26
At Lost Art Press, Covington, Ky.

Build the Boarded Bookshelf from Christopher Schwarz’s “The Anarchist’s Design Book” as you learn how cut dados and tongue-and-groove joints by hand, and drive tapered, square-shanked nails without splitting your work. And of course, plane up your work for a perfect finish.

The cost is $300, plus a materials fee (likely around $35). Limited to 6 students.

1-ww-mf-image2.jpgBuild a Dovetailed Silverware Tray, Sept. 8 & 9 (Open for Registration)
At Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Warren, Maine

Learn how to lay out dovetails with dividers and cut the joints by hand as you build a classic Shaker dining room tray, adapted from an Ejner Handberg drawing in his Shop Drawings for Shaker Furniture & Woodenware Vol. 1 (Berkshire House).

The cost is $350, including materials. For more information and to register, visit the Workshop Page at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. Limited to 12 students.


Dutch Tool Chest, Sept. 22 & 23
At Lost Art Press, Covington, Ky.

During this intense two-day class you’ll build a Dutch tool chest (from either pine or poplar, depending on what’s good, available and inexpensive that moth) using dovetails, dados, rabbets and nails. Because of the demands of the project, this class will likely run into the early evening to ensure everyone completes the chest. The Dutch chest is an excellent introduction to handwork and the result is a fine place to store your tools.

The cost is $300 plus a materials fee (likely around $35). Limited to 6 students.

CoffinMake a Coffin-Shaped Bookcase…for use Now & Later, Oct 20 & 21
At Lost Art Press, Covington, Ky.

Build a traditional kerf-bent and nailed pine coffin (which we’ll then make into a bookcase for interim use).

The cost is $300, plus a small materials fee (likely around $40) to be collected at start of class. Limited to 6 students.

Apologies to John Hoffman for the coffin image – but it makes me chuckle every time!

Again, I’ll announce the date and time registration will go live here, at least two days in advance.

* Yes, I know one can connect EventBrite to Shopify, but I need a solution that shows all class offerings at the LAP storefront, yet doesn’t connect all class payments (those from Brendan Gaffney, for example) to my bank account, and that also offers waitlist functionality. I/we might simply stick with EventBrite, and I’ll link to my classes from Shopify. Not ideal, but there’s only so much I can read about plugins/apps/custom solutions before the ibuprofen runs out. I’d rather be planing or editing prose.

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Silverware Tray in a Weekend


The one on the left was made by Christopher Schwarz in 2008, and finished with boiled linseed oil; the one on the right was made by me last weekend (and glued up earlier today); it still needs a finish…and a few years of tanning. Both are cherry – amazing how it darkens with age, eh?

The headline is a bit of misstatement…because unlike my students, who did indeed start and finish their dovetailed silverware trays last Saturday and Sunday, I finally got around to gluing up mine today. (What can I say…I was busy teaching!)

It’s a simple but elegant project that can be made quickly (which means it’s a perfect candidate if you need a handmade gift for someone!), and a good piece on which to learn or practice dovetails.

The tray is a classic Shaker design that I adapted from a Christopher Schwarz article in Popular Woodworking – I can’t repeat the article here of course, but it’s free online on the magazine’s site. The difference between that one and the one on the right above is the way the bottom is attached.

In the original, it’s a one-board bottom with rabbeted edges that fit into grooves in the ends and sides. We didn’t have the time or hand tools on hand for that (the weekend goal was for everyone to improve their dovetails); instead, we nailed in 1/4″ x 1/4″ retaining strips flush with the bottom edges, then fit shiplapped boards inside to rest on the strips (with an optional 1/8″ bead on the top tongue…which I think everyone cut, because beading planes are irresistible)! I told everyone that I prefer to leave the bottom boards loose, so that one can take them out for easy cleaning. (I don’t think they believed me – but it’s true!)

Each student went home happy (I hope!), with a glued-up and bottomed tray,  instructions for final planing (after the Old Brown Glue set up a bit longer), and suggestions for finish (BLO or oil/varnish blend).


Proof of concept! (In front of the Lost Art Press storefront, Sunday afternoon.)




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It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

chestinboxI learned a valuable lesson today through shipping a Dutch tool chest to its new owner: Pack things in the smallest-possible-but-still-safe configuration. And build a crate – that would have been easier, and likely less expensive. And it sure would have looked better.

But no. Instead, I stopped at the local shipping place, where the owner had assured me he could box and send it for X amount. Turns out, he could not; the largest box he had was 1″ too small in one direction, and 3″ too small in another. Add in sufficient cushioning, and well – it wasn’t even close. Typical box sizes that are readily available at UPS, FedEx and U-Haul are not available in DTC size.

But instead of driving 27 miles to the LTL place that I knew could box and ship it, and at a cost approved by the the chest’s buyer, I thought, “No, I’ll find a box, pack it, ship it here and save the buyer some money.” And wow, was that stupid!

Down the road a mile is a place that sells big boxes. Really big boxes. But no smallish ones. So I bought a large one, somehow got it folded down enough to fit into my Outback (it was massive, I tell you!), drove back to the shipping place and proceeded to amuse the owner for a half-hour by cutting it down and refolding it, and using enormous amounts of tape in the process. I didn’t think – and he didn’t tell me – to make it as small as possible. My never-before-boxed-then-shipped-furniture brain thought the rates were based on weight rather than size. So I left room for plenty of cushioning materials. (Sorry about the peanuts, new owner; I know they get everywhere.)

I’ve shipped a lot of furniture…but always back to its owner in the box in which it came to me (usually for photography for the magazine) – so I always knew exactly how much it would cost (we always covered shipping to and from). And that’s what I had in my head. Of course, it was almost always smaller stuff, and, now that I consider it, always in tightly sized and packed boxes. Head slap.

Of course it cost significantly more to ship than the LTL place had quoted – but boxed, it was too big to fit in my car to then drive the 27 miles I should have driven in the first place. But I wasn’t about to unpack it and start over. (I’m covering the cost difference – the fair price one pays for boneheadedness.)

That box is an embarrassment – but as long as what’s inside stays safe, I guess it’s good enough. And I am embarrassed by my stupidity – but I’ve learned a lesson; I guess that’s good, too.


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EAIA & ‘The Chronicle’

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After almost two decades at the helm, Patty MacLeish is retiring after the June 2018 issue as editor of The Chronicle, the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) scholarly journal. I could not be more pleased to have been selected as the new editor for the quarterly print publication, commencing with the September 2018 issue.

The EAIA was founded in 1933, when, according to the first issue of The Chronicle:

“At noon on August 31, 1933, there gathered at Wiggins’ Old Tavern, Northhampton, Massachusetts, a group of men and women interested in preserving for posterity the tools and implements used by our forefathers in maintaining life, as well as forming the adjuncts to life, now so sought by antiquarians….”

In other words, it’s a membership organization dedicated to preserving the implements that built this country, and sharing knowledge about their history and use.


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As an avid student of material culture (and in particular the material culture of the 17th and 18th centuries in all things, and in 19th-century woodworking tools), I couldn’t ask for a better fit with my personal interests and editorial experience – and I’m very much looking forward to learning lots…and quickly.

Right now, I’m reading through all the back issues of the The Chronicle to better familiarize myself with the content. I’ve been a member for a couple years, so I’ve read the recent issues (The Chronicle, along with Shavings, the quarterly EAIA newsletter, are included as part of a membership), but it’s fascinating to go back to beginning and learn about hatter’s tools (issue 2), gilding equipment (issue 10), processing flax (issue 17) and the history of bathtubs (issue 23). Issue 23 was in 1937 – so I still have a ways to go!

I’ll be meeting with Ms. MacLeish in May, at the annual meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to learn more about the publication’s production process and schedule, and to meet the board and other organization members. But just going through the issues is like meeting up with old friends…in fact, I am meeting up with old friends via the pages – Don Williams and Willard Anderson just can’t escape me (sorry guys)! And the author index (which I’ll also be updating with every issue) is a veritable “who’s who” of tool-knowledge royalty (Jay Gaynor, Jane Rees and John Whelan, to name just a few).

You’ll be hearing a lot more from me about EAIA in the months (and I hope years) to come. The content is for the most part produced by members, so if you’re a collector or scholar (or both) of historic trades, tools and implements, and are eager to share your knowledge, I’ll be wanting to hear from you. And I’ll be working with the long-time contributors, to build on the solid foundation that Ms. MacLeish has shepherded and helped to shape since 1999. I am quite honored (and not a little bit cowed) to be following her as editor.

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Still a Rude Mechanic

With only four issues a year, however, it is not a full-time position. So, I’ll still be working with Christopher Schwarz and John Hoffman at Lost Art Press, building (and with luck, also selling) furniture, editing for Joshua Klein at Mortise & Tenon Magazine, teaching a handful of classes (there are still two spaces available in my June 4-8 Traveling Tool Chest class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking), working on my house, and developing a couple of personal publishing projects…to be announced soon.

The woodworking hobo life is grand.

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Will Build (and Edit) to Suit


Dutch Tool Chest, open

The majority of my income now comes from freelance editing (and I have some woodworking-related writing projects in the pipeline), but I also like to make stuff. I built a fair number of large pieces during my tenure as managing editor at Popular Woodworking Magazine – and fewer when I was editor (meetings and administrivia took up a lot of time). You can see some of those on the “Woodworking Projects” page I’ve just added to my site.

With fewer meeting to attend, I’m enjoying more time in the shop; I’m helping Christopher Schwarz with some of his woodworking projects and doing a few of my own. I’ve just finished for a customer the Dutch Tool Chest pictured above, for example, and I’d be happy to make another (or 10). The price is $700 as pictured (no innards, commercial strap hinges and lifts), plus shipping. I’ll paint it any color that General Finishes offers in its “Milk Paint” – buyer’s choice. (Hardware upgrades, saw tills, tool racks etc. can all be added). The chest pictured here is Queenstown Grey.

I’d also be happy to make other shop and furniture pieces to suit, and to pick up more editing and writing work (woodworking or other). If I can be of help, please contact me at

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‘Elementary Turning’ by Frank Henry Selden

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I have turning on the brain – because after my bathroom is done, I’m out of excuses to not turn my attention back to the front staircase and entryway. When I bought the house, the entryway was split alongside the stairs, with the stairs enclosed by a wall up to the second-floor apartment.

When I tore out that 1950s wall, I had high hopes that the original spindles and handrail would be hidden behind the wall board. My hopes were dashed. So I put the bottom landing back like it once was, slapped together two temporary steps at the bottom, and turned my attention to other things.

For almost two years, I’ve been running up and down those stairs, hoping to not trip and fall over the side (and OK…using the back stairs most of the time – because the front stairs have become a staging area and storage facility for the second-floor work). Having those open has made it a lot easier to get large items upstairs (I have a piece of 1/2″ plywood that fits over the stained glass window to protect it during such times).


I also have to finish stripping off the weird 1950s plaster board, and the crumbling 1906 plaster, then make paneling to cover the side of the staircase (or re-plaster). And I definitely need to clean.

I have two large items to build still to be carried up: a linen cupboard for the hallway and a sink base for my bathroom. But once those are done, I have to turn between 34 and 48 spindles, depending on what I decide to do at the bottom landing – and I’m a novice turner.

That made me think of “Elementary Turning,” an out-of-copyright book I scanned for my former job – and I did that at home during off hours on my personal equipment. The print version we’d offered, for which I’d scanned it, is no longer available. This PDF, and the work that went into it, belongs to me.

I’m giving it to you.

“Elementary Turning,” by Frank Henry Selden, was published in 1907 as a textbook for shop class teachers. It offers 62 short lessons that walk you through the basics and more, from mounting the work in the lathe, to cutting basic shapes, to making curved mouldings.

You can download it below (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader v8 or newer to read it – if you don’t have Reader, download it free at this link).


I’ve read the Selden book and other turning tomes, and I’ve turned a few pieces (plus I got a lesson from Alf Sharp on turning the exact spindles I need). So it’s not like I don’t know how; I just prefer flat work. But I expect to be done by the end of the summer with the two aforementioned builds. So I guess that gives me about five months to come up with a new excuse.

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A Thousand Cuts

backwallAs a freelance editor without a steady income, what better decision than to hire tiling professionals for the bathroom renovation, I ask you? I’ve tiled a couple of bathrooms myself, after all, and they turned out pretty nice. But one was just the floor; the other was a shower with two tile walls, a glass panel on a third wall and a glass door, with a one- piece marble curb (and the floor). My neighbor loaned me his tile saw.

This one is significantly trickier (and no tile-saw-loaning neighbor). The 3′ x 7′ shower has four tiled walls (up to 7′) with two niches and a tiled curb, and the doorless shower entrance will be framed out all around with mitered bullnose on both sides. In the remaining 7′ x 10′ space, there is wainscoting up to 42″ on all four walls, two of which are old-fashioned not-at-all flat plaster (and one of which has a window around which to wrap), a black pencil liner, then bullnose. Oh – and the floor.


Maybe I could have done that? I wasn’t brave enough to find out.

The (highly unlikely) worst-case scenario is that this hobo woodworker/editor life doesn’t work out and I have to sell the place – it has to look better than pretty nice. And (knock on wood) if I stay, I want it done right and well for me.


But right and well takes time (and it would have taken me far longer). At least one tile guy has been here every day since Feb. 26, and most days, there are two. I’m told it will be done by this Friday (with the possibility of having to grout next Monday and clean up on Tuesday).

I can’t wait – I’m tired of having to time my trips to the one working-but-sans-door bathroom to match the guys’ trips outside to the tile saw.


I did do all the framing, and stripped, refinished, then installed the trim work. Of course.

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