Grave Undertaking

glueupsThis weekend, I’m teaching a coffin-making class – and those who choose to will re-purpose their pine boxes as bookcases until they’re needed for their intended purpose. (Mine is going on my front porch until Nov. 1; then I’ll add shelves.)

I thought it would be fun to do these just in time for Halloween, but I made a grave mistake by putting off prep until today.  I was thinking of prep in terms of my measurements. Assuming I don’t gain a lot of weight between now and my end, I can fit inside a 2-board bottom and top, and single-board sides (1x12s). But I am 5’6″ (or at least I was at age 30) and not terribly muscular (or on the particularly heavy side); all of the students in this class are men, and thus likely larger in all dimensions.

So I’m basing the rough lengths off Christopher Schwarz’s height (he is (was?) 6’3-5/8″) and the rough widths of someone slightly less than William Howard Taft’s approximate girth (in 1928…not now; he’s probably lost a lot of weight in the last 90 years). That should account for a range of shapes and sizes. But that means 28 panel glue-ups, some of them three boards wide. Turns out, one can get blisters from clamps – but that won’t kill me. And if it does, well, mine are the shorter and narrower pieces – just build it around me.

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A Place to Put my Stuff

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After finally “finishing” the worst drywall patching in the history of drywall patching, I’m ready to start on the built-in closet that will cover up my shoddy patch job and make use of this dead-end hallway on the backside of my shower by providing linen storage. (Right now, my extra sheets and towels are in inconvenient plastic tubs under my bed.)

I perhaps ought to be more ashamed of my drywall work…but I wasn’t planning on putting up any in this space; what’s here is simply what was left over from the bathroom. And I’m not bothering to tape or mud it; it will be completely covered, top to bottom and side to side.

The built-in will basically be two big plywood boxes, with a face frame out of reclaimed Southern yellow pine to match the rest of the trim in the house. The bottom cabinet will have three drawers; the top will have two doors with a center fixed shelf, and three adjustable shelves. In between (on reader recommendations from an earlier post), I’ve decided on a pull-out shelf for folding towels or what have you. (I first drew a drop-down front, but didn’t like the look of the supporting lopers.)

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Side, back and top removed.

The wide rail at the top will get an applied casing and mouldings just like those atop all my door frames, flush to the ceiling (I’ve had a salvage one, er, seasoning in the basement for a year now…).

I have the SYP for the face frame and door rails and stiles – and best of all (if I can make the frames without mucking it up), it already has a perfect patinated period finish. I’m  hoping to find the same for the drawer fronts and door panels – or at least SYP from the right period. (I have a matching finish formula worked out…but wouldn’t it be glorious to not have to use it!)

In the meantime, I have some big-ass boxes to build and lots of plywood to waste.

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Sub-optimal “optimization.”

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Jan.-June 2019 Classes at Lost Art Press

Just in case there’s anyone who follows me who doesn’t also follow the Lost Art Press blog (which seems unlikely…).

Lost Art Press

IMG_0340 Students in Will Myers’ October 2018 Shaker Candlestand class.

I know it looks as if we’re running a woodworking school, but when classes aren’t going on (which truly is the majority of the time), the Lost Art Press storefront is Christopher Schwarz’s working woodshop and publishing office where he develops furniture ideas for new book, and works on editorial and design for upcoming titles. (And he generously allows Brendan Gaffney and me to hang out there and produce shavings, too.)

But the classes are a lot of fun…so we’ve added a few more for 2019, including several from Chris, who’s easing back into teaching after a couple of years of taking it easy (on that front, anyway), along with some guest instructors (including Roy Underhill, and the return of Chris Williams from Wales!). Plus, we’ve added a handful of one-day, three-day and week-long classes. Almost all the classes have room…

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Reader, I Did It

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I’m headed back to Building Value on Monday morning to take apart then transport these columns and knee walls to my foyer…where they will no doubt sit for a little while before I get around to installing them.

I decided I couldn’t pass on this salvage unit – especially after I talked the manager down a bit in price – even though it’s not a perfect fit.  The column and base assemblies are about 16″ too short, and the unit as it stands now is about 40″ too narrow, so I’ll be removing the frame around the unit, and attaching the knee walls and columns directly to the walls. Plus, I’ll build up the base for the knee walls to a height suitable for bookcases – which is what I wanted to begin with – using some of that frame. I’ll also remove the frame-and-panel assembly from one face of the current knee wall, then use it as the back (or front, depending on which side you stand) of the new base portion.

That rest of that 10″-wide old-growth Southern yellow pine frame will be repurposed as the face frame for the (still to be built) built-in linen closet in my upstairs hallway – the finish (and the wood) matches all the other woodwork in my house.

And if there’s any left after the above, I’ll no doubt find a use for it.

Arguably, as a self-employed hobo, I should have just let it go…but I know I’d regret it for years to come (those columns are in darn-near perfect condition!). And I recently finished a delightful and unexpected assignment that helped to cover the cost. Unbudgeted income (plus a little more) for an unbudgeted expenditure – a fair trade.

Chris, I hope you don’t mind that I’m borrowing your truck (I only wish I could borrow you on Monday, too – bet you’re glad to be out of the country)!

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Reader, Should I?


Please ignore the mess. Oh…and I have plenty “Mechanic’s Companion” available…the sales of which would help 😉

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I live in a circa 1906 house that I’ve been restoring from a 1950s two-family conversion back to a one family (which in my case consists of me and some cats).

Right now, I’m meant to be putting the finishing touches on the two new upstairs bathrooms, working on a built-in linen closet for the hallway, then tackling the spindles and handrail for the front stairs.


Far down on my reno list is doing something with the large opening between the front hall and the living room (see above). Originally, there were likely either columns atop knee walls there (like the house two doors down to my right) or a slightly smaller opening and pocket doors (like the houses one and four doors down to my left). I can’t put in pocket doors; there is HVAC ducting and wiring now in the walls. So I’ve been planning to someday put in knee walls and columns, and perhaps those knee walls would be bookcases, with glass doors.


Yesterday, I visited a local salvage place to donate some stuff I don’t need. I should not have looked around. There, tucked in tightly behind other stuff (so tightly that I couldn’t get a good picture) are two columns atop (non-bookcase) knee walls. And the fit is off by only a little  – an easy fix by eschewing the three-sided frame, and having the bits connect directly to the plaster walls and header (And OK, adding a small base…but that’s simple).

The price – $900. I can’t build these for $900 (heck – I’m not even sure I can build the columns at all…not that I’ve ever let that stop me before!). But I have become markedly parsimonious in my self-employment, and this reno job is near the bottom my list (because it’s not truly necessary). Still…what are the odds on the (almost) exact thing I want ever again becoming available?

I’m leaning toward yes. (But if I fret over it long enough, someone else will buy them…problem solved!)

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2019 Woodworking Classes

IMG_0140 copyOn October 8, we’ll be releasing the list of January through June 2019 woodworking classes at Lost Art Press, for which registration will be live at 10 a.m. EDT on October 12. But I’m waiting on a few class descriptions from visiting instructors, so it’s possible there will be a few more first half of 2019 classes announced a bit later this year. I don’t want mine to be among those stragglers, so I’m finishing up my descriptions today.

I do this coming off a hard-working weekend of Dutch tool chest building…in which we got soveryclosetodone, but to get there, we had to work late on Saturday, and on Sunday, Christopher Schwarz and I sped things along by using the machinery for some of the operations. That way,  everyone could leave with an almost-finished chest (they’ll be attaching the lifts and lids at home). And the same thing happened earlier this year. Two days is just not enough time.

So for 2019, I’m changing the Dutch tool chest class to a three-day event ($450 plus materials). That will provide ample time for all the intended operations to be performed by hand, I won’t have to get out the whip, and we’ll get the lids attached. And because I am a glutton for lots of wood prep, I’ll be teaching it three* times: February 22-24; June 14-16; November 15-17.

I’ll also be teaching: Shaker Hanging Cabinet, Boarded Bookcase, 6-board Chest, and two week-long classes in a full-size English tool chest – a.k.a. “the Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

Check the Lost Art Press blog (and here) on October 8 for details on my classes, plus classes from Brendan Gaffney, Christopher Schwarz and a handful of visiting woodworking luminaries.

* I’ll also be teaching a week-long class in the Dutch tool chest June 24-28 at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking; that fancier version will have a lid with breadboard ends, plus we’ll have time to properly outfit and customize the interiors (the description will soon be up on the school’s site).

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Video: Peter Follansbee Riving Oak Boards

PFIn the midst of cleaning out my virtual files, I came across the video below of Peter Follansbee showing how to rive boards out of oak . It’s 114.7 MB for which I don’t have room on my computer, so I’m sharing it here.

I shot it during a 2011 class with Peter on making a joint stool from a tree…coincidentally the title of a Lost Art Press book co-authored by Peter and Jennie Alexander.

Peter is just about done with his initial work on another book, tentatively titled “Joiner’s Work,” on making joined and carved chests (and I’m just about done with its initial edit) – so look for that soonish, likely early 2019, from Lost Art Press.

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