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 1snugthejoiner@gmail.com.

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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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Wenzloff & Sons Saw Kit for Sale

insideSo…that bathroom tiling job I’m fervently hoping to not have to do myself? (Because my deteriorating knees simply cannot take it.) It will cost a breathtakingly significant amount more than I was expecting. Enough more that I’m finally spurred to sell a few superfluous items in my collec….er, toolkit.

So on eBay, I’ve just posted a Wenzloff & Sons 18″ panel saw kit. If you’re interested, here’s the listing.

p.s. There will be more items to come – one saw does not a tiling job make (in fact it would take about 36 of them). My nostalgia and acquisitiveness have been overcome by my need.

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Changes (Good Ones) for Me


“Cut & Dried: A Woodworker’s Guide to Timber Technology” by Richard Jones. After editing the last few chapters on Sunday, I handed off the binder yesterday to Kara Gebhart Uhl, the managing editor on this project.

I enjoyed a delightful lunch yesterday (Otto’s – yum) with Christopher Schwarz and Kara Gebhart Uhl as we discussed changes at Lost Art Press (LAP), about which Chris posted yesterday on his blog. I’ve copy edited books for LAP for more than a decade, tucking that work into my available time – so late nights and weekends. Now, I’ll be doing that and more during the work day and work week…but I expect I’ll still work a lot of late nights and weekends; it’s in my nature.

I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since I was 16; this year, I’m turning 50. I’ve had many bosses in my 30+ years of employment, and Chris has been by far the best among them. We share a lot of the same interests (I like Shakespeare quite a bit more than does he, and he likes Russian novels; I do not. But that’s a minor disagreement), the same work ethic (though he has more energy) and many of the same ideas about how things should be done (most of which I learned/stole from him).

Now, I’m working with Chris again more closely, and I could not be more grateful to him and John Hoffman for it, and to Kara for welcoming my increased involvement.

But I don’t actually have a new boss, per se (unless you count my cats…who have long had that role); I get to work not with my boss, but with my good friend. When Chris left corporate America, he vowed to never again have or be an employee, and I wholly empathize. The small but dedicated cadre of editors, designers and researchers who work with John and Chris at LAP are freelancers/contractors. I’m happy to have more freelance work that I love, and glad that my increased involvement will free up Chris to research and write more – from that, we all will benefit.

In addition to my work with LAP, I’ll still be writing (it’s weird to be on the other side of pitches after 12 years as a magazine editor!), building furniture, teaching and doing other freelance editing (including an expanded role at Mortise & Tenon Magazine, for which I’m also thankful), along with a few personal projects that have long been on the back burner.

That door closing/opening saying? While I can’t bring myself to willfully use a cliché, that one would be apropos.


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Smacked by the Stupid Stick


It is with much chagrin that I share an old-house renovation lesson that I’ve just learned the hard way.

Today, my floor tile arrived. In prep for that installation, I need to install in the new doorway from my bedroom to the bathroom the jamb and stop assembly I removed from the former doorway from the hall. When I carefully removed it from its former location, I thought I was being really smart – it should be a perfect fit because I cut then framed the new opening at the exact same size. (And that will in turn make hanging the door a lot easier, given that it’s hung on that exact jamb since 1906.)

So I grabbed my hammer and a box of nails, and …dammit.

I was right that the jamb would be a perfect fit in the frame. But it’s too deep by about half the thickness of the plaster, plus the thickness of lath, that I removed.

I suppose I should have left as much lath in place as possible, and used thicker drywall for that wall. Or just used much thicker drywall.

Ah well. I’ll now have to add filler strips behind the bathroom-side casing so that it sits flush to the wall and jamb. I flushed the jamb to the other side, where the plaster is still at least semi-intact. I’m hoping the casing (also carefully removed from its former location) will cover up the bits there that are the “semi” of “semi-intact.”

Lesson learned. But I’ll likely forget it by the time I get around to the kitchen remodel.

p.s. See those pine 6-panel doors at the back of the picture? If anyone who lives w/in 200 miles or so of Cincinnati has the same (32″ x 83″, yellow pine, not covered with multiple paint layers) languishing in a basement or attic and wants them gone – let me know! I need a few more, and 6-panel doors of the right size and finish have proven devilishly hard to find in their original-ish state. Hoping to not have to strip…

Posted in Baths, Renovation/Restoration | 13 Comments