Eckert Update

A couple of things jumped out at me from the latest email newsletter from Henry Eckert. (For those who are not familiar, Henry Eckert Fine Tools Australia are the resellers of Lie Nielsen handplanes and the like, and anyone who has been to a woodshow in Australia has either drooled over the collection of planes on offer, or avoided the stand like the plague knowing their wallet would otherwise explode with excitement!)

One is the latest offering from Lost Art Press (and the remarkable Chris Schwarz): Campaign Furniture. As Chris writes:

For almost 200 years, simple and sturdy pieces of campaign furniture were used by people all over the globe, and yet this remarkable furniture style is now almost unknown to most woodworkers and furniture designers.

“Campaign Furniture” seeks to restore this style to its proper place by introducing woodworkers to the simple lines, robust joinery and ingenious hardware that characterize campaign pieces. With more than 400 photos and drawings to explain the foundations of the style, the book provides plans for nine piece of classic campaign furniture, from the classic stackable chests of drawers to folding Roorkee chairs and collapsible bookcases.

In addition to all that, “Campaign Furniture” contains the first English-language translation of A.J.-Roubo’s 18th-century text on campaign pieces, plus original drawings of dozens of pieces of British campaign furniture culled from original copies of the Army & Navy stores catalogs.

Like all Lost Art Press books, “Campaign Furniture” is produced entirely in the United States. The book is in a 6” x 9” format and hardbound. The interior is full color and printed on paper that is heavy and coated with a matte finish for readability. The interior signatures are sewn for long-term durability.


The other is a tool care package with Camellia Oil, Tool Polish, and cloths etc to apply, and containers to store. While Silbergleit (Silver Glide) is great on cast iron tools, I hear Camellia oil is also exceptional, penetrating the surface microfissures to really protect against rust/corrosion.

Like “new car smell”, fresh “cast iron gleam” is both very impressive, and equally fleeting (if not a lot faster!), and although Silbergleit protects and lubricates, it is Camellia oil that places like Carbatec turn to, to keep the shop floor tools in new (and cast-iron fresh) condition.


Grandpa’s Workshop

It has taken some time since I first became aware of this book (through updates during it’s production given by Chris Schwarz on the Lost Art Press blog) for me to finally get around to purchasing a copy.  At last weekend’s Hand Tool event, I asked at the Henry Eckert stand if they had bought “Grandpa’s Workshop” along with the other Lost Art Press books and DVDs they had (and stock).  Unfortunately they hadn’t, but as soon as they got back after the event, it was on its way and sitting at my front door yesterday.

Grandpa's Workshop cover

Grandpa’s Workshop

It is a children’s story, but real-life experiences of the author is apparent in the text as well, the sights, sounds and emotions of being in and around the workshop of a grandfather or similar figure.

Some of the stories told by the Grandfather are pure fantasy, others very much about the stories the tools would tell of their own history, and stories of the history of the boy’s family and ancestors.  As I read the book to my daughter, I hold a hope that one day she will find herself brushing sawdust from her clothes, and remember her father, and grandfather did the same and to continue to pass on a love to being able to physically create through wielding simple tools and working with natural materials.

The illustrations create a very rich experience, obviously meaning a lot more to me than my young charge, but even so, being able to show that I too have tools very similar in shape and function to those depicted in the stories must add a dimension to the stories.  My tools may not have the same history as Pepere’s, but hopefully they will be passed down through the ages so that one day, they too will have many stories to tell.

Wooden Tools

It doesn’t matter when the story was originally written, the language originally used, the country it was set in – the workshop Pepere occupies is as familiar as the one so many of us also occupy, complete with corners of tools no longer required, in a cobweb and dust shroud, and the “couldcomeinhandys”

This may be a children’s story, but it is very much one that so many of us can intimately relate to, and if you are fortunate to have children or grandchildren that you can share this story with, your experience of the book would be so much richer.  But even if not, this children’s story is one we can all read, appreciate and enjoy.

Grandpa & ChildIs it just me, but does the boy look like a young Tintin?


Close Encounters of the Schwarz Kind

Chris Schwarz is down under this month, and although I wasn’t in a position to go on one of the courses on offer, there are a lucky few that are.

There is still the Shaker Wall Cabinet course with a few vacancies if anyone is interested.

220px_Wall_Cabinet_v2.110419-1There is also a Melbourne Hand Tool Event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, which will have Chris in attendance.  Unfortunately we don’t know when that is actually on – they forgot to put the dates in their newsletter, and their website hasn’t been updated since 2011!  If I hear a current date, will let you know (check the comments).

Chris is also hosting a seminar at Eley Community Centre on the 28th March, 6-9pm. Not sure if there is a cost involved.


The Anarchist

On yet another flight carrying me away from the shed, it proved the perfect opportunity to begin reading my new copy of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Chris Schwarz

Confronting book, because he starts off in the same place many of us are – a shed that is too small with many tools and jigs, and a shortage of space.

He then gets into tool purchases, and his many many MANY false avenues he has been down. He soon gets into one of his passions – hand tools, and particularly hand planes. As he described the standard collection of planes you wanted, I was rather buoyed to realise that by good fortune, or good planning, the HNT Gordon planes I had purchased so far over the years fitted neatly into the basic categories (I’d like to think good planning!)

Basic stock preparation: the Jack Plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane

Flattening stock and edging: The trying plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Trying Plane

Smoothing the result, ready for finishing: The smoothing plane (eg Stanley #5)

What I have:

HNT Gordon Smoothing Plane

So simply, I have no excuse not to try these tools more, become reasonably proficient with them. Given I have a few blades, I may be able to choose one to put a slight camber on it for improved jack plane performance, but will check with Terry’s site before doing that.
I am sure there is a whole heap more that I will learn, or discover during the journey.

Rest assured, I don’t intend to become a hand tool fanatic, shunning power tools (I enjoy the machinery too much). Nor am I planning relocation of shed tools!

Anarchy in the Shed

While walking past the Lie Nielsen stand at the show, half buried under another book, a nondescript cover and logo caught my eye.



To most, that understated cover means very little, certainly not something worth even a casual glance.  But behind that symbol lies a much greater story

The Anarchist's Tool Chest

The Anarchist’s Tool Chest

The book was the Anarchist’s Tool Chest, by Chris Schwarz.

To be honest, I doubt even 2 seconds passed before I had decided to buy it.  I know it is out in a number of formats (electronic), but I don’t think the real essence of the book can be conveyed in any other format than a physical, hardcover tome.

It is part journey, part instruction manual, part woodworking philosophy.  I expect to be challenged by the book to consider my workshop, to reassess tools that I have (not necessarily to part with them), and to develop a desire to construct an Anarchist’s tool chest of my own.

One Cut

Sick of sawing back and forth like crazy when cutting dovetails (or other short cuts)?

Check out this video of a Lie Nielsen “One Stroke” dovetail saw.  No doubt it was an April Fools joke, still funny as!

Chris Schwarz has found another use for it – gang-cutting dovetails.

The Sound of this Photograph

OK now, before we get started here I want you all to gather around there behind the bench. Like a family photo. We are going to gang-cut all the dovetails on all your tail boards with this one saw from Lie-Nielsen.

Yup. One cut. One and done. And you are going to be amazed.

Yup. Look amazed. Chris, drop your left hand there so we can see the saw in all its awesomeness.

Now remember folks this is amazing. Look amazed. Ready?

Chris Schwarz Gang Cut

Chris Schwarz Gang Cut

Reminds me of a few other tools created for the same task, such as this one from Veritas

Veritas Gang saw

Veritas Gang saw


From Design & Theory to Construction & Use

This is a book I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for a while, and in the end I had to give up on Lost Art Press returning my correspondence (I was trying to buy a deluxe edition), and instead settled for the non-deluxe version from Booktopia (which is still hardback, and has everything except the accompanying CD).

Chris Schwarz is the editor of Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine, and this is his first book, and it certainly sets the standard for his future publications!

Detailed with a collection of well shot black & white photos with titles such as “Benches are Boring” (for one where a drill is being used), “Walk the Dog” (not what you’d think, or even the second thing…) and “Look Ma, no Tenon Saw”, they are specifically descriptive while maintaining an informality or almost irreverence which is particularly appealing.

The book covers a wide variety of design choices, and their historical roots and for that alone it is a fascinating read, but what it delivers in spades is inspiration, and having a tomb that approaches each aspect of workbench design so you can come up with you own ultimate design, either sticking with one of the traditional designs, or stealing concepts from all over.

This is not a “how to” though – don’t get it expecting dimensions, purchasing lists, and a set of build instructions.  (Perhaps that is on the absent CD).  This is a study of the principles of workbench design and construction.

If anyone gets to talk to Chris, I’d be happy to pay the difference in price between the standard and deluxe versions of the book for a legitimate copy – I certainly didn’t choose the non-deluxe version by choice.

Back to the book – I haven’t begun absorbing all the content of it – and instead have been enjoying dipping in and out, reading across the range of topics, and starting to imagine the bench that is still currently shrouded in a slowly clearing mist.

Bench Vices

I’ve been looking through the web at a lot of different types, styles, and prices! of bench vices, and it raises as many questions as get answered.

Wonder how many vices is too many on a bench?

So far I have been looking at tail vices, leg vices, wagon vices and end vices. Sure is a massive range of options out there.

A leg vice is just that – a vice on the leg of the workbench (or at least a vertical component of the bench). It seems that this is one that contains very little metal components, and can possibly be made easily, although achieving a quality product such as this isn’t within most people’s capabilities

BenchCrafted make some real quality-looking vices (and have a price tag to prove it).  The examples of their products really showcase some of the different vice types.

Leg Vice Closed

Leg Vice Closed

From this, and the following photo, you can see just how simple the leg vice is.  A pivot point at the bottom means there is a very large jaw area for vertically-held boards.  A simple threaded rod is the main component of the vice. On the BenchCrafted website, there are a couple of videos of this clamp in action – very impressive – smooth operation, and I can really see where the wheel comes into its own (rather than a standard bar/handle).  There is no question you can achieve sufficient clamping force with a wheel-actuated mechanism.  The lower pin is set and ensures the vice tightens at the top of the leg, rather than the bottom, and you choose the hole for the pin based on the thickness of the material to be clamped.

Wide opening w parallel jaw

Wide opening w parallel jaw

What I find really interesting with the better designed leg clamps such as the BenchCrafted is the ability to move the lower pivot point out by an equal distance to the width of the material, resulting in a jaw that remains parallel to the work being clamped (In the BenchCrafted case, there is no lower pivot per say (other than the stop-bar)).  Poorer designed leg clamps don’t have this ability, so are quickly rendered ineffective when the item to be clamped becomes too thick.

BenchCrafted Leg Vice Mechanism

BenchCrafted Leg Vice Mechanism (the "Glide")

A tail vice makes use of the bench corner, and is used to clamp items such a drawers within the jaws, or long items along the top of the bench, with bench dogs supporting the other end of the item.  There are some different designs, but this seems to be a good version of one.

Frank Klausz Tail Vice

Frank Klausz style Tail Vice

Some tail vices are designed so they are flush with the corner when fully closed. Now a similar design and mechanism is an interesting concept for joinery, and is called a wagon vice. The jaw runs in a track fully contained within the table, and unlike the end vice where it is said over time there can be some sag, or looseness creep in, and particularly with the tail vice, that portion of the bench is not usable for other (read hammering-like) activities.

Wagon Vice

Wagon Vice

Other than the obvious clamping ability – between the bench dogs for planing/scraping work on the benchtop, you can drop a board vertically through the slot in the table and use the wagon vice for other activities, such as handcutting dovetails.

BenchCrafted Wagon Vice Mechanism

BenchCrafted Wagon Vice Mechanism

The final vice of current interest is the end vice.  It can take up the entire end of the vice, or the same mechanism can be used on the side of the vice.

Irrespective, the typical standout vice for this is the Veritas twin-screw vice.  It is kept parallel with uniform clamping pressure by the use of a chain-connected twin screw. Originally the Veritas clamp had a plastic chain cover, but rightly so, purchasers of the vice jumped up and down, and the clamp is now supplied with an aluminium chain casing.  I must admit that I was put off by the plastic housing, so am pleased to hear it is now something more substantial. (In the next 2 photos, the first has an aluminium housing, the second a plastic one)

Veritas Twin Screw End Vice

Veritas Twin Screw End Vice

Veritas Bench from Workbench World

Veritas Bench from

This is an interesting bench, by Matthew Sanfilippo incorporating the Veritas vice (used here in the primary vice position, rather than on the end), and a tool tidy which does not extend the length of the bench which I thought was an elegant solution. Oh to have a workshop large enouh to contain such as this.

Workbench Example

Workbench Example

This workbench has been designed with significant influence from Christopher Schwarz’ book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” which I am definitely planning on tracking down. In the meantime, you can read a couple of chapters from the book here: Chapter 1, Chapter 9. If you can track down the deluxe edition, it includes a CD with plans and extra example images of a workbench construction.

Chis Schwartz Workbench Book

Chris Schwarz Workbench Book

Finally, a bench of particular interest is this one, again by BenchCrafted, which obviously incorporates their different vices.  Their blog has a really nice breakdown description and photo set of the bench being made.

BenchCrafted Display Workbench

BenchCrafted Display Workbench

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