Chris Schwarz Blog

Chris Schwarz's Blog

Christopher Schwarz (the long-time editor and now contributing editor to Popular Woodworking) has been writing this woodworking blog continually since 2005. He covers the world of hand work, plus he writes about building furniture, visiting tool makers, and his travels. Long a woodworker of traditional techniques, Schwarz is dedicated to restoring the fine hand woodworking skills that have slowly disappeared from woodshops in the latter half of the 20th century. He is a firm believer in the role traditional tools play in the modern shop.

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Avoid Splintering with a Handsaw

There are two woodworking tools that we have forgotten the most about in the last 50 years: the steel framing square and the handsaw. The steel framing square is essentially a jobsite calculator, and you can get up to speed on what it can do with one of several books. But handsaws are trickier...


Holdfast Holes: Where Should They be Located?

You don’t need a lot of holdfast holes to hold most work on your bench. In fact, I’ve found that somewhere between eight and 10 holes is more than enough for most work. And if I used a tail vise, I probably could get away with just two or three holdfast holes. The topic...


Disassemble Heavy Joints

Sometimes you can get a joint together no problem. But getting it apart is another matter. With the joints for a heavy French workbench, disassembling a test-fit gives many beginning woodworkers a fit. Many times they end up slamming hammers or mallets on places that are easily bruised (including their hands). The easiest way...


Pare Odd Corners With a Homemade Jig

The sliding dovetail joint on the heavy French workbench is one of its most distinctive features. And if you mess it up, everyone will notice. So today I took an hour to pare the female part of the joint with some care to get a tight fit with the male part on the leg....


Eleventy-hundred Benches Later, a New Glue

I know that some day I’ll perfect building these simple French workbenches, but it won’t be today. After 10 years of making benches by myself and in groups, I’m finding new strategies for making them better. The last time we built these French oak workbenches the wood was wet – sometimes out of the...


The Best Jointer Fence I’ve Used

All stock jointer fences stink. No matter how tightly you crank them down or how gingerly you treat them, they won’t remain square to the tables. Why? Because they can be adjusted off 90°. Anything that can be adjusted will eventually go out of adjustment. So today at the French Oak Roubo Project, we...


Big Workbenches Need Big Machines

This week a team of 25 woodworkers is in Barnesville, Ga., to build 17 massive French workbenches using ancient oak imported from France and every bit of machinery muscle we can get. I love hand tools, but when it comes to moving around 400-pound slabs of oak, I’m happy to see a forklift coming...

The commercial chair as purchased.

A Happy Ending for a Terrible Chair

Upholsterer Mike Mascelli was kind enough to send along some photos of what happened in his class to the terrible chair frame I wrote about this week. It’s a bit like the story of George Washington’s axe in a museum. After George died, the next owner wore out the head and replaced it. The...