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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An Observation on Vintage Handplanes

Note: I started writing this blog entry more than a year ago. I shelved it and have revisited it several times since. Each time, I thought: I don’t need this kind of grief. For whatever reason (four beers, perhaps?), I offer this as an observation based on teaching students, both amateur and professional. For...

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A Correction to my Entry on Polissoirs

My recent article on the new polissoirs from Don’s Barn and a long-term test of the burnishing effect from the tool had a significant error: The photo showed the wrong sample board. That similar-looking sample board was given to me by woodworker Steve Schafer – he’ll be blogging about the finishing schedule on that...

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Make Yourself a Nice Polissoir

Reader Greg Merritt of Parkersburg, W. Va., drew up plans for making a nice-looking polissoir using broom corn and tarred nylon. The polissoir features two knots – a constrictor knot and a decorative Turk’s head knot, which are both easy to make. Merritt drew up complete instructions for making the polissoir and provided a...

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Polissoirs: New Models & a Long-term Test

Last weekend during the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Charleston, S.C., I completed three try squares and even applied the finish right at the bench using a polissoir (French for “polisher”). For the attendees who had never seen a polissoir or the surface it leaves behind, it was an eye-opener. Photographs don’t do the...

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Do it With Your Mortise Full

Here’s a basic trick for planing up the rails and stiles for your doors. If you use power sanders, move along quietly to some other blog entry. The random-orbit sander was pretty much invented to solve this problem that occurs in traditional work. So you’ve cut the joinery on your rails and stiles and...

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Nathaniel-Russell House’s Furniture Collection

The furniture history of Charleston, S.C., is both glorious and a bit sad. The city’s astonishing wealth fueled a top-tier level of craftsmanship before the Civil War. As the city fell on hard times, a lot of its furniture record was trucked away to other cities, losing its provenance and connection to the Holy...

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Building Roubo’s Campaign Bed at Fort Ticonderoga

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a week knows I have a thing for campaign-style furniture and the work of André Roubo, the 18th-century French woodworker and writer. Like many other 18th-century furniture writers, Roubo wrote a bit about campaign-style furniture, including beds, tables and chairs. I hope to build one...

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The Redneck Polissoir

Whenever I teach a class that involves turning, I like to show them how well the French “polissoir” can finish off your work on the lathe. A polissoir (say it poly-swaar) is a bundle of broom corn that is used to burnish a wooden surface to produce a tactile, low-lustre finish. While the polissoir...

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Work in Tight Spaces without Special Tools

When you have to work inside a carcase, there are a wide variety of specialty tools on the market – such as right-angle drills and drawer-lock chisels – to make your life easier. I try to keep a small tool kit. Not because I’m a tightwad. I’m not. But I travel a lot and...