Chris Schwarz's Blog

Yearn to Turn? Here's the Book for You

Despite the fact that I
stink at turning, I still keep at it. Sharpening the tools is no
problem. And I can make basic shapes. What vexes me is combining the
shapes to create the spindles I want for my chairs.

I have read
books (lots of them) on turning that are written by the big names. I’ve
watched videos. I’ve practiced. But I still feel like I’m missing some
part of the foundation I need to do good work.

Then earlier this year one of my students in a class turned me onto a book that was a game-changer. It’s called “Elementary Turning for Use in Manual Training Classes” by Frank Henry Selden. It took some effort to find the book because it’s not very common.

But
once I got my hands on it, it was like the day I first learned to
sharpen a smoothing plane and took a perfect and wispy shaving.

This
book is aimed at morons like myself. People who don’t have a knack for
turning (like my boss, Steve Shanesy). It assumes you know nothing. And
it builds you up from there. No detail is too small to mention to a
moron, so the book is perfect for me.

The best thing about it is
that the entire book is broken down into 62 brief and self-contained
lessons for you to perform on a lathe. The first 17 lessons are making
basic shapes. The lessons have names like “Three-eighths-inch Bead” and
“Spindle with Cones.” Then gradually the lessons become more complex to
create objects that might actually be useful, such as “Porch Spindle” or
“Plain Goblet.”

After you learn to make components, you learn to
make them in multiples in lessons such as “Napkin Rings,” “Chair Legs”
and “Designs for Footstool Legs.” And then you make entire projects,
wrapping up your education with a Piano Stool.

For a book from 1907, it is profusely illustrated with photos and drawings of every operation.

After
reading this book, I was so excited that I insisted that we find a way
to get this book re-published, even though it wasn’t on our publication
schedule for 2010. After some sweet-talking and cajoling, I succeeded.
We sent my personal volume out to our high-resolution scanning service
(it’s the service that did the outstanding work on our “Exercises in
Wood-Working” book). And they spent more than a week cleaning up the
scans and photos.

We’ll be publishing this product through a
“print on demand” service here in the United States as an experiment to
keep down costs and get this product to market quickly. The book is
available for pre-order in our store right now for $17.99. You can get
it from our store here.

I’m
quite excited about this book for two reasons. One: I can share this
really great 198-page book with our readers, especially the ones who
struggle with turning like I do. And two: I got my original copy back so
I can get back to working my way through the lessons.

— Christopher Schwarz

7 thoughts on “Yearn to Turn? Here's the Book for You

  1. Sidney

    In a Aug 2007 Popular Woodworking article, Don Weber described constructing a bowl lath from bicycle parts and wood. With some thought, this could easily be converted to work like the metal treadle lath shown on the cover. Definetely one of my future dream projects.

  2. Christopher Schwarz

    Gene,

    LAP doesn’t do reprints. We reset the entire book, we re-do the artwork if necessary, we build it from the ground up. That’s just the way I work.

    This book was one that I considered re-setting, but it would about three years down the road (after Roubo’s two volumes) etc.

    So it was for expediency.

  3. Gene

    Just out of curiosity…. What drove the decision to publish through FW Media instead of Lost Art Press? This seems like the type of thing that would really hit the LAP sweet spot.

    Always interested in seeing how the sausage gets made….

  4. Marty

    Hi, Chris -

    GREAT CALL on using print-on-demand for this title. Definitely makes it a win-win for FW Media and the readership. FW Media doesn’t have to take a risk on a big press run, and We the Readership gain access to what sounds like a rockin’ good lathe book.

    All Hail the Long Tail! http://www.longtail.com/about.html

  5. John Cashman

    Chris, I haven’t seen a print on demand first-hand, but was under the impression that they may not include the photographs from the original book. Is this the case? It was certainly be missing a lot if the photos weren’t there.

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