Free Sample: 'Exercises in Wood-Working' - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Free Sample: 'Exercises in Wood-Working'

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Chris Schwarz Woodworking Classes, Required Reading, Woodworking Blogs

This has been one of our busiest years ever at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Plus, I have been in many foreign lands with exotic cultures and their own languages: France, England, North Carolina.

As a result of my travels, I haven’t had a chance to introduce you to some of the interesting stuff we have been working on in the wee hours, including a jumbo-sized project called “Exercises in Wood-Working.”

This was a book published in 1889 that was designed to give students at the College of the City of New York all the hand skills they need to become industrious Neanderthals. The core of the book is 39 exercises for you to complete , everything from crosscutting a board to veneering to fairing a boat’s hull.

These exercises are unlike a lot of woodworking books in that they focus on basic skills. Instead of building a cabinet to learn about tool , an overwhelming task , you square up a block of wood using a chisel to learn the more important lesson , how wood and steel relate to one another.

We’re re-publishing this great book in hardback form, printing it in the United States and selling it for a reasonable price, $17.99. The book should arrive in our warehouse next week. Until that day, you can pre-order the book for $14.39. Visit our store to order your copy.

But that’s not all. We’re shooting 15-minute videos that walk you through many of the exercises in the book. I’m the host (lucky you). To get in the spirit of this historic book, I don a tie for these exercises, and our video crew desaturated the colors so it looks a bit like vintage footage (but it’s not distracting , promise).

We’ve finished shooting the first eight exercises. The first three are available now as individual downloads in our store. Or you can wait a few weeks and we’ll be collecting the first eight exercises onto a DVD (which you can pre-order here at a discount in a package deal with the book).

To show you how useful these are, we’re giving away the text and illustrations for “Lesson 1: Use of the Chisel.” This is a fun lesson, even if you are an experienced chisel user. The object of the lesson is to square a board using only a chisel. There are some good tricks (including how to burnish the high spots with your try square).

You can download the text and drawings for free here.

Exercise1v2.pdf (148.76 KB)

If you’d like to purchase the video that accompanies Exercise 1, you can do that here in our store. The individual videos are $4.99 each and are downloaded instantly to your computer.

I’m having great fun with these exercises and am looking forward to the next batch of them that we’re shooting. I am not, however, looking forward to wearing that tie again.

– Christopher Schwarz

Purchasing Links:

– Pre-order the book: “Exercises in Wood-Working.”

– Pre-order the DVD of the first eight exercises.

– Download the first video: “Exercise 1: The Use of the Chisel.”

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Showing 20 comments
  • Harold C. Morris

    After reading this I went away for a couple hours, but it couldn’t stay away. I’ve been working wood for over 40 years. I don’t need to learn the basics anymore. I do remember though the process of learning the basics and it cost me a lot of time and money effort frustration I didn’t have videos, 40 years ago! Less than $200 to learn how to use chisels effectively that in itself would be a bargain. And for the Brian’s out there-what chisels sets do you own? My guess is the $9.95 set from cheap tools-r-us. I don’t own, even one chisel that cost that little! This is a very expensive sport get in the game or sit on the bench! Believe it or not I can see that these gentlemen are doing their best to make it as inexpensive as possible for the beginner! Hal Morris

  • Dan Miller

    I’ve got a question for Brian, How many basic woodworking classes have you taken for less than $196. I know my local woodworking school gives 4 day classes for anywhere from $400 to $800. The local community college gives woodworking classes which run about $150 for a class but then you add in parking and gas and you end up trashing the $196 mark.
    I’m not that young and I’ve been a wood guy my whole life. The information availible today has not been around for many may years and I for one ejoy the hell out of it. I suggest fishing as an alternative if this is too expensive.

  • Paul Laraman


    You are probably correct in your responses to the criticism which I suspect is a consequence of the abundance of free everything on the web. But Chris, you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Maybe I can recommend a book to you. Try " How to Win Friends and Influence People". I don’t remember Dale Carnegie increasing his sales by shouting at people.

    Keep up the good work. I greatly enjoy the mag. and website particularly anything that demonstrates traditional skills.

    Just a suugestion. To encourage the purchase of the book + videos what about posting – just a snippet if you feel so inclined – of the video so people can see what they would be getting in series.

    Paul L

  • Ed

    Recently, I asked Chris for a reference example of a site built early 20th century workbench. Without hesitation, Chris of course had an answer for me at the tips of his fingers. Some of you (Brian, Jack) might be shocked to discover that his answer did NOT include any workbench books authored or reprinted by himself, but those offered by Lee Valley.

    Some may recall how Santa, in Miracle On 34th Street, told customers to go to the other department stores to find what they wanted? The owners of the other stores thought he was up to something devious, but Santa was just trying to do the right thing.

    Chris (Kringle) Schwarz maybe,
    You decide…

  • LizPf

    I’ve been getting woodworking videos from our library, and finding snippets online.

    Chris’ videos are *dense* with information. In 15 minutes, he can pack all the instruction you can get in a 60-90 minute class … and you can ask for the info again without annoying the teacher. There’s no silent watching a guy make long cuts at the tablesaw … Chris fills every minute with advice.

    I tend to learn better from books, but if I buy anyone’s videos, they will be Chris’. They are definitely worth the money.

    Speaking of video, there’s a Lie-Neilsen interview of Chris on YouTube, where you mention your next project (I won’t spoil it) … when do we get details?

  • BryanS

    Much better, before it looked like you faxed a copy of the original and printed it on the worst laser printer you could find in like 1985.


  • Christopher Schwarz

    I added a higher resolution pdf above. Try that one and see if it’s easier to read.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    That’s a 72 dpi pdf. The printed version will be extremely nice at 1,200 dpi and professionally scanned and cleaned.

    I’ll try to pump up the resolution of the free pdf.

  • BryanS

    Please tell me the print quality in book is a lot better than in the pdf, because that’s going to make rough reading.

  • Dean

    I guess I’m missing something here. I’ve read the comments, but when I go to the purchase link, it shows an Exercises in Wood-Working Collection with an asking price of $34.38 (with the 20% discount). It says it includes the book and a DVD with 8 exercises “including the chisel, gouge, hammer, jack plane, plane, rip saw, and cross-cut saw”. I’m not sure what the 8th video is but it seems to me that covers a good portion of the basic hand tools. I think any other exercises, released in the near future, would be optional based on your interest and need.

    I can only say that for $34.38 it sounds like money well spent. Of course that’s assuming you are the right audience for this kind of book. I certainly am.

  • Anon

    For those who think these prices are to high, the best way to convey those thoughts is simply to not make the purchase. If enough like-minded people do the same, then either the price will fall to levels reasonable to you, or the product won’t be on the market.

    And if not enough like-minded people do that, and they find useful information at a price reasonable to them, and Chris and company put food on the table, well…why would you care?

  • jake rothermel

    The freakin` NERVE of you people wanting to eat …

  • Brian

    I understand that content costs something to produce and am more than willing to pay for it – I subscribe to the magazine and bought Chris’ workbench book. In fact, I have purchased over 50 woodworking books, and a dozen DVDs. But if you need to charge $5 for every 15 minutes of video to make a profit, your costs are way out of line. Videos showing demonstrations from a classic book is a cool idea – but when it gets to be a 3 figure amount for the full course I am baffled who the target market is. Certainly not me or my son. Very wealthy people who don’t know the absolute basics but have still somehow found their way here?

    Or, to phrase it another way – I love the magazine, but if you raise the subscription price to $75 a year I would drop it like a hot rock – and with 99% of all DVDs selling for $15-25 (and much less per disk in sets), the regular price of over $40 per two hour disk is way too large to swallow.

  • David Chdiester

    Keep the awesome magazines, books, and videos coming Chris! I’ll buy ’em!


    Don’t listen to the naysayers, Chris.

    Last time I checked, F+W didn’t put a gun to my temple forcing me to buy anything I didn’t want. It is amazing though, the sense of entitlement that the internet gives to some people.

    Guys, get real: content is NOT free and costs money to produce and get it out there. A lot of money actually. Plus, Chris has that annoying vice of wishing to eat everyday to keep that round figure of his (cough, cough!)

    Keep on producing some of the best the internet has to offer. For my part I will keep choosing what I want to buy based mostly on what I can afford.

    Thanks for the great work.

  • anon

    I think this is a case of the Popular Woodworking crew (and Lost Art Press in their own light) doing a good job of finding useful, out of print books and bringing them back to a target audience. In this case, the book is in the public domain, so if you’re too cheap to buy it, you can find the book on google books (that’s what I am doing to start at least).

    In exchange for money, you get an easy to read copy for those that don’t care to sit in front of a computer (or ipad) to read, and the instructional dvd(s) showing the actual how-to for those that are visual learners. The real value is bigger, and that is keeping information flowing to new woodworkers, including the next generation(s).

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I am completely unapologetic for what we do. We are a business that listens to customers.

    Readers ask us for video. We provide video. We cannot give away everything, or we would disappear in about a week.

    Readers ask for books. We make books.


    And on and on.

    If you like it, buy it. Don’t like it? Return it. Or don’t buy it.

    We provide lots of content for free here. More than five years of blogging right here. More than 500 articles on the craft.

    Sorry if this ticks you off, but I enjoy eating!


  • Christopher Schwarz

    Content costs money to make.

    Let me rephrase that: Good content takes money to make. If you think you can do better for less money, have at it.


  • Jack

    I have to agree with Brian. It seems like lately you folks are spending a lot of time selling stuff. First there is a book, then there is a series of DVDs, or you can download videos for a price,etc. Oh, I forgot the leather bound autographed copy of the book!


  • Brian

    So $18 for (out of copyright) book with 34 lessons, $42 for DVD with the first 8 lessons (meaning at least 3 more DVDs with 8-9 lessons each) – eventually only $196 for some basic woodworking lessions. Wow.

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