Chris Schwarz's Blog

Unlock the Secrets of the 1830s

The 1830s marked one of the pivotal moments in the history of American furniture. As the country took its first steps toward industrializing, tastes in everything , from architecture to clothing to design , took a turn for the radical.

In fact, some historians say that this moment is when our world transformed from a culture based on wood to one based on metal (and later synthetics).

In the Autumn 2009 issue we visit this important decade to tie together several interesting threads of information that we think will make you a more thoughtful craftsman, designer and (perhaps) person. Here are some of the highlights of the issue. If you subscribe by July 3, you’ll be sure to receive this issue in your mailbox.

The 1839 School Box
Thanks to some industrious digging by a book collector, we uncovered a fascinating work of fiction that chronicled the life of an apprentice joiner in 1839 England. The most intriguing part of the book is that it includes plans for three projects with detailed instructions. Build these three projects and you’ll have an excellent foundation in hand joinery. In this issue, we present the school box featured in the book.

Review: Carcase Saws
Should carcase saws even exist? Peter Nicholson’s 1832 masterwork “The Mechanic’s Companion” makes no mention of saws that have a special crosscut tooth like the one featured on carcase saws. It seems that this saw was developed sometime later. We review the current crop of carcase saws and discuss the development of “fleam,” which makes a rip tooth into a crosscut saw.

Working Across the Grain
Most woodworkers avoid surfacing a board across the grain, whether they are holding a belt sander, a sanding block, a scraper or a jack plane. Why is this? We probe into the history of this type of operation and tell you why you should take a cue from the 1837 Skinner patent for a veneer slicer.

Also in the Issue:
Shop Built Layout Tools

For centuries, woodworkers made their own squares and straightedges. We want to revive that tradition and show you how easy it is to make accurate, lightweight tools.

Finishing Recipes: Turpentine or Mineral Spirits?
Turpentine , made from tree sap , is the traditional thinner. Besides the smell, is there any real difference between it and mineral spirits? We investigate and share the inexpensive homemade finish we use in our shop.

White Water Shaker Village
We pay a visit to the mostly unknown White Water Shaker Village, which is in the beginning stages of restoration. We share photos of never-before-seen furniture pieces and probe the mindset of the builders of these circa 1830 structures.

Plus, Shortcuts, Letters and the Back Cover, which shows you some layout tricks you’ve never seen before.

– Christopher Schwarz

6 thoughts on “Unlock the Secrets of the 1830s

  1. Tom Fidgen

    Just needed to comment on the above.
    This sounds like an issue I cannot afford to miss…
    what a preview!!
    Seriously, well done – I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

  2. Megan

    If you’ll e-mail me (, we can try to figure out how to stop that from happening – and sorry for the annoyance.

  3. Michael Redmond

    Why is there suddenly adverts flashing on top of these articles when I open them as a web page.

  4. Mike

    Ha–trying to send us to your internal server, eh?

    Looking forward to the issue. And heck, a Bible box in PopWood and a School box in WM. What’s not to love?

    Especially when I need to make a bunch of boxes for this year’s Christmas.

Comments are closed.