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Writing letters longhand is one of life’s simple pleasures, as is building this traditional lap desk. The portable writing desk was an integral part of 18th and 19th century life, when writing was the only form of long-distance communication.
The portable desks needed to be sturdy and lightweight, hold stationery and writing utensils, and have a place for people to write easily. While you might not abandon your laptop computer for this more traditional item, it is an excellent place to write holiday cards, thank-you notes and personal correspondence. Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks continues to turn back the clock (a good thing in the world of hand-tool woodworking). The bench will be more expensive than the two styles now offered by Lie-Nielsen, a European bench starting at $2,000, and a David Charlesworth-style bench for $1,500. But if you’ve seen these benches at shows or in other shops, you know that the quality justifies the wait.
Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press.
Very interesting to see how quickly after being reintroduced by The Schwarz that Roubo went more or less mainstream. When Roy Underhill went to a Shaker Village, he showed some footage of a Roubo bench, and the leg vise was particularly interesting. Even if they don’t sell thousands of these benches, at least thousands of woodworkers will see this bench and, hopefully, be drawn to its design.
I loved your book, but the one thing you didn’t explain was how to build a bench for hand tool (or power tool) woodworking using hand tools without having a bench to work on.
In all seriousness, there are several reasons I am really glad they are offering this bench, and it really looks like a wonderful bench. At long last, it looks like someone is offering a bench for sale that is as good as one you can make yourself. You know, having a lot of catalogs (wish books?) can trigger consumer behavior not quite intended by the company – buy lumber and build your own workbench.
As I was sweeping up my shop today I noticed how my cabinet saw was starting to become a dedicated sharpening station. This seems all well and good, but I feel like I must speak out as the lone woodworker who also has to do home repairs. So my hats off to all of you woodworkers who can manage to just do the woodworking but avoid getting involved in all the house projects around the home! Ansaldi & Sons carries several forms of pulls – I ordered the classic shape, which is a brass-plated zinc casting.
These have the nice ogee shape that appears on some chests, and they have nice weight and a handmade feel. I also picked up a 6” chest lift from Ansaldi to see how it compared to the one I purchased from Horton.
Chill, Sounds like Chris is just disclosing the facts and being objective (you know, like a journalist should).
Or even better, hire a local blacksmith, machine shop or retired shop teacher to make these for you. Regarding coloring hardware, are you referring to “Aging Hardware – Arkansas-style”, as described on the lost art press blog or is there an indoor method? I own Londonderry Brasses, Ltd and I would be happy to share my secret for getting a good color on brass hardware. The bench plane has three jobs in the woodshop: to straighten the wood, to smooth it and to remove it. Add into the mix all the new bevel-up bench planes that are available in the catalogs now, and it’s bewildering enough to make you want to cuddle up close to your belt sander. Believe it or not, there is a way to make sense of all the different sizes and configurations of bench planes out there and to select the few that you need in your shop.
In this article, I’m going to walk through the entire line of forms of the metallic-bodied bench planes and describe what each tool is good for.
You can actually get your hand comfortably around the tote and work the controls with great ease. This is a terrific guide for anyone wanting to get an idea of what they need and why (or why not), especially for anyone starting out.
I also learned that my #6 isn’t as mysterious as I thought it was (and now, to find a scraper insert for it!). Given that this was posted over four years ago, I’m really surprised that no comments have been posted yet.
The big myth in woodworking is that there is a magic tool that will make a difficult task easy, or that the right assortment of tools will deliver mastery of the craft. If you start with a bunch of saws for example, the chances are good that your skills and knowledge won’t develop.

Speaking of being green behind the ears as a woodworker, my grandfather passed away and left me with a huge box of carpenter tools – half of which I have no idea what they are for. As people spread across the globe in the 19th century, correspondence by mail became much more popular, and so did the writing desk.
The desk seen here will do all of the above, plus hold paper clips, rubber bands and more in the simple side drawer. Though we all like the immediacy of e-mail, a hand-written letter always is a welcome surprise. The bench is quite similar to the version I built for Woodworking Magazine, with a few exceptions.
The company has temporarily suspended taking orders for benches until it can reduce the waiting list, which Thomas says is now at about nine months. I saw a drill press table in a Rockler catalog, and for less than $15 of materials, built my own, saving at least $85, plus shipping, gotta remember the damn shipping.
Wear in the front of the bench is due to many hits of frame saws used vertically for rip cuts in large boards, to divide them. Everything happens on top of the benches, and we can see croscutting and ripping being done right in front. I think a block plane’s comfort, low profile and blade angle can provide precision for paring tenons, rabbets and bevels of raised panels (and it’s significantly cheaper than the typical rabbet plane).
Next, carefully hacksaw an intersection from the plane throat to the hole (making sure the lower cut is shy of the final line).
This particular saw saved my bacon when I needed to process 160 linear feet of 2x8s for a sawbench or several hundred linear feet of 2x12s for a workbench class.
When cutting out all the stock today for an 18th-century-style table I made a small mistake in calculating the length of one apron. During a roller coaster ride all I can think about is hanging on so I don’t die (I do enjoy it, truth be told).
Most of my long rips are made on a band saw; the table saw hasn’t seen much action this year. Made in Hong Kong, these corner guards have a handmade irregularity an a brushed brass finish.
It’s the right size for a small chest, but the seam that holds the whole thing square and tight is left unbrazed. I don’t know if that is any better than hardware being made in Hong Kong, since it is still overseas, but I can assure that the hardware I sell is top quality. Because people can work wood in so many weird ways, I’ll admit that what follows is equal doses of traditional workshop practice, personal preferences (formed by years of planing) and stubborn opinion that comes from growing up on a mountain.
The traditional (but by no means only) job of the fore plane is to remove material quickly. The primary job of jointer planes is to straighten the wood, a task it excels at by virtue of its long sole (the longer the sole, the straighter the resulting work). 1 in place of a block plane – woodworkers with arthritis report that it’s easier to cradle in their hands than a block plane. The shorter the sole, the more that the tool is able to get into localized areas on a board and remove tear-out. I had read a multitude of articles before I got started with handplanes and if I had had seen this one first, all the others would have made a lot more sense. Complications introduced by well-meaning folks can keep a beginner away from the enjoyable part: making things. There is some truth to that, but it is easily exploited, both by sellers of tools and writers in need of a topic.
You’ll have chisels for dovetailing, other chisels for mortising, a few cherished ones that only do one thing (but do it extremely well) and a couple of cheap ones that aren’t good for anything but opening paint cans or scraping up gum. Without experience of your own, you can acquire a bunch of stuff without really knowing why. Is it possible to submit a photo here so maybe someone can tell me what these strange tools are used for? It is nice to hear this from someone who makes a living writing about tools and techniques.
The two ends of the base are a bit different , there’s extra stretchers in there to attach the top, plus cross-bolts that allow the bench to be knocked down. For knocking down rough stock I’ve been using my 8-point crosscut handsaw and two sawbenches. I thought I would hate processing the harder woods, such as maple, but they really don’t give me any trouble. But because everything was happening in comparative slow motion on my sawbench, I had time to adjust my plan because I was actively thinking during each cut.
The best deal in hand tool advice is our book “Hand Tool Essentials,” which contains many of the best articles about handwork from the authors and editors of Popular Woodworking. They have a hollow feel to them and the pulls drop in place with a lightweight “tink” instead of the “donk!” you hope for.

The one open seam of the corner guard is brazed or soldered, and that seam is left a little rough. I will bet that the typical woodworker who (if they actually decide to) builds some campaign furniture will build 1 to 3 pieces. In fact, it’s quite possible to do all the typical bench plane chores with just one tool (more on that later). It’s not as rare as its smaller and cuter sibling, nor is it all that much more useful. It is an excellent balance of sole length and cutter width to be useful for typical furniture parts. Always keep in mind though, No matter what plane you have, learning to set up the blades and sharpen them is the most crucial part of it all. I got a 38 degree blade extra for hard woods and the finished wood from shavings of this plane are smooth as glass. One of the most common questions is “what tools do I need to get started?” and as the would-be woodworker starts reading he soon begins asking, “Which set of these?
The problem is that without experience, a beginner really isn’t able to tell the often-subtle difference between specialized tools. We sometimes get caught up in all the hype about the latest and greatest and we forget to actually make something with the tools we acquire.
Not to mention using up some of the melamine left over from my work table and router table projects. To accommodate the lateral shift in the blade, use a metal grinding wheel to make a recess on the side of the blade. As a result of switching to the handsaw, I’ve greatly increased my endurance when handsawing – not to mention my accuracy.
I would love to add an entire line of campaign hardware, but what I need are period originals from which to make the molds. If you spend a little more to have the brasses made especially for you, then that will make the whole project a little bit more satisfying. The fore plane is typically the first bench plane to touch the wood to get it to rough size. And adjusting the depth of cut is no fun either because of the cramped area behind the frog. 4 or larger plane will actually prevent the tool from removing more than a shaving (maybe two) in a small area. 4 with a 50° frog, which helps reduce tearing (a 55° frog also is available for reducing tearing in curly woods). How many of those?” The worst thing that can happen is he or she decides to wait until all the tools are in place before making a start. If you get one chisel, one saw, or one plane and put it to work, you’ll begin to understand the relationship between your eyes, brain, hands, sharp steel and wood. When you can get a saw to cut, you’ll find yourself in situations where the teeth are too fine (or too coarse), or the size isn’t appropriate to the work, or the sharpening isn’t optimal for the direction you want to go. If anyone is interested, I just got an app for my ipad the other day called WoodMasterHD and it’s got some really handy tools for woodworking.
This is an accessory not shown in Roubo, but is very handy for securing wide panels and doors. Place the glass on top and put a full gallon of something to keep the glass sealed down tight.
Add to that fact that the cutter is so narrow and you can see why you’d be working way too hard to plane a typical carcase side. And I’ve heard from maybe one woodworker in all my years that they had abnormally small hands that were suited for a No. This is not the tool I’ll use for really tricky domestic woods or exotics – I use a bevel-up plane for that (see below).
Your experience, and your level of satisfaction with what you have will point you in the right direction. There is a natural progression that works well, but only if it is driven by an understanding based on experience. I like to use period hardware for the molds so that the handmade craftsmanship and the years of wear are present to provide that authentic look I like to offer my customers. 3 for two things: smoothing small-scale parts (such as narrow rails, stiles, muntins and mullions) and for removing tear-out in very localized areas in a larger panel.
Don’t go out and buy the most expensive one and think its going to make you a woodworker.
I am told that the exposure does not cause any cumulative damage, it is just a terrible irritant.

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