Full Chisel Blog

August 9, 2013

Wood Turning On the Foot Treadle Lathe

Always a good idea and in 1922 William Fairham published this book of the same title.

wood turning on the foot treadle lathe

And in 2013 Gary Roberts at Toolemera Press has reproduced this fine English volume on turning on a foot treadle lathe.  The book has some great stuff, good illustrations with patterns of all types of turnings including square turnings.  The square turning is of particular interest, must give it a try.

This book also goes well with the plans for the Wooden Treadle Lathe available at the Full Chisel Store.  Get the book from Gary and the plans from me and you are all set.


May 3, 2013

The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide – J. Stokes 1829


Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has done it again and reproduced a fine tome from the nineteenth century.  The book has many full color plates, hand colored engravings and Mr. Roberts has reproduced the entire book in color, so the pages appear as they would in an original edition.

Mr. Stokes has done an excellent job at assembling material from his peers and predecessors, which I won’t call plagiarism as it was common practice.  Some of the engravings have the long f for the s, indicating an earlier time.

The book is however full of very useful information about lay out, perspective, drawing, design and construction of furniture, with an emphasis on finishing, which I found fascinating.  This is a great hardbound edition of an historical work that is a pleasure to hold in ones hand and read about the past and the ways of old.  Add this one to your bibliotheque.


March 25, 2013

The CIRCLE Of The MECHANICAL ARTS, Thomas Martin 1813

Well it looks like Gary Roberts has done it again, bringing back for our enjoyment another traditional title from the nineteenth century.  Toolemera is offering this large volume of Thomas Martins opus on the trades.  You can order it here at a discount.


Weighing in at over 4 pounds it has many plates reproduced in color of the period.  I have just started to read this tome and it is fascinating.  The stuff on hardening and tempering is excellent as is the information on paint and turning is worth the price of the book.  I strongly recommend you add this to your bibliotech.


February 27, 2013

The Painter, Gilder, And Varnisher’s Guide – 1850 reprint from Toolemera

Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has reproduced this wonderful work from the mid nineteenth century.  Having decided to redo some of his title covers, he asked me to do a drawing for the cover of this work.

book cover

The first drawing (above) was too busy [he said], so I did another drawing that wasn’t.  I think this is my first book cover on a book I didn’t write.  You can order the book here.

book cover painter and varnisher guide

It is an interesting book, the conversation is in the vernacular and context of the period, so it makes for good reading.  It also contains information that is useful for anyone doing finishing, gold leaf work and decorative painting.  A great addition to the library. (He did misspell my last name in the credits).


January 11, 2013

Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker – First Review


This is the first book review of my first book that was originally published in hardbound in 1981.  This review appeared in Smithsonian Magazine April 1982.





I found this while doing research at the University of Nevada, Reno at their excellent library.

Now I need to find the reviews in Workbench Magazine, Soldier of Fortune Magazine and Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly.

Available at Tools for Working Wood

and The Full Chisel Store or from Amazon.  Amazon also has original hardbound editions for sale.


June 14, 2012

One Good Turn, A Natural History of the Screwdriver and Screw

A small book by Witold Rybczynski based on an article for The New York Times about the most important tool of the millenium 1000 to 2000 AD.

A friend lent me a copy which I read immediately, it is a short book and doesn’t take much time to get through.  I did have to check a few facts during the reading as is my want.  And I did notice a couple of minor mistakes.

But it is a good read and the author does make a case for the screwdriver [and the screw] was one of the greatest inventions of that time period.  I always thought the greatest invention was the off switch, but that doesn’t count as a tool.

The book is available on Amazon.


December 28, 2011

‘Little Shaver’ – product review

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Reviews,Sharpening,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:26 am

Annually, my family selects names for gift exchange as well as a list of items as suggestion for gift ideas.  And this year this tool was on the top of my list.  Originally produced in the early 1900’s, it looked like a cool tool and is available from Lee Valley.

I don’t use any of my chisels or sharp knives to sharpen graphite pencils as they leave residue on the blades and is tough on a fine edge.  I have a designated small clip point knife that I use for pencil sharpening, now I can clean it up, sharpen it and keep it for other purposes.

As luck would have it I got the sharpener, thanks Travis [great nephew].  It worked right out of the box, although when I get back home to my shop I will hone the blade just a bit.  I also noticed a small casting defect [to the right of the cone], but it doesn’t effect the operation.

I first tried #2 pencils which were made to a surgical fine point and later on a 3H pencil.  To my surprise it got that very hard graphite to the same degree of sharpness.  I then tried to sharpen a tiny pencil I keep with my pocket ivory notepad and it worked.  I am impressed.


December 5, 2011

Book Review Cabinet Construction by J.C.S. Brough

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Reviews,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:58 am

Cabinet Construction by J.C.S. Brough, 1920, 1930 Reprint by Toolemera Press

Gary Roberts has brought another fine publication from the past to today’s market. While this book is later than my field of interest, I did find the book full of useful information for any woodworker.


One of the best parts was one section that concentrated on the backs of furniture, a subject rarely discussed. There is also a section at the end that covers examples of various furniture styles as well as hardware of various periods.


This book assumes that the reader has some woodworking skills as none of the basic material such as techniques are mentioned as it would have already been learned elsewhere. And being an English book the language is easy to understand and it gives names to joints that can help standardize conversations about woodworking.


I recommend you buy and read this book and keep it around as a handy reference.



July 9, 2011

The Anarchist’s Tool Chest – Review

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Reviews,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:39 am


The Anarchist’s Tool Chest

By Christopher Schwarz

Lost Art Press

In the first draft of this review I wrote: ‘I am probably not the best person to review
this book as much of the material I am quite familiar, but that is not going to
stop me.
’, but a friend pointed out that because of my experience I would
be an ideal person to review this book, so here I go. This work will appeal to
the professional woodworker to help focus their hand tool skills and refine
their tool collection.  And someone just getting into the glorious realm of hand tool work, and this publication will be a real boon.

And the name of the book ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest’ I find intriguing as is Chris’ personal story of his journey and how he came to consider himself an anarchist.  His
decision to reduce his hand tool collection to that which is needed and nothing
else, he could have just as well entitled the book ‘The Ascetic’s Tool Chest’.  But that doesn’t have the same punch.

The concept is brilliant, using period inventories and tool lists; Chris has shown that much can be done with fewer proper tools and the correct knowledge to use them.  And all of this is couched in the overall project of actually building that Anarchist’s Tool Chest itself.

This work will benefit those who are considering hand tool use, those who already use hand tools and those that are just taking up woodworking.  This book may keep people
from over populating their tool kit with tools they really don’t need and will probably never use.  It is a proper set of tools presented with a reasonable philosophy.

I enjoyed reading the book, I do disagree with Chris on a couple of issues as I always have, but those are of little importance here.  His style of writing is easy to follow,
sometimes funny with a few self deprecating comments thrown in to the mix kept
me entertained.

Read this book and see where you fit along the anarchist continuum.  Revolutionaries unite.  Anarchists untie.  I would say join the Anarchist’s Woodworking Club, but there isn’t one nor will there ever be one. If there were The Anarchist’s Tool Chest would be its codex.

Stephen Shepherd




August 5, 2010

Daddy Can We Play in the Workshop? – Book Review

Filed under: Of Interest,Reviews,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:26 am

Mark Lovette Wells sent me this book to review.  I read it, it is a quick read for an adult and is a delightful little story about a father and son in the workshop.  This is a child’s book, so I felt it should be reviewed by a child.


So I lent the book to a family up at [This is the Place Heritage]  Park, the three boys looked like good candidates for the project.  I asked them to read the book when they came into work in the morning and in the afternoon they returned with the book and a review.  I was informed by the mother that the oldest boy Jeremy had read it to his two younger brothers, they all said that they liked the story and Jeremy said that  ‘I learned a lot about the old ways of doing things.‘ 

I am sure in later life he will be forced to use more words when he has to review books for school, but at his young age, I think he did just fine.

You can order the book on Amazon, it would make a great gift for a young child.


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