The Traditional Workshop

by | May 13, 2015 | 25 comments

Early last year I signed for a large mysterious parcel. It was clear from the labelling that it had come from far and distant lands, but there was no hint to what lurked within. Opening the box (like a savage) revealed a collection of books, each beautifully covered with canvas; not old but new.
This was a collection of published work by Lost Art Press, and attached was an envelope with the words ‘Richard & Helen’. There was no letter inside with lengthy explanation but a single postcard with the captivating image of a man seemingly about to end it all with the aid of his workbench…and a spade. I enjoy this image because it reveals itself to you slowly, it’s not until your second or third look that you realise it is in fact a desperate and very dangerous attempt to raise up the height of the workbench, probably to 38″.
The Traditional WorkshopThere was a sentence on the back of the card and that was all, but it was enough to get my head whirling round. Could we really pull this off, me writing a book?

Of course we had to say yes. There was a lot of umming and ahhing but both Helen and I knew that whatever sense we talked in to each other we wouldn’t pass on this job. A bit like the barns.

If you aren’t familiar, Lost Art Press are a small publishing company in America who focus on the highest quality books all on the subject of hand tool woodworking. We had met Chris and John, the founders, at the European Woodworking show some months prior and had spoken at great lengths with Chris at the taven. We spoke a lot about woodworking, workbenches and moustaches, when I think back Chris had mentioned a book idea which he was forming. Some point later something must have clicked and he had the stupid idea of asking us if we’d do this book.

It didn’t take much talking to realise that Chris is a very strange man. That’s a good thing. It’s the kind of strange that comes after passion and one that I relate to well. I don’t know where to begin with normal folk… Helen’s strange…
So far writing this book I’ve noticed that it’s important to be that kind of strange. You have to go to bed with a quill on your side table, it’s a project that you have to give yourself to 100%. You probably won’t come back 100% but that’s the point.

At a similar time to receiving this offer I had started having difficulties with my health. Once we understood the cause and failed to get anywhere dealing with a crackpot and a coward we had a huge upheaval and moved workshop and then our home. This set us back in a big way but as far as the book’s concerned this has been hugely benificial.
Cataloging all the ideas that the book will cover requires a lot of pre-thought and the added time has allowed our ideas to form and mature.

Many who have met us or spent any time on this blog will know that we’re the type of people who would write a book, self publish, sell a couple, loose lots of money and then write another one anyway. We attempt most things on our own and If I hadn’t met Chris and his strangeness then we would probably have declined, I don’t think you should go in to a big project with company that you don’t feel get you.

Now that we’ve laid out the structure and got our ideas together clearly on to paper we’re working on finding the funding and time for the incredible amount of projects which we’ve got lined up.

This book so far, despite the fact that it is a long way off has changed both our lifes. its a kick square in the balls as a wake up to why we chose this path, to learn, to create and to avoid the rutt of life.

For that Lost Art Press, we are truly grateful.




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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Steve Jones

    Good job! I love the blog and videos. I’m sure the book will be a treat. I just hope I live long enough to see it. 🙂 Congratulations.

  2. Paul Chapman

    You can put me down for a copy, Richard 🙂

  3. Jim Linn

    Is that the title, “The Traditional Workshop”?

  4. Derek Long

    Looking forward to buying yet another Lost Art book. Now down the rabbit hole of authorship.

  5. Ilya Gromov

    This is great! Thanks for willingness to share your experience with us! It’s greatly appreciated.

  6. Steve Voigt

    There are few absolutes in life, but one of them is that you can never, ever have too many jokes about 38″ benches.

    Congratulations on the book. I’ll be waiting eagerly.

  7. Rob & Joanna Szrama


    You terrible tease. A book in the works and no idea the subject. Shame on you? Or should it be , “The game is afoot”? May your strangeness carry you, and the fair Helen, to un-dreamt of pinnacles.


  8. Doug Fish

    If your book is anything like your blog and videos….sign me up for a copy! Congrats!

    • Dan Noall

      I’m with Doug.

  9. Nicholas Owen

    I will happily pay for my copy now if you do one of those pre buy schemes.

    • Nikolaus

      me too!


    Without knowing the subject or title I would buy a copy of your book.
    your blogs and videos are a joy and a learning experience.

  11. Sean

    Kickstarter? I’m in!!!

  12. Chris Buckingham

    How wonderful! A project I have always intended embarking upon, but never made time for, you can put me down for a copy, (signed of course).

  13. Henry Fiacco

    Richard and Helen,
    I’m very happy to hear that you’ve hooked up with Lost Art Press. I’ve been impressed with what they’ve put out ever since I read The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. I look forward to buying and reading your book.

  14. Salko Safic

    Will this book be yet another beginners guide to hand tools ? I would love to see books written on advanced joinery, 18th century finishes building elaborate 18th century furniture. This is what many of us strive to achieve and would be a great arsenal in any woodworkers home.

  15. Michael O'Brien

    Richard and Helen, Put me down for a copy, I know it will be a great book, Chris would not have it otherwise and recognizes your ability to write one. I am at Handworks 2015 in Iowa, USA as I write and looking forward to meeting some of the authors of other LAP books that I own.
    Always enjoy your rants.
    Best to you, Mike

  16. Jim

    It is very good to have you back; I have missed the correspondence.

  17. Martin

    I couldn’t stop laughing at the 38″ comment. Congrats and can’t wait to read it!

  18. Erik Hinkston

    Bravo, everything about this project is exciting. You guys married up with Lost Press… I can’t wait, I’m in.

  19. DenverGeorge

    Between waiting for Chris’ Furniture of Necessity and your as yet untitled book, I now have a surfeit of great reading to look forward to. Please don’t be too long as I know that I’m already itching to build some of the projects in your book.

    I cannot tell you how much your blog has helped me in finding a direction for my woodworking and practical advice on setting up my tools and different ways to use them. Your latest rant on how to set up a smoothing plane (Stanley #3) was very timely. I received one that I had purchased yesterday and set it up as described in your rant. Worked just as advertised. Thank you for sharing your very practical knowledge.

  20. Eric

    Excellent; a new adventure. I’m looking forward to reading the fruits of your labours and hopefully hearing of your adventures along the way!
    Brilliant – constant new challenges keep you young – way to go!

  21. Stefan

    Can’t wait to read it.
    Congrats and keep on making.

  22. rootertooter

    Well, get on with it. I will be looking forward to the book. oh he is strange lot.

  23. Shannon

    I’m in for one Richard, but I think you should stick with what works and just title it “Richard’s Rants”


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