Since we started making tools at Lost Art Press under the Crucible name, I have avoided writing anything that could be considered a tool review, save for my annual Anarchist’s Gift Guide. It doesn’t seem fair for a toolmaker to pass judgment on other toolmakers.
However, during my research for “The Stick Chair Book,” I have been purchasing and using all manner of new-to-me chairmaking tools in order to understand different approaches to the craft. Some of them have been duds, of course. But some of them have opened my eyes.
Because a book is a terrible place to review a tool, I am going to publish my thoughts on many of these tools here on the blog. As always, I pay full price for all my tools. I don’t exchange reviews for anything. And I hope that this is one of the reasons you are still reading this ancient blog.
The first tool I’d like to talk about is the inshave made by blacksmith Lucian Avery.
Lucian Avery Inshave
For almost 20 years, I’ve used the same inshave/scorp from Barr Tools to saddle all my chairs. Barr Quarton doesn’t make this exact scorp anymore, though he makes a similar one called the Mike Dunbar-Style Scorp.
It’s a hell of a tool. Of all the hand tools I’ve owned in my life, I haven’t owned a tool that takes a better edge or keeps it longer. (Yes, even premium Japanese tools.)
Its handles are dark grey from my sweat and grime. If you own one of my chairs, this tool saddled its seat.
For “The Stick Chair Book,” I wanted to try a different style of inshave, which has a flat curve along most of the blade with tight-radius corners. I did a lot of homework and settled on an inshave from Lucian Avery that was designed with the help of George Sawyer (Dave Sawyer’s son).
I don’t make Windsor chairs, but I thought the flat curve of Avery’s inshave would help me achieve the shallow saddle found on stick chairs – with a lot less fussing.
As I mentioned, I’ve been using the Barr scorp for a long time, which has a tight-radius curve – 2-1/4”. It can hollow out a seat with incredible speed. The downside to this shape is that it’s easy to overdo it. An errant stroke or two adds a lot of work with the travisher later.
The Avery inshave is different in every respect. The tool is half the weight of the Barr (9 oz. vs. 18 oz). The handles are in a much lower working position (2-3/4” off the bevel as compared to 4-3/4” off the bevel). But the biggest difference is the shape of the blade. The shallow curve is not as aggressive, but it leaves a much flatter and smoother curve behind. Yet, the tight-radius curves at its edges allow you to carve along the spindle deck with confidence.
In short, the shape of the Avery tool is much more suited for the type of saddle I carve. The saddle is much flatter, which cuts down on the time I spend with the travisher considerably.
As a bonus, the lower handles and reduced weight of the Avery make the tool less tiring to use.
I’m in love. It’s an extraordinary tool. Light, nimble and responsive. I look forward to using it as much as my travisher.
The current price is $263, which is a beyond-fair price for a blacksmith-made tool of this caliber. It also comes with a clever rawhide sheath that adds no bulk or real weight to the tool.
If you make stick chairs and need an inshave, this one is perfect.
— Christopher Schwarz