Chris Schwarz's Blog

About my Finances, Mr. Gary

I get this sort of flack below almost every day. I usually ignore it. But in this case I want to be perfectly clear about how I work and how I have always worked.

Comment from Gary Smythe on the PW blog: I’ve been following this project from your first announcement. With all respect, your comments about not letting the price of hardware/wood be of concern are not fair. You are doing an article for a national magazine and the advantage of getting it published is that it is an expense that costs you nothing either by expense account or a tax write off. Secondly, how many donations were involved? Honestly, I wish you the best, and I’m looking forward to the article, but I bet you didn’t pay $15 for the Londonderry Catalog. I know that the $300 book on Campaign Furniture was donated to you. You are a skilled craftsman/author. I just feel for the audience you are writing for, true costs ought to be revealed. $700 is the tip of the iceberg. I’m guessing this item for the article on the campaign piece is worth $6000 by the time we figure your material costs and at least part of your time in the design and build. I’ll have to read the article to finnd out if any new tools were involved. Writing/photography is in addition to that. Bring it on, I want to see what you made, but please don’t tell us about the vastly inferior underweight hardware as an alternative – It’s embarrassing. If considering using most of that stuff, it might as well not be used at all. Keep this up and the next thing will be an article about a reproduction Tansu chest, but don’t worry about the Paulownia and hardware cost.

OK, let’s break down the letter, point by point.

“You are doing an article for a national magazine and the advantage of getting it published is that it is an expense that costs you nothing either by expense account or a tax write off.”

I have no expense account. I personally paid for the wood, the hardware and the finish. The piece was not built for a customer. It’s mine. It’s not a tax write-off. So I built a piece of furniture for myself and paid for all the materials myself. The article earned me some money, of course, but not even close to what the materials and hardware cost.

“Secondly, how many donations were involved?”

None. I paid full retail for every scrap of wood, hardware and finish. I always have and I always will. Call Steve Wall Lumber, where I bought the wood. Call Horton Brasses, where I bought the hardware. Call Oakley Paint & Glass, where I bought the finish.

“I bet you didn’t pay $15 for the Londonderry Catalog.”

You are right. I don’t have a Londonderry Catalog in my house. I’ve never even seen one. I looked on the company’s web site, which is free. Call Nancy at Londonderry for confirmation.

“I know that the $300 book on Campaign Furniture was donated to you.”

Not true. I paid $100 for the book plus a couple T-shirts from a local woodworker who knew I was interested in the style. Want to see the canceled check?

“I’ll have to read the article to find out if any new tools were involved.”

Huh? None.

“I’m guessing this item for the article on the campaign piece is worth $6,000 by the time we figure your material costs and at least part of your time in the design and build.”

Are you saying I was paid $6,000? Wish that were true. Not even close Way, way lower.

“Writing/photography is in addition to that.”

I do my own writing and photography. So I didn’t pay anyone for that. Perhaps I am not following you.

“Bring it on, I want to see what you made.”

Come on over. My home address is on our web site. I’ll show you every receipt.

— Christopher Schwarz

42 thoughts on “About my Finances, Mr. Gary

  1. scoobydooo9r

    Wow!!! Really???? I’m rather surprised that this guy didn’t also blame the state of the economy on Chris Schwarz as well. I mean, really, why stop at furniture costs or whatever the complaint was. Personally, I am grateful that you decided to build a piece of campaign furniture and document it all for all of us readers to be able to see. I wasn’t even aware of campaign furniture until you brought it to my attention, and I value having been able to know it. Maybe this guy should just write his own magazine and distribute it only to himself so that he can complain in person about how bad it sucks. Further, I would still be grateful even if all of it were donated… who cares! If you were rolling in the big bucks from your endeavors, it would seem like a better use of time getting a job doing what Chris does instead of merely complaining. Oh wait, he can’t write witty and captivating articles documenting a historic period of furniture as well as how to build it that a national magazine reader base would want to read. Plus, he probably can’t build a piece of fine furniture nice enough to necessitate adorning it with not-so-crappy hardware.

    P.S.–Chris, now that you are a trillionare from your obvious kick-backs from your woodworking/writing ponzi scheme, could you please just donate your campaign furniture book to me so that I can have a chance at making it big time.

    Well, thanks for the laughs guys, I only have one other bit of advice for Mr. whiney pants…. Possibly, you have chosen to read the wrong magazine. Maybe find one that is obviously shabby and builds furniture that looks like a 5 year old got ahold of daddy’s hammer and nails; that way you can get away with the cheapest hardware on the planet because any shiny metallic item will make the bundle of sticks underneath it look more expensive.

    Thanks for all you do to improve our knowledge and understanding of the craft Chris,

    Zac

  2. vinfonet

    Chris, I am so sorry you have to put up with this kind of crap. You have been so personally helpful to me in answering my questions in the past. Your guidance has been well more valuable for the little bit I’ve spent buying books you wrote. Alli can say is, if you are a professional, using poor quality material will not make your clients happy. And if you are a hobbyist like me, my time is way too valuable to be spending my precious little available time building beautiful furniture out of mdf scraps.
    I have made the mistake of scrimping on materials, and when you do that on a piece that means something to you, it stares you in the eye every time you look at it. I read your work because you do nice, quality work. If I wanted to spend my time building the kind of stuff you see at the crafts fair, I wouldn’t need your help to do that. Look, there are plenty of places to read about potato bins constructed with butt joints and crooked 2 x 4’s! I truly admire what you do because it is with passion, humor and grace, and I often wonder how you manage to make a living when you take your personal time to write the thoughtful emails you have sent me. Well, I could go on and on…but hey, this is Your blog, not mine!!!
    John G van Derwood MD

  3. jmayer

    Thanks for the insight into how you work. Over the last 2 months I have read several of your articles and part of the anarchist tool chest, and watched several of the online video in the streaming shop class section. It has been an education to say the least. Thanks for all the help.

  4. dnorris

    I normally avoid these comment boxes like a plague (which they often are) but I have to say hurrah to both your accounting integrity and your measured response to a snotty inquisition. Your style of writing drew me to your ‘now-not-available’ magazine, not to mention the superb photography. I am just setting into my first Roubo-derived bench after reading your book (using Oak and Maple I’ve harvested, sawn and dried from my own property – should come in slightly less than 6,0000.) I will save money where I can, and buy the best tools where I need to. Thanks for the info to do both intelligently.

  5. GAtoolaholic

    Only the successful are criticized; don’t let it bother you. I have enjoyed reading your blog for years. Please dont stop. You’re the Zapp Brannigan of woodworking!

  6. cmbp

    Chris,
    If you want to deduct the cost of the materials for this chest from your taxes – go for it. you can also deduct depreciation on any tools you bought, provided they were needed for the build. Since your chest was built to generate income from your article, it’s a legitimate business expense.

    That doesn’t make it free. That only means you reduce your taxes by the marginal amount.

    if your accountant doesn’t agree – find a new accountant or stop doing your own taxes. After 30 years at PwC, I know plenty that will help you.

  7. gain4150

    Chris, keep up the good work i enjoy your work and suggestions.My suggestion to him is try and do the best you can with what you’ve got. use other wood!

  8. rickb

    I have not paid cash for lumber in years. Now the labor of cutting, bucking, milling and drying, I have done. But I love that work, so it’s almost like getting paid to produce my own lumber. My friend and I now share a stack of several thousand board feet of white pine, oak and walnut. I know this option is not available to everyone, but resourceful ways of finding materials exist. But even if you have to pay top dollar for you materials, I think the personal value of the end product, likely to be in your family for generations, should be considered.

  9. pearly2000

    Woodworking is a passion enjoyed by many and sometimes cost is less of a factor when you consider the satisfaction the finished product can bring. In following Chris’s blog, I have found him to be one of those people. I have still always tried to keep my cost down and have found some very affordable plans and projects at http://tinyurl.com/tedswwprojects. They are now running a %20 off special on all plans for your projects (16,000 plus of them). I am an avid woodworker and have enjoyed putting my tools to work on their multitude of projects. Continue the passion!

  10. jwaldron

    Jeez, it’s mostly topical forums that attract trolls. Blogs are usually too personal – too close to the eye-to-eye thing. And most trolls are carefully anonymous. This one actually gave you a name. Think it’s really his?

    Quite an accomplishment. Only the good stuff attracts trolls!

  11. Tacoma Joe

    Chris I really appreciate the fact that you responded, but often people like that will kick even if you were to hang them with a new rope. They will always gripe about something.

    In your response you made me wonder, though. I realize you’re not an accountant, but are you allowed to take a tax deduction for tools & wood as a “job” expense? It might be worth asking an accountant. Aspiring “editors” might appreciate knowing about that.

  12. affyx

    Maybe Gary was having a bad day, maybe he’s just a dick.

    We look to Chris to show us the right (and/or best (and/or extremely interesting)) methods. But we are wood-workers, craftsmen, artisans, hobbyists. Some purists, some pocket-holers, most probably inbetween. We should be able to adapt suggestions and plans and to our needs and budgets.

    Thank you Mr. Schwarz for taking the time and effort to share your stories, philosophies, methods and opinions. We are all better woodworkers for it.

  13. Dusty

    Chris,
    If I may; ‘Drink some wine err ye go’ and ‘do not allow those that will ruffle ye feathers’.

  14. Bradinsc

    I can see both sides of this as well. We dont know what your financial situation is with regards to working for Popular Woodworking, I would certainly think they must cover part of your work, but its really none of our business. I have found a lot of good tips and techniques on your blogs, but I would have to certainly consider the cost of hardwood myself as well. I just dont have the cashflow to go buy hundreds of dollars worth of hardwood at the drop of a hat. I am retired now and even scavenge hardwood when I can. I have made many items with Pine as well to save a few bucks. I appreciate your work, and look forward to the next installment about woodwork, not finances! 😉

  15. sqmorgan

    Chris,
    Thanks for spelling that out…Your finances are both interesting and mysterious (At least to me), and as a reader of your magazines and books and watcher of your videos, I’m sure I’ll never really understand all of your income streams and/or your retirement plan. One part of this article confuses me…You save all of your receipts? Is there a special segmented container for that, soon to be published as a how-to article? Thanks for your prolific account of woodworking expertise, and also for all of the money you have saved me on “Tool-shaped objects”! I think the people at Lie-Nielsen appreciate you, too. Keep up the good work. One of my favorite articles was your 10-page description of nails in my favorite magazine that is no longer published.
    Sam

  16. BLZeebub

    Aren’t we testy today? Accomplishment can become a target of the petty and jealous and ultimately ignorant of what it takes to actually do the work. Gary is like most under-achievers, he’s caught in a self erected displacement paradigm. They’d rather foment derision with innuendo, supposition and conspiracy in order to bring attention to themselves. Classic adolescent pathology.

    I’m glad you took him to task but don’t let it get to you, Chris. Because they are everywhere.

    cheers,

  17. Eric R

    I think a lot of people can see both sides of this issue.

    I’m not sure I agree with all of Mr. Smythe’s laundry list of concerns, but I get what he’s trying to say.

    A lot of people who are trying to reproduce your pieces just flat out can’t afford the costs involved.
    (such is my case most of the time)

    But on the other side of the coin, having met you and talked with you, I can assure him that you are the genuine article and not some guy just trying to make money off what you do.

    My biggest complaint is that you make it look so darn easy! lol

    My suggestion to him is try and do the best you can with what you’ve got. I do and enjoy every minute of it.

    Keep up the good works.

  18. Bill Lattanzio

    I’ve said it a hundred times: Woodworking is EXPENSIVE. Anybody who tells you differently is flat out lying, and that’s if you use hand tools, power tools, or a combination of the two. So whether or not the man bought the material himself or used donations(which I personally have no problem with)I don’t really care. I just want to get ideas for new projects.

  19. pvanderlugt

    I’m more concerned about what Chris’s writings have done to my finances, rather than the cost of projects I do for myself or others.

    I’m sitting in the middle of a 5000 sq ft shop with moulders and ripsaws, etc. and find myself suddenly completing a workbench I started 7 years ago (legs flush with the front of the top), and looking at a pile of pine destined to make me an anarchist. And my tool budget is rapidly headed south.

    But I haven’t felt more liberated in years, and the music was clearer than ever as I finished the bench with handplanes and chisels.

    Thanks Chris.

  20. TheHoneyBadger

    Way to go Chris. Don’t need to see the receipts to believe you! Keep up the great work. Chances for june in Metten are diminishing, but hey, we’ll meet again!

    All the best,
    Erik.

  21. RIVERCRUISER

    Mr. Smyth’s blog is the epitome of professional envy IMHO. Ignore him!

    Keep thinking, designing, building and writing. I follow your work closely
    and read much of what you write. You are a positive influence on everything
    I build. I do enjoy your inspiration.

  22. McKay

    Cris, I like what you have done on the article etc. I agree with most of the comments except for those who have reduced themselves to name calling. However, I am not sure who your tax guy is, but everything that you make and then publish should be a tax deduction as a business expense. You are in the publishing/woodworking business.

  23. Clay Dowling

    I didn’t see your lumber bill, but looking at the piece, I can tell that the materials aren’t out of reach for the average working stiff. Might not be able to use the same lumber, but hardwood isn’t that expensive if you take the time to hunt down a good supplier.

    Good hardware is never cheap, but that’s because there’s a huge difference between the cheap stuff they sell at the home center and the quality stuff.

  24. illron

    I want my work to be limited only by my skill level as a woodworker, not my crappy tools or cheap materials… so I have been patient with my tool purchasing and only buy the best. I have been deliberate about my wood and hardware selection as well. If I can’t afford the materials to do a project justice, I don’t make it. Any errors to be found in my work are my own, no tool or poorly designed piece of hardware can be blamed.

  25. kevinleecollins

    I would like to second what Meikou says. It wouldn’t matter to me whether his projects were completely paid for or not. I know as a reader of this blog and the Magazine that I have learned a ton from a true master of his craft. I can honestly say that he has personally bestowed a love of hand tool wood working in me, and I can better appreciate the sacrifices he makes to follow his passion. If we were all only so lucky.

    If you really want to “sponser” Chris’s work, buy a copy of his book. Its a bargain at twice the price. For the knowledge hes given me, mine has a place of honor right where it gets read the most. The back of the lavatory.

  26. kevinleecollins

    I would have to second what meikou says. All I know is that I have enjoyed nearly every single article this publication has put out over the past several years. And through Chris’s work specifically I have found an appreciation and desire for more of my own hand tool wood working. There is a certain knowledge that can only be passed on from someone truly dedicated to their craft, and as a result I have done what I can to support someone that I have learned a lot from.

    If you care to “sponser” his work, buy a copy of his book, its a bargain at twice the price.

  27. JohnC

    I won’t denigrate Mr. Smythe for what he said. I struggle a lot with the cost of the hardware when I am working on a project. When I read the amount that you are spending, it always makes me rethink just how important is this project to me.

    Sometimes I still cheap-out, but just knowing that someone is spending that kind of money on their project makes me want to try harder so that my quality of workmanship justifies that quality of hardware.

    Thanks for clearing the air for everyone, and keep leading the way on making it the best that you know how, so that we have the inspiration that we need to do the same.

  28. rmcnabb

    So that’s what we should aspire to? Maybe a crude set of shelves nailed together out of “white wood”, just so that absolutely everyone at every economic level can afford two of them?

    You’re showing craftsmen how to build a timeless piece of furniture for a fraction of what it would cost them to commission it from a furniture maker, or to buy a good antique. You’re to be commended from the mountain tops also for rescuing the entire school of “campaign” furniture, and next rhoorkee chairs (sp?) from the dustbin of furniture history.

    Thanks, Chris.

  29. Dazzzle

    I’m a cynic by nature, a bean counter, I’ve experienced the world of “television” etc this side of the pond, the expense a/c lifestyle and though I have never met Chris in person I know he is not that sort of person.
    How do I know, you only need to read the books ,the blogs, the articles, Chris loves this craft, he’s honest and straightforward ,the passion leaps off the page, sure some of the items used could be deemed expensive and out of reach but he usually tries to provide alternatives.
    Criticism can be constructive but negativity, bah.
    “Don’t hit me with those negative waves”

  30. griz

    He is just a knucklehead troll. We appreciate your work so I would ignore these guys and not let it get to ya. No new tool??? I thought all new projects needed a new tool even if you have to pay for it, That is my story and I am sticking to it.. :)….John

  31. petercft

    It can be difficult to have your work and passion so frequently questioned and criticized.
    You have my respect for responding with such honor and clarity.

    Keep up the good work. It is because of your work that I’ve benefitted so much and it was your writing that got me into hand tool woodworking so many years ago. This hobby has enriched my life in many and invaluable ways. I am a better man because of this hobby and you deserve much of the credit for helping me get started.

    It was a thrill to finally shake your hand in person back in October at WIA.

    fr. Peter C. Tremblay OFM Conv.

  32. rboe

    Some folks are just natural cynics. Like natural optimists, sometimes they are off the mark and I think where folks get derailed is that they assume their standards and paradigms are the same as yours. Why would they be?

    In any event; thanks for the peak behind the scene; I’ve shelved the idea of taking your job. :^)

    I still think your photography rocks. :bow:

  33. chtaylo5

    Sometimes you can’t turn the other cheek. Too bad folks can’t just be happy appreciating good craftsmanship and quality opinion. Like your work and humor.

  34. cmegal

    Bah, Chris, go back to ignoring these. Those who really read what you write already know all of this.

    Corey

  35. Jonathan Szczepanski

    Where do I begin? You are criticized for a piece costing too much to build. You are criticized for the less expensive options that you lay out. You have always been open about paying for everything out of your own pocket, but those multitude of times are ignored. I see nothing wrong with the piece costing $6000 IF you were to sell it, because if it’s made with the same quality of craftsmanship that we know you demand of yourself, then it sounds like a bargain. Woodworkers constantly complain about the inferior quality of furniture that is commercially available, and yet some complain that they would have to pay for quality (Not that you are selling the piece. It’s clear that you made it for love of it).

    Yes, quality costs, and that is something that the general public needs to learn, let alone fellow woodworkers.

    Whew.

    Jonathan
    =============================

  36. taddwilson1

    Chris,

    I will disagree with some of these comments. I think this piece holds true to its historical nature, which is what I think Chris was trying to do. Campaign furniture was purchased, typically by officers, to be used in their “quarters.” The wide range of styles, wood, hardware, etc,, used in the historical pieces, can generally be attributed to who bought it. A frigate captain, flush with prize money, could commission a piece similar to the one built by Chris. However, a lowely midshipman from a poor family is going to get a lesser piece. I like how Chris honored the history of this type of furniture. And frankly, the expense of the piece built by Chris is a testament to how expensive this type of furniture was for the people who bought it 200 or 300 years ago.

    Tadd

  37. jayson

    You don’t have an expense account? No wonder you quit working at the magazine full time.

    Honestly though, I have found that some people are bitter when they realize that you do what you love for a living.

    I feel like you have been very upfront with costs involved. And I don’t think the prices you have given are misleading at all.

    Thanks for all the inspiration and keep up the good work.

  38. rdwile

    Chris,
    I really get annoyed by these online “trolls” that see it as their mission to let others know how miserable they really are. Like all those that commented on Jeff Miller’s jig on PWW, saying that is not true hand tool work, maybe for those hand tool bigots, but many of us appreciate the help from a jig like that, which is likely who this product is directed at..

    If you don’t hve something positive or supportive to say, keep it to yourself, no one else really wants to hear it. Congrats Chris on the beat-down…

    Rich

  39. meikou

    My opinion was that this project was a personal one that was being documented for the magazine for the benefit of the readers.

    I personally couldn’t give a monkeys if you got paid for it and how much. I just enjoyed reading about it.

    At least you don’t go showing a project build with a load of expensive tools that most people cant(or would be willing to) pay for.

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