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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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”

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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:

  13. 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.

  14. 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
    =============================

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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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