Chris Schwarz's Blog

Psst, Hey Troublemaker. Wanna Buy a Book?

I am pleased to announce that ShopWoodworking.com now sells “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” a book that took me two years to write. And the process of writing this book so changed my perspective on the world that I stepped down as editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The book has its critics, and I imagine you’ll see a couple pop up in the comments below this post. But before you dismiss “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” because of its title or some Internet bad-mouthing, I’d like to make a case for my book.

What the heck is it about? Well it’s about my immersion in the world of tool manufacturing as an editor at Popular Woodworking, and how during those years I filled my shop with tools and accessories that didn’t help me become a better woodworker.

And it’s about how one day I woke up and pared down my tool collection to about 50 hand tools and a few machines, improved my workshop so it was a pleasant place to be and built a traditional tool chest to hold all my essential tools.

The bulk of the book is about the core set of 50 tools: what’s in this set and how to select good ones for your shop, regardless of their vintage or their brand name. I don’t care if you buy old tools or new tools, pricey ones or cheap ones, but I do want you to buy good ones.

And then I show you how to build a traditional tool chest to hold all your tools. This chest is based on 12 historical principles, many of which were surprising or seemed contradictory on their face (I should use both nails and dovetails?).

So what’s with the “anarchism” in the title? That’s a good question because I am probably the least political person you will ever meet. There are lots of flavors of anarchism out there, including “aesthetic anarchism,” which is where people make what they need and eschew government help and corporate-made goods. If you aren’t convinced I’m talking sense here, read Wikipedia’s entry on Individualist Anarchism. In fact, I make the case that many woodworkers are already living the lives of quiet aesthetic anarchists — they just don’t have a name for it.

Oh, and there’s some language. I rate the book as PG. You might see such words as “crap” or “craptacular” and maybe “damn.” It’s stuff you’ll hear on television, but I just want to warn some of the more sensitive readers that I am not entirely polite.

So if you understand that making useful, durable things out of wood is odd in our consumerist and disposable society, then you might just enjoy this book.

“The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is made in the United States, printed on acid-free paper and Smythe-sewn to last. You can buy it from ShopWoodworking using this link.

Thanks for reading.

— Christopher Schwarz

25 thoughts on “Psst, Hey Troublemaker. Wanna Buy a Book?

  1. vttoonses

    Chris,

    I bought both your book and “The New Traditional Woodworker” and the biggest issue I have with them is looking at monster lists of tools that I seemingly have to buy before I can do anything (I’m new to woodworking). I’ve decided to buy one tool, use it to chop/slice/cut/etc big pieces of scrap hardwood into little ones and repeat until I have enough to actually make something.

    In this endeavor, I wanted to let you know that I contacted Walt at Brass City Records and just purchased a #6 Stanley Foreplane from him. He was very helpful and is now looking for a good crosscut saw for me. Thanks for putting the resources appendix in your book; that saved me a couple hundred bucks and steered me to a good quality tool right there.

    Gene

  2. Matejek

    Hey Chris, Just got another cabinet job so with some “extra” money I plan on ordering your new book. Now for my rant- Does anybody care that woodworkers are alive and well in the state of Arkansas? You used to live here! Doug Stowe and the guys at Old Street Tools are in Eureka Springs but thats it ! How about a show closer to home. With the new Crystal Bridges Art Museum opening this week I hope more people pay attention to this beautiful state. Bring some cool woodworking home man. “You can take the boy out of Arkansas, but you can’t take Arkansas out of the boy.” (sorry ,had to write it) Thanks, Jeffrey Matejek

  3. corgicoupe

    Hey Chris,

    What’s your final vote on the winding sticks. You say you take the pretty ones to shows but use the aluminum angle. And you suggest everyone should make their own from wood. Anyway, I closed the book a bit confused on this one. Overall it’s a great read.

  4. Window Guy

    Chris thank you for this book well actually all of your books as I have enjoyed them all immensely. You are one of the reasons why I enjoy Hand Tools so much and have learned a a great deal. Your latest book ” The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was a great read and once I started reading it I had trouble putting it down. You have a unique style of writing which, well at least for me keeps me interested. I also appreciate the step by step process of building these projects. I don’t have the companion DVD yet but plan on adding this also to my collection of your DVD’s.

    Steve

  5. Bill Lattanzio

    The Anarchist Toolchest to me is philosophy book, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It touched on something that many woodworkers, both beginner and advanced, have begun to realize: woodworking as a profession is fading away. A scary thought, especially to me because I’m new to this. My big worry is that I will be unable one day or another to get quality hand tools, that’s why it’s so nice to see companies such as Lie Nielsen and Veritas thriving, among others.
    I think that “Aesthetic Anarchy” is something that all woodworkers practice even though it may be subconsciously. Amateur woodworkers are quite important now in the woodworking field, and this book is a great starting point for an amateur who may want to get into the craft. In that sense Chris Schwarz may be the most important woodworker of the generation. He’s decided to take up the banner of traditional woodworking and this book basically is the beginning of his journey, in my opinion.
    To me though, the greatest anarchist of the last 100 years was Richard Proenneke. He is a personal hero, and while not truly a cabinetmaker, a truly great woodworker. If anybody reads this, check out his story. He is the reason I am a woodworker today.

  6. StuartB

    Chris, Thanks for the book. I bought a copy shortly after it was published and it proved very timely as I was in the process of re-thinking my own shop and future woodworking direction (see stuartblanchard.com). Many years ago I used a tool chest (sort of based on one by Tony Konavalof in FWW) but gave it up after moving to another shop where it didn’t seem to fit as well. After reading The Anarchist’s Tool Chest I realized that it was the layout that needed improvement to fit my needs (a good reason not to copy someone else’s chest precisely), and that I should shortly build another chest that would best fit my needs. The book was invaluable in helping think through how to best clean out unused tools, jigs, etc. to make room for the things that really mattered. Thanks for all your efforts in encouraging good woodworking.

  7. DeryG

    Hi Chris,

    I just finished devouring your book as it aligns pretty much with my developing philosophy. I used to be a power tool guy but as I advance into the craft, I gravitate more and more towards the hand tools. This is especially true in that I can have my 18-month old daughter running around the shop when it is hand-tool based… not so much around the big iron.

    Now to the question part, only loosely related to the book: I noticed in a few pics that you had gotten your plane engraved with fancy scroll work and the lost art press logo (I think). I remember reading about that in a magazine quite a while back (PopWood perhaps?) but can’t quite place it. Where oh where did you get that done?

    Please advise if you can share.

    Thanks,

    Guillaume

    1. DeryG

      Oops, also forgot, one tool I saw which didn’t make your list but made it in a photo (also in your workbench book BTW) appears to be a depth stop for your brace. I have never seen one of these beasties before. Is this something that is shop made? I have never seen one up for offer from any of my usual old tool sources.

      That is jsut so handy that it goes on my essential list so I can stop the tape flags (which give me fits on auger bits).

      Cheers and I can’t thank you enough for all the work you are putting into the revival of the handcraft movement.

      Guillaume

  8. Kenny

    I purchased the book and companion DVD annd consider both an indispensible addition to my library and personal use. What an inspiration to futher my woodworking experience. There is nothing like being able to mill my material without putting on earmuffs and safety glasses, and being able to hear my preferred music while using a sharp hand tool.

  9. samson141

    I like your book a lot. For me it was like hearing from an earnest pal who shared my interest in woodworking – I didn’t agree with every opinion, but I appreciated hearing honest ones. We all find our own preferred methods in working wood, and there are few universal truths as to best tools or methods, so it’s inevitable that folks will quibble. However, your willingness to share your hard won insights was refreshing and informative. You left room for the reader to decide what works for them as you layed out your thinking and experiences with various issues.

  10. RONWEN

    I have consumed EVERY book on woodworking hand tools and powered tools available for the past 30 years and Chris’s new book is far above all of the others out there. A great job!

  11. mbholden

    The Anarchist’s Tool Chest is to woodworking what the Daybooks of Edward Weston are to photography.
    A manifesto of a simpler ethos.

    Put simply: Fancy tools do not make you a woodworker

    Something I had to learn in photography, and now learn again in woodworking.

    Still don’t think a tool chest is the ideal storage method for me.

  12. damien

    Does ‘The New Traditional Woodworker’ (from popular woodworking books) not cover in many aspects the same grounds? So I am curious to know how Popular Woodworking sees those two books.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Damien,

      I cannot speak for F+W, but I copy edited Jim’s book. I think they cover different ground.

      While Jim’s book discusses tools, he spends the majority of his time in discussing techniques to use the. My book is more about selecting the correct set.

      In Jim’s book you learn to build winding sticks and the other essential wooden appliances. In my book I focus on building a chest (also essential).

      So they complement each other.

      Hope this helps.

      1. mctoons

        Having read both books I completely agree that they complement each other. I think where they converge is on the philosophy of building things to last for generations in a safer, more quiet and family friendly way. I believe the fundamental message from both Chris and Jim, along with others like Roy Underhill is that of patience and perceverience, both of which are severely lacking in the world today because life gets more hectic all the time. Someone mentioned Dick Proenneke in another comment. I think he is the quintessential anarchist based on Chris’ definition. With a few hand tools, some ingenuity, and a lot of perceverience he demonstrated that it is possible to live and thrive in one of the more severe environments on earth. He made and built everything he needed himself, mostly from the raw materials he had at hand. The message from all these great people is to keep working and keep trying. Don’t give up and don’t give in.

  13. Marlon1

    Got my book last week! Chris, I think you’re on to something. Thank you for enlightening me.
    Keep on finding those treasured insights from the woodworkers past & publish them. Yes, you are on to something! I suggest all interested in woodworking buy the book.

    Thank you

  14. Kenny Horne

    I finished reading this book a day and a bit after it was first available at Lee Valley. I think it is a fabulous book. I have re-read most of it at least once, and the philosophy bits many times over. As a Canadian who grew up in the late 70′s I don’t see the problems with the anarchist tag that many of my friends south of the border do. In fact I think that it’s the philosophical passages that make this book most interesting and useful. I suspect David Pye would classify this as “Workmanship of risk.” Of course the tool and construction chapters are what we’ve come to expect from Schwarz. I’m not sure I would classify this book as perfect but I imagine that it will rank as one of the most important volumes on my bookshelf for years to come

    Kenny Horne – Edmonton Canada

COMMENT