Chris Schwarz's Blog

WivesAgainstSchwarz.com

During the last several months I’ve gotten several e-mails, phone calls and comments from people who aren’t readers. Instead these communiquÃ?©s are from the wives of our readers, who are about 95 percent male.

These are not friendly conversations.

They go something like this: “My husband buys every tool you recommend. Whenever your magazine comes out or you post something on your blog, my husband buys it. For the sake of our bank account, please die.”

Well, that last sentence is hyperbolic (I’m from the South, what do you expect?). But the rest of the sentiment is accurate. One woman said that my writing had cost her $12,000 last year and $9,000 so far this year. And here I thought my writing cost people $19.96 a year for a seven-issue subscription.

Now I actually feel pretty bad about this recent development. As a writer (who is married to a writer), I’ve always lived modestly. I drive a six-year-old bare-bones Honda. Many of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my father, a man with excellent taste. Heck, I started building furniture because we couldn’t afford the antiques we wanted.

But I’ve never developed a taste for cheap tools. My first table saw was a 1970s-era Craftsman (price: free). I spent as much time adjusting the lame fence as I did ripping with it. My first chisels and planes were the Popular Mechanics brand (yes, I see the irony), and the edges folded like tin foil whenever they were asked to cut anything other than pine. I could go on and on with this list.

Poor-quality tools stink. So I began acquiring high-quality vintage tools and machines (an Atlas drill press, Swan chisels, Stanley Type 11 handplanes). These were (and still are) great tools. But they took a lot of work to bring back to life. Metalwork. Filings. Grease. Pressing bearing. I found that I don’t like metalworking nearly as much as woodworking.

So I bought a Delta Unisaw. I bought nice Japanese chisels and saws from Lee Valley Tools. I bought a Lie-Nielsen plane. Each purchase hurt the bank account; but on the plus side, I’ve never had to replace any of these tools. And I suspect I never will. Every time I turn on my table saw, it works as advertised. Every time I cut a dovetail, the only errors are caused by my own ineptness. And every time I go to plane a board, the results are completely predictable.

But these arguments don’t work well with the spouses. I’ve tried. So I apologize to them. I try to untangle myself from the conversation. And I furiously hope that each of you will build something spectacular with these tools. Nothing defuses the expense of the means like the beauty of the results.

– Christopher Schwarz

30 thoughts on “WivesAgainstSchwarz.com

  1. LizPf

    My husband and I are both tool nuts … BUT — we are careful to get good value for our dollar. Neither of us complains if the other buys a tool that will see good use.

    I’m a new woodworker (goody! a whole new set of tools to buy), and I also knit and sew. My husband does electronics and metalwork. We both cook. We don’t buy many tools for our hobbies, but we buy good, multi-purpose tools, used when feasible. At the moment we have two table saws and a RAS waiting to see if they are good enough to use. If not, back on CraigsList they go.

    The key to tool buying is to know the difference between a "working set" and a collection, and to use the working tools to make good stuff. And to allow one’s partner the same rights (yes, in dollars!) to satisfy their passions.

  2. Bridal Dresses

    This is somehow strange… a shopping mania for men… very weird… never felt the need to buy tool like a mad man.

  3. J E Mike Tobey

    Chris- How many of the folks here have noticed your more dangerous act of TAS treason? Your shop inventory has been deleted( as in actually off the hard drive- not moved around). I am appalled to discover that a man I respect so much, and who really does so much woodworking does not have so many of the elegant but essential planes, chisels, saws, gauges, squares, spokeshaves. I am stunned at the quality of your work with such a paucity of tools.
    I’m begging you- delete that, or be prepared for the savage deaths of your fans. Do you realize the kind of blunt force trauma a women can apply with just a pair of LN #9 box miter planes? Maybe that excellent wife of yours will let you augment your shoptool list with fictional additions for the welfare of all of us. Best regards, Mike Tobey

  4. Matt Sanfilippo

    I recently pointed out to my wife the article about tool collector John Sindelar in your "sister" publication, Popular Woodworking.

    I specifically showed her the paragraph that says "From that point on, he tried to buy a good tool every week, a practice that continues to this day, though now his tastes run more to mint Holtzapffel miter planes than hardware-store tools."

    I told my wife, see, I am not so bad…I don’t buy "a good tool every week"….its every two weeks at least….

    She wasn’t impressed….

  5. John W. Barrett

    Hey, Chris – The key, I believe, to insulating your marital bliss from undue cutting or gouging (pun intended) from financial pressure is to try and make sure that your wife stays just slightly ahead in the monthly clothes vs. tools contest. And for Pete’s sake, make sure that you’re comparing number of items, not dollar cost!! This approach, when augmented by an extremely dusty and spider filled first 5 or 6 feet of the shop, is almost a lock to ensure success. My wife never comes further than the second step above the basement floor. Thanks for all the good ideas from everyone, too. Hopefully my wife will never learn of WAS or else you’re in real danger.

    P.S. – Remember the Rigid 10" table saw I wrote to you about In March? Well, I bought it. Once I got it set up, tweaked and put an Osbourne miter gauge on it, I’ve done two cradles, half a dozen bird houses, and I have a bookcase and a rocking chair in the works. This saw cuts accurately first time every time and is, in my humble yet accurate opinion, an outstanding value.

  6. Art Sigler

    My wife also comments about my new tool purchases. I was interested to find out what exactly her concerns where regarding my tool purchases and by golly I found out. She said "Just what am I supposed to do with all of those damndable tools when you are GONE?". It was the "When you are GONE" part of the comment that bothered me. I was too cowardly to ask her to be a little more explicit regarding her comment so I proceeded to make an inventory of every tool and the purchase price (I keep most receipts). I put this on the computer and keep it updated. I was shocked to find out what my total investment really is. I was deeply sobbered by the detail so I laid off purchasing any tools — for a couple days. But I’m over that now. I just watch my back a little more than I used to when around my wife.

  7. mike paulson

    Chris,
    Do not dispare,the spouses are our problems.
    Heck, my first, second, and third wife never did understand!

    Regards,
    Mike Paulson

  8. Bob Casey

    Chris,
    All I can say is that about 30 years ago before your magazine was on the newstands Pre Norm etc. My wife said if you buy 1 more tool I’m leaving. Well I immediately got in the truck went to the hardware store (remember them they were great)and bought a screwdriver!!! I still have the screwdriver framed and hanging in the shop, and I know how to cook a hamburg when I feel like leaving the shop. I also agree a shop is much better place to be found then a bar or strip joint, for the guys who stay married. But let us not forget there are people of the opposite sex who do enjoy being in the shop. The president of our woodworking club is a fine lady, and spends as much time if not more in the shop then her boy friend

  9. Ken Meltsner

    As a wise person once said to me, would you rather have a wife that couldn’t pass a bookstore or a bar?

    It worked out better than I expected — almost any tool can be justified as helping to make more bookshelves…

  10. Rick Redfern

    Chris:
    Now these wives have to ask themselves: "would you prefer that he not do anything like woodworking? How about making the local bar owner rich? How about spending all of his paycheck sitting on a barstool watching sports or maybe some bimbo playing with a brass pole? Or worse yet – he could be more amorous and chase you around the house. Think of the alternatives, ladies. I will admit that most males would be interested in the latter. Or you can compromise. We do at our house. I work with wood until a specified time and then…
    Regards,
    Rick Redfern

  11. Christopher Schwarz

    Michael,

    I guess I should find out exactly how much a hit costs these days (it’s been so long since I’ve ordered one myself). I think you’re also used to Manhattan prices. I do, after all, live in Kentucky. The cost of living (and dying) should be much cheaper.

    Chris

  12. Michael Rogen

    Chris,
    Bake sales an mob hits, hmm. I don’t think you need to worry about that. They’d need to sell an awful lot of brownies (no nuts, please) to raise a suffifient amount of funds for the required deed to become a reality. Now if the ladies start having bake sales AND those dreaded , but lucrative Tupperware sales, there might be cause for alarm. Take note all of you waterstone users, nothing beats Tupperware for storing and keeping your waterstones. Or possibly woodworking editors for that matter.
    Remember that I have no affiliation with Tupperware, cake sales or hits of any kind.

    I got your back Chris. Take care,
    Michael

  13. Damon

    I am the sidekick for Colleen. I directed her to your post on "WAS" and she got a very good laugh.

    I have to say that I am a very lucky guy and that she is an amazing wife. She let’s me have plenty of time in the shop to attempt to make furniture for our house. I just really enjoy reading Chris’s material as I find it very informative as well as entertaining.

    And oh no….can you please change the web address before she see’s your wifes post on the blue box!

    Cheers,

    Damon

  14. Lucy May

    Word to the wives: I’m just glad he’s spending the money on tools instead of bourbon and/or strippers.

    And here’s a little something for the husbands, courtesy of Wife of Schwarz: Learn the importance of the little blue box. There is a lovely selection of sterling silver jewelry at tiffany.com if there’s no store near you, and many pieces cost less than a Lie-Nielsen plane.

  15. Mike

    Nearest antecedent is the noun "readers." In this case, normal grammar rules apply.

    But, you knew that…

    Mike
    the killjoy

  16. Mike Siemsen

    "Instead these communiqués are from the wives of our readers, who are about 95 percent male."

    Wow! I would never have guessed that the wives of your readers are 95% male. My wife is 100% female.
    Mike

  17. P. M.

    The real problem is the bragging. If we buy a tool, hand or power we can’t help it, we have to brag about how excellent the tool is, how much we spend on it who much work does it save, and so on. If we were only able to do as they do, and this is: be quiet. We should buy the tool and wait until she realizes that you’ve got a new tool. And then complain about her lack of sensitiveness and attention to your things, and that she never notices whenever you buy a new tool. Then, we migth achieve two things, one, you got yourself an excuse when you don’t notice something new at home or on her, and second, you get some time without escrutiny about your new tool. But no, we cannot keep our mouth shot.
    The problem goes from bad to worst when asked, because we blame on others i.e. “I saw it on WM blog, a Chris guy recommended it…”, “He said we should have it”, or even more lame, “look at the picture he has one”. And, there is the time when Chris’ problem gets started. And ours is not even close to get solved we just created a divergence.
    I know, I am stereotyping, but sometimes life is like that. And if the previous paragraph doesn’t depict you (or your situation), please don’t be offended. If it does (depict you), here is a thought: Since I think we wont stop bragging and blaming on a guy named Chris. Then, save double or spend half. Even if you are not thinking in buying a tool in the near future, (say tomorrow) save for that tool that you might want some day (ok, next week). Use the other half of the savings to buy something to your better half (ok you may get away with 60/30).
    Then perhaps you (and Chris) will be out of trouble when bragging about your new tool.

    P.M.

  18. Mike

    Colleen,

    Sounds like your husband just needs to reorganize his reading vs. doing time.

    I read tons and manage to get a little work done in the shop. I read in the odd times of the day, the "throne room," and when appointments require "hurry up and wait" on my part. Too, I make it a point to read for at least a 1/2 hour every night prior to hitting the hay.

    Chris…my wife is as bad as I am when it comes to tools, wood and, in her case, the lathe. The lady owns far more turning tools than I own chisels, planes and measuring instruments. I doubt she would sign up on WAS.com ;^)

    But she did let out a hearty chuckle when she read this blog entry…

    Take care, Mike

  19. Christopher Schwarz

    Colleen,

    I’ll try to be briefer (is that a word?) then. It will allow me to spend some more time in the shop and get more done. Some days I fear my own spouse would head up the local chapter of WAS.com.

    Thanks for the note.

    Chris

  20. Colleen

    "Nothing defuses the expense of the means like the beauty of the results."

    Good quote, Chris. My husband directed me to this page. I must say, as the wife of a woodworker, I don’t mind the expense of the tools as long as he builds me cool stuff for our house.

    My beef with you is how much time he spends reading your stuff vs the time he could be spending in the shop!

  21. Christopher Schwarz

    Jason et al,

    I think the larger fear here is when they figure out if they all pool just a little bit of money (or hold a bake sale) that they will be able to afford a mob hit and save money in the long run.

    Chris

  22. Jason Myre

    Chris,

    I doubt my wife will ever call you, but I have started to scroll the page in such a way that your picture doesn’t show on the screen when I’m reading your blog. Every time my wife sees your picture, she makes some "your obsessed with woodworking" comment. Since she has apparently memorized your face, you might get a shoulder slug in an airport one day… but probably not a phone call.

    Regards,
    Jason

  23. Gary Roberts

    I’ll volunteer to set up a Christopher Schwarz Defense Fund. Clearly you will be in need of substantial monetary backing when the civil suits implicating you as the ‘other man’ start flying. In the meantime, I’ld suggest politely referring any wayward husbands and their attendant wives to communicationsinmarriage.psych. Or possibly to rykenologistsanonymous.plane.

    Gary

  24. J.C. Collier

    Those "husbands" need to learn the value of "mad money" so they won’t raise the ire of their beloved. Squirrel aways a little geld from every paycheck or the beer budget and avoid the nasty revelation of your proclivities toward good toolage.

    A caveat though is in order, if you collect planes, then you need to actually use some of them, that way the missus will not notice when a new one shows up and if by some scant chance she asks the dread question, "Where’d you get that one," you can look her straight in the baby blues (or browns) and shrug, "This old thing…

    Discretion is always the better part of valor.

  25. Dave Klear

    I had this problem till I agreed to buy cheap tools if she agreed to buy cheap cook and kitchen ware. 🙂

  26. Christopher Schwarz

    Jessica,

    I know that there are a significant number of female woodworkers and readers. I meet them at shows and seminars as I travel. (Some day I need to write an entry about my thoughts on that. Here’s one sentence on it: There’s a reason — all other factors being equal — I always choose a female doctor over a male one.)

    And sometimes I meet the husbands as well. They have never said a single word. I empathize with them. My wife knows far more about sports than I do. So social events for us are… amusing.

    Chris

  27. jessica wickham

    Well, it just goes to show you that "husbands against Schwartz" does not exist because the men have the sense to realize how excellent their wives’ choice in well designed tools is!

  28. Elo

    No wife has mentioned how you contribute to improve their quality of life ? Doing things pleasurable, things that make sense to you are equally important as keeping a budget.

    Chris, my wife would agree that we all need passions in order to live well. You contribute in making that passion a better experience and therefore we live happier. Tools are only things for the instrumentation of our happiness and the means by which we weave a better life, one board at a time.

    Cheers,

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