If you read the woodworking message boards and blogs, you’ve likely read a little bit about Christopher Schwarz’s latest book, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” (Lost Art Press). It’s a mix of the philosophy of social mutualism, a list of hand tools Chris finds essential in his shop, and how-to on building a stout tool chest based on historical examples. And we now have it in our store (and you can read what Chris has to say about it on his blog).
I’ve read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” several times now, and while I will eventually build a tool chest similar to the one Chris presents (if perhaps in a smaller iteration), what I find most intriguing is the philosophy behind the book. In brief, Chris reveals his reasons for being a woodworker: Time is a more important commodity than money. In explaining his epistemology, Chris tells the story of the Cincinnati Time Store, a fascinating late 19th-century establishment where one could purchase goods in exchange for time. I plan to hit the library stacks to find out more about it.
But we’ve also added a couple of other important books from Lost Art Press (Chris’s new day job…at which I hear the boss is a demanding SOB).
The first is Robert Wearing’s “The Essential Woodworker,” a book that Chris says changed his woodworking life – and when he wrote that a couple years back on his blog, the cost for the out-of-print book shot up. So Chris decided to reprint it, updated with new photographs and Wearing’s blessing and input. I can’t honestly say this book changed my woodworking life…because what I learned from it, I learned from Chris (and that has changed my life). So I suppose, like so much else in education, it’s trickle-down teaching.
We’ve also added “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker,” which is probably my favorite book on traditional hand-tool woodworking. It’s in part a reprint in full of an 1839 fictional tale of an apprentice woodworker, Thomas, who we follow through the building of several projects on his way to becoming a journeyman joiner (plus we meet Sam, the lazy and slovenly apprentice). It’s a charming story that reveals (a perhaps idealized) look at the life of a rural English apprentice in the early 19th century, and gives us some clues as to the tools and techniques used at the time.
Added to that is an treatise from Joel Moskowitz that helps situate Thomas’s tale historically in what we know of the life of a craftsman at the time, and the late 18th/early 19th-century apprenticeship system.
And, Chris offers up the same projects that Thomas builds (a Packing Box, Dovetailed School Box and Chest of Drawers, complete with step-by-step instruction and measured drawings. Even for non-woodworkers, “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” is a great read – and for woodworkers, it’s fascinating.
If I didn’t already have these books, they’d be at the top of my Christmas list. Like most Lost Art Press books, these three are all hardcover, Smythe-sewn and printed in the United States on quality paper.