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Years ago when I was editor at Popular Woodworking, I was interviewed for a job at one of our competitors.

During the interview, I experienced one of those fork-in-the-road moments where a single decision will change everything you do for the rest of your life. To set the stage a bit, this happened about 2008. My first book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” had just come out. Lost Art Press, my current company, was a 1-year-old baby.

The guy interviewing me for the job said something that was insightful and worrisome. Holding my “Workbenches” book he said the following, which I’ll paraphrase:

Most of us get only one really good idea. Mike Dunbar has Windsor chairs. Michael Fortune has his band saw. Christian Becksvoort has Shaker furniture. Bob Flexner has finishing. This book is your one good idea, and you’ll spend the rest of your life as a writer trying to top it.

So the better course is to become an editor – a real editor – and help others develop their good ideas.

It was a compelling argument, and I returned to my hotel room with a lot to think about. Ultimately I concluded the guy was 100 percent correct and decided to sign on with the competitor. My wife, however, talked me out of it a few nights later while we were doing the dishes.

And I am forever grateful that she did.

I have a lot of shortcomings. But if I have one strength, it’s coming up with ideas for books, articles, blog entries, whatever. I have enough book ideas for two lifetimes. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s a conservative estimate. Not all of my ideas are home runs; far from it. But they are ideas that are compelling enough that I will gladly devote myself to them for a couple years to explore them to the fullest.

And that, my friends, is where I am headed tomorrow. This is the last entry in this blog, but it is not the conclusion. Far from it. I’ll be blogging every day at Lost Art Press, just like I have for the last 11 years. I’ll be writing books, exploring old techniques, helping other authors get their work published, teaching classes and trying to keep my face off the internet and your television set.

I am extremely grateful to Popular Woodworking Magazine for giving me the best job I ever had. It’s the job I held for the longest (16 years full time, and six more years as a contributing editor). And in the process I met hundreds of people who are talented, passionate, hilarious, musical, poetic, lazy, pitiful and enigmatic. I’ve loved them all, and I will miss working with them.

In closing, I’ll say this. This is not real life. This – this succession of lighted letters and images on a screen – is only a sign that points to something else more important. And that’s doing something with your hands besides typing or clicking or just observing.

Close your laptop. Turn off your phone. Walk to your shop and take a deep breath. Think of all the things you could build in that small room. Your work there could change the lives of people who haven’t even been born yet and use materials that started growing 100 years before you were born. That’s a real network, a real continuity.

So, what are you waiting for? Fight progress.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 12 comments
  • granolajohn

    I enjoy the irreverent voice of Chris’ writing. It’s not afraid to question, critique, or be downright contrary to those who should, otherwise, be big enough to handle it. I’m not referring to the individual who advocates a controversial technique or strategy. But rather, calling out the commercial giants when they produce poorly engineered products or market a mindset for the latest highest-amp cordless tool to replace all of the corded ones you bought not that long ago. That begs a response. Sharpening or rounding over the edge of that response depends upon how deeply the issue impacts the writer.

    Chris’ voice, leaves no doubt about his passion for the profession and his advocacy for the quality of the tools that equip the craftsman. I respect him for being upfront about that. Subtlety and deference simply do not inspire the anarchy sometimes needed to be a hand tool advocate in an all too prevalent power tool world.

    So, say what you want about the guy; he is what he is. But I take comfort in knowing that there’s a strong voice out there willing to stand up and speak truth to “power.”

    Thank you, Chris.


    i found a really old vise or press of some sort. Can I send you a picture?

  • Awethor

    Well done, sir. Enjoyed a lot of your writing for both its content and its tone, in PW but also (especially) the workbench rules you set forth in your book. Looking forward to seeing more from you, best wishes.

  • Patrick Hughes

    Chris, I hope you don’t leave us without staying in touch! I’ve been a woodworker for many years, basically because of your help and assistance I like your remarks and snide comments, and most of all your knowledge.

  • Spoiler

    Dear Pop Wood,
    Please make a permanent space on your website for us users to easily find Chris Schwarz content for let’s say… a thousand years. I refer to his words more often than most other online voices. I have always appreciated how your site makes it easy to search out a long ago article that I now need to revisit.

  • Saville

    Well sorry to see you leave the magazine because it’s another reason for me to possibly regret my keeping the subscription. I’ve noticed some trends in the mag that I do not like. Last issue no Arts & Mysteries and there was electrical router articles.

    If I wanted FWW I’d subscribe to FWW. But I don’t.

    I want an old-timey hand tool magazine.

    I agree with the earlier poster that you really ought to get rid of the abrasiveness and snark. It’s not attractive and turns me off such that I have to struggle to expend effort to keep reading what you write in order to glean the really useful stuff you have to say. I really don’t like it and I just don’t think it’s necessary.

  • Shaun Harper

    Thanx for all your wisdom Christopher. I have enjoyed your work for more than a decade now. We have had the chance to exchange a few emails and you have been kind and generous with your time.
    My only regret is your bench height recommendation. I built the 18th century workbench and love almost everything about it except the height. I am sure if I spent fours hours a day in the shop dimensioning boards by hand the height would be beneficial. But as a hobbyist who uses hand tools for mostly joinery and finish prep, I believe the workbench should be at least four inches taller to make joinery work easier. I have used the bench as is for almost three years now and have finally committed to adding some type of leg extension.
    I greatly look forward to your future work. Cheers.

  • Wtfisthat

    Pretty generous calling that a “good idea”. But I have high standards.

    I would describe it as a successful idea.

    The world is full of crappy ideas that make money. People are idiots and open their wallets for almost anything in front of them. The trick is getting it in front of their eyes.

    Lose the hate in your writing and embrace people that may not do things the way you do, even if they are abrasive. You may learn something new, or even something you forgot you knew.

    Ignore the trolls.

    You don’t have to be PC, but you don’t have to be a dick either.

    You remind me of myself when I see your rants, and that is my own least favorite quality.

    I want to read someone better than myself. Not the same asshole I have to hear in my head all day long.

  • Eric R

    I agree with Tucker Tuck, thank you Mrs. Schwarz.
    Chris has been mighty influential in the way I go about woodworking, and by extension you have been just as important by making sure he stays on the path.
    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  • Gerry Clifford

    Many thanks Chris for your work and passion for the craft. As a recent newcomer to your blog site and other works, I eagerly look forward to reading future posts and publications.

  • tucker tuck

    Please thank your wife for all of us. Your contributions to the myriad of explorations and manifestations in this craft are invaluable.

    • Gerry Clifford

      Many thanks Chris for your work and passion for the craft. As a recent newcomer to your blog site and other works, I eagerly look forward to reading future posts and publications.

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