I just finished reading “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” by Christopher Schwarz, and all I have to say is wow. This is a great book for anyone looking to get into woodworking. It covers many topics, some of which are more personal to Chris than to woodworking itself. However, reading between the lines at the human story Chris has taken over the years is a great learning lesson for anyone who might think of becoming a real craftsman.
Chris starts by comprising a list of the essential tools that every serious handtool user should acquire. This list is comprised of years of research in the history of noted craftsman, and rooted in his own personal experience. One great additive is the explanation of what tools should be and what are objects that simply look like tools but are just garbage. This topic is probably one of the most important for the new woodworker. The information in this book will not only save you money, but will save you your time and your sanity. Though the list of tools is mostly handtool specific, Chris does mention that the use of a few powertools is not the worst thing in the world.
Once you have your handtools you might need a great place to store them. How about a tool chest? The tool chest that is laid out at the end of this book in amazing detail, is a great example of a well thought out, form and function tool chest. I personally have been looking at different ways to store my tools and I might just be convinced to make a tool chest for myself. The tool chest is a very classic way to store and protect your tools. Not only is it a great test for a new woodworker, it is a symbol of your ability as a craftsman. Many personal details have to be considered and much can be learned from old tool chests. Chris covers these aspects and also comments to not copy his tool chest. His tool chest is a great model though, and I cannot think of anything I would change to make it better for my use. That being said I will mull it over and maybe I can come up with some personal choices that will make it better for the way that I work.
Chris also delves into the topic of anarchism. Now, many people will immediately raise an eyebrow to this, but you must not be ignorant on the subject. Forget all you remember from childhood about some evil prospective on anarchism. This philosophical version of anarchism is all about the woodworking craft and not the downfall of our society. Chris touches on the idea of completely discontinuing the purchase of crappy tools and crappy furniture by current makers. Not that all makers of new tools are bad, just the mass marketed corporations. Ever since the end of WWII the mechanical production of furniture and tools has done no favors for the art form of furniture making. To be an anarchist woodworker you need only to stop buying modern made furniture and build your own furniture. Why buy 5 or 6 of everything in your house over your lifetime when you can build it once and never need to purchase it again? This is what it means to be an anarchist woodworker.
On the personal side of the book, the story is just as exciting. Chris has left Popular Woodworking Magazine as the editor and, in part, that was due to the process of writing this book. He has come to a point were he has chosen to pursue more classical approaches to woodworking and would like to revive many old woodworking texts. These are all efforts to help save a craft that has been dying since WWII. I have to say that what Popular Woodworking Magazine has become over the years is mainly due to Chris and his work for the magazine. I do still have my subscription, but I think I will be spending more time reading Chris Schwarz’s blog at Lost Art Press and keeping up with his other literary creations. I wish Chris tons of luck with Lost Art Press LLC and I hope he continues to spread his passion for woodworking artisanship.
Get your copy of "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" here
By the way, Chris is responsible for me becoming an avid listener of banjo music. Thanks Chris.