|Review by mafe||posted 08-20-2011 06:21 PM||18289 views||2 times favorited||156 comments|
Review of The Anarchist’s Tool Chest
By: Christopher Schwarz
I have just re written the review slightly since I after reading it again could see that I could be read wrong in some passages, that they could be read like ‘personal’, I belive what is left now is not more personal than Schwarz’s choose to put us inside in his book. I never meant to harm Schwarz’s I try to review a book.
(I posted a mark in the comments so you can se where the old and new comments is).
Before I start this review I have to link to the story of how it got this book so all know that I love the book for a special reason, even this has nothing to do with the content, thank you to my friend and Elf.
I’ll also say I love Schwarz book about work benches and will recommend anyone building a bench to buy this book before he set up for a specific type of bench since there are so many different and he goes through a good part of them.
The Anarchist’s Tool Chest:
Before I even get started I will say I do not like this book, so if you are one of those who like to call Schwarz for Chris and see him as a friend even you never meet the guy just stop here and go and buy the book please, there are no reason to know what I mean then.
If you are looking for a book about a man thinking loud full of sarcasm on how to get through his midlife crisis, and trying to tell others what mistakes he had done you have come to the right place, this is in its essence what The Anarchist’s Tool Chest is contributing. Perhaps even if you are not usually able to laugh about yourself and like to get an example that you can mirror yourself inside and in that way be able to laugh about yourself it might be the book also. (This might not be bad, I personally read plenty of midlife crisis books when I had mine).
If you are interested in a book about acual woodworking, or a useful advice on what tools that should be in the shop of a woodworker of our time try other places, you can read the old the joiner and cabinetmaker that inspired him, and here get a picture of what it might have been like, when I say might is it because the author is unknown so we do not really know if the book is fiction.
I’m not aware if the book can be found online but you can buy a reprint with additional material here: http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/indextool.mvc?prodid=AQ-1135.XX .
Or look in the list of books at the end of the review, some are even free.
That was a hard one MaFe, and will not be Popular Review Magazine!
Yes, and I feel almost guilty to write this review, since I do not like the book and generally don’t like to give bad reviews, but I do, and to write a review about a book written by Schwarz needs the tone of Schwarz and this is not sensitive against other people’s feelings, I have learned this the hard way.
In the beginning Schwarz try to convince us he is a ‘real’ woodworker – or more try to convince himself. And in this dilemma he gets lost in his own words and stories, there are really no heads or tails.
Schwarz have a urge to tell us all the time that he is good enough and that he has worked so many years with wood, held more tools than anyone else, read more books, made more wood working, tried this and that and so on, for me it becomes embarrassing, and I really do not understand why he needs that, I think he have plenty to be proud of, he have achieved high quality abilities to do woodworking, a huge knowledge in the field and been able to make himself a name within this field that he burns for. After reading the book I am not all sure, even he try to be funny on the behalf of his x girlfriend Asian roots and lifestyle I sometimes get the feeling that he still is searching for what he wants to do with his life, and I think he is not alone I have been there too and I’m sure plenty of men between 40-50 reading this will say ‘I know that’, but as I said this is a classic mid life crisis and so we should probably leave it there and let him grow old enough to find his inner peace and trust in himself, but it is just not easy when he wants us to read his book, and I do not understand why I should hear about his problems in a book about woodworking (Sorry).
Several pages are dedicated with photos to show us that he now have a wooden floor in his workshop, and this without any details about how, why?
Finally we are supposed to learn about tools, but again we hear more about Schwarz telling about his path that of course are so clear that everybody else can learn from this and do not need to make their own learning. The biggest problem here is that it is never clear, and the advises always end by the fact that you should buy tools from a trusted dealer where you can return the tool if you don’t like it, and yes we got the message E-bay sucks in his world. While he keeps telling us to keep it simple he tells us all the time also what he has collected, while he tells us that he makes a simple list of tools he tells us about other tools we need and so on, in other words all the ideas behind the book he simply can’t follow him self and so it becomes without meaning.
This is a book where the ends don’t meetand the short rude punch lines to make the readers impressed do not work, (people even told me it is charming that he is rude), and so this book becomes a total confusion between a self biography, a self promotion, a build a chest and a mix of thoughts that are not yet under control – chaos and not at all Anarchy.
In my world people don’t have a workshop that are replica of a old English work shop for a cabinet maker, infact I know noone but Schwarz who wants a workshop like this, even we would all love to have one of these also, and we need to make choices in life so we can’t always go to the local trusted dealer and buy the most expensive version even we know that this is what we should do. Most people start as young, they want to fix something, likely the first tool buy is a hammer to put pictures on the wall and after epoxy to put it back when it falls out, and not the full set for a carpenter 150 years ago (ok perhaps I do, but I’m over forty and have tons of other tools). And even he is really trying to make us believe that he is right all the time, of course he is not in many of his hard learned facts, there are many ways and as many meanings, and example is that we do not need a spokeshave with a curved sole that flat can do the same… try to tell that to those working with complex narrow curves. Or when he try to tell us a wooden hammer handle are better than a modern one in composite materials that are absorbing the shock, of course the new one are better, let him work as a carpenter for a week and we will see what he will go for – but I agree they are dead ugly.
Once in a while I mange to smile, but most of the time I am really tired during this part that also are the longest part of the book, the same lines are used again and again to convince us (old technique in writing to dummies like us), and the few good points or facts drown under this semi religion. I have a habit to make folds in my books when there are some good advices, facts or how to, this book might be one of the few where there are almost none… But then again should I make a fold where Schwarz try to tell me about his dinner table and how much he hates IKEA, to me it’s amazing he try to make this into a story or even worse when he try to teach us about design, Schwarz what were you thinking when you wrote this?
Ok I was sure the book had ended, but please help me, Schwarz try to tell us he is a anarchist, I can only imagine the faces of the people present the day he said so… This man feel he is in his right to be rude to whoever he wants, he is not even grateful to his boss and his job but even finish of the book by saying he is not sure this is what he wants, he tell us how he is so full of aggression and are ready to scream if people waste his time or he have to wait in a line (his own words in the book), his magazine is app. 1/3 commercials and he do videos for Lie Nielsen, and yet he try to tell us he is not under influence by the companies since he buy his own tools…
The end of the book.
This part is a how to build a tool chest to store your tools inside. First of all what home wood worker (buyers of this book) really needs a chest? Who should steal your tools in your own workshop… I think a tool cabinet would have been more interesting, a place where the tools would be at hand and I did not need to bend down to get a hammer or crawl to get a hand plane only to discover that I need a doctor because I can’t get up… Ok but at the end this is a matter of taste, interest and was in that book that inspred him to do his, so I almost buy it – almost.
When this is said Schwarz build a beautiful chest, and we see clearly that he know how to put things together in a good way, I’m impressed! Also I like that he think, it would just have been nice if it was a little, in a typical how to we spend a few lines for each picture to tell, he spends a whole page of talking for each picture and this becomes quite dull, even he claims to be one of the sharpest in the business, when he tells us that he is on his number five sharpening stone (you are supposed to be impressed).
I hope this review was at least a little constructive even I took the rude pen of Schwarz to write this review, and that you can read between the lines that what I actually say is, do not buy this book if you are looking for a woodworking book, if you are under 45 of age, unless you suffer from midlife crisis and need a mirror, instead spend the money on tools, seek up your information where people are kind and helpful, like right here on LJ, do not ask yourself what would Schwarz have done, you are not him, and you don’t make what he do (I guess), but ask yourself what you need to build and then what you need of tools, buy tools for fun also, play be a child make mistakes, to buy a wrong tool is not the end of the world and if you do not have the money to buy expensive tools use E-bay or other ways to get old tools, and learn to restore and tune them, find out who you are in all this and do it with a smile and the ability to share this in a positive way with the others, at the end this is what it is all about. If you like to collect tools do that, this is wonderful, but if your hands can, then restore them and try to understand them, this brings great joy and makes you understand what tools you need and what tools that suits you and your desire. Sometimes the straightway as Schwarz try to explain us not so straight at all, it is in the process we learn.
(If you need advice ask, there are so many wonderful people around who do not feel you waste their time if you ask advice but see the pleasure in passing on what was given to them).
If you are interested in old tools use and or the period Schwarz try to describe try:
Classic Hand Tools By Garrett Hack, John S Sheldon
Woodworking Tools 1600-1900, by Peter C. Welsh
The Complete Woodworker
Bernard E Jones
First printed in 1917
This book simply teels all you need to know if you will go the handtool way.
Tools: Working Wood in Eighteenth-Century America
The toolbox book, Jim Tolpin
Mastering hand tool techniques
Roubos planches is free to download here (thank you Andreax):
Here you can buy a CD with the Roubo book L’ART DU MENUISIER EN BATIMENT and get the planches (posters), it is photographed high resolution quality so you can see the bend of the pages:
Here planches from France with all the wonderful old tools and ‘Roubo’ workbench free to download and print:
For the record: Link to a blog I made on Popular Wood Workings policy on stealing people’s rights to their own projects what I really not consider anarchy in it’s pure form.
Link to the blog where I tell about Mr. Schwarz rude answer to me when I confronted him with the policy of his magazine, this gives me a certain right to talk back to him just as rude as I’m pleased lol.
-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.