Lost Art Press: A Statement of Ethics

I do not accept free or discounted tools. I purchased every tool in my chest and have marked it with my shop mark. I do not accept free or discounted materials – lumber, glue, finish or hardware.

On occasion, a manufacturer will send me a tool for private evaluation. If I choose to keep it and use it, I pay full retail for it. If I don’t keep it, I return it to the manufacturer or donate it to a school or student who cannot afford it.

Why am I writing this?

Every time I write a blog entry and I mention that I paid for some item, I get a few messages from readers who advise me to stop adding that caveat. They are tired of reading it. And in truth, I am weary of writing it. I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious.

But here is the truth: New people encounter my blog every day. And if they don’t know who I am, it’s easy for them to assume that I get all my tools for free. Most woodworking writers are bombarded with free tools in the hopes they will write about them. Or they are given free machines or entire batches of workshop supplies in exchange for advertising.

I do not question the ethics of other bloggers. All I know is what I was trained to do in journalism school: Take nothing from the people you write about. (And if you think I’m hardcore, you need to meet my journalist wife. She won’t even drink from the water fountain at a corporation she writes about.)

To finish up, a few more important notes: I am not an “affiliate” at any web site. I do not receive a percentage of the sale of any tool or woodworking material I write about.

I receive income from only three sources: the schools at which I teach, F+W Media Inc. (where I am a contributing editor) and from you, the Lost Art Press customer.

From this point forward, any time I review a tool or woodworking material, I will add a link to this statement of ethics. In that way, I won’t have to waste any more words on this topic, and you will not have to read them.

— Christopher Schwarz

About lostartpress

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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62 Responses to Lost Art Press: A Statement of Ethics

  1. Nick Gibbs says:

    Good for you, Chris. Having edited woodworking magazines for 25 years now, I sympathise. But I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as you say. I pay for things, or give donations to charity because it would cost more to return tools that are going to be thrown away, and give others to schools or charities, but also sometimes keep items that are going to be used in our workshops and are benchmarks for what is great. It’s silly for for me to return a Bosch 10.8v drill/driver when I consider it to be the very best in the market, and every new one will be compared to it. Otherwise I’ll have to ask Bosch to send another, which doesn’t help anyone. But the tools I love most are the ones I’ve paid for, because freeloading brings no joy. There is also the issue of relationships, which has nothing to do with whether or not we pay for tools. Quite naturally we build friendships in the industry, and who knows how this influences our comments??? Hopefully not at all, but I suspect that it does. Our role as analysts and arbiters is important, and not to be taken lightly, but I don’t think it’s enough to rely solely upon the ethics of paying or not paying for the tools we use. There’s more to it than that.

    • Tom says:

      Chris made a simple state of ethics, and now someone had to write his 2-cents worth. Leave it alone folks!

    • Ron Underwood says:

      Nick, I look forward to your declaration on your blog with your name. I think Chris said these were his.

  2. Trapper John says:

    Good idea.

  3. You should call it the “Auguste Disclaimer”

    • Auguste Gusteau says:

      Have I perhaps written somewhere that Christopher Schwarz make hidden advertising for money or free/discounted tools?
      Best regards,
      Auguste Gusteau

  4. Tom Dreher says:

    Bravo ! I have always found you to be truthful,
    Nuf said.

  5. Jay Oyster says:

    I congratulate you on clearly stating your policies, and in having policies that are in keeping with the best traditions of ethical journalism. I wish more journalists adhered to such standards..

    No, strike that, I do believe that most individual journalists would wish to follow such standards. Unfortunately, many of the large news organizations for which they work no longer want such hard-lined rules to be enforced, because they interfere with the higher God of maximizing profit. Since you have your own company, you are setting an example for those organizations as well.

    Too bad they’re mostly too big to listen.

  6. Phil Spencer says:

    Good on you Chris, I like an honest man, honest people are a rare find these days keep it up.

  7. Jack Schwass says:

    Sad to see that it has come to this – we lost an excellent reviewer (and superb writer) when ALF stopped doing reviews and posting on the UK site. Keep up the good work and have fun while you are doing it. Life’s too short.

  8. Bernard Naish says:

    Christopher,
    I believe your ethical stance is perfectly correct and I only wish all writers and their employers would follow your lead. Keep up the good work. Bernard Naish

  9. David Greenwood says:

    Bravo!

    David

  10. Chris, Do that many people actually take the time to ignore the content of your post, and instead make a comment accusing you of taking free tools and materials? I follow your blog pretty closely, I only remember the one oaf commenting on your campaign hardware. Perhaps the others I just automatically disregard for infantile comments and don’t remember.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that you have built a solid reputation for yourself. It might even be said that your experiencing more than your allowed fifteen minutes of fame. But reading your post, I don’t read much from anyone that’s not praising your for what you’ve done, and encouraged others to do.

    Buck up and blow of the retard comments. I promise the rest of us know where to file them.

    At least I’m glad your making it a link that we can or cannot visit. Because I already know where you stand with me.

  11. Floss says:

    I think you should link someone who questions your ethics to some other woodworking magazine/blog block plane review article. Seems to me a fate worse than hell.

    F.

  12. bobprime0 says:

    Chris,
    When you get to buy pre production tools, for example the coping saw you just bought, could you continue to note the fact that it was a rev 0 tool. You always have in the past and I rather appreciate it since pre production/first run tools are sometimes different.

    Also other than an issue I recall about a stanley coping saw being inconsistent between individual tools have you ever found a big difference between an early run and some later tool?

  13. billlattpa says:

    I’ve asked this question before but I’ll ask again: You may have paid full price! But did you pay for shipping?! Did you get overnight shipping for the ground rate? Did some overzealous tool maker “forget” to charge you freight? I don’t think I, or any woodworker, or any red-blooded American can trust a man who doesn’t make sure he pays for shipping..

  14. John Cashman says:

    No matter how much integrity you may have, someone will always come along and doubt you. I can’t blame someone who is new, but I dislike those who have been reading for a long while, and still hurl accusations. Those folks really irritate me.

  15. Ron Underwood says:

    I believe and have a calibrated digit for those who don’t.

  16. Graham Burbank says:

    The occasional review of a tool you like, love, or no longer bother with is appreciated. If you use it everyday, not just briefly to meet some journalistic deadline, you learn more about it and develop specific likes and criticisms. I regard your opinions as the result of experience, not biased based on whether someone gave it to you to try. Manufacturers make all kinds of claims regarding their newest, latest, greatest thingamajig. Someone’s gotta try them out. I may never buy another bench chisel, but someone new to the field can learn a thing or two from your experiences if you write about them. Lie nielsen or veritas? Good info from you on both. Beta testers bleed for the rest of us. Thanks!

  17. Rob says:

    Blimey, I hope this will be the last of your ‘Gary Smythe’ type disclaimers or people will begin to think the lad doth protest too much.
    But since you raise the subject, your blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine is headed by a banner proclaiming ‘sponsored by Lee Valley and Veritas’. How does that work then?
    It seems a bit weird to have your blog ‘sponsored’ by a particular tool manufacturer when you might be reviewing that manufacturer’s tools and those of its competitors in your blog. Wouldn’t it be better to be ‘sponsored’ by the magazine’s publisher?

    • lostartpress says:

      Rob,

      I have no clue what the deal is between Lee Valley/Veritas and F+W. Nobody has told me anything. I get paid by F+W to blog there, and I am told to write whatever I please. And I do.

      Chris

      • Rob says:

        Thank you Chris.

        For the record, I don’t understand what F+W are playing at because if that’s the case they are seriously undermining your credibility for anyone who dips in and out of the magazine and doesn’t dissect the matter too much (as we are doing here! Crikey! I need to get a life!)

        How can they put up that banner pairing your grinning face with Lee Valley / Veritas like you are their sales rep or something and not tell you anything? Why have you stood for that all these years, and least of all now when you are The Anarchist, totally independent of all that corporate/ consumerism crap?

        Besides which it is conspicuous that the rest of the editorial team there viz. Megan Fitzpatrick, Steve Shanesy, Robert W. Lang, Mathew Teague and Tom Nunlist do not impose upon themselves to write under a ‘sponsored’ banner on the Editors’ Blog. It makes you look like the ‘bought’ guy and them all squeaky clean! And the problem with that is, while they only have to worry about Popular Woodworking, your main business is eslewhere – at LAP – and a guy’s only got one reputation.

        Fact is, for the rest of the world, when you see Tiger Woods’ face greeting the world under a Nike baseball cap you kind of take it as read that he’s getting paid by Nike.

        Obviously you don’t jump to that conclusion when you see Joe Soap getting lost on the local crazy golf wearing a Nike baseball cap – he just wants to look like Tiger Woods.

        It’s that pairing of a celebrity with an interested sponsor which is the problem, at least in the eyes of someone who doesn’t bother to read all this boloney!

        When you are being so particular and clear about the ethics thing here I don’t see how you can stand by and have your reputation undermined by F+W in this way. Your blog over there, more than anyone’s, ought to be proclaiming ‘sponsored by nobody but readers.’

        Best regards, Rob

    • Ian Wigle says:

      Not sure that’s entirely fair comment. Christopher provides content to F+W. He does not, any longer, make editorial decisions at PWM.

      F+W have to pay the bills. Lee Valley offered to help, provided they could put their name somewhere close to the person delivering content closest to the products LV sells. This is not a decision I see Christopher having a veto on, other than to withdraw his services, which just takes bread off his table.

      Christopher has bent over backwards to make it clear where he stands. I think the least we can do is accept that as writ, and not ask him to limbo even lower…

      I also suspect that we are not privey to all of Christopher’s private communications. I would not be surprised to learn that he has to deal with “Gary Smythe” type allegations more frequently than we have seen here on the blog.

      Anyway, I’ll continue to read here despite any disclaimers Christopher sees fit to write. From my perspective, that’s just the price of admission.
      Nuf said.

      • George J. (Germany) says:

        Well said Ian, I’ll second these:
        “Christopher has bent over backwards to make it clear where he stands. I think the least we can do is accept that as writ, and not ask him to limbo even lower…”

        “Anyway, I’ll continue to read here despite any disclaimers Christopher sees fit to write”

        Sorry to undermine the ’nuff said’ though…

  18. Way to go Chris,I dont know whats wrong with people.You give them free advice and help and they want to put crap on the comments.Just keep doing what you do that most of us love.

  19. kennyswood says:

    Way to go Chris.Keep doing what you do that most of us love.I dont know whats wrong with these people.You give them free help and advise and they want to post crap like this on the comments.Well it takes all kinds to make the world go round.I like your work and writings and will keep reading them.Thanks Chris

  20. Chris says:

    People who ask about it obviously have not read/watched enough Schwarz. Their inquiry is probably paired with how do I make a sawbench.

  21. mitchwilson says:

    I am all for ethics. But I really believe that it would be acceptable for your wife to drink from those water fountains.

  22. Kim A Howarter says:

    Chris, For what it is worth, you have my support, just keep doing what you are doing. I enjoy reading your blog which I believe is free, so you give back more than the value of the tools that are sent to you. Lots of good information in your Blog’s. I wish some of the people that I have worked with were half as honest as you are with handling gifts and unsolicited items, etc.

  23. brian smith says:

    Hang tough. There isn’t enough integrity, honesty or transparency in many areas of journalism these days – please keep up your (and by extension your wife’s) good work and efforts – they are appreciated. At least by me and my woodworking friends.
    Regards,
    Brian Smith

  24. robert says:

    Nicely said.

  25. I wish all bloggers could take this “oath”.

    I o/o a chocolate and pastry shop and have had my experiences with bloggers. I’ve learned to love the “nonprofessional” ones and hate the “professional” ones.
    Why?
    The non-pros are genuinely interested in my business and want it to succeed in their neighborhood. The pros, –well, the pros don’t have a “Day job”, so they hit me up for a free blog in exchange for product. And they can be downright nasty if you turn them down. I finally came up with a way to get rid of them: I asked them to put a caveat on their website explaining that this blog was partly or fully paid for by my business. Works like copper on slugs….

  26. Chris Quinn says:

    When the latest issue of Popular Woodworking arrived, one of your articles bothered me, but I decided not say anything. But because this post is about journalism ethics, and because you’re holding yourself out as a model of such, I’ll ask: Did you consider disclosing in your article about Roy Underhill that you have a business relationship with him, in that you teach at his school? People who read your blog know you teach there, but people who just read the magazine, not so much. Just saying…

  27. LW says:

    As one who made a recent comment saying something like, “Mr. Schwarz, you don’t need to keep telling us this, we know you are a straight up guy…” I understand and am sorry if I added to your frustration over this. However, I learned something here. As a non-journalist I never thought about your simple rule – don’t take money from people you may end up writing about. Duh! However, can you blame me for not quite understanding ethics in journalism these days? I guess you are “old school” in many ways!

  28. bobprime0 says:

    Why does saying that you don’t take money/free tools bring out so much hate? Would you have been better off claiming that manufactures ship you bales of $20 bills whenver you mention them and that your wife likes expensive jewlery Veritas Lie-neilsen, Bad Axe Toolworks. Plus that Roy Underhil is funding your 3rd, 4th and 5th bathrooms + and indoor swimming pool using his earnings from 30 years of working PBS plus his time at a living history museum because you talk about him so much.

    Obviously that was all in jest and you don’t get money on the side from any of them. We all know your true secret that you get all of your extra funds from specialty leather clothing manufacturers.

  29. Dan says:

    This whole thread has made me feel unethical. If I were a wood journalist I’d fill my shop with all the freebies I could get. Then if I used something I’d report honest feedback. I don’t see the issue with taking freebies. Freebies have nothing to do with ethics only dishonesty as someone stated earlier. Would anyone else take freebies, or am I truly unethical??

    • tsstahl says:

      If you think about it at length, I believe you’ll come to see the inherent conflict of interest in accepting free tools for continued use in exchange for reporting on them. Soliciting tools for review is necessary and common.

      If your shop is full of free Powerful off yellow colored machines, how can I believe you if you find a gray or green power tool below par?

      If you continually extol the virtues of a very expensive loose tenon power tool that you paid nothing for, why would I think anything other than ‘shill’?

      If you accept and use a large number of free tools and do NOT extol their virtue, why should the manufacturer continue to patronize your publication?

      It is perfectly ok, according to most ethics eggheads, to accept items of a nominal value. Minor shop consumables would fall into this category. Even my company ethics policy allows nominal items valued at less than 50 bucks to be accepted from vendors.

      Chris is taking an ethical stance a shade more pure than what is very common.

      I think refusing to cash in on reputation is admirable.

  30. Bob Jones says:

    Ok, ok. For all you tool manufacturers out there I will be glad to step up. Send me what you’ got and I will be glad to start a blog and talk about the wonder of your tools. No tailed routers, please. :) My conscience is clear.

    Oh wait, no one is waiting to send me tools…

  31. John Cashman says:

    Jeez. I’m getting too old. There are days I like humanity less and less. I think Chris has always been very clear about his ethics — far more than any writer, woodworking or no, that I have ever read. And still, people keep wanting to move the bar, or parse his words and actions as if they were probing for splinters in an open wound.

    But then, it’s late, and I’m tired and sore. Maybe it’s me.

  32. David T says:

    I hope the people who suggest you don’t pay for tools and wood buy products from you.
    Otherwise they read your blog for free and then complain you don’t pay for stuff.

    Maybe they are just irony impaired

  33. Scott says:

    Absolutely fantastic, you’ve won my vote Chris. There are so many woodwork blogs out there who you know are accepting kick backs in return for favourable commentary. Bravo, well done.

  34. woodgods says:

    Dear Chris,
    I may not comment a lot, but have followed you from afar for a long time.
    I and many,have always held your honesty and integrity in the highest regard. Have no fear, as I am sure this is also felt by 99.9 % of the majority. One of the most exiting things in my life will be when I attend your Anarchist’s Tool Chest course in Melbourne next year. Lifes good.

    Pitty a disclaimer is needed to silence the NUMBNUTS.

    Woodgods.

  35. David Barbee says:

    Chris,
    Over the years I have read/watched everything i could find that you have put out since you started at popular woodworking. You have been the only woodworking writer that I come accross that made me stop in my tracks. For me your writing stands out above the rest for many reasons. Its personable with a little humor but most of all you ask and explore the right question. Why? Anytime you have recommended a tool it is generally followed by a why. Probably more importantly I learn what features are the most important about this particular tool type.

    I just hope that you don’t get discouraged from making such recommendations. In the land of the chisel/rasp combo new woodworkers need this type of advice. As I have, over the years, learned to ask myself the right questions about a tool before purchasing.

    David B.

  36. Dan Roper says:

    The only time I get anything free is when I order a gazillion dollars worth of something and then need to order at least one more tiny item that I most likely will never use just to “qualify” for free shipping. I am thinking that I should start a blog and actually keep all the free stuff they throw out. It would not be much of an ethical dilemma for me as there are very few people that care what I think about stuff to begin with. Having said this, Chris, I salute you for integrity, honesty, talent with the written word and a gift of woodworking talent. I also think you are a good influence on Roy when you appear on his show…..I have never seen him cut a finger when you were there…..can’t say that about when you are not on.

  37. robert says:

    As great of a loss it would be to the woodworking community, your talents and spine would do the world good by holding corporations and governments to account. We need more true journalists and fewer stenographers.

  38. Bill Clift says:

    Chris -

    I appreciate your integrity and independence on this issue. I have always respected your reviews on tools because I know they aren’t influenced by some back door financial incentive. Keep up the good work!!

  39. Art says:

    Well, Chris, I guess we can be happy for one thing. The bandwidth on this subject will be cut down now that you can just point back to this blog entry. :-)

  40. bluejazz says:

    Obviously this did not completely end conversation on this topic. But it was on target.

    I know I was ignorant of Chris’s background and integrity and in fact got caught up in negatives others put out there. Then I found out the truth by listening. Bottom line is. Jerks, know-it-alls and trolls abound and always will. People will either pay attention and find the truth or…well who gives a {fill in the blank} Give them a blanket statement and otherwise forget they exist.

  41. Auguste Gusteau says:

    Advertising for free, blog for free, everything for free. Welcome everybody to the for free fair.
    Remenber, if you are not paying for the product, you are the product or
    Listen, if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.
    Kisses,
    Auguste

  42. Patrick says:

    You do realize that the day is coming when someone accuses you of using this blog to unethically promote the sale of books.

    • Patrick says:

      Oh yeah, I just though of something my Dad always told me, “Remember, that there are more horses-asses in the world than there are horses.” That bit of advise always helps to put things into perspective.

  43. mike siemsen says:

    I understand your message Chris. It really doesn’t matter what one states about his or her ethics as the unethical don’t have a problem in lying about how ethical they are. I have a simple test, those who roll in sh*t smell like sh*t. If you hang around with skunks you smell like skunks. The air smells pretty clear around you. Mostly fresh white pine of late.

  44. Ron Dennis says:

    Bravo! Now, let’s get back to the good stuff.

  45. TonyF says:

    This is nice to hear. Both CS and the Wood Whisperer are so ethical. Oh, never mind.

  46. Joseph Zawodny says:

    Imagine, a person with real integrity. I am so grateful to have found you and your blog at this time in my life. I’m getting kinda old, but reading you and your candid remarks makes an old guys day. I’m not the best woodworker, and I enjoy learning. You’ve given me the desire to push on, no matter how “old” a guy is. Thanks.

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