‘The Map is not the Territory’

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The first words of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” are “disobey me,” a paradoxical expression that underlies much of my favorite absurdist Russian literature. You can take the expression at face value, or you can think about it for a minute and consider that perhaps Gregor Samsa has not really turned into a cockroach.

When I finished writing “Campaign Furniture,” I wanted to begin the book with Alfred Korzybski’s dictum, “The map is not the territory.” But I decided to just play it straight and not include any discussion of semantics. The book itself is a straightforward discussion of the furniture and how to build it. I don’t think this book will get me in trouble like my last one did. So I didn’t include the Korzybski quote.

That doesn’t stop me, however, from talking about my unspoken motives for the book here on the blog. While the book (the map) is about campaign furniture, the uncharted territory it describes is far different.

After 15 years at Popular Woodworking, I concluded that our craft is strapped into a stylistic straightjacket (Shaker and Arts & Crafts) that does more harm than good. Now before you get your panties in a bundle, let me be clear about a couple things: There’s nothing wrong with either of those styles. I love them both. I also love Oreos, but an exclusive diet of them is a bad idea. Also, I was part of the problem. I wrote, approved and encouraged the publication of hundreds of pieces dealing with Shaker and Arts & Crafts.

So I also want to be part of the solution. “Campaign Furniture” is part of that. “Furniture of Necessity,” my next book, is the next step in that direction.

I want readers to explore other styles, even if it isn’t campaign style or vernacular furniture. There is a world of furniture styles out there that are begging to be built. And it’s furniture that beginners can handle. Danish modern, Bauhaus, Japanese Tansu, Chinese furniture (a fricking world of Chinese furniture) are just a few of the styles out there that don’t require an 18th-century apprenticeship to build and are beautiful.

And I’m willing to take a personal hit to my income to try to open your eyes.

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If I were smart, I’d write a book on birdhouses, which usually sell twice as many units as any traditional woodworking book. Or I’d do another book on workbenches, Shaker furniture or Arts & Crafts.

Writing a book on an obscure furniture style is economic stupidity. If people don’t like the style, they won’t buy the book, no matter how good it is. Books on a furniture style (even Shaker) will always sell worse than books on skills, tools or workshops. Books on an obscure furniture style usually go from the printer right to the bargain bin. (Ever seen the fascinating book on Mormon furniture? That’s exactly my point.)

Today I received my copy of “Campaign Furniture,” and it doesn’t completely disappoint me. The printing job is nice. I like the end sheets. The binding looks good – not too much glue and the stitching is solid. So I’m drinking a Stone “Old Guardian” right now to celebrate the release of what could be a monumentally unsuccessful book.

I also take a sip to hope – that some of you are willing to step outside the narrow confines of our craft and start to explore the immense uncharted territory ahead of us.

Campaign Furniture,” for better or worse, has a map inside.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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54 Responses to ‘The Map is not the Territory’

  1. jwatriss says:

    I’ll be placing my order shortly.

    I was reading Megan’s editor’s letter in April’s PWW, (“End User Expecations”) and all I could think was ‘she should add a column titled “I can’t build that… But it’s cool!” …just to break up some of the groupthink you describe.

    The average beginner will probably never delve into timber framing, boat building, the ridiculously high end, (Seymour, Roentgen, etc) or any one of a number of other ways of working with wood. But that doesn’t mean that some cross-pollination of thought or method is ever a bad idea.

    You know, at least LOOKING at the deep end of the pool, and not settling for only wet feet.

  2. Joel says:

    Hey, two years ago I’d never heard of campaign furniture. But I’ve come to really like it via reading your blog. Also, my wife really likes the aesthetic, and convincing her is never easy. I’ve already ordered my copy of the book. I hope it’s successful.

  3. rudemechanic says:

    I’m really looking forward to this and your next book – any sense of when LV in the Great White North might be receiving them?

  4. Thomas Scott says:

    Hey Chris,
    Will you be bringing any copies with you to the William Ng workshop? I can pay for it in yankee dollars.
    Thanks,
    Tom

  5. mcdara says:

    Amoungst complete freaks like me, this is the ultimate in cool. Of course I do 1800’s Mountain man camp-outs, belong to a Sherlock Homes society and play Irish folk music. If people like you quit stepping outside the realm of “Normal” the magic has left the building.

  6. nateharold says:

    You make an interesting point. I do intend to build a piece out of Campaign Furniture. I don’t think I’d buy it otherwise. But this post makes me think about reading more outside my current sources. Your post about David Savage send me to his site and, wow, he makes some amazing things. I dig his Elvis Low Coffee Table, which probably wouldn’t hit the PopWood pages.

  7. kedmist says:

    Ya got me. Just placed my order. I love me some Arts & Crafts, but…

    Maybe I can build some of this style for use on campouts…specifically on campouts at Renaissance Festivals! ??

    Thanks, as always, for the quality and the differences that set LA apart from the herd!

  8. carpenterman says:

    One has to wonder why, since books on how to build a birdhouses are so popular, there are so many homeless birds out there? This winter I found some frozen Cardinal outside my back porch, and some unfinished dovetails inside.

    For some time now I had been following with great anticipation the progress of ‘Campaign Furniture’. It suits my almost nomadic lifestyle much better than a Birdhouse.
    I am really glad you said what you said about Shaker- and Art&Craft stile. It is good, but there is already plenty to chose from.

    For now ‘Campaign furniture’ is a breath of fresh air, until there will be numerous copy cat books of it – be course it WAS successful.

    There are to many people out there that want to be successful by doing what was already successful. That’s is what I like about your work, you exploring NEW Territorys, thereby expanding choices and knowledge. Consider yourself a Trendsetter.

    Thanks for taking risks.

  9. Avery Odom says:

    I bought the digital download mainly because I spend more time looking at my computer than I do searching the shelves for a book with an article that I remembered and wish to use as a reference.
    I have read a great deal of your words in the book and looked at all of the projects. I find this kind of furniture very interesting and I definitely intend to build at least a couple of pieces.
    Very nice job on the book,,,Thanks for taking the time and effort..

  10. robinhc says:

    You do not have to do birdhouses, just put out a pocket-hole version of campaign furniture!

    Yes, that’s the ticket! The working title could be – “Making Pocket Hole Campaign Furniture from Pallets”. That would really sell. Or you could do a 2 by 4 one, if your not into pallets. :)

    Actually, if the projects are broken down into steps and the furniture looks cool – people will want to make it.

  11. sethyellin says:

    I will likely never build a piece of campaign furniture in my life, but I will be putting in my order for this book simply due to the existence of this blog post. I love woodworking, but generally abhor most items of furniture I see featured in the magazines. There have to be thousands of people out there who would much rather see plans for a reproduction of even the simplest Hans Wegner table or Finn Juhl chair than another Stickley inspired dresser. End the Arts & Crafts hegemony!

  12. don2laughs says:

    I wanted to post a comment to your blog re: this email, but the site requires that I use another site’ Facebook, Twitter or WordPress to do so. That would mean I give all my personal information to yet another profiteer to hack into my life. Here is the reply I had hoped to post: There are two dogs named ‘Conformity’ and ‘Anarchy’ in my courtyard. Your advent on the scene of my passion has allowed me to feed the dog I love the most….and I thank you for it. I have all (I think) of your books except for the replicas. I ordered Campaign Furniture the day it became available and am looking forward to it’s arrival. I WILL build some of the pieces (or variations that include my own changes) as they seem so much more practical in our mobile society. I look forward to meeting you in SanDiego this fall. I am, also, anticipating your next venture “Furniture of Necessity” I think too highly of you to believe you weigh the value of this book by the money it produces. Thank you so much for all you do!

  13. Brian Eve says:

    How about Campaign Birdhouses?

  14. John Preber says:

    My last home office was furniture of necessity. My current office is almost all campaign furniture (old Bombay stuff that is desperate for replacement) along with the Jefferson bookcase which fits right in ‘conceptually’. You keep pushing us to open our eyes and I’ll keep buying the books. You’ve provided just the impetus for me to push my boundaries. To expand on Mcdara’s comments, those of us that are a bit different need a hero.

  15. bloksav says:

    If you write a book about shaker style furniture, you just need to make it in beech, then it is pretty close to a lot of the Danish modern furniture. That is kind of two books in one writing.
    Eventhough I must say that Ilike the shaker style better.

    I find it commendable, that you make small volume books, but then on the other hand, you also plan on making large volume books. I think you can safely expect to sell at least 5 million copies of “The Studley tool chest” once it is finished. That should give a little money for small productions as well.

    Jonas

  16. trainman0978 says:

    My copy is on its way. This is a book I have been waiting on for quite a while. The furniture of necessity is another one I will be in line for on release day. That style of furniture filled my grandparents humble home.

    Now…. Can we possibly have a few more options on shipping beyond media mail? I am just a few miles south of Atlanta, and my packages from LAP go from Indiana to Pennsylvania to to Jacksonville, Fla, then back north towards Atlanta. I will gladly pay extra for quicker ( like priority USPS ) delivery.

  17. I’ll never understand why anybody would buy a book about building birdhouses. We were blessed with bumps on our shoulders, we really ought to use them.

  18. I am impatiently waiting for my copy. Thank you for providing the option of buying both the hardcover book and the pdf version in one package! I am enjoying the pdf, but I can’t wait to get my hands on the real thing!

  19. sablebadger says:

    I’ll simply add this comment…

    Thank you for your efforts, and for the next two books. I’m always down to learning new things, and I look forward to your next book. I just got the shipping notification for this one.

    Press on!

  20. I have decided to drink the Kool Aid
    I’m near the edge of my comfort zone
    Next thing I’ll be putting my extension cord on EBay
    What am I doing ??????

  21. I agree with you Chris, on the overabundance of A&C and Shaker projects. I personally appreciate both styles, and have even made a few Shaker caseworks, but my preference lies with Colonial, or perhaps more accurately Rustic Colonial. This is not far from “furniture of necessity”.

  22. I will be honest, I have very little interest in campaign furniture. But, I am very eager to buy and read this new book of yours. I am sure I will come away from it with a desire to try yet another new furniture form. My wife will shake her head at me, and we will try to find room for a new piece of furniture.
    Damn you.

  23. joecrafted says:

    I have a vintage British roadster. What better to go to car shows with than authentic Campaign Furniture? I am looking forward to the book and trying my hand making some of the pieces. Certainly I can make the stool in a weekend, maybe in matching leather to go with the car.

  24. Glad you wrote this post, Chris. I was wondering what your motivation was for embarking on this rather obscure form. As it happens, I made a couple of pieces years ago that could be termed campaign furniture. There was a full size camp bed that consisted of 5 parts, and a camp table that folded into a long suitcase with the legs and stretchers stored inside. But I’ve not had the motivation to build anything like that since, unless someone decides they want one.

    What I found inspiring is your advise to break out of the typical Shaker/Mission furniture mold. I have been stuck in that pattern lately, concentrating on 19th century Americana. And although I’ve learned scads from them about basic construction, I had lost my interest in the unique, the out of the ordinary. I hadn’t even noticed until I was reading your column, when it occurred to me that yes, I was too focused on those two styles.

    Best of luck with your new venture, and all your excellent books (love reading Moxon). Your next work sounds like another wonderful departure.

  25. Marty Backe says:

    As I wait for my book, I hope I won’t be too disappointed by a new dry, dull, writing style. I’ve always enjoyed your written wit. I laughed out loud more then once while reading the Anarchist; a rare treat in any book, yet alone a wood working book.

    • lostartpress says:

      Marty,

      I wouldn’t call the writing dry. Or new. I always try to write sentences that pull the reader forward. I use active constructions. I minimize the adverbial. It’s the way I write for a magazine article.

      The only difference is I took out the jokes about farts, back hair and squirrels. It just didn’t seem to fit the material.

  26. Just a thought here, Now it is kinda short in time but this weekend is one of the biggest re-enactment expo’s that is being held in Kalamazoo, MI. (kalamazooshow dot com) There are book vendors there are even Furniture vendors among all others. It may not be in the schedule right now but I assure you. It might be an event to show up at or vend not only Campaign Furniture but the Joiner and Cabinetmaker, Roubo’s book, Moxon’s book any book that perhaps was written before 1880 or the subject matter is pertains to a period before 1880. Putting it out there as a thoughtful suggestion. Heck you could even bring the Anarcrist Toolchest because aren’t you expounding on something that was of the pre-Industrial age.

  27. Sean Hynes says:

    If anyone can help open the eyes of woodworkers out there, it’s you. While I know you are uncomfortable with your “celebrity” (or infamy?) and are often at pains to stress that you don’t consider yourself a professional woodworker, there is no denying that your passion for uncovering forgotten knowledge and disseminating it to the woodworking world has a considerable impact further and wider than you could imagine.

    It was less than three years ago that I inadvertently had my first sip of the “Kool Aid”, when searching for sawing tips while building a Lego play table for my son (and I discovered that I couldn’t saw a straight line to save my life). After watching the Woodwright’s Shop episode with you discussing the classes of saw cuts, I had gone from planning to build a one-off piece of furniture, to falling headfirst down the rabbit hole, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I can’t wait to start geeking out on campaign furniture, and thank Jeff and yourself for your contributions to the craft.

  28. Sean Hynes says:

    Also, if times get tough, I had a few ideas for some books that would serve to expand the variety of furniture making books available, while still looking after the bottom line, following that time tested mantra, “Sex sells”.

    “The Sadomasochists Tool Chest”
    “Make a St Andrews Cross from a Tree”
    “To Mark as Perfectly as possible: Roubo on flagellation”
    “The Story of O(ak)”
    And a guaranteed best seller, “Fifty shades of milk paint”

    Personally, I think Peter Follansbee would be capable of designing and building a fantastic piece of 18th century dungeon furniture.

  29. Sean Hughto says:

    As Joseph Campbell said: “Follow your bliss” (though I think he later amended it to “Follow your blisters,” but both work). You seem to be doing so, and it seems to be working out. I’m betting it will continue to do so. Following your bliss carries with it a sincerity and authenticity that will attract folks to your endeavors. Selling out and writing what will sell the most tends to create crap. Keep it real.

  30. I was a little nervous to buy this book (still awaiting its arrival). Nervous because, well, campaign hardware seems so expensive. And it seems so integral to the style: all those solid brass corners and recessed handles. Chris, I’ve enjoyed watching you build this chests and chairs over the past couple years, and there’s something refreshing about the blocky, ingeniously designed Campaign style. But I thought: is this a style I can see myself building? How could I afford all that flashy brass? Although I’m not dead broke, these pieces look like they’re priced out of my budget.

    I bought the book because I realized that there’s something to learn from this furniture: how to build classy and sturdy portable furniture. As someone without a longterm home, odds are good that I’ll have to move more than once in the coming years. So I’d do well to learn how to build furniture that was designed to move. Maybe I won’t use flashy brass. Maybe I’ll take more aesthetic cues from Shakers or the Danes. But I’m hoping that this book can help me learn something new and interesting about furniture design.

    Even though I may never build a chest in full campaign style, I’m certain that I can learn lots by looking to this and other yet-unSchwarzed furniture styles. I suspect I’m not alone. Thanks for your persistent search for something different.

    • tsstahl says:

      I feel you. They do run expensive. However, there are cosmetically similar pieces in abundance, i.e. cheaper. Sure, they may not be 1/8″ thick solid brass with crisp inside corners, but they’ll do the aesthetic job.

  31. Farmer Greg says:

    “To Make as Quaintly as Possible: Roubo on Birdhouses”

    You’re welcome.

  32. Mike Siemsen says:

    My favorite place to go on the map is marked,”Here be dragons”. My favorite piece of Arts and Crafts/Stickley furniture is the electric chair he built while at Auburn prison in New York. Nice use of leather and copper along with the oak. I have already built the Antichrist’s tool box and eagerly await making champagne furniture to use while I watch Lawrence Welk re-runs with Nancy Sheets. Keep up the good work!!! Iconoclsts unite!

  33. Jared Simms says:

    “Ever seen the fascinating book on Mormon furniture?” Say what?!? I’ve been Mormon my whole life and never knew there was a book on Mormon furniture. I’ve learned a lot from this blog, but I wasn’t expecting to learn something about my religion.

    I love the story about the buried piano in this review : http://www.deseretnews.com/article/451769/THE-LEGACY-OF-MORMON-FURNITURE.html?pg=all

  34. To quote Steve Jobs, “Here is to the crazy ones…”. I am placing my order now. From a practical level, as someone who will soon have some kids in college dorm rooms and cheap apartments, campaign furniture could very well be the answer…keep up the good work…can’t wait for the book on chairs and furniture of necessity…

  35. melissaboling says:

    Just letting you know that I received my copy in the mail today and am very impressed! I haven’t read every word of course, but I’ve looked through it and can’t wait to read this and anything else you put out in the future. I expect to make some of these pieces or versions of them in 1:12 scale, hardware included. After much searching, I also found a copy of British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas for a halfway decent price – not easy to do. There will be a metamorphic bed from that book done in 1:12 scale in one of the classes at the Guild School of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans taught by William Robertson. http://igma.org/guild_school/2014_classes/48_robertson.html I didn’t get into that class, which is full, so apparently miniaturists are loving campaign furniture. (I’ll be making a silver teapot with ebony handle instead.) And a miniaturist friend of mine is planning to buy this book too.

  36. jimlemaster says:

    I just got my copy today. Wonderful to pick up a book and ‘feel’ the quality!! I can’t wait to delve into the text! From all the responses I read here one can tell that so many of you are very experienced woodworkers. Though being the young age of 55, I am new to the craft and only been doing this for about 3 years. It is the most pleasurable adventure I have ever started; and most certainly will continue. Now if I can just win the lottery, quit work, and do nothing but ‘play with the wood’ life would be grand! Thanks!

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