Every Chest Deserves Paint


Every time I build a tool chest for a customer or during a class, someone asks me this question: Why are you going to paint over all those beautiful dovetails?

My answer: Because it’s the best finish for a tool chest.

Historically, most tool chests were painted. I think I’ve seen only a dozen that have avoided the brush. And most of those were shop queens. But that’s not why I paint all my chests. Blindly obeying the historical record isn’t my thing. While the historical record usually wins, I am willing to question it.

So here is my propaganda paper on paint.

  1. It is the most durable of all finishes. Good paint is nearly impervious to UV light. It forms a tough film that readily resists water, abrasion and other shop mishaps.
  2. Unlike other finishes, paint looks better (not worse) after abuse. This is opinion, but a battered, torched and gouged paint finish looks awesome.
  3. It is easily repaired – just add paint. With most modern finishes, repairing damage is difficult. Say you finish your chest with varnish or polyurethane. After a year of hard knocks and water damage it will look like something at a church tag sale. Fixing those clear film finishes is usually difficult. Fixing a paint finish is easy. Just add paint. (Note: Shellac, lacquer and wax are more easily repaired than varnishes, but they also are easily damaged.)
  4. Paint reveals the form. Many modern woodworkers love the look of natural wood. I agree that the wood’s figure can really enhance a piece. But the figure can also be distracting or detrimental to the form. Because of all the dovetails and wild figure, the form of the piece can get lost. Paint reveals the silhouette.
  5. A good paint job isn’t the easy way out. When I use clear finishes, I spray them on. So I can finish a big piece of furniture in a morning. Not so with paint. Choosing to paint a piece adds two or three days to the process. It takes skill and care to do it well.
  6. Expressed joinery isn’t the point. This is another opinion, but when I see lots of exposed dovetail joinery in a piece, I assume the maker is trying to make a point about his or her skill with a saw or a router. So I’ll step back, squint my eyes to blur them and look at the piece again. Are the dovetails the “bread and circuses” of the piece?

It’s your tool chest, so finish it the way you (or your customer) wants. But know that someday, someone is going to take a brush to cover over your crazed, flaked and dented French polish. And that is the moment when your true workmanship will be revealed.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Finishing, The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 28 Comments

If You Can’t Attend the Book-release Party


Our March 12 book-release party for “The Anarchist’s Design Book” is fully booked. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the new storefront if you are in town.

On March 12, my daughters will be womaning the store from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. while the rest of us are down the street at Braxton Brewing for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. Our store, at 9th and Willard streets, is less than a 10-minute walk from Braxton at 7th and Madison.

Katy and Maddy will have all of our titles there and will be happy to have you look around. We’ll also have some special Covington-only merchandise that celebrates the five-year anniversary of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” A special T-shirt, stickers and other stuff we’re working on now.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Shop Floor is in. But What Finish?


On Sunday the flooring crew finished installing the new white oak in the storefront and did a sweet job. The joints are tight throughout and I’m happy I spent the extra $900 to install the floor at a 45° slant.

The next stage is sanding and finishing. We’re not staining the floor and are using only an oil-based polyurethane (three coats) on top, which should give us 15 years of hard use.

The details of the floor finish were the most difficult part of the job for me. I’ve worked in shops with smooth wooden floors that made it impossible to do any benchwork because I couldn’t get a firm footing to plane or saw.

The traditional solution to this problem was to sprinkle plaster of Paris on the floor to afford some grip for the workers’ feet. A more modern solution is to sprinkle sand in the finish, either as it is being stirred or right after it is applied.

Neither of those appeals to me. So we are going with the flattest polyurethane available. I asked the flooring guys why flatting paste would improve the traction. They said the transparent silica in the paste is what provided the extra traction.

I’ll let you know if they are correct at the end of the week. By then we’ll be moving tools and benches to the new storefront so I can build the replacement transom windows, new front door and display shelves for the books. That should be a fair test of the transparent silica.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Our March 12 book-release party is completely booked now. If people cancel, I’ll post a note here. Sorry we cannot accommodate more people; we have a maximum occupancy from the fire department.


Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Nothing Special


Sometimes I think this is important to say so that beginners can hear: It does not take much natural talent to become a highly skilled woodworker.

During the last 10 years I’ve taught a lot of students all over the world, and in almost every class there was at least one person who had more natural dexterity than I do. Though these particular students were all at the beginning of their journey in the craft, I could see that they could eclipse me in time if they simply stuck to it.

Likewise, there have only been two students I’d classify as hopeless. One in Connecticut; the other in Maine. That’s only two out of hundreds and hundreds.

Making stuff, really nice stuff, doesn’t require as much nimbleness as it does patience and perseverance. The basics – sharpening, sawing to a line, planing to a line and chopping – take time to seep into your hands. Once the basics are there, everything else gets easier. Turning, veneering, carving, hardware installation and fitting doors and drawers are all skills that build upon the basic set.

But mostly is has to do with the most profound and important piece of advice I ever heard from a student.

During a class in Texas, one of the students recounted how he made his workbench entirely by hand, including ripping 8’ planks for days and days to make the top lamination. One of the other students was simply amazed and asked him: “How did you do that?”

The student answered: “I just decided to commit to it. Once I committed, it was easy.”

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, The Anarchist's Design Book, The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Source Files

ADB_black_10x12We’ve had several readers inquire about getting a T-shirt with “The Anarchist’s Design Book” logo on a long-sleeve shirt, in a particular large or small size that we don’t carry, or on a thong (I made that one up).

As I mentioned, we don’t make butkus on these shirts. We just think they’re fun.

So here’s the deal. Here are the two source files for printing your own version. One logo is white. The other is black. You have our explicit permission to take these files and make sweatshirts, T-shirts, whatever for your personal use.

Download these files and make your own shirt using an inkjet printer or through a print-on-demand place such as CafePress.

White ADB logo.

Black ADB logo.

Both files are .png with transparent backgrounds and are sized for 10” x 12” at 300 dpi. Have fun!

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Putting Down the Floor in the Store


I’m trying to do as much work on our storefront personally to save money, but there are some things I’ve decided to pay for. Installing the oak floor is one of them.

As you can see from the photos, they’re laying the floor at the same 45° slant as the original floor. And though it cost an extra half-day of labor, I’m glad we did it. When you walk into the front door, the floorboards direct your eye to the bar (which is where our books will be shown on a display I’m building) and the location of my workbench.

The crew should be done laying the floor tomorrow. Then comes the sanding and the finishing (also not by me).

Then I’ll get to jump back in with framing a new office wall and running new electric.

Next week I hope to buy a vintage door I spotted a few weeks ago at an architectural salvage place. It’s from about the same era as the building and has frosted glass and nice details. That will become the door that goes back to the office, bathroom, kitchen and almighty beer fridge.

Everything is on track for the March 12 book release party. We still have about a dozen spots left if you’d like to come. Details are here. And don’t forget the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event that same weekend down the street at Braxton Brewing.

The line-up of demonstrators is pretty awesome. I hear there might be an addition or two….

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’ Shirts Now Available

You can now purchase 100-percent cotton T-shirts emblazoned with the marriage mark from “The Anarchist’s Design Book” on the front. The back of the shirt is blank.

The American Apparel shirts are made and printed in California and are $30, which includes domestic shipping. The come in black with a white logo and grey with a black logo.

You can place your order here.

Please note that these shirts are made to order and don’t make us more than a few dollars each, so we cannot take returns (except of course in the case of damaged goods or a mistake by the printer). So please be careful in choosing your size and color.

American Apparel shirts have a slim fit. So we recommend you order one size larger than normal. Here are the chest sizes for the shirts:

Chest sizes

S   34-36
M    38-40
L     42-44
XL   46-48
2XL 48-50

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Next week we’ll be posting roach motels and Hester Prynne outfits with the logo.

Posted in Products We Sell, Uncategorized | 7 Comments