Does Not Play Well With Others

At Robinwood Elementary, we were judged on how well we played well with our classmates. The grades were simply “S” for “satisfactory, or “U” for “unsatisfactory.”

They didn’t have a “U-minus” grade, but I am certain that I earned it.

I’ve never been a team player. It’s why I love woodworking, writing, music and cooking. They are singular pursuits that your pursue without relying on others. I hate relying on other people.

So I have to let you know that with “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” I let my guard down a bit.

Throughout the entire process of this book, from conception to birth canal (which is where we are now) I leaned heavily on the advice of Narayan Nayar, a friend of mine from Chicago. He has guided me through every stage of this book. And I really mean every stage.

He pushed me to rewrite key sections of the book three times. He designed the templates that determined the design of the book, which I am quite pleased with. He took the photos that open the 20 chapters and spent days and days styling them in Photoshop.

And he helped guide this book, which is my longest and most complex work to date, through the difficult production process.

As I write this, the hard-copy proof of the book is on its way here for final approval. I’m going to have to sign the papers saying that it’s good and ready for press. But the only approval that means anything is Narayan’s.

I could be wrong when I say this, but the reason I think I was willing and happy to work with him is that he is just as demanding as I am. Perhaps even more so.

So when your copy of this book arrives, if it looks and reads better than my previous works, now you know why.

Thanks Narayan.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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3 Responses to Does Not Play Well With Others

  1. Niels says:

    It’s so important to have friends whose opinion you trust to keep on hand in those moment where you need a kick in the ass or a slap to the back of your head. One of the hardest things about any “solitary pursuit” the to work in isolation- keeping your head down without coming up for air from time to time to see where you’re at. It always refreshing to get new perspectives. I have found personally often time it takes that outside perspective to articulate things you are already doing but aren’t immediately obvious to you (being inside your process or idea). Even perspectives that challenge or conflict with your own can be incredibly constructive if they help you test and fortify your own views- God knows there are enough of them out there.

    It’s a real gift to have those people that are willing to spend the time and energy to get to know you and YOUR process and will be able to give feedback which isn’t simply a reflection of their own ego. I had an writing teacher in grad school, who was truly gifted in this respect. She could walk into your studio and talk with you about your work for 1-2 hours and no matter how confused or lost you were, she would distill everything, tell you exactly what you were doing and get you back on track. It was uncanny and completely wonderful- I wish I could have her on speed dial for the rest of my life!


    ps. Narayan doesn’t look like he’s going to be sharing that ice cream anytime soon: “U”

  2. Jim B says:


    I’m ridiculously excited about this book. It sounds as if you have really put a great deal of what seems to be your larger philosophical sense of the nature of our “urge to make” in this book, which I feel is a large part of your practice in both journalism and woodworking. Certainly the craft of woodworking draws us all in. But for me, there is a larger conceptual concern that we deal with on a day to day basis by practicing woodworking. We aren’t just making beautiful things; we’re engaging in revolutionary acts that are part of what I feel is a move toward sincerity and away from the cynicism of the recent past. The same as urban gardeners and chicken farmers…the same as the recent trends in “upcycling” in fashion and its nostalgic respect…the same as the “slow food” movement…we are acknowledging our need to create and contribute to the betterment of the world we live in on a very basic, personal level. We are acknowledging the fact that “manual labor” is not (and was not) a mindless necessity, but a metaphor for the building up of our character and purpose. It is an apolitical trend that is quite infectious.

    I hope I am not misinterpreting what you mean by “Anarchist” in your title. But the type of quietly subversive act that it seems you engaged in when you took on the task of building a chest and examining your own motivations is really mirroring my own deeper thoughts about my personal reasons for practicing this craft. It feels like the same subversion that Matt Bickford and Mark Harrell and Ron Brese, among other amazing toolmakers that have fairly recently asserted themselves onto the scene, are engaged in. We aren’t anachronists or luddites…far from it. We are not motivated by a myopic longing for “the simplicity of the past,” nor are we living in that past. Rather, this movement feels futuristic and forward thinking in that we are open yet critically discriminating, introspective yet wide-eyed, and are quietly urging others to see every act of making, writing, creating and interacting as being engaged in pure activism.

  3. don williams says:


    The senitment behind this missive is precisely why I sought you out to publish Roubo. the longer we work together, the more convinced I am of the rightness of that decision. And Narayan’s company and insights are truly a constant joy. I look forward to seeing him again at WIA.

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