Two Sentences; Four Figures

It took only two sentences to convince me to resign my position as editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, forsaking a stable salary and a company that appreciated my efforts.

I was teaching a class on handplanes with Thomas Lie-Nielsen at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking a couple years ago. On the second day of the class, Thomas narrated a film of how he makes tools at his factory in Warren, Me. At the end of his presentation, one of the students asked the following question:

“Aren’t you afraid that the inexpensive Wood River planes are going to put you out of business?”

“They can’t put me out of business,” Thomas replied. “Even if I had to let go of every single one of my employees, I’d still be there making planes until I died.”

At that moment, my world turned upside down.

I had started Lost Art Press in part as a way to insulate myself. Editors of magazines get fired – a lot. My goal was to grow Lost Art Press slowly using pet projects, such as “The Art of Joinery.” Then, when some day I got called into the Glass Woodshed by the People Upstairs, I would have something to fall back on. But after listening to Thomas, I knew that I had the equation reversed.

My undying and consuming passion for the craft was what would insulate me from failure, not some little business.

So starting June 15, I will be full time here at Lost Art Press. I’ll be blogging here almost every day about my work in the shop. I have about two or three years of work and books lined up for us to publish. And – I hope – I’ll also be blogging and writing for Popular Woodworking Magazine, which I have only the deepest affection for.

What’s going to change? Good question. I probably won’t be able to do many tool reviews. At Popular Woodworking Magazine, I personally purchased (or borrowed) all the tools I wrote about to avoid a conflict of interest. And I’m not about to become a hand-tool harlot, complaining about my irritable bowel syndrome and whining about how toolmakers won’t send me free stuff.

That’s not me. I buy my own tools.

And with a four-figure income (the other half of the headline on this blog post), my tool purchases are going to be more carefully made. I don’t want to go out of business.

Oh yeah, I forgot. That’s not possible. Thanks Tom.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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60 Responses to Two Sentences; Four Figures

  1. TJIC says:

    I last worked for someone else 10 years ago.

    There have been periods of satisfaction, pride, and great money.

    There have been periods of fear, anxiety, and poverty.

    There has never been a moment when I wanted to go back.

    Congrats on a great decision, and exciting challenges ahead!

  2. megan says:

    Because I know how much you love poetry:

    “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
    And next year’s words await another voice.
    And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

    ~ T.S. Eliot

    But let it be noted that I am sad – though happy for you.

    • lostartpress says:

      Unless it begins:

      “There once was a whore from Nantucket…”

      It ain’t poetry.

      • Jonathan P. Szczepanski says:

        And that is why I am going to hope and pray you are still around. Serious information, deep passion, and a large dollop of shennanigans. Thanks Chris.

        Jonathan
        ===============================

      • Shawn Nichols says:

        If Roubo were reading this, he’d leave one word as his comment: apropos

  3. wilbur says:

    That is awesome. Congratulations, Chris!

  4. Ryan says:

    Good on you, Chris. I have no doubt you can make it work – exciting times indeed. Godspeed!

  5. James "Chewy" Vroman says:

    Your decision sounds great!!!
    It just means that I will have to shift more of my budget to Lost Art Press since you will have more time for writing books!!!

  6. Tom says:

    Congratulations and good luck, Chris–it’s very exciting (and I’m sure a tad daunting as well), and we are all greatly anticipating what is to come!

  7. Shannon says:

    Congratulations Chris and good luck. I can empathize I was ready to do the same thing until this lumber yard gig came along and distracted me. Now I’m a lumber harlot and proud of it. I can’t wait to see where Lost Art Press goes with you steering full time.

  8. Henrique says:

    Nice move!!

    Wish you the best in the “new” venture!

    I’m about to take a step like this…moving to a new venture!

    That’s inspiring…

    Congratulations!

  9. This move feels right. And there is nothing wrong with a four figure salary… except the money.

    I’m looking forward to buying more of your stuff. Best wishes.

  10. Paul Fowler says:

    CS,

    Wishing you all the best in your endevor. The advice is sound, however to quote Dirty Harry, “You have to know your limatations”.
    I developed a reputation as a Gunsmith, While working as a Machinist For Aerospace Companys(long list). I would build a Hobby piece for myself , go to local range to function testfire etc. I never brought one home. Someone would offer more than I could refuse and I would sell it. I would Build another, same thing. eventually I arranged a small custom shop part time. With all the layoffs in the mid 1960’s I would run the shop to make ends meet. I did not have good business sense, my customers be came “Goodbuddys” and profits declined. I still have a waiting list for my Gun work And Stock-making. Retired for 35 years. Still enjoy the work, and making inroads to woodwork, I get sidetracked with tool & jig making. I have comprehensive metal shop as a full wood-shop, love my grandfathers hand tools, I’ m ramblin, my apologies.

    Again good luck
    Paul

  11. Paul Fowler says:

    Chris,

    What I meant to say, You are extremely fourtunate to be able meet responsabiltes and
    Work at what love.

    Paul

  12. Congratulations and best of luck on the change in direction Chris.

    It seems like it should be possible for you to maintain more than a four figure income, although I’m by no means certain. There is almost no one with more social capital in the woodworking community (at least, the online and US based bits) than you at the moment (possibly even including Roy Underhill), and that social capital can be “spent” to some degree. Doing so in a way that diminishes your reputation or makes you seem crass and commercial would of course be a bad investment, but I have no doubt that you wont do that. Instead, I think it much more likely that the opposite will happen, that is, that you wont milk that social capital as much as you really could.

    In general, the stuff coming out of Woodworking magazine in the last few years has been amazing, and the biggest chunk of that has not been in the print magazine itself. I buy the magazine mostly because it seems like it’s the fair way to pay for all the content I receive on your blog (and those of the other contributors). When I actually receive it, I am sometimes a little disappointed that it seems to include less detail on some of the projects than I see online. It’s more like a souvenir that sits on my shelf to remind me that if I want build a nice try square, I know what to google.

    I love the work that you do with books, and with the DVD’s through Lie-Nielsen, but woodworkers also love regular up to date information and thoughts in process. For you, that has basically been blogging (including some little videos in the blog posts). Many of use would spend money to get good regular information (that’s why we buy woodworking magazines). However, you can’t go putting your blog behind a paywal, that obviously wont work.

    I think you should consider trying to make money by streaming information to woodworkers in some way as well as just producing books. Obviously this isn’t the same as teaching classes, or blogging. I think that Shannon Rodgers and Marc Spagnolo have some good ideas in this direction. I also think that there are more options in this area than simply charging people for content (although that wouldn’t be a bad place to start). Partly it’s about helping all the masterless apprentices on the internet network with each other.

    Anyway, best of luck. If any of you ideas need assistance from computer geeks, just blog about it and I’m sure a lot of us will appear out of the woodwork, so to speak.

  13. ben says:

    Congratulations Chris, and good luck.

  14. Old Mike says:

    We wish you and your family the best in your new adventure.

    I’m amazed you were able to stay so focused in class last week.

  15. Justin says:

    Congratulations on taking the leap before you. None of us have any doubt of your future success. Your writings, and those of your fellow editors, have been instrumental in my learning of the craft. Looking forward to your next entries with bated breath……

    PS: Since you will be cutting down on the tool reviews, I think some more reviews of your chosen microbrews would fill the gap nicely!

  16. John Cashman says:

    I have enjoyed following your work for the past fifteen years or so a great deal. It has been wonderful to see your work evolve and mature, and I look forward to continue to do so. There have been very few woodworkers who have shaped how we woodbutchers go about our craft as much as you have, Chris. I hope you and your family are proud of that.

    Now go and produce something that I can pre-order.

  17. B. L. Davis says:

    I find the simplest things to be the most lasting, and I find comfort in clean, compact, expressive writing. You do both very well. As did C. S. Lewis, cited below.

    Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn. My God do you learn.

  18. Niels says:

    Chris,

    Good for you- Fortune favors the bold!

    I would say “good luck”, but I don’t think luck is going to have anything to do with your future success. I heard a self-made billionaire (publisher) give a talk about 10 years ago. He recalled the advice given to him by his mother when he was younger. His mother told him that there were three things that would lead to a happy (successful) life:
    1. Do what you love (hard work will follow in turn)
    2. Have a dream (for the future).
    3. Surround yourself with (good) people that also love what they do.

    I think you’ve got 1-3 covered and are on the right track.
    Billionaires aside, I think Joseph Campbell said it the best: Follow your bliss!
    and GOOD LUCK!

    Cheers,
    Niels

  19. Bob jones says:

    Good luck! A lot of us part-timers credit you for getting us into hand tools so I for one am excited to see you going deeper into that speciality. I do see one problem – going from small doses (monthly mag) to fewer large doses. Hmmm. Anyway you could now churn out 6 books a year? That would really help with this transition. 🙂

  20. Josh says:

    So now that your going totally indie and don’t have to worry about F+W’s reputation anymore does this mean you’ll finally be able to start marketing and selling the long rumored line of Lost Art Press lingerie?

    Cheers,

    Josh

  21. I was sad reading this news over at Popular Woodworking Magazine’s website earlier tonight. Now, I’m excited for you when reading the same news here on Lost Art Press. Thanks for making me realize how fickle I am.

    Keep on blazing your trail man! We’re all excited for you…

  22. Chris,

    “Do something you love, and you will never work a day in your life!”
    At least I know that my hard earned money will go to a worthy individual as the presses roll in the near future.

    Best regards,
    Albert A Rasch
    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

  23. Michael Redmond says:

    Go for it, you have to try to be able to succeed. And as for the 4 figure income just keep the outgoing to 3 figures and you will have cracked it, let me know if the last bit works.
    Very best wishes to your future success.
    Michael redmond

  24. Andre says:

    Well Chris, first a big Thank You! is in place for the continous support you have given to woodworking and working with hand tools in particular while with Pop Wood, I can assure you that I learned a lot!

    Second I too wish you all the best with this ‘leap into the unknown’. I’ll be watching closely what you have in store for us all…..

    Cheers,
    Andre

  25. Al Navas says:

    Congratulations on making the leap, Chris, and best wishes for success!!!

    Al

  26. Rob says:

    Sometimes we find ourselves screaming down the roads of life at full throttle, and we come to our senses.

    That wasn’t it.

    Do what you love and the rest will come.

    It doesn’t see like it could be that simple, but it is. You find out when you try.

  27. Tico Vogt says:

    Hi Chris,

    I never realized that the Lost Art Press was your own individual enterprise unrelated to the magazine. Your posts on it are always enjoyable.
    I’m ordering the “Essential Woodworker” to help defray your moving costs across the river.

    All the best to you.

  28. HavenTom says:

    Good luck Chris. I’ve just done the same thing. Daunting, but interesting times.

  29. Rob Young says:

    Good luck with your future plans and life as a thousandaire!

    p.s. largest on-line collection of limericks that I know of is at:
    http://www.horntip.com/mp3/fieldwork/other_collections/mcwilliam_collection/index.htm

    Enjoy

  30. Good Luck Chris.

    Stephen

  31. Greg Barringer says:

    Chris,
    Godspeed! How do we go about getting you on TV? That vast wasteland is ripe for a hand tool only production.
    Greg B

  32. Al Navas says:

    Nah! You don’t have knobs all over 🙂

    After watching you and Underhill in a couple of episodes, I agree with Greg Barringer. The transition could be slow, but he will get you up to speed on the nuances of TV cameras, etc. You will simply have to work on the nuance that is wearing coveralls, and some type of cool cap.

    Al

    • Rob Young says:

      Yes, but can he also do the slight-0f-hand trick with the axe during the opening credits?

  33. John Verreault (aka JohnnyVee) says:

    I am totally Gobsmacked (yes,I’m doing Megan proud) and astounded! Chris you are a very fortunate man to have realized that a job is not what defines you. The work you do in that job helps mould and shape you but that work will always be a part of you in every job you do. Congratulations on the “new” job and keep up the great work–I cannot see you doing it any other way.
    Cheers
    John

  34. Bill Elliott says:

    You’re walking the path many of us would sincerely love to walk. Bravo to you sir, and thank you for taking us with you along the way.

    bE

  35. Chris, if you want salty limericks about the move, well, you got it. There’s 4 or 5 already. Please to contribute your own salty woodworking limerick here on the Upper Cut Woodworks blog.

  36. Jerry Olson says:

    Some 26 years ago at the age of 37 I left an excelant salaried position with excellant benefits and mortaged my house and my kids (kidding about the kids) and bought a Hydroelectric plant. The plant was in total disrepair and not operating. Six months later and 60 pounds lighter I went into revenue service. 26 years later the debt is paid and as long as it rains I have positive revenues.
    My son has come into the business and I am able to spend my time making 18th century reproductions in the 170 year old 7500 sq ft Hydroplant/wood shop and reading your blogs.
    Best of luck Chris and hurry up with Rubio so I can order the leatherbound version

  37. Auguste Gusteau says:

    Unlike what Blaine wrote on Woodnet forum (I’m banned also there) I’m not happy because of your leaving.
    I think you have many defects, first of all your blatant preference for the very expensive tools manufactured in North America.
    Your xenophobia and the arrogance with which you continue to argue that nobody can build anything good without spending all their salary in expensive tools, are really insupportable.
    But, so said, I think you were a great editor and the magazine will never be as good as when you ran it
    Good luck for the future and feel free to delete this comment if you wish.
    Best regards,
    Auguste Gusteau

    • Scott S. says:

      “Woodnet forum (I’m banned also there)”

      At some point you have to ask yourself if the problem is internal instead of external.

      Just sayin…

      Ps, aren’t the French late for surrendering to someone?

      If you’re going to feed a troll, you might as well make it a good meal.

      • Auguste Gusteau says:

        Scott, do you know exactly what I wrote to be banned?
        Do you know the content of the posts that were deleted? Are you aware of the contents of the messages passed between me and the moderators of Woodnet?
        In other words, you have a thorough knowledge of the facts that allows you to have a well-considered opinion or you think that I’m a troll by default, because others say so?

        Auguste

    • Chuck Nickerson says:

      Auguste, what you fail to grasp is Chris lives in a free society and gets to write about what he wants.

      If you think someone should write about doing great work with poor tools, get busy.

      • Auguste Gusteau says:

        Yes, he is free to write about what he wants.
        As I’m free to say that what he write is insopportable.
        Where is the problem, Chuck?

        Auguste

  38. Randy J. Arnold says:

    Congratulations, Chris.

  39. Scott S. says:

    Now that you’re doing this full time, it has bothered me for a while that there is no way to get from the blog back to the lostartpress.com home page.

    See what you have to look forward to? 🙂

  40. Wallis says:

    Good luck to you my friend. I have and always will purchase without regret everything you write. I have always been amazed at your skill on many levels.

    Keep up the good work.

  41. Andy Homan says:

    Best wishes to you, Chris. You were one of the handful of people who encouraged me to pursue woodworking, and in particular, I have benefited from your writing about the use of handtools. I look forward to your continued blog entries and to seeing the interesting projects that you publish.
    Cheers,
    Andy in Burlington, Vermont

  42. Tom Heiting says:

    Chris – You have sparked an interest in me for hand tools that would never have happened if it weren’t for your great writing, articles, tool reviews, etc. PWW will miss you, but you will have success because you are truly a talented, hard working guy. I look forward to reading about your successes. And please keep teaching us all you have time for, so we too can continue to learn and grow.

    A former boss of mine had a saying that his artist wife did in an art piece for his office wall. It read…
    “To Learn
    Is to Grow
    Is to be Alive!”.

    Kindest regards…Tom

  43. Brian says:

    i guess this means i need to change my homepage now! 🙂

    Great decision Chris!

    Brian
    Seattle, WA

  44. Mark Chandler says:

    I’m with you, all the way, Chris!

    miw!

  45. Peg Sousa says:

    There once was a girl from Nantucket …
    Who went in to work one day and said “Oh just ….”

    Chris,
    As you are already aware, I am one of your many, many fans, and I know – without one iota of doubt – that this is a road worth taking. You’ve got the support of so many, huge talent (and a work ethic to match) – and this “undying and consuming passion” of yours will take you to places you don’t even know exist.

    I look forward to following your adventures on Lost Art Press – and wish nothing but the best for you always.
    – Peg

  46. I had heard the quote:
    “I would rather be Captain of my own dingy then First Mate on the largest ship of the line.”
    It took a few years of saying “Yes, Sir” in corporate America until I really understand that quote. I now run a tiny firm with the finest colleagues a person could ask for.

    I wish you every success – may you have interesting and challenging work and dear friends to help share the load. One piece of advice: Don’t grow your business for sake of growth. Carefully consider any expansion, especially those that involve debt.

    • lostartpress says:

      D.W.,

      You are a man after my own heart.

      I’ve never believed in debt. Paid off my house when I was 39 — that’s the foundation of my business plan. Also, my other plan is to not have employees. Work with people, yes. Hire them full-time, no.

      My goal is not to grow a company. It’s to allow me to write and publish – what I do best.

  47. Eric Bennett says:

    Hi Chris,
    About ten years ago a thunder storm knocked out power at the local mall and the Borders Bookstore. I needed a book fix and was forced to go to another chain store where I picked up a bargain book. It was Traditional Woodworking Tools by Graham Blackburn – and it changed my life. It was destiny.
    Since that time I’ve enjoyed your blog and books as well. (We own many of the same tools). I plan to buy your books – you’ll won’t go out of business. Continued success to you!
    Eric

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