“Not looking for a refund. Because of my eccentricities I don’t want a woodworking book to have the tone and words like-crap, suck, idiot, moron, stupid, hell Etc. I prefer more refined and reverent attitude and language. I guess an anarchist should be comfortable with the book as written?”
He makes a good point that I should have mentioned when the book was released. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” has some coarse language in it. You will hear worse language and see more skin on television (I know you are thinking: “Thank goodness for that”).
But readers come in all different stripes. And this book is indeed different in tone, content and approach. It is not for everyone. And if it’s not for you, that’s OK.
The best part of the letter? I could tell it was from a woodworker. When woodworkers return stuff or complain, they are always nice about it — not like the suburban mommy nightmares I dealt with at the mini-blind store when I was 13.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. We have just sent a second load of copies of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” to Dictum GmbH in Metten, Germany. When the book is back in stock we will post a note here for our European customers.
Perhaps the best way to design nice furniture is to first look at thousands of examples of it.
That’s the path I take, and I always recommend woodworkers visit museums and galleries, or pore over books crammed with photos of pleasing forms. But it never occurred to me that looking at furniture could have the opposite effect – it can ruin you.
During my last week in Germany I spent a lot of time with Ute Kaiser, who is in charge of public relations and the class program for Dictum GmbH, the company that runs the classes where I teach.
Ute is a former newspaper reporter like myself, so we get along just great. And usually before or after I teach at Dictum, she and her boyfriend take me sightseeing somewhere in Bavaria. This time we went to Regensburg and ended up ducking some spotty weather in a cafe that looked like something transplanted from Paris.
As the three of us chatted about what we had seen that day, the conversation turned to furniture, both old and new. That’s when Ute told me a story about a Bavarian furniture factory and the time she had interviewed the owner while she was a reporter.
The man had made a lot of money selling factory-made furniture all over Germany, though the furniture wasn’t particularly well-made or beautiful. During the interview, he explained his business model.
As a long-time maker, he knew that his furniture wasn’t the best. But he also knew something about human nature.
So he bought regular advertising in the local paper that showed photos of his furniture. The more the readers saw the ugly forms, the more they became used to them – the stuff became comfortable and familiar. And after becoming used to it, they bought it.
As much as I hate to admit, this makes sense. We accept the familiar and reject the different, especially when it comes to filling our homes.
It’s just that the world is upside down now. The ugly is familiar and the beautiful is rare.
— Christopher Schwarz
For more design resources….
• If you are interested in furniture design, you definitely should check out George Walker’s blog. Walker, the author of the “Design Matters” column in Popular Woodworking Magazine, has been on a one-man crusade to help improve the design vocabulary of woodworkers.
• If you like period furniture, one of the best and cheapest sources of beautiful forms is Wallace Nutting’s “Furniture Treasury.” Volumes one and two can be had for a song at used book stores.
• The other place to find lots of forms to look at is at web pages for auction houses that specialize in fine furniture. Christie’s and Sotheby’s are always good sources. But there are other houses that specialize in other forms, such as this great site for Southern furniture, Neal Auction house.
Before we begin: My apologies for the terrible photos from my phone. The battery in my regular camera died and I am without a charger.
For someone who is now unemployed, I sure have been working a lot.
Saturday was the fourth day of teaching the class on building the chest from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” and my sixth day of teaching at the Dictum workshop in Bavaria. I think I might be more tired than the students — and I am rationalizing that by telling myself that’s because I am building a chest along with the students, and teaching at the same time.
Or perhaps I’m drinking too much weiss beer.
Either way, I’m ready to curl into a refrigerator box beneath a highway overpass like a proper hobo.
Today we put the dovetailed skirts on the tool chest, which were a cakewalk for the students after they cut 44 dovetails for the carcase of the chest. Sunday — the final day — we’ll be making the lid and the dovetailed dust seal around it.
Then I ride to Munich Sunday night, catch a plane Monday morning and fly back to Kentucky.
Whenever I teach, I learn things. One of the most educational parts of teaching this course has been getting intimate with the wood we are using to build the chest. It’s Scots pine (pinius sylvestris). It’s a common species in Europe that is sometimes available for sale in the United States as a Christmas tree.
It is quite similar to our Southern yellow pine. It is heavy, resinous, tough and smells fantastic. The wood we are using doesn’t have the big differences in density between the earlywood and the latewood. It planes beautifully and is not terrible to dovetail.
As I was working with the wood this week I kept thinking that it would be an excellent material for making a workbench. So if you have Scots pine in your area and it is reasonably priced, I think it’s worth a look.
It’s time for dinner now. I still cannot read the menu at the restaurant at the monastery, but everything I’ve eaten has been great. As one friend put it about German food: By the end of the week I might have some blood in my porkstream.
This week I’m in Germany teaching a class in how to build the tool chest featured in the book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” For those of you who don’t read the Popular Woodworking Magazine blog, here are some convenient links so you can follow along as we build the chest.
Also, for those of you who do not have access to the milk paint I used to paint the chest, there is a great little article on how to make your own from this copy of Popular Science magazine from 1940. It’s quite easy and is something I must try. Click here.
And lastly, the book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is making its way into the retail markets. If you live outside the United States or just hate purchasing things from Kentucky, here are some links to other people who sell our book.
We have been approached by a retailer in Great Britain about carrying the book and hope to make that work. The challenge is getting it across the Atlantic at a price that is reasonable for you in the end.
Matt Hodgson of Gabardi & Sons makes some nice planes. No doubt about it. But after hearing from several of his customers (and one of his creditors) this year, I have to rescind my recommendation of his business.
I have e-mailed Hodgson about this and asked him to remove my recommendation from his web site, but I haven’t heard back from him.
So what’s the complaint? Since my first review of his tools appeared in the Fine Tool Journal, three of his customers and one of his creditors approached me for help in contacting Hodgson. He wasn’t returning their e-mails or phone calls. They had given him money (or goods), and they hadn’t heard from him in many months.
At this point, I can no longer recommend his business. I sincerely hope that his customers report back to me with good news on their business dealings with Hodgson.
And I apologize if my review was a factor in your purchase.