The Only Review That Matters

When you write a book, people criticize you.

I’m OK with that. After 21 years in the writing business I can take a sledgehammer blow to my bathing suit area every so often.

But today was a good day.

Why? Carl Bilderback gave me a call to discuss “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” If you have followed my blog for the last seven years, then you know that Carl and I go back even further than this blog. In fact, he first called me when I was a young cub at Popular Woodworking to set me straight on some issues of Norris handplane adjusters vs. Bailey adjusters.

And I have never forgotten his lesson.

For those of you who don’t know him, Carl is an extraordinary man. He’s a semi-retired carpenter with immense hand and machine skills. He has an impressive tool collection of planes and saws. He’s an officer of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. He has the voice of an angel. And he is deeply – deeply – passionate about the craft.

But most of all, Carl is equal parts generous and honest. On the generous part: Though he is a tool collector, he probably has given away more tools than he has collected. If you like frame saws, he will send you some frame saws. Etc. etc.

On the honest part: When I’ve messed up in print or on the blog, Carl is always the first to tell me. He is blunt and to the point. The world needs about 300 million more people like him, with his enormous body of knowledge, his even more enormous heart and his willingness to share everything.

So Carl called today. And he had finished reading “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” He’s an accomplished editor (ask Megan) and had noted every typo, grammar and factual error in the 480 pages. After he detailed all those errors (which we are cleaning up for the second printing) I felt small and stupid.

But then he said something that I will carry to my grave.

“It is the best thing you have ever written,” he said. “There are things in there that I would want to try if I were 10 years younger.”

I almost burst into tears. After that conversation, I don’t care if The New York Times reviews this book. If Carl says it’s OK, then dammit (sorry for the language!), it’s not a piece of crap.

– Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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24 Responses to The Only Review That Matters

  1. Kevin says:

    Yeah. The typos are annoying. I didn’t expect that from a perfectionist as yourself. It seemed rushed to print. However, I’m on my second reading of it and still get looks from my wife when I bust out a chuckle. Great book…poor proof-reading.

  2. Jim says:

    Congratulations. Encouraging word from a mentor matter a ton. I hope you publish the errata online.

    I love the book, BTW…


  3. Jim B. says:

    Carl is absolutely right, Chris. It’s a wonderful book. The best you’ve written because, I think, it’s the most honestly written of them all. No airs, no censoring…just your real voice. I’ve read it twice. I plan to read it more.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Congratulations Chris. The words that mean the most usually come from those that mean the most to you.


  5. megan says:

    Yup – Carl’s right, and so are you – he’s one of the most generous and honest men I’ve ever had the honor of meeting.

  6. Eric Bennett says:

    Just yesterday I told a work associate that I felt your book was talking to me, one-to-one. I’ve savored the first hundred pages and already have plans to move the power jointer, mortiser, drill press, etc. to the basement. My shop is on the second floor where I’ll consolidate the hand tools that I love. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for a book like this and a friend to discuss saw vises, coping saws and block planes.

  7. Just finished the book.

    You’ve commented on an ethic that I think is slowly becoming realized by more “Western” or American people. We have choices – the choice to have plenty or the choice to have quality. What’s more: We have the opportunity to create enduring quality ourselves. We just have to recognize that fact before we drown in Billy bookshelves from IKEA.

    I found the book good natured, knowledgeable and a deft synthesis of message and subject matter. I was lucky enough to already know the denotation/connotation gap of the work Anarchist before reading.

    Bien fait mon ami. Keep up the good work,
    Dallas Bentley

    • Scott S. says:

      I heard an expression the other day that perfectly encompasses the modern craze for flat-goods furniture: Feed it to your billy goat when it breaks.

      Apparently one of her goats has a penchant for eating press board.

      I found it funny, anyway. 🙂

  8. Tom Slee says:

    Great stuff. One cherished word trumps a thousand anonymous pats on the back.

    Re: The second print. Is this happening soon? I’m going to order in about two weeks. Would I get the seocnd print? I’d prefer the corrections than any claim to fame a first edition or first print carries with it.


    • lostartpress says:


      We will have the second press run in hand by the end of August. We’ll make a note of it on the blog when it arrives.

      • Tom Slee says:

        Thanks Chris. Fathers day in OZ is first weekend of Sept. Even if its late it will be the perfect present.

  9. I found a dozen or so errors, but I didn’t think it was bad for the first printing of a book that size. Not great, but not that bad either. In any event, I didn’t find anything really noteworthy like transposed pages or skipped lines. I would have liked to have seen more and better labeled illustrations for a few things that were described, but were difficult to understand. There were maybe four or five situations like that.

  10. Jacob Butler says:

    It’s on order and I’m looking forward to reading it.
    What was the conclusion re “issues of Norris handplane adjusters vs. Bailey adjusters”?
    I’ve got one norris type adjuster plane and the adjustment is very poor compared to Bailey pattern.

  11. David says:

    Thank goodness Carl provided you with an errata list – I thought I was going a little nuts when I kept a steno pad next to my chair as I was reading The Anarchist’s Tool Chest to copy down the page & paragraph numbers for typos. Now I don’t have to complete it. 😉

    There are constant grammar errors in newspapers and all sorts of print media these days – the kind of thing you would never find in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We can thank “spell check” for that – the publishers repurposed/fired all of the copy editors when they foolishly overestimated the power of computers to analyze language.

    Perhaps one of the most pervasive is confusing “it’s” with “its” – “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”, but seems to be constantly (and incorrectly) inserted in print as the possessive.

    There are also erratta in both workbench books, but that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I doubt anyone of us would insist on paying $45 instead of $37 for The Anarchist’s Tool Chest so that we could get a copy with perfect grammar….

    And it’s a great book, even with typos. In a world filled with Fine Woodworking regurgitated dreck, it’s refreshing to pick up a book that is not afraid to analyze, and not afraid to draw firm conclusions.

    • megan says:

      You can blame his copy editor for all errors. I do.

      • lostartpress says:

        Hey Megan,

        Remember: I copy edited it as well. Or maybe “not as well.”

        In any case, there are 120,000 words in the book, and I am now tracking 48 typos and four factual errors. Except in matters of brain surgery, that’s not too bad…..

      • Bob jones says:

        I didn’t notice any typos and don’t care if I do. The content is that helpful. I would like to see the list of factual errors once they are complied. Thanks!

  12. Regis says:

    I have to say The Anarchist’s Tool Chest is one of the most engaging books on the craft of woodworking that I have ever read. Very enjoyable and very useful. I’ve re-read several sections over at least three times. The lack of branding and commercialization is refreshing as it avoids discussions of what tool is “best” and helps us focus on tools that work. It has already helped me make some decisions on my tool set, both on tools discussed in the text and others not covered. The concepts really carry over to other areas. I know myself that I’ll be building a chest eventually as well. Thanks for a great contribution to the literature of our craft.

    Any updates on the Roubo translation? Not to be all “What have you done for me lately?” 🙂 but we haven’t heard anything about that lately and I know I’m really looking forward to that as well.

    Thanks for everything you do for the craft.

    • lostartpress says:

      The team is putting the final touches on the translation language. And Don Williams is working on building the tools and appliances shown.

      It will be worth the wait!

      Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on three other projects. Details to follow when the ink dries.

  13. Chris,
    It is a good book. Even with my quibbles over language, I really like it. I know how it feels to have a mentor tell you that you did a good job. I am glad your mentor told you. What you are doing — reviving a dying art, is important. Not just for those of us trying to learn it, but for a world that has forgotten how important craftsmen are to society. Keep at it, even when it is hard. We are rooting for you.

  14. robert campbell says:


    I feel its one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Well-worded, engaging, and deeply informative. There were several editing mistakes but not enough to derail the great reading. You deserve to be proud and satisfied, but hopefully not so satisfied that you will stop writing. We want more!

  15. Mike says:

    Has there ever been a 1st edition of anything that is free from errors? My wife freelance edits textbooks and there are always some errors buried somewhere after a book goes to print.

    Some of these dudes need to take a chill pill.

    Megan, I think you did a super-duper job, as usual.


  16. Bob DeViney says:

    I had misgivings about the title beforehand. Evidently others did as well, as you did your best to explain why Anarchist was the appropriate word to use in the title. Now that I’ve had a chance to read the book twice, I understand your reasoning even better.

    When I ordered the book, I briefly considered asking my wife to make a book cover for it, before she retired (middle school media center). Was thinking of something along the lines of Ned Ludd’s Toolchest. Had I done so, she would have skimmed through the book and I’d be getting even more comments about tool purchases. Not complaining mind you – she’s never said a word when I buy wood, just when I buy a comparatively expensive hand tool.

  17. Henry Miller says:

    I almost regret buying the wood. I could have inherited a lot of nice looking furniture from my wife’s grandparents. Except that I finished the book just before we went to look. I accepted some things on the grounds that it would at least make it half way to my retirement (they already had half a lifetime of use, so total expected life is about one person’s lifetime). Some of this is things that were built with solid wood, but the non-repairable glue and weak joints (despite being “Amish built”) mean it is doomed to a premature bonfire.

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