Anarchy in Denmark

While teaching my first class on building a tool chest at the Dictum workshops in Metten, Germany, this June I had a group of students that were nothing short of spectacular.

They were from all over the world: New Zealand, Chicago, Austria, Great Britain, the Netherlands and yes, Germany. And their woodworking experience was as varied as their nationalities. For some of them, this was their first significant woodworking project. And I had two professional woodworking instructors and a professional cabinetmaker from Dictum.

Despite – or perhaps because of – this diversity, it was one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taught. I got to see European hand-tool techniques I’d only read about. I learned different ways of gluing up a dovetailed case from the Germans. And I was fascinated by the way the school puts all its flat panel stock in clamps overnight (like a giant sandwich).

Then there was the singing.

A father-son pair from Denmark took the class, even though neither had any business being there. The father was a long-time woodworking instructor. And his son, Jonas, could have taught the class himself. Jonas, a locomotive marine engineer, was both fast and accurate.

Jonas and his father would sing (in various languages) as they worked. In two-part harmony. And I cannot even whistle while I work.

If you want to see some videos from this class and hear them sing our National Anthem, read some of my posts on my blog at Popular Woodworking here.

Anyway, Jonas recently sent some photos of his completed tool chest. He was determined to make his own milk paint for the chest, which will be used as a blanket chest in his house.

“I tried to make some milk paint, but I couldn’t make it work,” Jonas wrote. “I am not sure whether to use slaked lime, lime fruit, powdered lime, Jura lime, hydraulic lime or maybe some other form of lime.

“But I found a recipe for egg-oil-tempera that even I couldn’t screw up: one egg, the equivalent volume of boiled linseed oil and the equivalent volume of milk. I did manage to mix a disastrous color though, so could you please issue a warning not to mix one batch of egg-oil-tempera with 8 tablespoons of zinc oxide (white) and 4 tablespoons iron oxide (Bordeaux red). the result is as you can see not a pleasant sight.

“It was intended to be used as a primer, so I am hoping that I can fix it by mixing some light grey paint to cover most of the purple.”

Jonas promised to send photos of the chest in its finished color.

I know this will sound corny, but classes like this give me hope for the future, of both the craft and humanity. That no matter how impersonal, hierarchical and technological our world will become, there will always be a class of people who are bound together by the work our hands produce. There will be parents who teach their children. And for those people, I can report that our similarities are more significant than our differences.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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5 Responses to Anarchy in Denmark

  1. Dave Jeske says:

    So very refreshing and encouraging to hear about people sharing their interests and having fun together. Thanks for all you do Chris.


  2. Nice post, especially the end. I’m a digital product designer/user experience designer by trade but can’t tell you how refreshing in the evening is to walk into my garage and apply my design skills to this great tradition we call woodworking. The combination of tools, hands, design, mind…good stuff. I’d also like to thank Chris for all the great projects from the hybrid-Roubo bench design to the anarchist’s tool chest. It’s a real pleasure to learn from someone knowledgeable and carry the tradition in spite of other “technological progress”.


  3. Charlie Driggs says:

    And that closing statement captures the enjoyment and even purpose of pursuing these crafts in this (strongly hand-tool / hands on) way. This kind of activity draws people together from diverse walks of life, especially if they don’t use their hands to make their living. I suspect all humans need to feel the accomplishment of making things with their hands, although some seem to try to bury that need as deep as possible. I find letting it out and enjoying it is cathartic and healing to the soul.


  4. ecrusch says:

    I think I have achieved a few converts just from them seeing the pleasure I derive from our craft.
    You have conveyed it nicely in this post Chris.
    Thanks for all you do.


  5. Jonas Jensen says:

    Hi Chris
    I am not a locomotive engineer. I am a marine engineer working on a high speed ferry 🙂
    The ferry can be seen at this link:
    Best regards


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