Gestation, Dilation & Biting Down


“In all its horrible eccentricity of non-descript Gothic, worse Chinese, and inane rococo, combined though they be with the most exquisite workmanship and occasionally a quaint gracefulness, Chippendale’s style is not in favour with those whose training enables them to discriminate between the true and false in design.”

— D. Adamson, “A Chat About Furniture,” Work magazine, March 23, 1889

Writing a woodworking book is perhaps the dumbest way to make a living. These stupid things take years to do correctly. Mistakes are easy to make and difficult to catch. You have to work quite hard to avoid sounding like a Samsung instruction booklet.

It is honestly the most difficult form of writing I’ve ever attempted. And the audience is tiny.

But some days you get a glimpse of something amazing that touches almost every civilized person who ever lived. It’s a bright string, to steal the phrase of Stephen King. And if you follow the string, no matter where it leads through a dark forest, you will end up in a clearing where you can see for miles, over hills and forests and to the ocean.

All that is usually launched by a single moment. My first book, “Workbenches…,” was set in motion by a single plate in “l’Art du menuisier” and a comment by Dave Raeside, one of my earliest students. “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” came to me while on a run in Maine when I wished for a book that didn’t exist when I was 11. “Campaign Furniture” came about by stumbling into a now-closed antique store in Charleston, S.C., with my dad.

“Furniture of Necessity” was set in motion by a single early image sent to me by Jeff Burks. (No, we don’t know where he is, but we miss him.) I can’t even bear to show you the image because I don’t want to spoil the shock of encountering a hidden truth.

I don’t want to build this up too much because it will seem obvious when you encounter it. People will claim they have been way ahead of me (or way behind) for a long time on this issue. That’s cool. I’m just the guy with the flashlight.

Today I legged up a sawbench, which is the first project in “Furniture of Necessity.” As I felt the sawbench’s pine top flex and give way to the oak legs when I hammered them in I knew I was on the downhill slide on this book.

I have the bright string in hand, now I just have to make sure I don’t let go during the next 12 months.

— Christopher Schwarz


P.S. For those of you who didn’t like Roorkee Chat No. 1, I can only say that you should not poke the bear.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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8 Responses to Gestation, Dilation & Biting Down

  1. Thomas Scott says:

    Re: Roorkee Chat No. 2
    Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries!

  2. Jim Maher says:

    I so look forward to this book, I fear that I’d better start lowering my expectations. But I won’t.

    I trust that you’ll shine that light on just the right pieces to get me thinking about the basic forms of functional furniture. I try to do nice work, but really it’s the “form follows function” that draws me to each new piece.

    I’m sure this will be a wonderful journey!

  3. Whatever you pay Suzanne Ellison, double it. If you pay her nothing, then triple it and flog yourself with a spatula.

  4. wadeholloway says:

    I really like this little bench. Please don’t say it is going to be a year before I can read up on how to do one.

  5. Rob Porcaro says:

    Credit to you, Chris, for having the vision and tenacity to follow that “single moment.” Good luck with the new oeuvre.

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