The Brides Have Hit Glass

staked_worktable_IMG_103230

For the last six months, my teaching schedule has been light – I’ve had to cancel a bunch of trips to assist with some serious medical issues in my immediate family. As an odd result, I’ve had a luxurious amount of time to design and build things.

This time has been exciting – to me at least. I’ve explored a bunch of new designs that are based on my last five years of research into early furniture. I am weirdly enthusiastic about the stuff I’m now sketching, drafting and building. I have more than a dozen new pieces I want to draft and build.

However, for the last six months I think I’ve also developed a severe case of myopia. Without feedback from students, I’ve ventured into places that are odd and difficult for them to get excited about.

So I’m at a Robert Johnson sort of crossroads. Do I continue down the weird and delightful path I’ve been traveling this year to see where it takes me? (Knowing it’s likely a dead end.) Or do I double down on the teaching and use that as a compass to guide my research and building? More workbenches. Other tool chests. Traditional appliances. Unexplored hand-tool techniques.

This is a tough question. Time to drink a double IPA and look for answers.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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77 Responses to The Brides Have Hit Glass

  1. woodewe says:

    Who is the Robert Johnson you referenced?

  2. ejcampbell says:

    Sometimes when life is difficult, a little “me” time is very helpful. Follow that weird and delightful path until it no longer delights you. You do this for yourself, not your students.

  3. martin says:

    In my first two years of woodworking, I’ve built two of your workbenches and two of your tool chests. I probably, like you, am creeping up on tool chest and workbench fatigue. You have a gift for bringing people into the craft and as I start to move from beginner to intermediate, I’m curious where my inspiration will come from. I’m intrigued by the new direction. Variety is the spice of life…

    What would an anarchist do?

  4. davelehardt says:

    Sounds more like an Imperial Stout kinda question to me.

  5. rondennis303 says:

    From all indications, you have a beautiful soul. Don’t sell it to the Devil. Listen to your heart.

  6. wortheffort says:

    Uh Oh… with your penchant for beer experimentation you could pick the wrong IPA and your readers could be in for a year of Bauhaus furniture deconstructionism.

  7. Dave Reedy says:

    I personally would like to take classes from you. Unfortunately I am not currently able to do much traveling. Is there any way to do something locally ( South West Ohio) where we could all sleep in our own beds? During the PW days you held classes at the magazine shop. How about hooking up with the 360 Woodworking guys ( or is that awkward)? This would put you back in touch with the students, and you’d be there for the family.

  8. Chris follow your heart and go the way you feel like best suites you and family. By the way I hope the medical stuff works out. I have y’all in my thoughts. Keep the planes tuned up and your chisels sharp. 🙂

  9. wilburpan says:

    I am a scientist – I seek to understand me
    All of my impurities and evils yet unknown
    I am a journalist – I write to you to show you
    I am an incurable
    And nothing else behaves like me

  10. wb8nbs says:

    Just sell your soul to the devil for more tools.

  11. Ian Knight says:

    That desk is fantastic. Keep going. Here’s why:

    Any instructor needs (what Fighter Pilots call) continuation training. Continuation training is for the instructor, not the student, and designed in such a way that it makes them better teachers. Without it they become irrelevant. To me, your new designs seem to be the woodworking equivalent of continuation training. Awesome.

  12. Bob Jones says:

    If you sell your soul to the devil, your days of exploring may be severely limited. Ask Robert :0

  13. Bob Jones says:

    And I really like that multi purpose desk table.

  14. John Preber says:

    I hope your family becomes well again. That’s the important part. I’ll think some good thoughts for you.

  15. woodmandan says:

    Brides? Glass?
    Dan

  16. Sean Yates says:

    What if you, like Alexander
    pursued your own interests
    and waited for the rest of the
    world to catch up, and perhaps
    get lucky and meet a proto-Follansbee?

  17. I have been down to the cross roads and when I feel I am sinkin down I rather prefer a dark ale while I am trying to flag a ride

  18. robertlivingstonmd says:

    “Study until 25, investigate until 40, profession until 60, at which age I would have him retired on a double allowance.” Sir William Osler (regarded as the father of modern medicine)

  19. toolnut says:

    Leave your comfort zone grasshopper. You never know where it will lead you. Look at what you started when you dug up an old workbench design.

  20. Derek Long says:

    Love the desk. You obviously are hitting some good ideas. I say follow the rabbit down the hole and see where it goes.

  21. paul6000000 says:

    Based on what I see a Reddit/woodworking, there’s a burgeoning crowd of young folks who aren’t so much serious woodworking hobbyists as people who are tired of and/or feel bad about buying Ikea, who need computer desks, coffee tables, pet bowl stands, shelving …and they’re excited to discover they can build stuff without table saws and dust collection.

  22. don2laughs says:

    I follow every word you write and find absolutely no evidence of diminished insight, imagination nor foresight….Myopia doesn’t fit.
    Really impressed with the desk! The leg attachment solves some questions I’ve had for a project I want to do.
    I really don’t care where you go with your thoughts as long as you don’t quit conveying them to me. I met you briefly when you came to San Diego and like you very much…even though we disagree about a certain plane I cherish….you have been a source of inspiration for me for many years. Although I envy you for taking your life in the direction I wanted but didn’t….you are a valuable resource for the continued renewal of my passion of making things from wood.
    Where the hell did you come up with….myopia??? NOT

  23. woodworkerme says:

    take care of family and know that things always work out. The path is there just keep moving.

  24. Chris,

    First of all, I LOVE this desk. I had been thinking about staked furniture for a while, and when you started posting about it, it gave me a place to start. Thank you.

    I have two thoughts about your musings in this post.

    First, I’m not sure about some of your staked designs. I think they are close, but to my eye they need a thicker this or a thinner that or more of something else. I think teaching these techniques in classes would help you develop some of your designs and explore more variations. This may have happened already with some of your more popular classes.

    Second, in addition to teaching this stuff, I want you to make more books, videos and magazine articles. I don’t live anywhere near a place you are likely to teach, so I won’t really have any opportunity to take part in the process I mention above.

    Stefan

  25. jkvernier says:

    The trouble with a steady diet of workbenches and tool chests is that it keeps one’s eyes focused inside one’s own workshop – That’s myopia! It’s a good place for anyone to start but at a certain point some people need a little push to get them thinking about how their skills can make them useful to the rest of society.

    Your writing and teaching about benches and chests is all good stuff, some of the most useful material of it’s sort that we have – but with this recent work you seem to have hit upon a rich vein of historical research meets creative inspiration, and I really want to see where you are headed with it. And if some people are put out because all they really want is more benches and chests, what good are you really going to accomplish by catering to them?

  26. beshriver says:

    My two cents…finish the Estonia book… all other work , writing, building, three legged staked monstrosities, etc. has to stop. Everything has to stop until the Estonia book is lovingly packaged by John and arrives on my doorstep. 🙂

  27. beshriver says:

    and the Peter Follansbee book

  28. jdcook72 says:

    The answer to your question lies within the reason you are asking it…

  29. I’m loving the primitive furniture tack.
    I just spotted that drinking table in use in Hell:

  30. Stick with weird and delightful. 🙂

  31. seawolfe2013 says:

    Ask yourself one question. When everything is said and done, do you want to say “I wish I would have … spent another day at the office or built yet another bench?” Take the path with a little adventure, a little spice, a little risk. Even if it is a dead end (I doubt it will be), you will have a good story to tell. Being who you are, isn’t a good story important?

  32. Brian Ashton says:

    Years ago I took a course on “Coping with change.” The take away was: Uncuntrolled change is chaos however uncontrolled stability is stagnation.

  33. Hope all’s well with your family

  34. Wesley Beal says:

    My two-cents: If you haven’t found a way to talk about these things in a way that makes it exciting or interesting to students, you probably haven’t investigated it enough yet.

    The answer for most all of us is that we should do what we enjoy most that still allows us to put food on the table.

    Having said that, this world needs someone who can talk to beginners and intermediates about woodworking, and provide them some foundations that will see them smartly started out, for example the work you did with The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. Fulfilling that need in the world seems to me an honorable and rewarding pursuit.

    From what you’ve said about the old furniture forms, it sounds like something even more accessible to raw beginners than has been done so far, while also offering intermediates and more experienced woodworkers serious insights into what they do.

    You (sorta) asked, so that’s my answer. We all know you’ll figure out for yourself what’s best.

  35. Matt Merges says:

    First, take care of your family. Second, I would hate for you to feel as jaded about workbenches as you do about table saw jigs. As others have said, journey down your path … and let that new knowledge inform your teaching.

  36. kbake194 says:

    For what its worth, I would walk the path you want to walk, if other want to join in they will, and your journey will be rewarded. If you only go where you think the populist want to join in, then your following & not leading.
    A few years back, I purchased your work bench book. I made a bench that works for me, I don’t plan on making another. I enjoyed the Anarchists Tool Chest & Champaign Furniture, I’ve made a few pieces.

    I look forward to “joining in” your other exploration, journey that may not be on my current list of “to do”.

  37. tgkothari says:

    The desk is beautiful. Why not do both. Open a school in OTR across from Rheingeist. You won’t have to travel, you’ll have a customer for life, and Truth is across the street!

    I’ll partner up with you too!

  38. Oh, the luxuries of having a supportive spouse with a full-
    time job!

  39. stevevoigt says:

    Chris, I like the table. I recently was in Alsace and saw a bunch of chairs that use the very same sliding-dovetail-batten-thingy. If you are curious, the pics are here: http://blackdogswoodshop.blogspot.com/
    (scroll down to the last 5 pictures in the post).

  40. Scott Taylor says:

    Family first… That said there may be a middle path. “Building a House Full of Furniture” by Simon Watts is still a great read for me. Loved the concept of the book and funny how the focus on “modern design” in 1983 is coming back with the interest in mid century design these days. I believe that type of book, along with Tage Frid’s three book series could benefit significantly from the Schwarz and LAP touch and updating.

  41. Dave Fisher says:

    Chris,
    I think the best things usually happen when you explore the path that excites you, and it’s not like you’ve made a giant alienating leap to knitting or something (although I’d like to explore that too.) I am a big fan of “staked” furniture. I have employed the technique over the years for benches, tables, and other things — ever since I read Alexander’s article on building a shaving horse, tapered reamer, etc. The two main fixtures I use in my shop are staked in construction. So I, for one, have been very interested to see you explore the idea, because you write about your explorations so well.

    My suggestion, when you build your next piece, is to get out the draw knife. You are used to building pieces to tight tolerances. Indeed, the staked joints should fit with tight tolerances. but I think this style of furniture benefits from surfaces that are more organic. Much of the charm of staked furniture comes from the natural variations from the tools used. Beginning by riving legs from a log would be even better. I think the results are conveyed better through your sketches than Sketch-up. How all that would resonate with readers, I have no idea.

    • Dave Fisher says:

      I should add that I really like your desk. It shows that staked furniture can be elegant and well-proportioned. I’d love to sit at that desk. Light, yet bullet-proof.

  42. waltamb says:

    Chris, as for me I say stay on this path!
    I like the look.
    It is more of a refined Primitive, almost a Moravian.
    I am either going to have to make my own Taper Reamer or order one, I absolutely love the look and the simplicity of structure.

  43. John Sisler says:

    On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest – and there resting, died.
    Author: William Lawrence

  44. joefromoklahoma says:

    The quickest route to old fogey ville is doing the same stuff over and over. Shift happens; keep working on getting your shift together,
    And take care of the folks – that’s something we can all agree on!

  45. Christopher, you look a little discouraged and this is not nice. If you need an opponent to wake up from slumber, I can return to being your Steve Vai.

  46. waltamb says:

    With or without a spouse, and with or without employment or a career.
    We still our individual struggles when looking to the universe for understanding.
    To move forward on the same path or taking a new one.
    We have to make those decisions on our own.
    “When you come to a fork in the road… Take it.” YB

  47. beshriver says:

    Also on my wish list is a LAP cookbook… With measured drawings for shop made kitchen gear.

  48. I’ve become much more interested in medieval furniture because of your posts. I’m one person that likes the direction you have been going.

  49. waltamb says:

    Was “medieval” furniture only medium evil?

  50. Chris, do you get Short’s brews in Cinci? Their pale’s are excellent. Made a recent business trip to Detroit bearable.

  51. alanws says:

    Chris: As far as I can tell, you’ve always done what’s interested you and described it well enough that people have wanted to follow you there. Don’t assume people won’t be interested in these designs before you’ve explained why they should be. This table/desk looks interesting in several ways.

  52. “And what is good, Phaedrus,
    And what is not good—
    Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

  53. Clay Dowling says:

    My vote would be to explore this style of furniture more deeply. But who can say which road you should follow? You won’t know until you hear the baying of the hounds, and by then its far too late.

  54. diceloader says:

    Chris Schwarz worries about jumping the shark and generates a big number of posts!
    Does this say more about the author or the audience?
    Hmmm, think I need a beer to help me contemplate.

  55. ctregan says:

    Thanks for planting a seed, I have ordered a tapered reamer and begun my own projects. The biggest challenge is coming up with new designs using a very ancient method. I’ll post some pics If I come up with anything good.

  56. If the stuff you’ve shown so far is any indication, I don’t find it at all hard to get excited about it, I can hardly wait for the book! Damn the torpedoes…

  57. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to attach table tops (or desk tops) without the use of screws. This is the first idea I’ve seen that would effectively allow for movement. So thank you for that.

    Is there a video or article that goes into detail on how to make these sliding dovetails?

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