‘Why Don’t You Try Cutting Your Own Throat With It?’


NOTE: If you comment on this entry, please don’t try to guess who the manufacturers are in the stories below. Chances are you will libel someone. I’ll delete any comments that attempt to guess their identity. Thanks for your understanding.

One of the things I won’t miss about public life is the occasional threat of violence.

I think a lot of woodworkers think hand tool woodworkers and toolmakers are laid back and everyone gets along. That’s not always the case.

To be honest, the people on the power tool side of manufacturing are (on the whole) far more professional and easy to deal with. They understand how tool reviews work and see the long game in developing a relationship with a writer.

The hand tool people are more like an Italian family.

It started with a few e-mail messages when I was at Popular Woodworking from people who threatened to beat me up if they ever saw me or met me in a dark alley.

Then, during a show several years ago, one of the vendors cornered me about why I wouldn’t review his tool.

“Honestly, I’m not interested in your tool at this time,” I told him.

The dude got in my face, and I thought he was going to punch me. All I could think was, “If he hits me, that sure would make a good blog entry. And I’ll be sure to mention his tool.”

But he backed down without whacking me.

My favorite encounter was with a company that sold sharpening supplies. After reviewing one of the company’s products (a favorable review in my estimation; they disagreed), their people asked to have a chat during a show.

They showed me one of their edges on a chisel.

“Tell me that’s not perfectly shiny and sharp.”

I looked at the tool.

“Shiny doesn’t mean sharp,” I said. “And I think I see some dubbing on the edge,” pointing to the glint on the tip.

“Why don’t you try cutting your own throat with it? See if it’s sharp.”

I handed the tool back.

That’s when the countdown to the Year(s) of the Hermit went into overdrive.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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47 Responses to ‘Why Don’t You Try Cutting Your Own Throat With It?’

  1. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    That reminds me of a time I tried to buy some wood off a guy on Craig’s list. I went and looked at the wood in the back of a warehouse. I dug through the stuff and after a while he finally got around to what he wanted for it. The price was out there. I just offered him what it was worth in my opinion. I thought I wasn’t going to make it out of there. Fortunately no punches were thrown. Some people don’t know how to play nice. This is only woodworking. >

    • Yeesh. I sell lumber on Craigslist. All of my prices are clearly stated in the ad. I wouldn’t have imagined that anyone would be interested in having a look otherwise.

  2. Martin Green says:

    Chris did any of the offenders have shifty eyes ,,,,,,

  3. ctregan says:

    Never a “dull” moment in the tool review world.

  4. saucyindexer says:

    Speaking for the part of my family from the foot of Vesuvius, “We like to get things done, you got a problem with that?” We also make good sauce.

  5. Victor says:

    How about an anti-threat, better known as a thank you. If I run into you I will, with your permission, buy you a beer, or beerses, of your choice. You don’t even have to review the beer.

  6. Kinderhook88 says:

    Jeez. I guess that’s why politicians are always surrounded by armed guards.

  7. ejcampbell says:

    I recently bought a couple small items through Amazon Marketplace that were actually sold by very small vendors just starting out. These had little to do with woodworking and those people were all very nice and had great customer service. I suspect your chisel guys were feeling a little desperate and worried about their cash flow let their emotions override their judgment.
    I’m actually glad you are entering hermit mode now because there are a few books in the pipeline that I am anxiously awaiting. (Roubo v2 and the Turning Opus you hinted at once months ago.)

  8. Dear Hermit
    I completely concur with your experience of the attitude of hand tool manufacturers to adverse reviews. I have been writing critical articles for over 30 years now. The best experience was a pretty damning comparison test between European and Japanese chisels. i did this article in “The Woodworker” in the 1980s where i had an apprentice vertical pare half inch maple without a mallet and measure the amount of maple pared before the edge was dulled. A crude but pretty decent workshop test. The Japanese blades which were new on the market then, cut i believe between five and eight times more maple, depending upon the brand and the price.
    The Woodworker published the article. Later that week I got a call from the CEO of a British chisel manufacturer, that is still in business threatening to “send the boys round” if i ever repeated that quote.
    funny old world

    Have a sharp old day huh


  9. Roger Benton says:

    Howa dare you insulta my Italian rootsa! Ima kicka you ass!

  10. Derek Long says:

    I’d be much more scared of power tool manufacturers threatening to recreate certain scenes from Fargo. ::shiver::

  11. tsstahl says:

    Where is this dark alley where woodworkers congregate? I’m feeling very left out.

    Also, arse kicking is best done in the light; nothing sucks worse than missing a jaw and meeting a brick wall instead.

    Writing in jest for those all too literal minded of you out there.

    Enjoy the solitude so we can enjoy the result. 🙂

  12. “The dude got in my face, and I thought he was going to punch me. All I could think was, “If he hits me, that sure would make a good blog entry. And I’ll be sure to mention his tool.””

    Taking note of this marketing technique for future reference…

  13. rgrsf says:

    I don’t think there was any need for you to be sarcastic and degrade Italian families, what do you know about Italian families other than what you have seen on The screen. Larry

  14. If people kept asking me to use their tool, I’d become a hermit too…

  15. duckfarmer27 says:

    Jeepers, reminds me of my days waiting table. 99 % of people are great but then there is that painful 1% who are total jerks – or worse.


  16. emcknight58 says:

    Threats from power company’s would be comical. Saw stop: I’m going to cut you as soon as I disingage my brake. Blink Blink Blink.

  17. mrogen says:

    That’s what the bottles of ketchup are for!

    Your words are your weapons. You made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    Witness Protection Case number 43X32TQ86

  18. bearkatwood says:

    Wow! Sounds like some people have enough steam to power a small factory.

    That’s why I stay hid away in my cave and only talk to the guy picking up my crates. Sheesh! people can be such reptiles. Frankie say relax.

  19. i wanted to email this privately. there seems to be no way contact you that way.
    i have often offended others without meaning to. my father used to say “people who are easily offended, should be offended more often”. today, i no longer think that way. i know i’ve used that line in the past as an excuse to be a braying ass.
    i’ve followed your blog and read your articles for many years. i wrote you years ago. it was before you started “lost arts”. i found your reply hostile, rude and insulting. i don’t write this to insult or belittle you. i don’t mean to imply anything about karma or anything demeaning at all.
    i don’t wish to give advise or tell you what or how you should feel. i’m no saint. i’m not spiritual or religious. i observe the bad behaviors of myself and others. i just don’t get judgmental about it. i try and change what i can in myself. i try and disengage from the rest.
    i enjoy your writing a great deal. i would not enjoy personal interaction with you. take what you need and leave the rest.

  20. bearkatwood says:

    You can please some of the people some of the time…. That’s good enough.

    I would say hermits of the world unite, but I don’t think that works here. Hermitism is not a crime.

  21. stevevoigt says:

    That really sucks; I had no idea. That would drive me into cave as well.
    On a more positive note, that’s a great looking Japanese chisel at the top. The texture of the wrought iron backing is incredible.

  22. “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

  23. timothyvermillion says:

    The cool part about this is that, in the end, you hold all the power.
    Your post is a shot across the bow and if they are smart they’ll melt back into the woodwork. No pun intended.

  24. dknott2013 says:

    I wish you smooth sailing, dear friendships, wonderful family experiences, and near anonymity in your hermit-like existence.

    Just curious: can you tell us what brought this on?

    • Lots of things:

      We bought a building we need to rehab.
      My wife has a stressful job and we still have a teenager at home.
      I’ve been teaching for 10 years and need a break to work on a bunch of new designs in my sketchbook.
      Psychologically, I am a hermit. So teaching is trying.
      And finally, we don’t need much in our house. So the money won’t be missed.


      • Can’t believe she’s a teenager. O.o

        Picked up the new version of the workbench book, but having a hard time giving up my old copy because of K’s drawing next to your autograph. It’s supposed to be a smiley face, I think, but it looks sort of like a Jean Renne McIntosh rose. Obviously not quite the significance of the sock monkey signature, but still a desirable one.

        Might have to actually charge something for the book because of that additional signature. Or tear out the title page before I ship it…

  25. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Hi Chris

    I am very sorry to hear this. Just know that you inspire thousands of people all over the world with your work, enthusiasm and energy. Especially people like me sitting in Africa isolated from what is happening in the rest of the woodworking world. There will always be a few idiots out there, but the overwhelming majority of woodworkers benefit immensely from your constant toil.

    By the way, I am a psychiatrist so if you need any assistance, I’ll be more than willing to return the favour given how much you have done to help me on my woodworking journey 🙂

    Thank you for everything mate.

  26. Ryan Cheney says:

    Wow! I never knew woodworking and the people who do it to be anything other than fun. (Except when I make a stupid measurement error and ruin a part it took hours to make. Then it’s less fun. Then I get over it.) Who knew there was such rancorous ruffians and rascally rapscallions in the hand tool world? It’s a good thing so many of us are hermits and introverts. It might be safer that way!

  27. domanicoj says:

    Looking forward to your comeback tour!!

  28. wb8nbs says:

    What happened to that chisel in the photo? Did it get soaked in acid to bring out the grain?

  29. smbarnha says:

    Is it just the perspective, or is that chisel a little wonky?

  30. gblogswild says:

    I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist or a psychic or anything else that begins with a “p.” Well, I’ll have to let that one go, maybe.

    But, beer! I’m very much looking forward to seeing the LAP digs should I ever find myself leisurely driving through the land of Ken-Tuck-Ee. If a brief time in a debris hut is what needs to happen in order to make more things come to pass, then so be it.

    I assume you’ll still blog, correct?

  31. Andrea says:

    You need a new holiday in Italy to overcome this stereotye on our families: we usually use burnished luparas, not shiny chisels. 😉

  32. Well that escalated quickly…

  33. People lose it for anything. I may have inadvertently called you a smart-ass, but I meant it as a compliment. I was only referring to your smart whit and for not suffering fools. It just came out all wrong.

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