The Year Without an Email


It’s now been a year since I closed my public email address, which is probably the biggest life change for me since Lucy and I had kids or I quit my job. As a result of the extra time granted me, I finally finished “The Anarchist’s Design Book” and we have two more books about to go to the printer.

Sometimes I get asked: Do you miss anything? The contact with other woodworkers? The intellectual stimulation that comes from defending your ideas and opinions with others? Insight into new areas to research?

The answer is no, and that’s because we have a discussion forum. If you have a question about woodworking techniques, tools or projects shown in our books, you can get quick answers by posting it on our forum. John and I are on there everyday to check in and are pretty darn prompt.

I quite like it because you’ll also get thoughtful viewpoints from other woodworkers. And we learn stuff, too. Check out this thread on soft wax – John Corey alerted us all to a domestic source for turpentine and rosin. I placed an order about five minutes after reading it.

You might be asking yourself: How is this different from answering emails?

Oh, it’s way different. For your amusement, here is a sample of typical email topics that made me pull the plug on public email. These are not exaggerations:

  1. Begging or bullying me to write a positive review of a product. “Hey we noticed we have a bunch of extra O1 dinglehoffers, could you blog about these so we can sell them off?”
  2. Ten-page questionnaires (not exaggerating) seeking business advice for a woodworking, tool-making or publishing business.
  3. Requests to publish a spouse’s romance novel.
  4. Detailed requests to compare, for example, five different workbench designs and their suitability for their particular work. After I answer, they come back six months later saying: “I decided to build a totally different design and now I hate it. Could you help me fix the problem?”
  5. Asking to come spend a day in my shop to hang out and have me teach them. For free, of course.
  6. Endless requests from people wanting me to assign a value to a relative’s tool collection, tool chest or workbench.
  7. Requests from woodworking clubs for me to speak. I’d be expected to pay my own travel and hotel expenses. “It will be great for your publishing company!” Oh and could you give us a whole set of all your books for our club’s library?
  8. Requests to publish a spouse’s book on the genealogy of their family.
  9. Books on weaving, knitting, miniature horses and spelunking.

I’d list more examples, but my fingers are already shaking a bit just recalling the nine items above.

So there’s no junk on the forum. Have a question (not about underpants gnomes)? We’ll answer.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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34 Responses to The Year Without an Email

  1. Brian Clites says:

    10. I can has cheezburger?

  2. fitz says:

    Green w/…well, you know.

  3. tsstahl says:

    I’m still pissed about not publishing the bird house book. >:|

    Kidding, of course. I work in an organization with about 20,000 folks; any given day a fair percentage of them leave their brain at home.

  4. To be fair, a book on on weaving white oak or ash splint baskets would be apropos. Though I don’t know enough about the subject to know whether or not that’s a topic that actually needs another book.

  5. Alex A. says:

    I just realized last night that I need some turpentine, how convenient.

  6. John Sisler says:

    For several months before you made your email private I considered sending you one. I was jokingly intending to accuse you of actually being twins posing as one individual,because of all that you were doing. It seemed to be way too much activity for one human to accomplish. I held off because I didn’t want to add anything to your load and, truthfully, having been in a similar situation myself,I realized it wouldn’t seem all that humorous at the time. I’m glad it’s working out for you and your family, Lost Art Press,and,indeed,the entire woodworking community. We all benefit from having you a functioning person and not a burned out husk.
    Now I’ve added to your email load with a non-woodworking email-JM Sisler

  7. bloksav says:

    Miniature horses can make a small batch of Roubo stain, so a book about those wouldn’t be inappropriate. 🙂

  8. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    I can already relate but of course to a lesser degree. Crazy what questions a person gets. Yet I still answer everyone. >

  9. paulstraka says:

    I am enjoying all your content Chris, keep up the great work. On a side note I have been watching old episodes of The Woodwright’s Shop and was wondering how to politely (and hopefully with some humor) tell the Mr. Underhill how to pronounce your name. Or maybe it’s an inside joke between you two. Any suggestions?

    • Well actually the proper German pronunciation of my name sounds like it has a “t” in it (and a “v”).

      I gave up caring how people say (or spell) my name in first grade. Oh, except for calling me “Chrissy.”

      • paulstraka says:

        I’m glad I asked. I will be going to Pittsboro this spring and thought of mentioning it to Saint Roy, now the only embarrassment will be my dovetails. Happy New Year!

      • raney says:

        Oh man are you going to be sorry you outed that pet peeve.

      • Brian Clites says:

        Chrissy Shvoortz. I like the ring of that too @raney

      • fred10ve says:

        Yep. Z in German is pronounced “ts.” Hence Herz (heart) is pronounced “hairts.” Holz (wood) is pronounced “holts.” Schwarz (black) is pronounced “schvarts”. Rhymes (approximately) with parts, not with warts.

  10. Trip English says:

    Friction Fit: A Romance Novel with Measured Drawings

  11. toolnut says:

    The only unanswered question about underpants gnomes is: What is Phase 2? ( which come to think of it would make a rather amusing forum topic)

    Also, I’m with Raney. That’s one of those nicknames that sticks.

  12. If there are no underpants gnomes, how am I going to profit?

  13. leeboyz86 says:

    I am too naive. I am still amazed at the presumptuous behavior of people. Chris, you clearly made the right decision.

  14. I do miss the occasional time when I stumbled upon something new (to me) musically and could forward said group to you for further review. Now I stumble upon something new (to me), wish I could forward the info to you, sigh audibly because I can’t, and… well, I usually forget about it in a minute or two, to be honest with you.

    But I understand the need to be removed from tha toxic environment. Thank goodness I still have your phone number! You know, in case I find a REALLY AWESOME new music group I just have to tell you about…

  15. abtuser says:

    I think my sisters just dumped their last Chrissy dolls from long term storage. You know, the ones with the hair that you could ‘grow long’ and then ‘cut short’ using a button in their belly. Maybe we could start a forum thread on those.

  16. nathanbreidinger says:

    Maybe it’s user error but I can’t link to the thread on soft wax from the link in the post. I tried searching in the forum as well.

  17. My email is public as well. It can be…frustrating. Let’s go with frustrating.

  18. smbarnha says:

    Sounds like you might have over-reacted, Chris – Just ask Lucy politely to stop writing romance novels and books on genealogy!

    Have you noticed an increase in snail mail?

  19. Kevin Thomas says:

    If you no longer do public email, how about a letter sent snail mail?

  20. I certainly agree that some of the requests you noted were outrageous, however, don’t some the of requests you got simply come along with the celebrity you have sought and acquired? It sounds like the battle all celebrities talk about. When you voluntarily put yourself out into the public domain in order to make your living, it seems somewhat disingenuous to then turn around and say the public is too demanding and I want them to leave me alone.

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