One Way to Read ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’


I read magazines starting at the back page and work to the front. I’m weird that way. So I’d never presume to tell someone how to read something. Left, right, up, down, bedroom, bathroom, boudoir.

Several readers have commented that there isn’t a lot of design information in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” That shocked me because I think there is more design information in there than I intended to include.

Perhaps my response is because of the way I design things.

There are 24 ways to approach design. I know four methods pretty well. One is an architectural approach that you will find in “By Hand & Eye” and “By Hound & Eye.” It’s a great way to design good-looking pieces. (If I didn’t think so, we wouldn’t have published these two important books).

There is a prototyping method that you’ll find in the people who like James Krenov. It also works as I’ve seen it first hand.

Jeff Miller – a highly talented designer – has a different approach that he’ll explain in a forthcoming book.

And there is simple Gothic geometry. Oh, and my approach, which is nothing like the above methods.

For those of you who are looking for the maximum amount of in-the-vein design information, here’s how I’d approach reading my own dang book. (First I’m going to sit on my hands for 10 minutes so that when I type this it will feel like a stranger did it.)

ADB_mockup_lo“The Anarchist’s Design Book” is organized with a few introductory chapters that explain my ideas. Then the chapters on building stuff are interspersed with short chapters that are jabs at furniture design and the way we go about it.

So let’s say you need the “Cliff’s Notes” to this book and you can’t find them at Waldenbooks. Here’s how to pass the final without reading the entire book.

Read chapters 1-5:

1: Don’t Make the Furniture of your Gaoler
2: A Guide to Uncivil Engineering
3: An Introduction to Staked Furniture
4: Staked Sawbench
5: Extrude This

That’s pretty easy. Now be sneaky. Skip ahead to read:

9: Heavy Buddhist Feedback
13: Seeing Red

Drink a beer. Read:

14: Bare Bones Basics of Nail Technology
15: Boarded Tool Chest
16: To Make Anything

That will get you familiar with boarded technology. Whilst you get a refill, consider reading:

20: Fear Not
99: Afterword

Finally, unlike most books I put a crap-ton of work into the appendices in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”  Look them over and read what interests you.

And that’s it, you are done.

The test is next Thursday.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to One Way to Read ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

  1. Very much enjoying the book – I figure sitting the test is building stuff, but I might be able to manage that by next thursday if UPS manages to deliver my tapered tenon cutter through The Great Blizzard… Saw benches ahoy!

  2. greenebelly says:

    LOL! My tapered 5/8 is delayed as well as the book on human dimensions.

    • Quercus Robur says:

      Expect anything tapered to get Schwarzed in the following months. Oh, and I love the book already, even though the “proper” thorough reading won’t happen soon.

  3. Chris,
    In chapter 6 on pg 99 you are sitting on a 3-leg stool with an interesting stretcher… is there a picture or description of that stool somewhere else in the book??
    started going back and ‘studying’ the earlier chapters that I skimmed over.
    Spent extra time contemplating ch9, let it soak in(liquid brain lubricant helps)… unexpected illumination in a furniture design book!

  4. toolnut says:

    Will the chapters you didn’t mention be on the test?

  5. bruceivan says:

    I haven’t read anything yet. Plenty of design information in the pictures.

  6. jmaichel says:

    I skipped ahead all the way to Chapter 18 (boarded bookshelf) because that is what I am most interested in building first. After reading it though, I can see the benefits in reading previous chapters. So while I am waiting for the wood to acclimate, I will read the rest of the book.

  7. Franky says:

    I thought I was the only one who read magazines from back to front. I find i get much more out of the mag this way.

  8. I suppose if what you are looking for is a list of design techniques you would find the book lacking but realistically if you are trying to understand Chris’ design philosophy every page is dripping with it. Even the layout of the book itself is teaching you about design.

    Great work. Loving it. Can’t wait for the hardbound edition to show up.

  9. I finished the book last night – not only is The Anarchist’s Design Book” a book of design but of history and a very accessible set of skills to build all the furniture you will ever need. (Not all the furniture you wish to build – I’m looking at you, Chippendale breakfront – but all the furniture you will ever need). I’m might have titled the book ‘Furniture for the impatient’ or ‘Furniture for the needful’; it is the book I wish I had when I left college! It is a gem of a book but I’m afraid that Schwarz will receive grief for producing such a personal and novel poke at furniture making as it is revered today.

  10. shaneswoodshop says:

    I can’t wait to get a copy, the book sounds like a great read. I enjoyed the anarchists tool chest and been working out of the chest I’ve built for years. Looking forward to building with this book!

  11. Dohnn Wood says:

    The dog ate my homework, can you just give me plans to follow and call me a designer. Why is the test soooooo hard? I’ve got a doctors appointment on Thursday.
    I really am looking forward to the new book! DW

  12. flatironjoe says:

    Funny. As one of the folks who mentioned the perceived lack of emphasis on the design process, this is almost exactly how I ended up reading the book on my first pass. I’m sure there is much more sprinkled throughout, as there always is in Chris’s writing, so I may try front to back for the next go-through. I also think it might just be a semantics thing with the title or the word design specifically. If you had stuck with “Furniture of Necessity”, no one would have said squat. I still don’t think you will find another book with so much useful information on simple, proven furniture design…or my name ain’t Nathan Arizona!

  13. ch47intrim says:

    Chris, great book. You mentioned a book from Jeff Miller, is that a book being published through LAP? If so, any details when that might be publishing?

    • Jeff is indeed working on a design book for LAP. We don’t have a deadline for the book. Jeff has a lot on his plate right now, so when the book is done, we will be thrilled to publish it.

  14. mwkeller7 says:

    After reading through the book a few times now, it’s interesting how some of the designs seem incredibly modern looking (staked table with drawer for example) and other seem “primative”. Specifically the stools and chairs. I suspect that this is due to how thick the seat is. Having never built a chair, I assume the seat is that thick to provide the required strength for the legs without needing stretchers. Or nessecary due to the wood used to build the seat. Could you use a different wood to make the seat a little thinner and lighten up the visual apperance, or are stretchers required to do that?

    • There are lots of ways to achieve a plank that is thinner (either in reality or appearance).

      Using an unrivable species such as elm could get you down to about 1-5/8″ in thickness before I’d get concerned.

      Heavy chamfers around the perimeter of the seat can lighten things.

      You can also use a thin plank with thicker cross-battens, as shown in the worktable and the Swiss backstools shown in the book.

  15. richardmertens says:

    I built a staked stool / saw bench with a 1 3/8 oak plank–nice looking but a little thin. Instead of using cross battens I attached (with glue and screws) a 3 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ square of wood at each point on the bottom where I was going to drill a mortise. Unless you get down on your knees, you can’t see these blocks, which is what I wanted. Was this a mistake?

  16. alanws says:

    Reading the book straight through from beginning to end works fine, though it is clear an effort was made to make each chapter stand on its own. There’s lots to think about and the illustrations are superb. The staked furniture in particular I find very interesting and pleasing.

    In my view, the critical part of design is to figure out how to learn something from failure. Chris describes a very quick way to see the geometry of your design, so it can fail several times quickly, then succeed. Then you build it.

    Another designer who was clearly inspired by the old staked forms is Adrian McCurdy, who has taken it in a slightly more ornamented direction than Chris.

  17. laterthanuthink says:

    Delighted to see Chapter 21. I have wanted to make one for years. Thank you!

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