We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Therapist

“Don’t go looking for trouble.”

— Peter Follansbee

“I hope you lose everything so that your wife and daughter see what the fruits of obtuse narcissism reap. I hope you will have the experience of knowing that you have created extreme hardship for your family and that they resent you for the rest of their lives. It probably won’t happen that way, but a man can dream can’t he?”

— An email to help@lostartpress.com this year

ADB_2nd_printing_hires_IMG_2490_1024x1024I won’t lie to you. For the last four months I’ve felt like my psyche has been muddled in a mortar and pestle.

Since April I’ve been revising my book “Handplane Essentials.” As part of that process, I looked for contrary viewpoints to the ones I presented in the book seven years ago. My goal was to find objections or criticisms so that I could discuss them as valid (or not) in the revised book and give a more shaded and complex view of the craft.

I shouldn’t have done this.

I’ll spare you the details of my dark descent because we all have black times. But I can tell you the two things that pulled me out. Today we opened the Lost Art Press storefront to a throng of 50 woodworkers who liberated me of my excess tools. And there is nothing better than putting good tools in the hands of enthusiastic beginners.

Secondly, I came home afterward, drank a beer and saw an entry that James Watriss had posted on his now-shuttered blog about “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” Now, I like to read reviews of my work as much as I like squirrel porn, but I read book reviews because I know they will make me a better (though more rattled) writer.

James, like only a few other reviewers, saw the message clearly. He got the subtext. He basically called out “The Anarchist’s Design Book” for what it is: a birdhouse book for furnishing your entire house (and the houses of others). Plus what those ideas can do to your life.

You can read his complete review here.

I think I’ll have a second beer tonight, lie in the hammock and forget a few urls.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Therapist

  1. Anthony Wilson says:

    I love you Chris – you bare your soul honestly over and over and people call it narcissism. What can you do?

    Although when you insist that you only had “two beers” I’m reminded of my uncle who advised me as a very young lad: “When she asks how many, it’s always a couple…never mind if it’s a couple pints or a couple cases or a couple kegs – it’s always ‘a couple’.

    Cheers to your never-ending narcissism!

  2. djmueller says:

    Criticism, constructive or otherwise, is a good thing. It either gives us reason to pause and improve, or lighten the moment with a good laugh . There you go: therapy without the time on the couch or the hourly fee .

  3. I generally think of what you offer as incisive altruism, but what do I know?

    At the very least, you made me feel a whole hell of a lot better about my own inbox.

  4. Jeff Ward says:

    As one of those guys who was standing across the street first thing this morning, I’ve got to tell you that I always look forward to every iteration of your writing. Not because I always agree with you, or share the same the inherent biases (we all have some flavor of those), but because you’re usually engaging with the stuff that matters.

    I only started seriously as a woodworker about five years ago; for the first forty years or so of my life, my main love was photography. It’s hard to find good stuff to read in both areas, largely because of the “gearhead” factor. People love to talk tools and “performance” and usually avoid philosophy and ultimately the “why” behind pictures, or any sort of craft activity. Very few photographic writers can speak of anything except technology. One of my favorite quotes from my time as a photographer (I forget the attribution) is “painters can hold long discussions without discussing brushes.”

    Reading the “arc” of your primary books, it’s clear that you are interested in far more than just “tool talk.” I don’t always agree with your rationalization of the “why” behind all this; in fact often I don’t. But after several years of reading you, I find that if I violently disagree with you initially, the more I think the core topics through, the more likely I am to disagree with myself afterward. I don’t necessarily think you’re always right, but I think its worth reexamining my own attitude. The result is always growth. I think I see that in your writing as well; positions soften, change, and get modified.

    I didn’t start writing this to blow smoke. I drove a long way to get to your shop– two days, actually, from Syracuse NY. I didn’t come for the tool sale. I was passing through, on my way to St. Louis to do some archival research, but I wanted to see your place. What I remember most about my visit is the positive energy from everyone there; the couple of good buys on tools I took advantage of were simply a bonus.


  5. Sláinte mhór! Here’s to a couple more pints.

  6. erikhinkston says:

    I get such a kick out of these exchanges you’ve shared, I hope you mostly can chuckle through them and we can balance it out with some understanding of your mission. Thank you… So very much wish I could have been one of those 50 waiting for you to open this morning, I was there in spirit.

  7. duckfarmer27 says:

    Chris –

    We all go through the black times and foul moods, part of life. And receiving constructive criticism in a learning manner is a tough skill to learn but one of the best ways to improve.

    Had a couple of beers at the annual family reunion on my wife’s side today (definition above is correct when specifying beer quantities). Spent a bit of time talking with her one cousin who is a couple years younger than me – we are both retired. He spent most of his working life as a pattern maker and is an exquisite craftsman in both wood and metal – builds replica Pennsylvania long rifles that are sought after. As a retired engineer who loves to work in wood and metal I have the same interests but not the lifetime full time skills. We lamented how few younger people like to work with hand tools and how much the pleasure of working that way appeals to us. In our own way, agreeing with the points you are trying to make – at least in my estimation.

    Too bad you could not have been part of that conversation – for me it is always an uplift to talk with someone who understands and appreciates working with one’s hands. Of course the beer probably helped (even if it was not one’s favorite).

    And as far as criticism goes – not the critical, constructive type but the pain in the butt whiner type. Remember that you are in the arena Teddy Roosevelt talked about, doing something. The ones with the cheap shots are not out there doing, just kibitzing. As one of the smartest guys I ever used to work for said there were two type of people we had to deal with – the doers and the talkers. Trouble was there were a lot more talkers than doers. Keep being a doer.


  8. jonathanszczepanski says:

    What’s wrong with squirrel porn?! It’s not like it’s that opossum filth.

  9. I read this and immediately thought of two of the three quotes above my desk:

    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.


    People are not against you, they are for themselves.

  10. Chris,

    As one of the 50 this morning, I was struck by how you took the time to chat with each of us as you were totaling up our purchases. You are a down to earth guy and the world is better off by you starting the Lost Art Press chapter of your life and sharing it with us.

    I understand the drive to want to constantly improve. I admire that you sought out to read opposing points of view. But I guess one of the risks is reading comments like that bozo wrote. He/she is clearly in the minority and should be ignored.

    The saw you sold me works great. I’ll try out your second chisel tomorrow.

    Thanks for everything.

  11. jetzombie says:

    Charles Barkley quote, “l don’t care what people think. People are stupid.”

  12. Ben St John says:

    I got lost in that metaphor: how, exactly, can fruits reap?

  13. Sounds like the Emailer wants you to me as sad and pathetic as he/she is. Misery loves company and all that.

    It’s good to have goals…
    I guess.

  14. pogo930 says:

    The really scary part is the posters attitude (psyche?) is becoming common place across society. I think that perhaps, Chris’s darkness isn’t about one post but about the descent of society.

  15. What I like about “Anarchist Design Book” is that it’s saying there’s another way of making attractive, functional, furniture besides the tradition that requires dovetails, moldings, and other hallmarks of “fine” furniture. It’s a way to celebrate the beauty of the wood, and to apply the same care to 12thC techniques that went into ornate 18thC furniture.

  16. nateharold says:

    I can laugh since this isn’t directed at me… man, is it funny. Right up there with the ‘make your own tack cloth’ blog post.

  17. I literally blinked my eyes when I read that second quote. Literally. They closed. Then they opened. But only the once; the rest were figurative. The tears, however, were always real.

    The funniest thing about this post and the ensuing comments is the occasional use of the word “constructive” preceding the word “criticism”. The writer had no intentions of being helpful with his comments; I’m pretty sure that’s a requirement for this particular form of critique.

    Glad your obtuse narcissistic garage sale went well.

    PS. I tried to muddle someone with a mortar and pestle once, but all I had was a spurtle, so I had to make do. NEVER trying that again, let me tell you…

  18. tsstahl says:

    “fruits of obtuse narcissism”

    Where can I get some of that?

    One of the benefits of growing up left handed is not having to care how other people do things. Sure, it’s harder to make it, whatever ‘it’ is, work for me, but then again, I don’t have all the mental baggage. 🙂 I saw the left side of a dovetail with my left hand, and the right side with my right hand. EVERY woodworker that has ever seen me do it told me I was doing it wrong. But it works for me. The point is, you are great at marching to your own tune and I get that in your chosen profession you have to be cognizant of the what the band is playing. The occasional trip into the heart of darkness must happen. 🙂

  19. If I didn’t want to buy ATC and ADB already and put this stuff into practice, I sure do now.

    I’ve only been around a couple of weeks, but thanks for what you and the Lost Art Press folks/community are doing, Chris. It embodies a lot of the convictions I have about our how culture and way of life is vs. how it should/could be.

    Also, +1 to tsstahl’s left hander comment. Us Sinistras have to stick together in a Dextra world.

  20. Doug Barnes says:

    is hos name Norm?

  21. jwatriss says:

    I can always tell when Chris links to my blog… Readership goes through the roof.

    Almost 2600 hits, just on that book review. And it’s now officially the most read entry of all time. After TWO DAYS.

    Glad I could help pull you out of a mood, dude. Aside from the raw numbers, I also got an unsolicited email or two. Keep looking for trouble.


  22. franktiger says:

    The review is stupid. Something I never seen happen before on antiques road show, was when they had a vernacular chair, that had the highest estimate of the night. That’s awesome in it’s self but when they brought the chair out the screen goes blank and the free mason symbol flashes on the screen and fades back to the chair. I don’t feel like the vernacular is for money making. But is weeding out the out of square.

    • Are you saying that vernacular pieces were not or should not be sold?

      The historical record would disagree with your assessment. Books like “The Village Carpenter” are pretty clear about what got built and for whom.

  23. misterlinn says:

    If people are happy and ok with the world they live in, they don’t get upset and attack other people; especially by the cowardly way of media. I’m trying to imagine what the heck has gone wrong with that emailer’s life to make him or her think that it’s ok to write such things.

    It’s NEVER ok to write such things. Ever. There’s an unfortunate mental illness behind that email.

    But as one commenter said, there’s a lot of it around…

  24. A few thoughts…

    Follansbee quote: That’s saying a lot coming from a man with a small arsenal of throwable axes.

    The second quote on narcissism: Pot, kettle, black. (Who says stuff like that to people?)

    Beer: A depressant.

    Two things that pulled you out of a muddled psyche: Love covers a multitude of sins.

  25. Sweet and Short or is it Short and Sweet:

    I have been working wood for over 50 years.

    I have learned more from you in the last ten years than everything in the previous 40.

    I have lusted after a PowerMatic cabinet saw for over 35 years. I tossed that desire as not important anymore and ordered a L-N work bench.

    This last Saturday I needed to drill 6 large holes and decided to use a brace and bit. I was like a teenager that asked the prettiest girl out for a date. And she said yes! I was downright giddy.

    You have made me a better woodworker and inspired me to heights previously unknown.

    You have made a lot of money for my credit card company
    Please keep it up and thank you.


  26. kaunfried says:

    I don’t know why the gloom over this. From the best I can tell mr. Schwarz try’s to do three things with his writing. Show a how to, show an ideology, and make people think. This critique shows he succeeded at all three. Mr. Schwartz is one of my favorite three writers. Not because I agree with everything he wrote but because he makes me think whether I agree with him or not. Great job and keep up the good work.

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