Things That are Not

Shiny is not sharp
Smooth is not flat
Shaker is not simple
Tools are not skills
Ornament is not beauty
Nails are not cheap
Polyurethane is not a finish
Grinding is not hard
Design is not art
Dimensions are not necessary
Sharp is not visible
Paint is not evil
Micrometers are not woodworking
Form is not function
IKEA is not benign
PVA is not necessary
Dovetails are not the goal
Glue is not joinery
Accuracy is not precision
Anarchism is not violence
Aardvarks are not anteaters
Keyboards are not woodworking tools
Forums are not magazines
Branches are not lumber
Shakes are not fatal
Pocket screws are not the devil
Workbenches are not a certain height
Handplanes are not a religion
Bevels don’t give a crap if they are up or down
XXXXX will not affect the finish

— Christopher Schwarz

You can download a pdf of this (thanks to Jared Tohlen) here:


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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59 Responses to Things That are Not

  1. momist says:

    Love it! I’ll print this out and post it in my workshop.

  2. fitz says:

    Wow. 3 a.m. (Says the woman who woke up at 5:30, after 3 hours of sleep…)


  3. leeboyz86 says:

    Poking pedantry at this hour is entertaining. = )

  4. pcgalwally says:


  5. THIS is scary dude! Read your red/green post and started to comment on it, involving childhood, E A Berg chisels, a 13th century village church, no nonsense design, evolving skills vs amount of tools and so on… It was way too long as a comment, and I thought – not really of any interest to very many. So I deleted it. And now you come up with this. Sentences/statements as simple, strong, sharp and beautiful as your furniture, and pretty much pinning life description as I was about to, yet in a much more to the point fashion. This is where one can tell that you, good sir, are the writer. You are as used to work sentences with confidence as you are lumber, and it shows!

  6. jarvilaluban says:

    Woodworking is not a hobby

  7. jayedcoins says:

    Miller/Coors/Bud is not beer

  8. jayedcoins says:

    Arts & Crafts is not scrapbooking

  9. LOVE the list!!!!!!

    Looking forward to getting the “Joint book”!!

    Thanks and Happy THANKSGIVING,


  10. Skills are not bought
    Tools must not be new
    Finish is not always required
    Buying furniture is not a sin
    Standard is not better
    Metric is not better

  11. Josh Freitas says:

    This is fantastic. Is there any chance of this becoming a poster? If not, I’ll just print it out.

  12. holtdoa says:

    Were you channeling your inner Frank Zappa….

    Information is not knowledge.
    Knowledge is not wisdom.
    Wisdom is not truth.
    Truth is not beauty.
    Beauty is not love.
    Love is not music.
    Music is THE BEST

  13. ramseyguitars says:

    “XXXXX will not affect the finish” is simply not true.

  14. Josh says:

    I like this. I’m not sure I understand what “Shakes are not fatal” means, but perhaps overthinking it…

  15. Metric is not better… No. It is just an international standard which makes it a lot easier to fit different components together from suppliers from different countries.

    People claim imperial measurements are more natural and relates better to human anatomi and so forth. This might very well be true, but to that truth also comes the fact that an inch is not just an inch. It would be very different between for instance the US, Korea and Denmark – the latter one having had an inch be 2.67cm’s vs imperial standard of 2.54cm’s. Not even the Scandinavian countries could agree to a common standard, hence the system was abandoned and gradually the metric standard took over most of the world. Inherent to the metric system is also the property of multiplying or dividing by 10 to reach another level of units, which makes it a lot easier to calculate than the fractions of the imperial system – simply move the . and , left or right. No – it’s not better. Just different. Food for thought would be that if the US should eventually choose to go metric, it would be the end of agonizing conversions, except for historical reasons. Proportions are still the same, only scaled by a different factor. …still. I am old enough that I still order a 4×8” and not a 100x200mm, when I talk to the guys at the lumber yard. Length is always metric though. Also here are remains to be found from the old days, since standard lengths go in increments of 30cm/300mm – roughly a foot.

    For international trade – metric is king, simply because it is the most spread… For the rest of us? Who gives a flying !#&%? It is a standard and a tool, regardless of which one you choose, it has worked for ages and still does today.

    Funny… I’ve never heard the same fuss about the English language being the predominant world standard 😉

    • Ergo: Dimensions are not necessary

    • karlfife says:

      To travlincarpntr’s point:

      Often people conflate imperial units of measure with the ‘fractional’ method of subdivision. Fractions are the complaint. Ask a machinist if there is any practical benefit of ‘metric’ to their normal decimal inches. Now consider 2-11/16 ‘metric’ centimeters if such a thing were canonical.

      To a machinist, one thou is a convenient unit of measure, whereas a .01mm is overly precise for many applications, and the equivalent .0245mm is more cumbersome.

      • That is the point exactly. Metric is 100% compatible with the decimal system as opposed to the imperial system. You would never use a 16th or anything else of that order in the metric system. Everything is /10, /100, /1000, /10000 and so forth. Of any unit. Whether km, m, dm, cm, mm, cubic meter, liters, tons or anything else. 1 liter is 1x1x1dm = 10x10x10cm = 1000ccm.

        The machine tolerance in your mentioned spectrum is usually set to 0.02mm, although very precise would be 0.002mm. (2/1000s mm) Borderline light penetration between a flat object and a straight edge.

  16. tpobrienjr says:

    pressure is not force

  17. Marilyn says:

    But, but, but what will we argue about if all this is true?? 😉

  18. You’ve packed a lot of wisdom in a few words. Thank you.

  19. flatironjoe says:

    Good design can be art, but you are right that most of it is not inherently. This is a great list. Also, the paint on the storefront is fantastic. You are really living living your ideals, and that is a rare thing. Thanks for being a good example. Enjoy your turkey!

  20. Jared Tohlen says:

    I feel like a “Disobey me” needs to follow up your name here.

    Also, I’m going to lay this out and send you the PDF. Do what you will with it.

  21. abtuser says:

    Making firewood happens

  22. Damien says:

    The cruel reality of the aardvark, those weird American relatives are no family. In fact all their family has moved away long ago.

  23. allanb48 says:

    Far be it from me to contradict the anarchist woodworking god, and posting from the deep south of Africa, but “aardvarks are anteaters” …

    • momist says:

      Indeed, Wikipedia says it eats ants. Also: “The aardvark is sometimes colloquially called “African ant bear”,[5] “anteater” (not to be confused with the South American anteater), or the “Cape anteater”[5] after the Cape of Good Hope.”

  24. You are not special
    You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake
    You are not your f***ing khakis

  25. Richard Motz says:

    True Words Of Wisdom !

  26. Lee Blanton says:

    I remember reading a well written review of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” not too long ago and having an aha moment like “Yes, I do want to get serious about woodworking and this is why.” I used to be in a punk rock band (we weren’t good) but I think the best punk rock thing I ever did was walk out of an Office Max and over to the hardware store to get some pine boards and build my own stinkin desk that wasn’t a particle board piece of crap with a CD rack and all kinds of other “value added” nonsense.

    It’s not pretty, not flat, it’s screwed and not countersunk, it’s not a lot of things I wish it was. But it’s light, it’s sturdy, it works, and it’s the only piece of furniture I’ve ever kept for more than a few years. Now several years later I’m building things again and it’s all kind of crystalized in my mind thanks to writing like this from LAP. So I really appreciate the ideas you’re putting out there about woodworking.

  27. Bob Jones says:

    I’m not so sure about the ardavark pont. I’ll have to ask my 8 year old. Wildcrats is very educational.

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