An Unusual Customer


Most of my commission work is surprisingly straightforward. People see something on my personal website ( and say: Hey, I’d like you to build that again.

I build it. And I ship it to them.

Sometimes I get a request for something a little unusual. For example, this summer I’m working out the details of a three-tiered campaign chest. And I have a request for some Roorkhee ottomans. But those pieces are based firmly on my existing work.

This year, however, I got a very unusual order for a chair. It went something like this: Build me a chair, but I want it to advance your work as a designer. He gave me some thoughts on the woods he preferred and what he liked about my existing chair designs, but that was it.

I decided to use this opportunity to work out the details of an armchair for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” I took an undercarriage design I’ve been working on for a couple years and refined it some more. Then I made the undercarriage parallel to the floor (instead of the seat), a detail I swiped from Chris Williams’s chairs. I shortened the armbow. Added some spindles. And did a major reshape of the crest rail (sometimes called a “comb”).


The chair looks good. It sits even better. But it’s not the armchair for “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” During construction of this chair, I devised a number of ways I could simplify this design so it would be much easier to build. And ease of building is one of the most important principles in the book.

So I am incredibly grateful to this customer who gave me the huge gift of freedom. And even though I failed to produce the bullseye design for “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” this chair is an important stepping stone to that design.

Which I started working on yesterday.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to An Unusual Customer

  1. Well, plus it’s dead sexy.


  2. Tal says:

    When is that new version of ADB coming out…approx of course.


  3. Kyle Barton says:

    Very nice! I too like the look of the undercarriage being parallel to the floor instead of the seat. And of course, I’m very interested in your refinements for the final design. One question, what is the height of the arm from the seat?


  4. Jason says:

    I’m looking forward to the final version of the chair, though I’m very much enjoying watching your process.


  5. Nicholas Marmalejo says:

    This chair is extremely attractive. Extraordinarily well-done Chris!


  6. Noel says:

    I really appreciate–even more than the woodworking tips that show up here–the unselfish glimpse into the design process each of you working in that storefront give us (in both blogs and social media). You all do a great job of demystifying design processes, so that (barely even) hobbyists like myself can start to imagine our own plans coming together in wood and glue (& maybe nails…).

    And most important, for me, at least, a clear way to view the final piece and whether it does what we wanted it to do.

    Just something I’ve been thinking as I read all the great posts and well-made books and great photos the LAP-associated are putting out there.


  7. This chair invites me to sit down, close my eyes and exhale. Does it have a more than usual slant to the back? (more than say… a typical chair for the dinner table). It just looks so comfortable


  8. jfthomas70 says:

    Very nice, shows that the little things matter.

    By the way, if I asked you to build me piece using organic walnut. What would you say? 😄

    I saw this on another web site. I am tired of the word organic.


    • You want a bespoke piece? Made in an atilier? Using forest-to-workbench methods?

      Sorry, I don’t have enough mustache wax.


      • jfthomas70 says:

        Thats what I thought, a little to fancy for me.
        But, if you look at the defination of organic used by folks that sell walnuts. Organic is a tree that has not had artifical fertlizer used for it’s growth. I think most forest grown trees would fall in that category.


  9. kc7zdm says:

    Great post! Slightly off topic I just had to share this link of an unusual staked workbench! It has to do with spoon carving…


  10. Those are the best sort of clients. For the most part when someone commissions something from me, they have a pretty good idea of what they want and I do a pretty good job of realizing their vision.

    But occasionally I do get a customer who says something similar to, “I can’t very well bring a knife into the office, so I need something that will sit on my desk at work and remind me of my sgian dubh back at home on top of my dresser.” (Ok, that was an request from a client…). The challenge for me there is when they provide you with almost NO direction. That’s hard for me. I’m fine when you point me in a general direction and say Go, but when you spin me in a circle and say go, it’s a little harder to find my way.

    So I end up chatting with them for a while to find out what sort of lifestyle they live or what other things they have on bookshelves in their house or office; anything that will tell me something more about the client. In the end, though, I can usually come up with something that is pleasing to both of us.

    And that’s important, too! I have to put my name on the end result, so I must be happy with the design along with the client.


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