New Chapter: The Island of Misfit Designs


While the projects and techniques in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” are the backbone of the work, I quite enjoy writing the chapters that are woven between the projects. For the forthcoming expansion of the book I’ve written a bushel of these interstitial essays on design, self-doubt and chair comfort.

My guess is about half of these peckings will make it into the book and half will end up in the ether.

That’s typical for the way I write. I might tap out 2,000 words in a typical day; about half are usable. The other half are misfires, exercises in self-loathing or quarter-baked ideas. But they’re all saved in the cloud so that when I die, Lucy can read them and be reminded of what an odd dufus I was. Before deleting them.

This essay, however, will make it in the book so I thought I’d share it here. It’s about the crappy prototypes that led to the finished designs in the book. There were hundreds of sketches (two sketchbooks full). Dozens of prototypes. And a lot of staring, trying to figure out how to improve the next iteration.

The point of the chapter is to show you how bad or misguided designs can lead to good designs. You just have to study them a bit, instead of destroying them immediately.

As with the other advance chapters for the expanded edition, this download is offered on the honor system to people who have already purchased “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” If you haven’t purchased the book, don’t download the file. Simple.

ADB Island of Misfit Designs2

The caveats:

  • This is a rough draft that will get edited by professionals. There are typos in the pdf. If you see one, feel free to point it out in the comments.
  • If you feel compelled to rip the designs shown in the chapter, then you have missed the point of the chapter. Think again.
  • There are stool jokes in this chapter. And a dancing frog simile. I know some of you are sensitive to the occasional playground jest. If this is you, I’d absolutely positively avoid this chapter.

— Christopher Schwarz 

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to New Chapter: The Island of Misfit Designs

  1. ctdahle says:

    Thanks for the preview. Looking forward to the new edition.

    Meanwhile, think I’ll head out to the shop and try to design some better pieces of not-kindling-wood.


  2. Nate says:

    I love the weird table with the crooked legs! I could see my self building something like that. But.. it is definitely the kind of thing that nobody would want to pay more than $20 at goodwill for and only the builder and someone under 25 would appreciate.
    Your candor, and humility is like a drink of cold water on a hot day, keep it up and thanks.


  3. davidcockey says:

    Any designer who doesn’t occasionally produce some “bad” designs is playing safe (original, not political meaning) and producing minor variations of existing designs.

    I’m intrigued by the Tipsy Table. A design which is functional when it looks like it isn’t. Very clever. I’ll be curious to see if it inspires any pieces at a future show at the local woodworking school gallery.


  4. Thanks for letting us meander along the tributaries of your work flow.

    I predict that long after you are gone, some doofus will approach your daughters, asking for access to your papers in order to publish them.


  5. tsstahl says:

    After reading this, it occurred to me: I wonder if the Sallburg workbench found in the well was a design failure from a like minded artisan? 😉


  6. jpassacantando says:

    This chapter is amazing. Either Chris is trying to cover himself for that deer antlered Game of Thrones chair his wife just cleared out ( I would have bought it if I was in the region and if my wife had suddenly lost her vision) or, Chris is being a master teacher again, coaxing us to try, to experiment, to make stuff without being so damn repressed, intimidated by the fake perfection of the curated social media world. We know which it is, Chris you are a Helluva teacher!


  7. Clarke Hambley says:

    Thanks for this wonderful blog! I am really enjoying the various things that get talked about.



  8. Luis DeFana says:

    As instructed, I found a typo to point out. 1st page, 4th paragraph, 1st line: “At some point in my career I stopped burning BY failures”. I hope this helps. Thanks a lot for sharing these, they’re keeping my brain going while I’m stuck doing nothing at work.


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