Megan Fitzpatrick and I have finished editing and designing “The Anarchist’s Workbench.” It’s now in Kara Gebhart Uhl’s capable hands for a final copy edit. So unless something goes awry, we’ll release it to the world within a couple weeks.
I’ve been asked several times – online and off – why I wrote the book and why we’re giving it away for free. Here is the briefest answer possible.
For me, this bench represents the culmination of everything I’ve learned since I built my first one in August 2000. From the outside, the bench looks a lot like the benches I started building about 2005, but I have learned so much since that time, that I wanted to write it down and be specific. And I didn’t want to do just a series of blog entries, which would be quickly drowned out by all the other noise about workbenches out there.
After building so many benches for my shop, my customers and alongside my students, I have found better ways to do almost everything, from laminating the tops to cutting the joinery to the final flattening. All of these techniques are simpler (sometimes far simpler) than how I worked at the beginning.
Also during the last 20 years, I have learned a lot about how benches fail. And they do fail. This book deals with how to avoid those problems – no matter what sort of bench you make.
I also get asked with regularity to compare and contrast the dozen different designs I’ve built in the last 20 years. What worked. What didn’t. This book explains the genesis of each design and how it has fared in use – the good stuff and the bad.
There also is a lot about how I think about wood and its mechanical properties. During the last few years I’ve come up with a new way to evaluate workbench woods that doesn’t have anything to do with the charts and formulas in “The Wood Handbook” or any other book. I hope this different way of looking at wood will open people’s minds about what species make for good benches.
Of course, there is some new thinking on the history of this form of bench. Suzanne Ellison and I have been tracing things farther back, and she turned up some misericords that made me say things such as “damn” and “wow.” We’ve also got a workbench timeline that traces the development of the different forms and their workholding from 79 A.D. to the 19th century. You know, nerdy stuff.
There’s an appendix about the three tools I find essential to building these benches: a certain kind of bar clamp, a 2” chisel and a tapered reamer.
And, of course, all this information is wrapped around personal narrative, from our homesteading in Arkansas to the day I got a phone call that caused me to quit my corporate job two days later.
So why is it free? Well it’s not a marketing stunt. You won’t have to register to get the free pdf. The pdf won’t have any DRM. It will be high-resolution. And you can do almost anything you want with it, as long as you don’t resell it (it’s covered by this creative commons license). I hope that people take it and build upon it.
So why? First, I can afford to give it away. Lucy and I have no debt, few expenses and we live low to the ground. So we’ll be fine if I never make a dollar from the book.
Second, I know there will be people who think this book bears similarities to previous books, articles and blog entries I’ve written. And they’re right. This bench and this book are not a revolutionary statement about workbenches – we haven’t had one of those since 1565 I’m afraid. So if you worry that the book is a rehash, download it for free and make up your own dang mind.
Finally, I want this information – my last book on benches – to be free and widely available to everyone today and in the future. By putting it out there for free, I hope people will be inspired to build a bench, even if it’s not the bench in this book.
The Physical Version
We finished the quoting process on Saturday (our printer works the same hours we do). We will make a nice book that fits in with the other two books in the series, but we are pulling a few manufacturing tricks I learned from corporate publishing to keep the price low. No we’re not going overseas. The trick deals with choosing a certain paper that we can run on a certain web press (you know, nerdy stuff). It’s going to be a hardbound book, 6″ x 9″, black and white, 344 pages, coated and very smooth paper, sewn signatures and crisp printing. The usual. Price: $27.
I’m looking forward to putting this book out there. To be done. And to start work on a little book about an intrepid snail.
— Christopher Schwarz