‘The Anarchist’s Workbench.’ Why?

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

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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44 Responses to ‘The Anarchist’s Workbench.’ Why?

  1. fedster9 says:

    I am looking forward to buying the paper version.

  2. Mattias Hallin says:

    Chris,

    The more you tell us about this book, the more it sounds in my ears like the original feline’s nightwear!

    Not in the sense that I expect it to be the be-all or end-all of writing on the subject (that’d be the day!), but because it seems highely likely from your descriptions that it will turn a number of the question marks of the mind that I still had left after reading most of your previous writing on the subject into if not exclamation marks, then at least full stops.

    I do know for a fact that this book will not inspire me to build a bench (it is way too late for that – you accomplished that mission by your earlier material, I’m afraid) but I am delighted that it’ll be available before I start to apply that inspiration to actual wood in the coming months.

    So, warmest thanks in advance already – ’tis looking forward very much I am to getting first my eyeballs and then my mitts on this book!

    Mattias

  3. Dublin says:

    Anyone can share an opinion. Many times they’re uninformed droll and will not fall inline with your own. Sharing knowledge is much harder especially done right. So for what it’s worth from a guy who has bought many of your books… Thanks

  4. Michael Wolyniec says:

    Chris,
    Please save me a paper copy thank you You have given me so much Inspiration and knowledge to be a better Handtool woodworker

  5. Carsten says:

    Will it be available in Germany? (Dictum?)

    • Joe W says:

      Yes, please! While I really don’t need it to build a bench (built an English bench, which works, I would now rather build stuff on it) I know it will be interesting. And if that price sort of translates well into the asking price at dictum I will probably buy it anyway.

      The haptic experience provided by dead trees is unsurpassed (ok, by high quality cotton paper, or real parchment…)

  6. Carl Westberg says:

    Great, design is a mental exercise that keeps the little grey cells active and ready to solve the next problem. Retirement and the ability to produce designs and their necessary apology for little financial gain is a relaxing and enjoyable endeavour. Bravo, I’m sure you will produce others.

  7. You are funny. Your “last book on benches.” Whenever an addict telks me they are going to quit, i usually just smile and nod.

    You will always keep digging, keep refining, keep learning. It’s who you are, and a big part of why I keep following along.

    I expect to see bench updates 10 years from now. And stick chairs, and everything else. You’ll never get that monkey off your back. For an addiction, it’s a pretty productive one.

  8. Kapow says:

    I appreciate what you are doing here. In similar fashion to your situation, I just (This past week in fact) moved my family from a higher cost city to a much lower (and smaller) one in an effort to eliminate my debt. Managed to do so finding a house with a shop space that will need a complete rework vs. my previous shop. Another workbench is in my future as that comes together. Greetings from Johnson City TN!

  9. Len A says:

    Looking forward to ordering the printed book and downloading the PDF. I will get the book sent to my cousin in California and it will await my next visit from the UK to pick up along with a previous book of yours. The pandemic and travel restrictions prevented me collecting the last one in May.

  10. Lyle Lamb says:

    Where is the pre-order button?

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    Christopher, any ollustrations? 70 yr. old guys like me need pictures.

  12. Michael Warner says:

    Adam Savage is planning to make a workbench, I would love to see the two of you team up. Epic crossover, Schwarz Savage myth busting anarchists.

  13. Your original workbench book is what inspired me to make my bench in 2009.

  14. Bryan Moir says:

    Chris… I have your other two Anarchist books. I have your books on workbenches. First, I see no reason NOT to complete the set. Second, I think it is simply one of the most epic moves to release the capstone book of your career on the passion of your life in this way. The “talking the talk and walking the walk” phrase popped into my head, but that only begins to describe what you are doing here. I think centuries from now this moment in time regarding the way you released the book will be still discussed with fondness and profoundness. Thank you from us all.

  15. Johnathan says:

    You had me at “tapered reamer”.

    • Christopher O says:

      lol yeah, I have no idea what a tapered reamer can do in a workbench build so it has my curiosity and attention

  16. taldeus says:

    Take my money!

  17. John Roy says:

    You say it’s your last book on workbenches…😂

  18. Dennis Meko says:

    My bench is 22 years old and has a plywood top. I want to build a roubo top for it. Where do you buy the large stock for a top? Can’t wait to see the book. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  19. Terry McGillivray 71 says:

    I will wait to build another work bench until I have a copy of the book. Looking forward to another great book on work benches. I will buy the hard copy.

  20. Count_Sudoku says:

    I can’t wait for the exciting conclusion of your book about the snail, driving his little intrepid with a great big “S” painted on the side. All his friends cheering, “Hey look at the little S Car Go!”

  21. Joe says:

    Thanks Chris. I have been using a LieNielsen workbench for about 5 years and have been quite happy with it. I have a spot for another workbench that currently is occupied by a folding table. Looking forward to this book so I can see the insights.

  22. BobL says:

    Chris,

    Thanks for elaborating on this – and thank you in advance for pulling together your current ideas on workbenches. Although you’ve enabled my procrastination: I was going to make a new bench this summer and now I’ll wait until I’ve read your book. I can’t wait for both versions.

    Your – and the rest of the LAP crew’s – generosity in providing the electronic version free is amazing and a truly grand thing to do. Others’ comments do more justice than I can about how this is such a great thing to do for the woodworkers present and future.

    From my perspective north of the 49th, I hope Lee Valley carries this book; they’ve been really great thus far about feeding my addiction to Lost Art Press books – “Honest Labour” just became available at my local LVT store, which required an immediate trip there. Another well-done book; a hat-tip to you all, especially Kara Gebhart Uhl for her efforts on it! I am slowly savouring it.

    And a thank-you to Lee Valley as well for carrying LAP titles.

    Keep up the great work!

  23. Goerge says:

    6×9. Me and my OCD are so happy right now.

  24. I’ve just started reading the Anarchist’s tool chest. I love it. I’m already thinking of which of the 20k in tools I can sell and how I can remake my business from a (pre-corona) three person production furniture shop to a truth artisan shop with just me. I had grown to hate woodworking, but reading your blogs and the book are helping me rediscover it. I can wait to add this beautiful hardcopy to my collection.

  25. Judi says:

    I am so excited by this. I can’t wait!

  26. Joe p says:

    Fantastic gift to the hand tool community. Every book I have purchased(digital for new). Had been a treasure. You wisdom and wit contained in each work of art are inspiring. I look forward to reading this as I embark on my third tweak to my bench before build a good one.

  27. William says:

    I, for one, will be buying the hard copy just to spite your generous efforts. Thank you for all you have brought to the craft.

  28. John Sunnygard says:

    18 months ago, a storm took out a majestic oak tree from my front yard. The arborist left me the trunk. After taking Fitz’ advice at an open house, I split it. At 40″ it was an experience. Thank you, Megan! I have had it drying in the garage. Read your books, watched your video (twice on a flight from Shanghai!). I’m eager to do the tree justice. I’m anxious. Now, it can dry another month or two until the Anarchist’s Workbench PDF comes out. Of course, I’ll buy the hard copy. Quality is so rare, you deliver. Thank you!

  29. Though my Holtzapffel bench is still solid after 12 years plus since taking your class, in Berea, I will be waiting with great anticipation this book. Who knows? I may need to build another one of these days.

  30. John Dunlop says:

    If it is worth you giving it away, it will certainly be worth me buying it.

  31. Jeremy says:

    We’re going to need a release date on that snail book.

    To echo many others, this will be a great addition and bring you full circle, and done in a typical atypical way that benefits the community and history. looking forward to reading this one as well.

  32. Shel Sanders says:

    You got me worked up about the download, but nowhere can I find a link to start the process.

    • Jesse Griggs says:

      He hasn’t released it yet. He said in previous blog entry that it’s still a few weeks out and he’ll post it on the blog.

  33. David says:

    Free? Anarchist.

    Keep it up!

    PS there is an insane bounty of new and recent books from LAP. I’ll have two of whatever you’re drinking.

  34. Marvin McConoughey says:

    I would pay more for a larger physical size. But will buy it at any size that it is printed at.

  35. Dave Gordon says:

    When I retired a couple of years ago, I bought a Harbor Freight Windsor workbench for $119 and proceeded to nearly double the mass, adding plywood and MDF to stiffen it in every direction it might flex, Also replaced the drawer slides, added casters and two holsters for hand saws along the (newly created) back wall, and a strip of beech along the back of the top to hold chisels, back saws, and layout tools. It’s been a huge investment of time and a bit of money, but I’m the proud owner of a true POS. I look forward to reading your next book, building the workbench you’ll describe, and taking an effing chainsaw to this HF POS.

    Peace be with you.

  36. Joel Carp says:

    Can’t wait to see it/buy it. Thank you for Continuing to create such good stuff.

  37. Tom says:

    What an awesome gift. Thank you.

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