The title of a book is serious business. For me, the title is not about marketing. Instead, it is a sincere expression on every page of what the book is about.
When we work with our authors, we ask them to propose a book title before they sign the contract or write a single word of the manuscript. Few of these proposed titles become the title of the completed work. Sometimes the title changes because the book’s content changes course. Sometimes the title changes because the proposed title is so generic – “About Wood” – that the title might as well be, uh, “About Wood.” But having a title in mind helps you focus as you write.
All of the books I’ve written were born with different names (except for “Campaign Furniture”). I keep a long list of ideas for book titles on my phone and append it every week as I take long walks through Covington’s neighborhoods.
For the last few months, I’ve been looking for a better title for “The Stick Chair Book.” It’s not a bad title, but it doesn’t capture the tone of the chapters I’ve been writing. Here are some of the titles I’ve jotted down. Note that I allow even crap-tacular titles onto this list because they might lead me to something useful.
Where the Chairs Have no Names
The Easy Chair
All of these titles suck donkey eggs. But creating and tending to this list keeps my brain working on the problem, even when I’m asleep, showering or writing blog entries to fill an empty Sunday on the calendar.
The work always pays off. A couple weeks ago as I was answering an email or blowing my nose, I thought: My book should be called “Guerrilla Chairmaking.” And I scrambled for my phone to add this to my list of ideas (I’ve lost too many ideas by not writing things down immediately).
You might hate the title. That’s OK. But it’s the right title. I came around to it as I was building the cherry lowback chairs shown in this blog entry. This chair is built primarily using a jack plane, a block plane and a band saw. That’s about 90 percent of the work. Yeah, you need a couple specialty tools to saddle the seat. But really, you can skip those if you want. The wood is kiln-dried stuff from the lumberyard. No steambending. No shaving horse. No drawknife. No riving green wood.
Really, this book is about making chairs without proper chairmaking tools, chairmaking training or chairmaking techniques. And the chairs aren’t half bad.
It’s also not a rejection of proper chairmaking tools, techniques or training. It’s merely a stepping stone for those of us who want or need to make chairs but don’t have the skills, tools or access to materials to create the fantastic stuff coming out of other professional chairmakers’ shops.
It’s a way to get started with what you have on hand. And to do a good job.
Plus, with the title “Guerrilla Chairmaking,” we might be able to show some gorillas making chairs in the book for fun.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other posts from the “Making Book” series here.
69 thoughts on “Making Book Part 18: Born With a Different Name”
Properly Splayed Chairs
I can not wait until this book is released!!! After reading Chris Williams’ book about John Brown and his stick chairs, I have bee completely captivated by them. I re-read the chapter, “Chairs! Chairs!” Section in the Anarchist Design Book and am awaiting my order of both Welsh Stick Chair book from you and have started the construction of my first American Welsh Stick Chair. Thank you for your dedication to passing on all the knowledge you posses and discover down to us mere mortals Mr. Schwarz….
How about chair making for the rest of us. I’ve specifically stayed away from attempting a chair simply because I don’t want to buy a bunch of specialized tools that I might only use once.
I thought buying new tools was kinda the point . . .
How about Contrarian Chairmaking.
Or maybe ‘Subversive Chairmaking’
seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.
I love the idea of keeping a list of titles. Marie Forleo or Laura Belgray (I think it was one of them) wrote a post about how you should write 25 titles for every post. The process of coming up with ones that suck donkey eggs, as you say, will help you get to the ones that don’t 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
I would definitely buy a book entitled “Gorilla Chairmaking.” If an ape can make this chair, so can you. (Not that the author is in ape …)
I want one.
I really want to make a gibson chair. I love the lines and the two oval shaped sticks are clever. What size blade are you using on your band saw when you are making these chairs in the new book?
We do all our work with on blade: a 1/2″ Wood Slicer from Highland Woodworking. Great all-around blade.
Re the “Gorilla” mentioned in the post, shouldn’t this be gibbon chairs then?
Sorry, could not resist…
Subtitle: Primate Primer
Nice! Alliteration is the mark of quality literature!
Fits with the ongoing simian theme, too.
The title is Punk Rock! Looking forward to the cover…
This ties in nicely with the primate theme…monkey bevel, chairpanzee, Guerrilla Chairmaking. I have suddenly grown fond of the title with a slight twist, Guerrilla Chairmaking for humans. Yes, it will confuse those of us who are deficient in the spelling/definitions department, but that is part of the fun. Wash it down with a little weiner water soup.
And the cover would have an embossed image of Fitz, in a beret, doing her best Che Guevara pose.
Its almost as if coming up with book titles is like cutting dovetails. You have to get the bsd ones out of the way, so all that is left are the good ones!
Chair Tech: boldly building what every gorilla’s can will adore
What are some of your rejected titles for ATC?
ATC started life as a book about the various kinds of tool chests and the characteristics that make a good one. Then it was going to have plans for three or four chests: the English floor chest, the Dutch tool chest, a Viking-style chest and a site chest used by Victorian woodworkers.
The title was “Tool Chests: Tradition and Blah and Blismos.”
I decided to do a short section on the basic kit of tools for the front of the book. And it got out of hand.
Site chest used by Victorian woodworkers? Have you written about this at all?I don’t recall anything.
Nope. That was a decade ago. Some day I might revisit the topic.
History of Wood: Part 1
All part of a series of Swell Books
Don’t be silly. Scorping Saddles is a chapter title, not a book title.
Making chairs may be less exciting than destroying New York City, but I’m up for seeing the kinder, gentler, creative, less destructive side of King Kong!
Just pictured king kong swatting jack planes out of the air.
I like it!
The title Guerilla Chairmaking sits well with the titles of other books in the Anarchist’s family. It also reflects quite clearly your philosophy of woodworking that comes across in the work of Lost Art Press. A good fit, hope it sticks.
Yes, it does fit well with the Anarchist books theme. But anything Guerilla is probably a poor title for exactly the same reason the anarchist theme has presented so many problems and bombs and guns misunderstandings, and has had to be abandoned because of it. At least “Stick Chairs” wouldn’t carry that baggage. Perhaps something that develops the folk, country, “home-made”, utility, ethnic, theme would carry the weight better. I like the ever-green, descriptive, harmless, Stick Chairs title far better, at least until something more brilliant comes along.
Chairway to Heaven? Looking forward to it, whatever the title.
In the Chair Tonight! Course you’d have to include a set of drum sticks with each copy…
I often describe what we have to do on site as guerilla woodworking. Making do with what we have. I think it’s funny though, that you express such a thoughtful ending to the use of the word anarchy and go straight to guerilla. Hahaha, perfect.
“Guerilla Chairmaking” ?
I’m looking forward to it, but the title sounds like 70’s/80’s “Guerilla Marketing” ..
Yup. And “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” recalled the much-maligned (and rightly so) 1970s “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.”
I’d love to see to see it include a design for a serious drinking chair. I want to be able to sit back and listen to music with a beer, supported by the ergonomics of an Adirondack chair but without it taking up so much space in my small apartment. I’ve been thinking of following a low, Nakashima Windsor style lounger but will probably need to build a scale model to see if it’ll stay stable with the tilt I’m aiming for.
He already did that in campaign furniture. It’s called a Rourke.
Everything else has been anarchist. Why not “the anarchist chair”
Viva la revolucion! Just kidding. It’s bold, in a good way. A best seller in the making.
Back in 1996 while taking a screenwriting class, I made the mistake of telling the teacher I was having trouble coming up with a title. Unsurprisingly, my assignment for the next week was to come back with a list of 50 potential titles. The secret to writing is rewriting.
Chris – is there a tentative publication date for this book yet, and can I pre-book it at Classic hand Tools yet?
I’m shooting for the end of 2021….
Thanks for the prompt reply. I guess I will have to practice with a few cutlets stools.
Hopefully the disclaimer that “no gorilla glue was use in the making of this book” would go without sayin
I generally don’t like two part titles, but this might be a case for one. I suggest combining, “Guerilla Chair making” with some version of “Stick built chairs”, with the latter as a sub-title. I’m pretty sure your immediate market will understand and buy the book no matter what you call it. Longer term, “Guerilla Chair Making” will probably pique more interest in folks who don’t know the back story of the book’s genesis.
Make a Chair
That is one fine looking chair. I have been tempted to attempt a stick chair for a couple reasons; first my MIL is Welsh and after having built one Windsor chair in a class my second chair will be easier and I am thinking a stick chair can be built by me, by myself. Problem is I don’t like the looks of stick chairs, or didn’t until I saw an Irish one which I do like. It was much more rustic than the one pictured but I’m sure I could rusticity even that one. Looking forward to the book.
…”Really, this book is about making chairs without proper chairmaking tools, chairmaking training or chairmaking techniques. And the chairs aren’t half bad.”…
How about “Easy Chairs”?
“Needing a chair?”
Chris wrote: “This chair is built primarily using a jack plane, a block plane and a band saw.” What if one’s workshop is so primitive it doesn’t possess a band saw? Could the chair be made successfully without, and without too much added difficulty?
Of course! Handsaws and bowsaws do the same work, just with more effort.
Thanks. Glad you made that clear – without the book to follow, I wasn’t sure whether there was some arcane shaping manoeuvre that only a bandsaw could achieve. OK, a project then for 2022.
Peter Follansbee would use a hatchet and drawknife, an be done in a heartbeat. Lots of ways to do it.
Somewhere Chris mentioned in one of his books (darned if I can remember which) there are 3 tasks when working wood: course, medium and fine. Since I started thinking of all tools in that manner, it has revolutionized and greatly simplified my approach. Probably the single best piece of advice I’ve gleaned from all his books.
The Guerillas Arsemaster…….. of course this could be completely misconstrued.
“The Eclectic Chair” – kind of has dark undertones!
Gorillas making chairs in the book for fun? Which part is fun for the gorillas, making chairs or being in the book?
To chair, or not to chair.
You seem like a peaceful guy. Your book titles suggest otherwise :).
It’s the quiet ones you have to keep an eye on.
I can’t wait to read this book, Chris, and I’m even more excited to build a few of these chairs for our dining room. The new title is fun, and it also complements the fantastic Crucible “Chairpanzee” tool, which I was lucky to receive as a gift this holiday season. Thank you for sharing so much of your writing and designs throughout the course of your research.
Or gorillas sitting in the chair ..
Beautiful chair by the way. I might try my hand at building a couple if I can get my head around the geometry.
I actually really like that title.
“Guerrilla Chairmaking” is perfect but if it doesn’t stick, how about “A Place to Park Your Arse”
“Ass-Clownery: In Theory and Practice”
“Chairs: The Butt of All Jokes”
“Putting Form Behind Function”
“Planting Furrows in the Back Forty: A History of the Chair”
I can do this all day.
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