At long last, “The Anarchist’s Workbench” is back in stock and shipping from our warehouse. The price for the USA-made hardcover is still $27. The price for the pdf is still free. You can download the free pdf easily here.
The second printing features a couple changes we made after the first edition refused to pass through the birth canal without using its claws and teeth. We made slight changes to the paper to avoid some weird inking problems on the web press. I also changed the diestamp on the cover and spine.
The diestamp for the first printing was supposed to be the image above of my bench’s planing stop (which was made by Tom Latane). But, true to form with this book, I couldn’t get it to look right after many attempts. So I used dividers instead as the diestamp.
We also experimented with a blind deboss. And, of course, we couldn’t get the stamping machine to make it as deep as we wanted.
For this new printing, I decided on a whim to draw the diestamp one more time. I grabbed a Sharpie and nailed it on the first try. To avoid the problems of the blind deboss, we used a white ink for the deboss.
Sorry for all the manufacturing details, I should have just said: It’s back!
With this printing, everything went smoothly, and I am pleased with the result.
Other Book News
In the next couple weeks we will begin taking pre-publication orders for “The Workbench Book” by Scott Landis. This classic text has been out of print for a while. And we worked with Scott to make a beautiful hardcover edition with manufacturing details that this great book deserves. More details on this technically difficult (but fun) project in the days ahead.
By the 18th century, there were lots of people throughout Europe who were writing about the material world and how it worked. Thanks to people in the French Academy of Sciences in general and individuals such as Denis Diderot, A.J. Roubo and Henri-Louis Duhamel, people began documenting mechanical practices, such as woodworking.
And so we have a wealth of information on how woodworking was practiced from the 1700s to the present. As we look further back in time, however, there are fewer and fewer sources.
So when researcher Suzanne Ellison and I began looking for images of workbenches from the 1400s, there weren’t a lot of sources. There is no “Big Book of Woodworking During the Hundred Years War.” Though I wish there were.
I don’t know how, but Suzanne got the idea we should be looking at misericords. These small wooden seats in European cathedrals were many times intended for choir members to rest themselves. And they were sometimes carved with different scenes. Because the carvers were woodworkers, sometimes those scenes were of woodworking. And so we began searching the image files of every church’s website we could find.
Suzanne hit gold with a misericord in the Chapel of St. Lucien de Beauvais in northern France that was carved circa 1492-1500 of a woodworker planing on a thigh-high workbench. Take a look at the photo above.
It is built with square legs that are vertical to the top (it’s not a staked bench with legs that rake and splay). The legs are pierced with holes for pegs or holdfasts. There is a planing stop. But what else is going on in this image?
Does the bench have stretchers? I think it’s difficult to say with any certainty. There is a big timber below the bench. Is that a stretcher that is joined to stretchers that we cannot see between the front legs and back legs? Or is it just a big board underneath the bench? It sticks out at the front of the bench quite a bit, but not much at the back. My guess is it’s a board that is unattached to the workbench.
What about the structure that is between the front leg and the benchtop that is angled at 45°? Does that prevent the bench from racking? Or is it a part of the carving left to strengthen the carving itself against damage?
My guess is this is a bench much like what is shown in the famous Stent Panel. No stretchers. But I could be wrong. In any case, stretchers for workbenches are definitely on the way. Soon.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. This blog entry is an expansion of my work in “The Anarchist’s Workbench.” You can download it for free here. We don’t have any physical copies of the book in stock as of now.
Each of my books about workbenches has been about missing links in the history of workbenches.
“Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” (Penguin Random House) was about the benches that preceded the dominant style of bench in the 19th and 20th centuries: the Euro-Scandinavian-German-Ulmia-style bench.
“Ingenious Mechanicks” was about the first recorded workbenches in Italy up until the 15th century when modern vises began to appear.
“The Workbench Design Book” (Popular Woodworking Books) was about another kind of missing link. My boss at Popular Woodworking said our unit needed to come up with $30,000 to $40,000 in revenue to avert a layoff or two. Could I write a follow-up book on workbenches?
So what’s “The Anarchist’s Workbench” about? On the surface, it’s about the workbench form that I have come to prefer after more than 20 years of building benches. But for me, it’s also about an important change in the way workbenches were constructed between the end of the 15th century and the end of the 16th century.
During this period, workbenches went from being built like a chair – staked furniture with splayed legs – to being built like a rectilinear timber frame with square mortise-and-tenon joints and stretchers connecting the legs. This is a time period that researcher Suzanne Ellison and I have visited before, but for “The Anarchist’s Workbench” we dug deeper to try to discover evidence of the evolution.
I think we found it.
As always, I have to thank Jesus Christ for His help with this book. Not so much for being the Son of God, but for being the son of a carpenter. Because of the connection to woodworking, tools and workbenches show up in religious paintings and drawings in every century.
When I started the book, the best evidence we had of this evolutionary change was a circa 1580 drawing by Hieronymus Wierix (1553-1619) of Antwerp. He was the son of a cabinetmaker and produced an influential folio of drawings about the early life of Jesus. These drawings are a gold mine of woodworking information from the period.
The Wierix drawings and their proliferation across Europe could be the subject of a book in and of itself. Wierix and his brother, also an artist, were colorful characters. And Wierix spent time in prison for murder.
Have a look.
This carpentry drawing is my favorite in the series. It shows a low bench but it looks like it is built with square joints. And it might have a stretcher. There’s a holdfast and all manner of tools to ogle. I also love the ladder and its square through-tenons.
In the drawing of the infant Jesus sawing, we get so one of the “batwing” squares I’m so fond of. Plus dividers, a hammer, a mallet and some helpful angels.
The third drawing of a workshop is also awash in tools. Check out the marking gauge on the bench and all the tools on the back wall. Also fun: stacking lumber in the corner until it becomes hazardous is an ancient practice that hasn’t changed.
But after more digging, Suzane and I found that Wierix was not the earliest illustrator of this important bench. But that bench wasn’t far away.
— Christopher Schwarz
You can download a pdf of “The Anarchist’s Workbench” for free here. We are currently sold out of hardbound copies of the book, but we expect to restock as early as next week.
We have yet to replenish stock on “The Anarchist’s Workbench” and “The Anarchist’s Design Book” due to delays at one of our printing plants.
Both books have been delayed by several weeks but should be back in inventory the week of Nov. 16, according to our press representative. The reason the books have been delayed is complex. But if you boil it all down, big publishers need more printing capacity this fall so the small publishers get to sit on their hands.
If you are waiting for us to restock, I recommend you instead visit one of our retailers. Many of them have stock of both titles and can ship immediately.
Due to a mix-up with a wholesale order, we have a handful of copies of the first printing of “The Anarchist’s Workbench” to sell in our store. So if you missed out on the first edition, this is your chance to rectify it.
The book is $27 for the printed version or $0 for the pdf (download the free pdf here).
The second printing is in the works now. If you are a book collector, the second printing will have some physical differences (there are no significant changes to the content – just a couple typo fixes). The book will use a different interior paper and have a different diestamp on the cover. More details on the second printing will come soon.