Working towards my own “Anarchist” tool set. (part 1)

Anarchists Tool Chest by Chris Schwarz

I recently read through the latest work by Chris Schwarz, titled “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I’ve been drifting in the direction of fewer, but higher quality tools for a bit, and inspired by other much older writings a semi-minimalist tool kit.  The kit listed in Our Workshop, or shown in some of the medieval paintings is quite spartan compared to the modern collect-o-holic amateur woodsmith.  While the book gets a little preachy at times, I quite enjoyed the style and prose of Chris’s writing.  I also loved his analysis and reasoning for what tools he chose for his chest, and more importantly WHY he chose them.

It helped me realize which of mass of tools that I had been gathering but not really using all that well I really needed.  And what tools I needed to acquire or upgrade eventually.  What follows are mostly some notes for myself, and project plans I wanted to get into a list for doing some day.


I’m doing ok on this front, with a set of #4, #5, plus my newly acquired #3 and #7 planes.  What I really needed to do, and I’ve been doing lately is sharpening and tuning my irons.  I’ve been intimidated and perplexed by sharpening, but I picked up a decent side-clamp honing guide, and it’s going much better.  I recently moved the #5 from “someday” to regular user by simply getting the blade to a reasonable state and adjusting it a little.

I am also debating the shoulder plane recommendation he offers, but I have a nice rosewood rabbet plane that works well, and a wooden moving fillister plane that doesn’t.  I can either tune it up, or make look into the Veritas version that was recommended.

One final, but annoying note.  I have a router plane, a nice #71 but it’s only got the spear point bit and I’m having a devil of time finding the flat one that fits.  The one I have works pretty well, but I would like to have the other blade to do different cuts.

Marking and Measuring

I have a few marking gauges, and a decent rosewood cutting gauge, but I really want to make my own.  I’m even going to attempt to build a reproduction of a 1450 marking gauge, stay tuned for more on that.

I also plan on making a panel gauge the same way as the above historical marking gauge, but with a longer arm and a pencil hole.

He highly recommends the 6″ metal combination square, but I have a good selection of vintage squares that I like to use and I don’t really like the look of the “engineer” style it has, even though highly functional.  I’ll break with his advice (which is what it is, not gospel) and go with what I have.  Although, I am quite keen to make a few of those wooden try squares, and maybe the English layout square he uses as a logo.

I’m good on dividers (although I could use another set of small and large) with my HF el-cheapo dividers.  I bought mine as a set of metal compass with a pencil holder, and simply twisted off the metal ring where the pencil goes.  Functional, sharp points, and cheap.  Works for me.

As for the wooden straight edge, I’m going to break with his advice again.  I’m planning on picking up a length of aluminum bar stock from my local hardware store (the small locally based one, not the big box home center) and cutting it into straight edge, and a couple winding sticks.  It has a super straight edge, and is cheap and light.  However, I am totally aware of the irony here, eschewing the metal combinations square and then buying aluminum bar stock. For me it’s a matter of how much time I get down in the shop and what I get to do down there.

On my make list however, is making a really nice marking knife in the style of this guy’s work.

More later, as I go through each section of his essential tool list and analyze where I am at and where I want to be.


One Comment

  1. robert campbell September 28, 2011

    I’m using aluminum stock winding sticks and straight-edge for now too… At some point you have to weigh “getting it done” with the resources you have vs. reaching your dream shop. Mr Schwarz himself advocates aluminum winding sticks, but motly seems set on the wooden items because of the lessons you learn in making them. If you keep that in mind, move forward with what you have! I did break down and buy some drawbore pins, even though he says not to, because my Sears did not carry the ones he refers to and it actually looked like a lot of work to make reasonable handles for them. So I guess you spend your money at your worst problems, and save money for the stuff that you can improvise on.

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