Short Summary: Interesting book with good ideas that makes me want to build furniture.
I recently finished the latest subversive rant “The Anarchist’s Design Book” from the chief anarchist of woodworking, Chris Schwarz. Â I’ve been a fan of his work before, and have had the opportunity to take a week long class from him makingÂ the infamous tool chest. Â So, I’m obviously somewhat in the Schwarz camp already, so this review should be taken in that light. Â Also, I should note this review is of the Electronic version. Â I wish more publishers gave me the electronic version with the printed version, then I could have it both ways with a easily portable library at my finger tips, and a book case full of wonderfully tactile tomes.
Anyway, on to the review. Â The book is written even more so in his laid back and somewhatÂ sardonic style than previous books. Â This is not a dry textbook style book, but rather one full of personality and life. Â This may not appeal to people for sure, especially those who are already not fans of the Schwarz. Â I personally like this style, because it’s more interesting to read and you can get a real sense of the person.
The book is divided into two main sections, each tackling what the author considers somewhat lost arts (see what I did there?) of “staked furniture” and “boarded construction” techniques. Â The text is a mix of projects, instructions, and opinion blended together. Â You have to read the whole thing to get the sense of it. You can’t really just skip to the projects, and jump in. Â The projects them selves are interesting, and I found myself considering taking on at least half of them. Which is pretty good for me as I tend to only be interested in one or two projects. Â The staked chair section is of particular interest, as I’ve been turned off by many of the designs, and styles out there. Â Building a Windsor chair seems terribly daunting, and overly complicated for someone who doesn’t get a lot a shop time. Â The four legged chair is likely on my list to build.
He does go on at length about the 3 legged chair, but it’s not something that appeals to me. Â This is one of the places where it felt a little forced to me, where he had an idea that he was intellectually in love with and tried to force the idea a bit. Â This is the anarchist in him showing a bit, challenging the status quo for which I applaud him. Â Ultimately it’s interesting as a thought exercise, but visually I just don’t love the look.
In the next section he tackles boarded construction, which is something I’m a bit more familiar with personally, but still contained quite a bit of great information in it. Â I’m going to give the bookshelf construction a go, following his steps verbatim for one, and then try applying them to larger projects. Â We have a lot of books, and a lot of sagging IKEA shelves. Â I would love to replace the tall ones with hand made ones, so that’s going on the project list after I try the shorter version.
For me this book will occupy a place on my woodworking bookshelf, or rather will likely have a spot reserved for it, but will probably be down on my work bench for a while, while I experiment with staked tenons, and octagonal legs.