Book Review: The Anarchist’s Design Book


The Anarchist’s Design Book by Chris Schwarz.

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.  I’ve been a fan of his work before, and have had the opportunity to take a week long class from him making the infamous tool chest.   So, I’m obviously somewhat in the Schwarz camp already, so this review should be taken in that light.  Also, I should note this review is of the Electronic version.  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.  The book is written even more so in his laid back and somewhat sardonic style than previous books.  This is not a dry textbook style book, but rather one full of personality and life.  This may not appeal to people for sure, especially those who are already not fans of the Schwarz.  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.  The text is a mix of projects, instructions, and opinion blended together.  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.  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.  The staked chair section is of particular interest, as I’ve been turned off by many of the designs, and styles out there.  Building a Windsor chair seems terribly daunting, and overly complicated for someone who doesn’t get a lot a shop time.  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.  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.  This is the anarchist in him showing a bit, challenging the status quo for which I applaud him.  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.  I’m going to give the bookshelf construction a go, following his steps verbatim for one, and then try applying them to larger projects.  We have a lot of books, and a lot of sagging IKEA shelves.  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.


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