The Anarchists Tool Chest & Design Book

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Okay, most of us have heard of the Anarchist's Cookbook - a book that gives a very wrong impression of the philosophy of anarchism. The Anarchists Tool Box and The Anarchists Design Book are very different and are by furniture maker & writer Christopher M. Schwarz. I saw the first book at work this morning and I thought, this is something I have to check out! I was kind of surprised but delighted when it ended up being about wood craftsmanship. Making things very old school way with all hand tools. On the webpage for his design book he writes,

"Most of the American furniture we celebrate as the pinnacle of design is overbearing, over-embellished and a monument to waste and excess. It also represents the furniture of people you probably dislike. These high styles of furniture took hold in North America in the 18th century and persist to this day as both cult objects for collectors and as rites of passage for artisans. These are precious pieces that are auctioned, collected, reproduced and written about in exhaustive detail. Or, to put it a slightly different way, the people who could afford this furniture also owned mega-farms, factories and (sometimes) entire towns. This is not a knock on their wealth. But it is a simple way of asking a question that rarely gets asked among amateur makers: Why would you want to imitate the taste of your boss’s boss’s boss?

...“The Anarchist’s Design Book” is an exploration of furniture forms that have persisted outside of the high styles that dominate every museum exhibit, scholarly text and woodworking magazine of the last 200 years. There are historic furniture forms out there that have been around for almost 1,000 years that don’t get written about much. They are simple to make. They have clean lines. And they can be shockingly modern. This book explores 11 of these forms – a bed, dining tables, chairs, chests, desks, shelving – and offers a deep exploration into the two construction techniques used to make these pieces that have been forgotten, neglected or rejected. You can build an entire houseful of furniture using these two methods – what we call “staked” and ”boarded” furniture. They are shockingly simple for the beginner. They don’t require a lot of tools. And they produce objects that have endured centuries of hard use."

There is a whole fascinating website at:

On The Anarchists Tool Chest:
"This book, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” paints a world where woodworking tools are at the center of an ethical life filled with creating furniture that will last for generations. It makes the case that you can build almost anything with a kit of fewer than 50 high-quality tools, and it shows you how to select real working tools, regardless of their vintage or brand name.

“The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” will guide you in building a proper chest for your toolkit that follows the ancient rules that have been forgotten or ignored.

And it will make the argument that building a chest and filling it with the right tools just might be the best thing you can do to save our craft."

He also wrote a FAQ about why he uses the term anarchism:

I was even more delighted to learn he is local, in a neighboring community from me in Northern Kentucky just across the river. Very cool stuff, and some of this philosophy I will be able to use in my "Down Home Punk" series. ... so one more quote on that tip:

" "Why inject politics into woodworking with “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and “The Anarchist’s Design Book?”:
You might think that building quality furniture for yourself and others is a perfectly normal thing to do. I assure you it is not. Taking up tools and making something that lasts is one of the most subversive things you can do in this disposable society that encourages – nay, requires – rampant consumer spending."

Nuff said.

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David Trammel's picture

Thanks Justin, I'll see if I can't grab a copy of the books. They sound right up my alley.