The Anarchist’s Tool Chest: A List of Reviews

If you work wood, you should buy and read Chris Schwarz’s book The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. Don’t worry about the “anarchist” in the title. Schwarz explains what he means by “anarchist” in the book, but no, it’s not just a marketing gimmick. It’s the best word that Schwarz could come up with to describe his working philosophy.

In one volume, Schwarz explains the features and functions of a solid, basic toolkit for building furniture. It’s an impressive accomplishment. The book has gotten a lot of positive press in the blogosphere, so if you want to know more about the book, there are a number of good, detailed reviews available.

Start with Suzanne’s excellent review here.

Then there is Gary Roberts’s two part review, part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Other good reviews are here, here, here, and here. The comments on these reviews are often just as telling as the reviews themselves.  (Edit to add: I have written my own review, too.)

However, there is a lot of thoughtful discussion of the book’s merits and defects on the discussion forums, like this one. (I make no claims about the future currency of the following links.) The most interesting reviews have come from outside the USA, particularly from the British Commonwealth: the UK, Canada, and Australia.

These threaded discussions reveal some subtle but significant differences between the way craft has developed (and declined) in the USA and the way it has been practiced and developed in the Commonwealth. They are definitely worth a look.

Schwarz responds to some of the more intelligent criticism in his blog post here.

Don’t let any of the criticism deter you from buying the book. A book has to be good in order to garner serious criticism, and Schwarz’s book is first-rate.  Schwarz offers plenty of opinions to argue about, but the point is that the argument is worth having.  Woodworkers will be arguing about this book for decades to come.

Read the book, and join the argument.

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4 Responses to The Anarchist’s Tool Chest: A List of Reviews

  1. rc says:

    I loved it. While I can agree with many of these criticisms, overall I still feel it is a most excellent book for its intended audience. These were all thoughtful reviews, and I appreciate your observing that the non-American audience has some stuff to say about it which is worth considering.

  2. Steve Massie says:

    Well there area lot of things that are not perfect as we all know. However I will say I enjoyed Chris’s book immensely and in my Opinion is well worth reading. I have read it twice and more in likely will read a third time, this was one of those books when I first got it I could not put it down. I have most of Chris’s books and enjoy his style of writing but this book thus far is my favorite. Chris has been a big influence on me with using Hand Tool’s mostly and I hope he continues doing what he does and promotes more of Hand Tool usage. This a very good read and cannot recommend it enough.

    Steve

  3. Andrea says:

    I read all the explanations Schwarz gave about the use of the word anarchist, but I still think that the correct word for his attitude to woodworking and life is anachronistic and not anarchist.
    But I understand that anachonistic is not a good marketing word as anarchist…
    Anyway here you could find another review of his book:
    http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/2291
    Best regards from Italy,
    Andrea

  4. I’m working on my own review/response of the book, and I’d like to take up the idea of “anarchism” as Schwarz uses the term. It’s an idea that has deep roots in American soil.

    Andrea, thanks for the link. I had seen that one but neglected to put it into the original post. I’m putting in the link now, in case other readers don’t get down here into the comments.

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