Thanks Thanks:  0
Likes Likes:  0
Needs Pictures Needs Pictures:  0
Picture(s) thanks Picture(s) thanks:  0
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Lindfield N.S.W.
    Age
    58
    Posts
    5,550

    Default The Anarchist's Tool Chest

    I feel rather in relation to Christopher Schwarz's The Anarchistís Tool Chest as Al Frampton reported herself as feeling in relation to Tom Fidgen's book. I want to like it. I looked forward with great anticipation to receiving it. I read it and yet somehow felt dissatisfied by the experience.

    There may be a number of reasons for my disappointment. I will canvass of them below.

    However, I would like to start off with some favourable aspects. First of all, I agree with a very large percentage of the points that Schwarz makes in this book. I also have been let down by "tool-like objects" that failed to perform as tools. I too have heard and sometimes succumbed to the siren call of the new tool and the belief that another new tool may well provide me with the solution to all my woodworking problems (and, with any luck global warming and obesity!). I too find hand tools to be a more rewarding way of working, bearing in mind, of course, that power tools often do some extraordinarily boring tasks extremely well (rough dimensioning, for example). The Anarchist's Tool Chest also contains a number of useful tips concerning not only what tools are necessary or desirable but also on how they should be maintained to achieve optimum performance. Again, I probably agree with more than 85% of this material. There are other aspects where I have my own take on these issues but nothing much Schwarz says is wrong it, just is that he and I may disagree on some matters of opinion only.

    So there is a lot of good information in this book.

    So why does it leave me somewhat disappointed, particularly as I agree with so much of it?

    At one level, it may just be a question of tone. To me, there is too much of the "reformed alcoholic" about Schwarz's description of his realisation that he had a problem when it came to tool acquisition. Like the person who has come late to a religious revelation or like the reformed smoker, Schwarz's epiphany in relation to the tools that he actually needs and wants to use is all a bit excessive. It makes me feel uncomfortable.

    Similarly the concept of an "anarchist", which Schwarz in essence uses as a synonym for "non-conformist" or "free-thinker", seems to me to be somewhat of a stretch. However, I think that the explanation for Schwarz's use of it may lie in the somewhat different socio-economic states of the USA and Australia. My impression is that the USA adopted and, to some extent, worshipped industrialisation and the mass production model in ways that the smaller Australian economy was never able to achieve. Similarly it adopted the consumer society to a greater extent, which in turn supported both mass production and industrialisation by acquiring more and more of the products that resulted from them.

    On the production side, one consequence may have been that the concept of individual craftsmanship and the possibility for that to continue and flourish perhaps remained greater in Australia than in the USA. Accordingly, Schwarz's reaction to both the products of mass production (tool-like objects) and the removal of craftsmanship from the production of furniture that has been the result of mass production and industrial economy is more violent because those concepts were more fully adopted in the United States. Perhaps also to reject the mass production industrialised model in the United States is a form of anarchy, whereas in Australia it is simply the adoption of a respectable approach which never entirely was lost from the mainstream in our smaller and more remote economy and society.

    Similarly on the consumption side, it is probably the case that the concept of quality tools and quality crafted furniture available in each case to ordinary consumers lived longer and more strongly in our South Pacific backwater than in the USA. So be appreciation by at least a significant portion of the consumers in Australia continued to appreciate those products so that they never ceased to be part of the mainstream (even if their proportion of it declined). Like the rejection of the mass production industrialised model of producing tools and furniture, Schwarz's rejection of the consumerist consumption of both tool like objects and flatpack furniture seems an overreaction to Australian eyes.

    My summary therefore it is that there is much good meat in this work. It will repay careful consideration and will reward the reader with useful ideas and perspectives. However if being a hand tool user has never seemed to you to be a particularly radical position to adopt, and if you have not been a chronic consumer of new tool-like objects, then Schwarz's program seems both unnecessarily strident and somewhat overhyped.
    Cheers

    Jeremy
    If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly

  2. # ADS
    Google Adsense Advertisement
    Join Date
    Always
    Location
    Advertising world
    Age
    2010
    Posts
    Many





     
  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    used to live in Sydney, now it's Canada
    Age
    64
    Posts
    10,695

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmk89 View Post
    I think that the explanation for Schwarz's use of ["anarchist'] may lie in the somewhat different socio-economic states of the USA and Australia. My impression is that the USA adopted and, to some extent, worshipped industrialisation and the mass production model in ways that the smaller Australian economy was never able to achieve. Similarly it adopted the consumer society to a greater extent, which in turn supported both mass production and industrialisation by acquiring more and more of the products that resulted from them.

    On the production side, one consequence may have been that the concept of individual craftsmanship and the possibility for that to continue and flourish perhaps remained greater in Australia than in the USA. Accordingly, Schwarz's reaction to both the products of mass production (tool-like objects) and the removal of craftsmanship from the production of furniture that has been the result of mass production and industrial economy is more violent because those concepts were more fully adopted in the United States. Perhaps also to reject the mass production industrialised model in the United States is a form of anarchy, whereas in Australia it is simply the adoption of a respectable approach which never entirely was lost from the mainstream in our smaller and more remote economy and society.

    Similarly on the consumption side, it is probably the case that the concept of quality tools and quality crafted furniture available in each case to ordinary consumers lived longer and more strongly in our South Pacific backwater than in the USA. So be appreciation by at least a significant portion of the consumers in Australia continued to appreciate those products so that they never ceased to be part of the mainstream (even if their proportion of it declined). Like the rejection of the mass production industrialised model of producing tools and furniture, Schwarz's rejection of the consumerist consumption of both tool like objects and flatpack furniture seems an overreaction to Australian eyes.
    or it might be the absence of the master--apprentice learning model

    From it's earliest days, the US tended to import needed mechanical/manual skills or adopted a make-it-up-as-you-go-along method of learning.
    If you read the bios of American wood workers (published in places like FWW, Popular Woodworking, Woodworking, etc) there's a consistent theme of no formal training, no mentor at the beginning just learning by doing.

    the absense of a tradition of trade training (and even trade training schools) -- trade training being replaced by learning-by-doing -- encourages a mindset that values any new tool on the basis of does it "make the job easier for an unskilled person" which in turn leads to a marketeer's parradise where almost anything "new" can be sold on the promise that it is "easier" to use
    There are some wonderful examples out there of really stupid "tools" which 50-60 years later are only found in an unused (in many cases unsold) condition


    Now on our side of the Pacific, the British master--apprentice system continues to this day -- and if anything it's formalisation through the various "trade competancy" schemes makes the Australian system stronger than its British forebere -- for example, in NSW you need a "ticket" to install someone else's kitchen cabinets (and let's not even talk about the differences in electrical wiring "rules")

    The trade training tradition in Australia leads to an inherently different approach to articles and goods manufactured by the "skilled trades" of which wood working is but one
    regards from Canada

    ian

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    used to live in Sydney, now it's Canada
    Age
    64
    Posts
    10,695

    Default

    Jeremy
    up front I should have said

    Thanks for the review !!
    regards from Canada

    ian

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Millmerran,QLD
    Age
    69
    Posts
    7,247

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmk89 View Post

    At one level, it may just be a question of tone. Too many there is too much of the "reformed alcoholic" about Schwarz's description of his realisation that he had a problem when it came to tool acquisition. Like the person who has come late to a religious revelation or like the reformed smoker, Schwarz's epiphany in relation to the tools that he actually needs and wants to use is all a bit excessive. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
    Jeremy

    "There is none so righteous as the converted."

    Good review. Thanks.

    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Lindfield N.S.W.
    Age
    58
    Posts
    5,550

    Default Review of The Anarchist's Tool Chest (Part 2)

    Part 2 of my review.

    One aspect of Schwarz's writings (especially those on workbenches) that I have enjoyed is that he has looked at what is needed in order for the relevant tool to perform the relevant operation. In doing that he has tended to start with the operation or task and work back to the tool. So he has asked in relation to a workbench a series of questions designed to determine whether the bench has the features you need depending on the jobs you want to do - typically he looks at the task of making kitchen cabinets and asks how the bench will be used to hold the material while you perform each step of the task, doing that task in the way you want to do it. That starting point has been invaluable to me in clarifying what features were necessary (and which were only desirable or even unwanted) for the bench I have been making.

    A similar approach to the issue of tool selection is possible and I had hoped that it would be used in The Anarchist's Toolchest - sometimes it comes through, but it isn't the method that Schwarz uses to explain what tools he has decided he needs. I would have probably found the book more persuasive if, instead of dividing his discussion of tools into categories of tools (saws, planes, chisels etc), he had started with looking at the tools for marking and measuring, then those for rough dimensioning, those for making panels, those for each of the joints he wants to make (M&T of various kinds, DTs of various kinds, mitres, housings and halvings, etc), those for assembly (eg grooves for panels as well as clamps) and for decorating the wood (moulding and carving) and finally those for smoothing and preparing for finish. Each operation would then have a tool list based on what tools are desirable for each operation and the tool list would be the combination (taking out any duplicates).

    I feel that this anatomy of the contents of the tool chest may also have helped make Schwarz's philosophical points more credible. If the mark of the craftsman is personal and emotional involvement in the task, then deciding on your equipment based on what your tasks are, and how you propose to perform them, makes more sense. Indeed, that is often my advice to others wanting to know what tools to obtain - what jobs are you going to do and what operations will you use to perform those jobs. Answer those questions and you then find out exactly which tools you need. If you move on to new jobs, then you will need to ask whether you need some more tools (and whether some of your tools will now be unnecessary and can be retired).

    Using that process, therefore, would have put joinery saws and planes together and would have had bench planes divided between rough dimensioning, squaring for joinery and finishing (which is how you use them).

    I suspect that this process of reasoning lies behind many of the decisions Schwarz has actually made and the views that he expresses in his book result from such reasoning. It would have been more interesting to me and probably more persuasive as well, had this process been expressed in the book itself. It would also have made two other points clearer. First, your optimum tool chest is a reflection of the job you are working on - it does not appear engraved on stone like another tablet of commandments. Second, your tool kit will change with your jobs, and your chest needs to accommodate those changes.

    So perhaps I have found Schwarz's next book - what the tool chest will hold if the tool choices are made this way by reference to the tasks that he performs over the next couple of years. If that is what he writes next, it will be very interesting, both to see the choices he makes (and whether they differ from the choices he has set out so far) and whether it alters his views on the craftsman/anarchist philosophical question
    Cheers

    Jeremy
    If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Dedham, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    45

    Default

    Jeremy

    As usual, a well balanced and insightful review.

    Gary

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Lindfield N.S.W.
    Age
    58
    Posts
    5,550

    Default

    Cheers

    Jeremy
    If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Victoria, Australia
    Age
    69
    Posts
    6,125

    Default

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for a great review, I've been getting snippets and quotations out of context for the last 24 hours from my son who hasn't put it down since it arrived yesterday, so I'm now looking forward to reading it for myself.

    In general I like his writing style, a little self deprecating and slightly off center humor appeals to me, not that that means I agree with everything he has to say, but I don't think that's the point. If it (the book) promotes intelligent discussion then it can only be a good thing.

    Roy Underhill (aka St. Roy) got the dedication... nice.

    Regards
    Ray

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Grange, Brisbane
    Age
    48
    Posts
    1,642

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmk89 View Post
    Part 2 of my review.

    ...

    So perhaps I have found Schwarz's next book - what the tool chest will hold if the tool choices are made this way by reference to the tasks that he performs over the next couple of . If that is what he writes next, it will be very interesting, both to see the choices he makes (and whether they differ from the choices he has set out so far) and whether it alters his views on the craftsman/anarchist philosophical question
    Or perhaps you should write that book?

    Thanks for the review. The discussion alone helps to clarify how we should approach choosing new tools. I'm certainly only buying tools as I find a need for them on a project, and in fact I'm selling off some which I bought and have never really found a need for.
    Cheers, Richard

    "... work to a standard rather than a deadline ..." Ticky, forum member.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Dedham, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    45

    Default

    I think that what it comes down to is: there is no perfect, basic, minimalistic or overdone set of hand tools. To even suggest there is flies in the face of anarchy as anarchy would suppose no rules of the day.

    In a peculiar fashion, suggesting there is a perfect set of hand tools is the opposite of social anarchy in that to suggest such will support the business of making tools for a living. In the end, it was an interesting conversation starter on the topic of is there or is there not a definable set of tools, what they're named and how they're used.

    If anything, the true social anarchist buys or makes only what is needed for the project at hand rather than falling prey to the marketing voice of the manufacturer. Which is to say, I at last have a use for that undergraduate degree in social psychology I picked up back in the '70's.

Similar Threads

  1. Tool Chest Bragging
    By BozInOz in forum WOODWORK - GENERAL
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: 21st Jun 2016, 01:39 PM
  2. Carpenters Tool Chest
    By Stewey in forum WOODWORK PICS
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 4th Feb 2011, 10:43 PM
  3. Tool Chest Design
    By mjmpropman in forum WOODWORK - GENERAL
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 7th Jan 2008, 12:18 PM
  4. Help with Tool Chest
    By roverdisc1 in forum BOX MAKING
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 5th Mar 2007, 09:49 AM
  5. tool chest
    By jow104 in forum Links to: BOOKS, VIDEOS & PLANS
    Replies: 28
    Last Post: 11th Dec 2004, 12:02 AM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •