I have eagerly awaited the arrival of Christopher Schwarz’ latest book, The “Anarchist’s Design Book“, since he first hinted at it with the working title “Furniture of Necessity” way back in 2012. The term vernacular furniture was bantered about in those early days and really peaked my interest and excitement. Furniture built by common folk to fulfill their particular needs. Solid, functional pieces that fit within a commoner’s budget and skill and was meant to be used. No status symbol pieces or exotic this or that, just functional pieces from basic materials with a folk art effect towards beauty.
Early hints came from blog posts about the virtues of cut nails. Then came the six-board chest. Then posts about building coffins, an aumbry and then bits of information on staked furniture. All along the way I waited patiently for this book to congeal and come into being. Finally I have this book in my hands and have read it through and continue to revisit section after section picking up a new piece of information with every go around.
The book was well worth the wait!
OK, the obligatory statement about the quality of the physical book. The quality of the books produced by Lost Art Press is of the highest quality. In their own words:
” “The Anarchist’s Design Book” has 456 pages that are sewn for long-term durability. The book is 8″ x 10″, casebound and sheathed in thick hardback boards that are covered in cotton cloth. We’ve also painted the edges of all the pages with a black paint to protect them from moisture and damage – a detail common on early books.” Lost Art Press
Now a little about what is in the book. The concepts that Mr. Schwarz puts forth are both simple and inspiring. A seat-of-your pants design approach to building furniture pieces that have a simple beauty but are, first and foremost, meant to be used. All with a provenance that can traced back through antiquity. To top that off, the joinery is simple as can be. Now if you have been to my blog before, you know that I actually have an affinity for and seek out complex joinery, but….not every piece needs to be built with over-the-top joinery. Sometimes a person just needs quick and solid. As well as beautiful, IMHO. In fact, if your goal is simply to outfit your home with solid, functional furniture, then the techniques in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” are the quickest path to that goal with the least amount of outlay for tools.
If you have been following the Lost Art Press blog, or Mr Schwarz blog on Popular Wooodworking or reading Popular Woodworking Magazine over the last few years, then you have been introduced to the construction techniques and forms found in “The Anarchist’s Design Book“. If, however, this is your first exposure, then the techniques and forms may seem a little jarring. Rest assured, their efficacy is both proven and sound.
So, how much design information is in this book with design prominently in the title? None or a vast amount, depending on how you approach it. If you’re looking for a laundry list of “thou shalts”, then you may be disappointed. If however you read in between the lines and step back and look at the whole, then you are in for a treat. Design is quietly there on almost every page. Almost as a subliminal message at times, but there none the less. Mr. Schwarz presents furniture forms in their most basic state and gives the why and wherefore in the making of them so that they are optimal in function. What, if anything, you do beyond that, is up to you.
This book speaks to me because I have instinctively been going down this path on my own already. I have never wanted to build furniture that was “fancy” or “precious” or a “show piece”. I want the furniture I build to be used, even used up, if it comes to that. I’ve been in homes where the furniture made me uneasy. Afraid to sit myself down or set down a glass…not in my home. Not now, not ever. “The Anarchist’s Design Book” will go a long way in helping me to stay on my chosen path of functional furniture. If this type of furniture appeals to you or you simply need to furnish your home, “The Anarchist’s Design Book” is worth the price of admission and, quite frankly, a whole lot more.
So once again I find myself patiently waiting. This time for a tapered reamer and a few other items to be delivered by the big brown truck.
For what it is worth from an average hobbyist….well done Mr. Schwarz!