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A quick book review: The Anarchist's Tool Chest by Christopher Schwartz

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  • Avery Austringer
    Someone mentioned this book a while a while back. I finally picked up a copy and thought I d give my review. Well worth the price of admission. Basically he
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2011
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      Someone mentioned this book a while a while back. I finally picked up a copy and thought I'd give my review.

      Well worth the price of admission. Basically he talks about having a workshop full of redundant and crap tools, not getting anything done, and finally doing a purge and limiting his tool set to high quality tools he actually uses and getting rid of everything else and give you the list of tools on which he settled. In doing so he will tell you all about what to look for in(or how to make) every tool on his list and gives some tips on how to use it. (In appendix 1 he does a side by side comparison of the tool lists of Charles Hayward, Joseph Moxon, Randle Holme, Benjamin Seaton and the list from "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" (1839) and guess what - not a lot of radical difference going from the mid 1600s 'til a quarter to the industrial revolution. It'd be interesting to see how far back you could go with every tool on the combined list.)

      You will not agree 100% with him and I think he knew that going in - when he talks about making a straight edge he points out that there is little agreement on how, exactly to do it and notes "if bunch of crusty farts can't agree on how to make a simple fricking stick, then I think you know why people keep writing new woodworking books year after year."

      The book is about hand tools. He's not a hand tools only elitist but in the introduction when he talks about getting rid of the crap he didn't need, he talks about which power tools he kept and which he didn't but he doesn't say too much more about them.

      He is only talking about making furniture, not home improvement or automobile repair, so whole classes of tools are not relevant to the book.

      Why anarchist's? He devotes a few pages to explaining this. He points out that we live in an age where consumption is good and not going out to buy things is fringe behavior and asks why our social institutions have made craftsmanship (particularly well made furniture) a virtual impossibility in this day and age. So instead of occupying Wall Street or going Galt and building a giant concrete floating island* (no, really - Google it if you don't believe me) he's occupying his workshop and refusing the buy any more crappy tools or poorly made furniture and encourages you to do the same. In fact, I think I'll go occupy my workshop now.

      Avery

      *Apart from the first person shooter (which wasn't exactly pro-objectivist floating island propaganda) I don't think a keel has been laid or anything.
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