Friday, August 12, 2011

New Gets

I went camping last week, an activity I try to do at least once a summer. The one or two times in my life that I haven't gone I've felt as though the season has passed me by. It's a necessary event that recharges me and allows me to perservere the cold Saskatchewan winter.

There are a number of items that I pack for a camping trip, as far as I'm concerned only three are mandatory: six cold beer, a bag of sunflower seeds, and a new book. The campground is the only place where I have the time and freedom to indulge in these pleasures. This year I brought along Chris Schwarz's The Anarchists Tool Chest.

I enjoy Schwarz's writing. It's casual, fun and interesting. I usually skim quite a bit while reading, picking up the important points and avoiding boredom. Not so with Schwarz, I read everything, each word holds interest for me.

The focus of the book is to build a tool chest, to the highest standards. The entire project is based on the principles of solid construction, with an emphasis on useability, portability, and exceeding durability. Every detail is well thought out and presented with Schwarz's expertise, won through detailed examinations of existing period tool chests.

The secondary topic is on the tools that fill the chest. Schwarz lays out the needed handtools to perform every woodworking operation. His list is a complilation of his own experience coupled with information found through his research of antique woodworking literature. He details the characteristics to look for in each tool, and in several instances gives his specific reccomendation. Also included is a "Good-to-Have" list, tools that aren't necessary but increase efficiency and pleasure in the work. His opinions are well thought out and presented clearly, between that and his first hand knowledge of available tools make this valuable advise.

The third topic of this book is the one I enjoyed the most. Schwarz waxes philosopical, I side I haven't seen before. His ideas relating to time, money, and labour resonated very clearly with me. I paticulary enjoyed the passage outlining his shifting of priorites; buying well made things from skilled people at a fair price, refusing to buy cheap, "disposable" items, and making exactly what he needs, as opposed to buying something that will make do. As a craftsman and a friend of craftsmen, these points are something that I strongly agree with and live by. It's unfortunate that this writing is confined to a book directed to woodworkers, a group that by nature would live this lifestyle. I feel that the world would be much better off if it were required reading for everyone.

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I'm a woodworker on the Canadian prairie.