Review of ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’

Personally, when I open a book, for the first time, the table of contents is the first place I go to. So you know where I am headed.

The table of contents shows this book, by Chris Schwarz, to be made up of twenty-one chapters and six appendices.

Chapter one starts on page one and chapter twenty-one ends on page 381.

The twenty-one chapters are titled as follows:

Chapter 1: Don’t Make the Furniture of your Gaoler
Chapter 2: A Guide to Uncivil Engineering

Staked Furniture
Chapter 3: An Introduction to Staked Furniture
Chapter 4: Staked Sawbench
Chapter 5: Extrude This
Chapter 6: Staked Backstool
Chapter 7: Staked Chair
Chapter 8: Drinking Tables
Chapter 9: Heavy Buddhist Feedback
Chapter 10: Worktable
Chapter 11: Staked Bed
Chapter 12: Trestle Tables
Chapter 13: Seeing Red

Boarded Furniture
Chapter 14: Bare Bones Basics of Nail Technology
Chapter 15: Boarded Tool Chest
Chapter 16: To Make Anything
Chapter 17: 6-board Chest
Chapter 18: Boarded Bookshelf
Chapter 19: Aumbry
Chapter 20: Fear Not
Chapter 21: Coffin

A: Tools You Need
B: On Hide Glue
C: On Soap Finish
D: On Milk Paint
E: Tenons by Hand
F: Machine Tapers

Chapter 1: Don’t Make The Furniture Of Your Gaoler
First, if you are like me and have no idea what a gaoler is, well ‘gaoler’ is someone who guards prisoners.

In this chapter, Chris touches on various furniture types that we have names for and also touches on furniture types that have not been documented and recorded by history, but instead lost over time. I found it to be thought-provoking.

Chapter 2: A Guide to Uncivil Engineering
One of the things mentioned in this chapter is a book on dimension recommendations for furniture. Chris recommends it with the intent being to have it for reference purposes.

Also, Chris goes over how he goes about designing furniture pieces using both computer and physical modeling techniques.

Chapter 3: An Introduction To Staked Furniture
The history and the building of staked legs with conically shaped tenons to conically shaped mortises in a thick tabletop or chair seat is covered in this chapter. In addition, this chapter discusses the strength of this type joint. And finally, moisture and wood movement, as it pertains to staked furniture, is addressed.

Chapter 4: Staked Sawbench
After reading this chapter, you will know how to make staked legs with tapered tenons. Also, you will learn the ins and outs of the geometry associated with constructing tapered mortises in sawbenches, tabletops, and chair seats. Result, you will then have the wherewithal to make not only staked sawbenches but also staked tables and chairs.

Regarding the tapered tenons and mortises, Chris goes over your options regarding both methods and tool options for making tapered tenons and mortises.

At forty pages in length, you definitely get your money’s worth regarding the staking of sawbenches, tables, and chairs.

Cutlist for building your own staked sawbench included at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 5: Extrude This
In this chapter Chris goes over his philosophy regarding how secondary surfaces should feel, texture wise. And also discusses the texture of secondary wood in furniture from the past—for example, the 17th century.

It’s a short chapter, two pages of text and two furniture photos on two additional pages, but I felt the length was just right.

Chapter 6: Staked Backstool
After discussing the stability of three-legged backstools, Chris proceeds to walk you through the building of a three-legged backstool.
The following topics are covered in this chapter:

(1) making the seat board,
(2) reaming the seat board mortises,
(3) shaping the seat,
(4) shaving the legs and cutting the tapered tenons,
(5) laying out the spindles,
(6) making the spindles and crest rail, and
(7) saddling the seat.

Regarding the crest rail, Chris discussions three options you have for constructing a crest rail.

The chapter wraps up by walking you through the assembly of your staked backstool.

Cutlist for making a staked backstool included.

Chapter 7: Staked Chair
Chris starts this chapter by basically telling you that you can make this staked chair. And he points out that making this type chair will prepare you for making more complex chairs.

Also, it will cost you less for the tools to make this chair as compared to the cost for tools to make more complex type chairs.

Whereas the staked backstool in the previous chapter is a three-legged affair, the staked chair in this chair is built with four legs (I like that).

Topics covered in this chapter include
(1) seat saddling options,
(2) steam bending and clamping jig for the crest rail,
(3) boring tapered mortises through the seat,
(4) assembling together the legs and seat,
(5) making the spindles,
(6) assembling the crest rail and spindles, and
(7) finishing off the chair with a soap finish.

Staked chair cutlist provided at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 8: Drinking Tables
In this chapter, the construction of three-legged round tables is detailed, and six-legged round tables are discussed at the end of this chapter.

No staked joinery in this chapter, the legs and tabletop joinery consists of non-tapered cylindrical mortise-and-tenon joinery. And Chris explains why.

In building a drinking table, the following topics are covered:
(1) building the tabletop,
(2) laying out and boring the mortises,
(3) constructing the legs, and
(4) Chris’s finish selection.

The chapter includes a cutlist for building a three-leg drinking table.

Chris wraps up this chapter with a three-page write-up (including three photos) on how he fabricated a wooden key to stabilize a split in his tabletop.

Chapter 9: Heavy Buddhist Feedback
This is a short chapter, three pages to be exact.

Basically, Chris describes the steps he goes through to develop a good feel for designing nice pieces of furniture.

Chapter 10: Worktable
This chapter details the building of a 24” x 52” worktable and includes one drawer. And mortise-and-tenon joinery is used to join the legs and tabletop together.

Lumber dimension and quantity requirements are included at the end of this chapter.

Chapter 11: Staked Bed
Need a bed? This chapter details the building of a sturdy six-leg bed. For joinery, mortise-and-tenon joinery is used. Although the mortises and tenons are not tapered, the legs are tapered.

A cutlist is included at the end of this chapter.

Chapter 12: Trestle Tables
Actually, this chapter covers the building of a type stake table which is considered by many to be the ancestor of what we refer to today as the trestle table.

The joinery used for the legs and the rest of table consists of tapered mortises and tenons.

Regarding the legs, the table built here is built with three instead of four legs. And this tabletop is rectangular, not circular.

The paired legs at one end of the table are constructed with a stretcher between them. And Chris presents a non-math method for determining the compound angle for the stretcher joint.

The following topics are also specifically covered in this chapter:
(1) how to level your legs,
(2) finishing,
(3) cutlist,
(4) an optional decorative panel type stretcher,
(5) tabletop, and
(6) assembly.

Chapter 13: Seeing Red
This is a short chapter—two pages with text and then several photo pages.

If I had been naming this chapter, I would have probably titled it, “Food for Thought.” The theme of this short chapter centers around what kind of furniture do you want to live with, day-in and day-out?

Anyway, what type of furniture do you want to live with, in your home?

Chapter 14: Bare Bones Basics of Nail Technology
Wrought, forged, cut, and wire nails are covered in this seventeen-page chapter.

And regarding nails, the following topics are covered:
(1) the naming of nails,
(2) sizing nails–penny system,
(3) sizing of pilot holes,
(4) driving and setting of furniture nails, and
(5) clenching nails.

Chapter 15: Boarded Tool Chest
In this chapter—Chris walks you through the building of a tool chest. Instead of dovetails, this chest is built using rabbet joinery, glue, and nails.

This chapter is broken down as follows:
(1) an exploded view of tool chest,
(2) wood recommendations,
(3) preparing the panels,
(4) nailing the case,
(5) installing the bottom boards,
(6) rot strip options,
(7) chest lift options,
(8) lid installation,
(9) building the interior trays, and
(10) cutlist.

Chapter 16: To Make Anything
This is a short chapter consisting of two pages of text and one page of a Chinese chair sketch.

In this chapter, Chris touches on his thoughts regarding what a woodworker who wants to build furniture (regardless of what type of furniture you intend to build) needs to study, historically speaking, regarding furniture.

Chapter 17: 6-Board Chest
This chapter covers in detail the building of a 6-board chest. But the two things most memorable about this chapter to me were on how to use the cabinetmaker’s triangle and how to install trim (a technique that Chris learned from a trim carpenter).

And the building of the chest is integrated with the following topics:
(1) exploded view of a six-board chest,
(2) wood movement,
(3) nail usage advantages,
(4) chest sizing,
(5) how to layout an Ogee,
(6) cabinetmaker’s triangle,
(7) mitering,
(8) finish options, and
(9) cutlist.

Chapter 18: Boarded Bookshelf
Need a bookcase? Then, read and build the bookcase detailed in this chapter.

The following topics are discussed during the building of the bookcase covered by this chapter:
(1) pros and cons of adjustable shelving,
(2) exploded view of bookcase build in this chapter,
(3) shelf spacing,
(4) carcase assembly,
(5) finishing, and
(6) cutlist.

Chapter 19: Aumbry
Chris talks briefly, at the beginning of this chapter, about the history of aumbries. And the aumbry build in this chapter is based on an aumbry built around 1490.

The following topics are covered:
(1) type wood used for most aumbries,
(2) dado joinery,
(3) building the back,
(4) building the face frame,
(5) carving the Gothic tracery,
(6) the door, and
(7) cutlist.

The aumbry built in this chapter is a nice looking piece of furniture. And once you see it, you are probably going to add it to your I-have-got-to-build-that list. I know I have.

Chapter 20: Fear Not
This is a short chapter–two pages.

In a nutshell, Chris expounds on why not being afraid to try unfamiliar woodworking techniques is a desirable trait to cultivate.

Chapter 21: Coffin
A rather morbid topic for a chapter and I do not know that I will be adding a coffin to my got-to-build-this list. But it was informative.

Topics covered included the following:
(1) the legality of building your own coffin,
(2) laying out and shaping the bottom and top,
(3) the coffin walls,
(4) finish options, and
(5) cutlist.

Appendix A: Tools You Need
I always enjoy reading about woodworking tools. And over fifteen pages, this appendix covers both hand tools and power tools. Always enjoy doing a mental inventory regarding which tools listed I have or don’t have.

The purpose of this tool list is to list what you need to make the furniture covered by this book. And if there is a specific tool that Chris favors, manufacturer and model number wise, then Chris states his preference.

Appendix B: On Hide Glue
Over three pages, Chris covers the history of glue, the advantages of both hide and PVA glues, and why he prefers hide glue.

Appendix C: On Soap Finish
In this appendix, Chris goes over the advantages and disadvantages of soap finish. Also–mixing ratios for the solvent (water) and soap flakes, how to apply this finish, and sanding between coats is addressed.

Appendix D: On Milk Paint
This two-page appendix (verbiage wise) covers Chris’s recommendations regarding the mixing of milk paint and also how to apply milk paint to your project.

Appendix E: Tenons by Hand
When it comes to cutting the tenons (both tapered and non-tapered) referenced in this book, you have two options: use a lathe or use hand tools. This appendix walks you through cutting tenons with hand tools.

Appendix F: Machine Tapers
If you own a joiner and you want to use it to taper your furniture legs, then this appendix was written for you. Here we have Chris detailing how to taper legs with a joiner.

My Final Thoughts
So there you have it—a list of the chapters and appendices, plus a brief write-up on each chapter and appendix.

Now closing and putting this book down (PDF file actually), what sticks in my head regarding this book are the following:
(1) the historically proven strength of tapered legs used on chairs and tables,
(2) the four-leg stake chair (I plan to build one),
(3) plan to build that bookcase (will probably put a top on it thought),
(4) really enjoyed that chapter on cut nails,
(5) the aumbry chapter (that is on my to-do list also),
(6) the tools needed appendix, and
(7) the milk paint appendix.

No regrets regarding having bought this book. It’s a good read.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be very grateful if you would share it by email with a friend, or on Google+, and/or Facebook. And while I am being needy, would you give me a “Like” on my Facebook page (Woodworking with AJO)? You can click on the link shown below for my Facebook page. Thanks a bunch.

Woodworking with AJO

Take Care

John 3:16






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