Q & A with Christopher Schwarz
We take a minute to chat with woodworker and publisher Christopher Schwarz about non-woodworky things.
Christopher Schwarz (“Don’t Build a New Workbench”) is a furniture maker and writer who works from a German barroom built in 1896 in Covington, Ky. He is one of the founders of Lost Art Press, a book publishing company that specializes in handwork, and Crucible Tool, a company that makes hand tools for woodworking. Schwarz is the author of several books, including Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use (F+W Media), The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Campaign Furniture, The Anarchist’s Design Book, and Ingenious Mechanics (Lost Art Press). In addition to his publishing efforts, he builds casework and his American version of Welsh stick chairs for clients all over the world.
FWW: Where were you born and raised? How would you say that has influenced your woodworking path?
CS: Born in St. Louis and raised in northwest Arkansas, I grew up around handmade furniture. My dad and grandfather made furniture as a hobby. And my grandparents were antique collectors with unusual (and unusually good) taste – campaign and Asian styles. And I loved the vernacular stuff all around the mountain communities in Arkansas.
FWW: Why is woodworking important to you? What got you interested in it? How did you get started woodworking?
CS: I started woodworking as a conscript. My parents were hippie-adjacent and bought an 84-acre farm outside Hackett, Ark. No electricity. No water. No road. Their plan: Build our houses there from scratch. So we were dragged there every weekend to help. I hated it. But I learned to handle hand tools. I fled Arkansas as soon as I could and headed to Chicago to become a writer. But after a few years of newspapering I found myself enrolled in a hand tools class at the University of Kentucky. It had gotten in my blood.
FWW: What do you find most rewarding about woodworking?
CS: If I weren’t a woodworker, I’d probably be an archaeologist. I love exploring the past through books, extant pieces, and building objects to discover how they were made and how they work. But I’m not interested in reproducing the past. I think of the pre-Industrial age as an advanced, alien culture – they knew much more about woodworking than we ever will. These dead people have taught me how to be a better woodworker and designer in my century.
FWW: When you’re not woodworking or doing something LAP related, what are you doing with yourself?
CS: I’m a music nerd. I played guitar (badly) in folky-punk bands until my kids were born. These days I have something blasting in the shop the entire day, ranging from Buell Kazee to Queens of the Stone Age.
For more from Chris: