by Christopher Schwarz
Sometimes you pick up a book and it takes a few pages before you realize the author had you in mind when he or she wrote it. And sometimes you clue in from the word go. The rest, well, it usually turns out to be among the more enjoyable reads of your life and putting it down is akin to saying farewell to a best friend.
You’ll see each other again, and you’ll always have memories. But you’ll pine (pun intended) for the immersive experience of reading the story, learning something new with the turn of every page, and knowing that you missed far more than you picked up on the first read through (Hell, I read at least two of the chapters and numerous sub-sections twice over, immediately, and I still feel like I didn’t absorb everything this book has to offer).
The Anarchist’s Tool Chest presents two distinct sections for the reader, a What-to followed by a How-to.
The What-to section has plenty of how-to built into it, but the focus is on what to buy if you’re going to start working with tools that allow you to turn pieces of wood into furniture and such like. Schwarz stays true to his word and lets his experience guide rather than infect his narrative: the book isn’t a commercial for this or that brand or manufacturer (excepting maybe his endorsement of the Starrett 6″ rule, which is entirely forgivable – and it’s good advice in the bargain). All that said, the list of recommended and trusted tool sellers at the back is well worth attending to. I buy from one of the sellers and have had consistent good results.
Schwarz leads into the How-to part of the book (The how-to being “how to build your own tool chest”) with more of his pithy commentary about the state of manufacturing and consumerism today. Suffice to say that I fell in love with the book when he referred to chipboard furniture by its proper name (termite diarrhea).
Well, no, don’t suffice to say.
Schwarz is right on the money. He’s writing for an American audience, but the lessons in his prose reach around the planet. We’ve got a global industrial economy that was founded on the work of craftspersons. Sadly, what was once a hand-tool and hand-skill economy has been perversely reformed into an endless cycle of buying disposable crap only to chuck it out a few years later so you can buy more disposable crap, all for the purpose of keeping major corporations in business, pleasing shareholders, and, ostensibly, creating jobs. Baloney, I say. And a load of bollocks as well.
To maintain this cycle of consume-ruin-toss-reconsume, we’ve become a species that has lost so much of what makes human beings different from the rest of the critters on this rock: tool use. Gone are the days when your tax dollars supported classes where kids could learn to do things with their hands (other than working a joystick, or tapping buttons).
We, as a people, a society, are losing the skills to actually construct durable, high-quality household goods. Heirlooms that’ll last into the future, that are made from natural resources. Yeah, yeah, I know. That kind of stuff takes scads of time and specialist skills, and woe be the environment. You’re cutting down trees. Who can afford it? It’s elitist! It’s bourgeoise!
Again, bollocks. For one thing, forestry standards have reached a level where you can be sure you’re not using pilfered wood from endangered habitat, furthering the cycle of destruction and the loss of species around the world. And if it’s bourgoise to make it yourself with local and regional materials instead of buying a pile of termite diarrhea that’s been molded, chunked, and formed overseas, then when the next revolution comes I’ll happily walk myself to the guillotine. Heck, I’ll probably know the guy who made it.
Call me an anarchist. I am one.
If you’d like to be one too, go read Schwarz’s book. Buy a copy for your kids, or your neighbors’ kids. The Anarchist’s Tool Chest should be required reading for high school students, and anyone who’d like to survive the zombie apocalypse. You’ll have to shore up damage to structures and build barricades, right? They don’t sell those at Ikea.