Book Review: Chris Schwarz’s Campaign Furniture

a Campaign-style bookcase

A traveling bookcase shows the minimalist appeal of the Campaign style.

I’ve been following Chris Schwarz’s writing on campaign furniture on his blog and in his articles for Popular Woodworking with interest, so I’ve been looking forward to the release of Campaign Furniture. It was worth the wait.

Schwarz begins with a brief introduction to the style and surveys the wood and hardware used in building these pieces before moving to the heart of the book, how to build eight campaign pieces: chest, secretary, camp stool, Roorkee chair, trunk, desk, bookshelf, and traveling bookcase. Schwarz has distinguished himself as a proponent of hand-tool techniques, and that shows in how he approaches construction here, but he outlines alternative approaches for building with power tools. And these aren’t merely step-by-step instructions for reproducing exactly these projects; Schwarz provides direction for variation in the final product. This flexibility is especially useful for woodworkers looking to move from replication of existing work to building their own pieces. A collection of historical sources closes book (as a fan of original catalogs as a source of inspiration, I especially enjoyed the excerpts from Army & Navy Co-Operative Society’s catalogs). The book itself is a delightful physical object, printed on quality stock and lavishly illustrated with photos and period artwork. I did wish at times that it had been printed to a larger page size, especially when I had to turn a page to see a photo illustrating text I had a hard time visualizing.

While it’s unlikely I will build a piece of campaign furniture, I still found the book useful for a number of reasons. Schwarz is an engaging writer, and his enthusiasm for the style is evident in his prose. There are construction techniques that I can appropriate building in other styles, and the style provides some useful design solutions for anyone looking for practical, portable furniture (the drop-front drawer serving as a desk, for example, could find application in any chest of drawers, regardless of period, and suggests interesting possibilities for built-ins as well). While it might not be the best place to start for novices, Campaign Furniture is worthwhile for more advanced woodworkers, whether or not they plan on building in the style.

More Information

Read more about Campaign Furniture or purchase it from the publisher here.

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