The two most influential people in my life as a woodworker have been Charles H. Hayward, the finest woodworking writer of the 20th century, and Carl Bilderback, a union carpenter and tool collector in La Porte, Ind.
I count on Hayward to guide me in the shop. I count on Carl to tell me the truth about my writing, my woodworking and life in general.
“What you wrote was right,” he said. “But you don’t know that you’re right or why you are right.”
Carl’s startling and entirely correct observation (it’s difficult to explain, but it involves Leonard Bailey and patents), led to a friendship that is more important to me than any tool I own or anything I’ve built or written.
Even more important than Carl’s ability to tell me the truth has been that he is – hands down – the most generous person I’ve ever met. I’ve watched Carl give away dozens of tools to young woodworkers to start them in the craft.
When he showed up at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Cincinnati this spring, I hugged him, and the first or second thing he said to me was: “I have a miter box. Who should I give it to?”
But he does this without seeming like some saint. Ask him about Oprah Winfrey and screws, and you’ll get an off-color story that will make you spit your drink through your nose.
If you’ve ever met Carl – or if you haven’t had the pleasure – I encourage you to watch this hour-long video where Slav Jelesijevich and Carl paw through his basement shop and shoot the crap about tools and woodworking.
You’ll get to see some tools that will amaze (four panther-head saws?) and get a taste of Carl’s humor, deep knowledge of tools and loyalty to the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. (And by the way, if you aren’t a member, fix that. As an anarchist, I can say it is one of the few organizations I’m proud to be a member of.)
Most of all, hold onto the Carls in your life. They won’t be around forever, and we all could use a regular dose of truth and generosity with no chaser.
— Christopher Schwarz