This summer in Maine, a bunch of us got a beer with Thomas Lie-Nielsen after examining a tool collection at a museum. When the check came for the drinks, Thomas picked it up and said, “My treat.”
I gave him a $20 bill, and he took it. Some of the other people around the table looked confused. Should they also pay? Was Chris just being a weiner?
“Chris and I have an odd relationship,” Thomas said, putting the $20 in his wallet.
That is a bit of an understatement.
This blog entry is written for all of the toolmakers out there who I adore and respect but are bemused by my sometimes-standoffish behavior. For a wide variety of reasons, I have always kept a certain amount of distance between myself and the people who make my tools. I don’t take free or discounted tools. If you try to buy me a beer, I will buy you a six pack. Send me an unsolicited tool and I’ll send you a check.
I do this for a simple reason: If you ask me to write something nice about your tools to help your sales, I can look you in the eye and say “no.” If I tell my students or readers that I like your tools, then they can be assured that I am not the tool of the toolmaker.
Plus, in order for me to sleep at night, I need to own every tool in my chest. No gifts. No discounts or favors. I pay the iron price for my iron.
Where does this crazy attitude come from? Journalism school.
During college, my wife and I were indoctrinated into the school of thought that you take nothing – nothing – from the people you write about. This cold approach makes you seem less friendly, but it will save your reputation in the end.
(My wife, Lucy, a reporter at a local television station, won’t even take a drink of water from the public fountains at city hall or the school district. She’s even more hardcore than I am – one of the things I love about her, by the way.)
So toolmakers: Don’t take it personal. I support your work. I love the risks you take. And I have a weird and somewhat embarrassing relationship with the things you make for me. But if I seem off-putting, remember this: It’s me. Not you.
— Christopher Schwarz