The most amazing and inspiring photos of woodworking shops feature a wall (or many walls) of tools neatly arranged and ready for use. Eugene Landon’s shop in Fine Woodworking is one. Patrick Edwards is another. And Ron Herman is a third – one I’ve witnessed in person.
Like anyone who builds, I feel an odd ache when I see these photos. I want to grab every tool in every nook and put it to use. I want to see what they can do. I imagine that I could build almost anything if I had all those tools. And they were all sharp and tuned, with arrow-straight soles and tight-fitting wedges. Shavings would fly….
The truth, however, is different.
During the last 20 years I’ve seen a lot of “tool walls” and picked through them. Wooden planes are a trick to maintain. I own about a dozen of them and I fuss over them constantly to keep them working.
So when I step up to a wall containing 300 tools, I’m not surprised to find them lacking. The wedges don’t fit. The irons need work. The soles are bendy. Yes, they could be fixed with love. But by the time you fixed plane No. 300, then plane No. 1 would be out of truth.
This isn’t just a problem with people who own wooden-bodied planes.
When I meet a woodworker who owns a lot of metal planes, they tend to have lots of Nos. 4, 5 and 6 bench planes (who needs three No. 6s?). And about 63 block planes. Many of these tools simply followed the owner home. They didn’t intend to own a stable of 20 bench planes; it just happened.
The truth is this: It’s easier to acquire tools than it is to get rid of them.
Even if you try to reduce the number of tools you own, people dump them at your door. I know this problem well. Sometimes I think I run the Schwarz Home for Wayward Saws. (Or perhaps saws have intercourse and reproduce like rabbits.)
So every year or so I make a pile of tools that have somehow accumulated in my house and make an effort to get rid of them. I’ll give them away if I can. Or I’ll sell them.
I say all this for two reasons.
No. 1: You don’t need four smoothing planes or six A2 gazintas. And holding onto excess tools robs other beginning woodworkers from using them. You are – in a small way – hurting the craft. Sell them or give them away. Today.
No. 2: In that spirit, Lost Art Press is holding a tool sale at its headquarters during the next open house on Saturday, July 9. We’ll have hand tools (and some power tools) from myself, John Hoffman, Megan Fitzpatrick and Popular Woodworking. All will be cash and carry and priced to move.
Details and lists of tools to come. Mark your calendar.
— Christopher Schwarz