One-stop Tool Shopping for the Beginner

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When people start venturing into hand tools they struggle mightily with what tools to buy and where to get them. As far as what tools you need, I’ve tried to cover that with “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

When it comes to the question of where to buy the tools, my usual response is to attend a Mid-West Tool Collectors Association meeting. Or a meeting of the Early American Industries Association. I’m a member of both organizations and am so glad they exist. The tool tailgating at these meetings is epic.

But not everyone can plan their lives around these meetings. Or they can’t wait for a meeting to roll around to get started. Or something something something don’t wanna.

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If you live in America’s Great Middle, I suggest you plan an excursion to Colonial Homestead in Millersburg, Ohio. I’ve written about Dan Raber’s tool store before for Popular Woodworking and discussed their classes yesterday on the blog.

But I just want to say here, on this blog, one more time, that Colonial Homestead is a Midwestern jewel.

What is so good about this place? The depth and quality of the stuff on his shelves. He has more woodworking and metalworking vises for sale than I’ve seen anywhere. Need dividers? There’s a whole section of them. How about a tool chest? Yupper. He’s got a bunch with prices starting at $275. There are drawers filled with spokeshaves, beading tools and Perfect Handle screwdrivers. A glue pot section. Boxes of complete sets of auger bits (in the bit section). So so so many saws. A wall of chisels, arranged by size.

After years in the craft, I’m pretty jaded by tool stalls in antique malls, which are usually filled with stuff that should be melted down. Buying stuff on eBay isn’t much better (unless you know the seller). And amassing a kit from people such as Josh Clark at Hyperkitten or Patrick Leach at Supertool can take a long time as you wait for the right stuff to come up for sale.

Colonial Homestead is a way to get a good working kit in one long visit.

To be honest, I haven’t bought much from Dan. I already own a complete kit of hand tools. During my most recent visit I bought a bunch of blacksmith-made rosehead nails (yes, they sell those). And I found a gorgeous cast-iron Defiance utility knife to replace the crappy zinc one in my chest. But I love to look over his wares when I visit. He’s got great taste in tools.

As always, I’m compelled to mention that this enthusiastic post isn’t sponsored. I am simply an admirer of what Dan has built in Millersburg. And I think you will be a fan as well.

— Christopher Schwarz

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About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to One-stop Tool Shopping for the Beginner

  1. Elaine A Higgins says:

    I passed through Millersburg last December, and Dan spent more than an hour generously giving me a tour of the store. He is a very outgoing and knowledgeable guy. Not only that, he took the time to show me his unique collection of antiques. I especially remember the toilet hidden in chest of drawers. Words fail to express the depth and breadth of Dan’s tool cache. The initial picture in Chris’s post above shows about one-quarter of the entire store. And add to Dan’s treasure house in central Millersburg, the surrounding area of crafts, baked goods, pottery, lumberyards, and horses, the Amish area of northeastern area of the Buckeye (my home) State, makes it a sure thing vacation spot. It was idyllic in December, I can’t imagine how gorgeous it must be in early spring.

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  2. I will make it out to this fine establishment… someday. But because it is over 500 miles away, I was wondering if you knew of any place like this closer to the Albany, NY area?

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    • Chris says:

      Greetings from Troy!

      The best I know of is a local non-profit tool donation center/store called the Tool Box; 143 Troy Schenectady Road, Watervliet. https://colonieseniors.org/tool-box/. It’s not even close to the scale of this store, but like I said it’s the best I know of in the area.

      If you want to go big, there are two massive tool auctions (run by MJ Donnelly Antique Tools) in reasonable driving distance from Albany for a weekend roadtrip. Avoca, NY, July 18-20, and Nashua, NH, September 13-14. Both are about 3 hours away. https://www.mjdtools.com/Auctions.php

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Marion J. Ince says:

    I have a hook ready beside my tool chest for the Lost Art Press Shop Vest that was supposed to be available by now. I know you are very busy…but do you have an update?

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  4. Rick Bowles says:

    Road trip . . .

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  5. davelouw says:

    It looks like the engine on that one horse power wagon had a leaking rear main seal.

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  6. Tal says:

    Any way to order via phone or internet?

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  7. taldeus says:

    Any way to order online? Or via phone? Sadly I am unable to get out there anytime soon.

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  8. taldeus says:

    Sorry seems my tablet double posted on me.

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  9. SSteve says:

    All that and plenty of parking!

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  10. SteveS says:

    Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors is also great.

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  11. John McColley says:

    Chris, aside from your LAP blog are you aware of any other resource that catalogs points of interest to woodworkers around the country? Museums, woodworking schools, tool shops, etc.? That would be a great resource for someone to pull together (hint, hint).

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  12. Ricky Pattillo says:

    Anyone know any similar places, groups, or meetups in Georgia or the surrounding states? The closest of which I’m aware is the store above Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, NC and that’s still six hours by car.

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