Fred West was a modern-day Medici when it came to hand tools – a true patron of the fine arts, and a driving force behind the hand-tool renaissance of the last two decades. If you were into hand tools before 2014 and attended any woodworking shows, you likely knew Fred – or at least heard him exclaiming over the inherent beauty of a fine tool, or talking about tools with his legion of friends. And if you were a maker of fine hand tools, well, you likely had Fred to thank for helping to keep you in business.
Fred loved using good tools – but he also loved supporting their makers and other users. He’d often buy multiples of new tools (and sometimes commission custom designs), then send them anonymously to woodworkers – mostly to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them – who he thought would appreciate working with them. His only request was that the tools be used.
I have two things that remind me of Fred every time I pick them up: a Vesper Tools sliding bevel (which he insisted I accept despite my vehement protestations – I’m terrible at accepting kindnesses), and the Deborah Harkness book “Shadow of Night” – he sent me his copy as soon as he’d finished reading it. (I might have liked talking popular fiction with Fred even more than discussing tools!)
Fred was one of the most gregarious and relentlessly positive people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. Even when struggling with multiple health problems, he’d travel to hand tool conferences and events to talk tools and support toolmakers, and to hang out with his many friends. I feel lucky to have counted myself among them.
But what I didn’t quite realize was the sheer number of tools (both old and new) that Fred acquired in his all-too-short lifetime as a tool user and collector. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Susan, Fred’s former wife and mother of his daughter Eleanor, who has helped to organize an auction of Fred’s large collection. The family, she said, has realized it is time to let some things go, and to honor Fred’s work of getting tools into the hands of those who will use them. I got a preview of the auction catalog as it was in progress, and while I knew Fred bought a lot of tools, well…it turns out I had no idea quite how vast and diverse his collection was. I’m pretty sure there’s something in the collection for just about everyone – as Fred would have wished.
You can see the catalog for Day 1, November 8, here, and place bids online until the morning of November 8. From Alderfer Auction: “Auction is open for pre-bidding until Tuesday, November 8th at 10:00 AM, at which time pre-bidding will cease and the auction will go live online only at the auction center. When the auction goes live, lots will be sold one at a time, in numerical order, by a live auctioneer who will be taking bids from multiple online bidding platforms, absentee and phone bids. During pre-bidding you are able to submit a max (maximum) bid. The bidding platform or our auction staff will bid on your behalf up to the maximum bid that you have entered. Once the auction goes live if you wish to increase your bid you will have to wait until that lot opens for bidding and enter any additional bids manually.”
For more on how the auction works, and to register to bid, visit the Alderfer Auction site.
The catalog for Day 2 will be posted late this week or early next. We’ll announce it here, but you might also want to keep at eye on the site. I got a look at just some of what will be in the second catalog; you won’t want to miss it.
For questions about the auction, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
15 thoughts on “Fred West Tool Auction”
That’s a fascinating life. I probably met Fred, but I get lost with names.
If I can win the lottery in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be bidding.
Thank you for the info.
It would appear that I do not have a bad tool collecting habit after all.
I do have a bad tool collecting habit. I collect old disused tools with the idea of rehabilitating them. I have at least 2 dozen hand and panel saws… not one has been brought back from the dead yet. When they are they will be given away to beginning woodworkers
Auction house does not really understand Japanese tools, does it?
True. But I don’t know them that well, either, so…
Just a heads up that for some of the Japanese planes listed for this auction, it seems like some of the chipbreakers are missing from the plane, and there are some listings with just the chipbreakers. It’s possible to get a separate chipbreaker through other sellers.
There’s also a couple of listings with boxes that look like they might be matches to some of the planes, but these listings are separate from the planes they might go to.
It would appear my tool-buying moratorium is about to end. God help my American Express card.
Just looked at the inventory. Holy mackerel.
I’m so glad I don’t need any tools I don’t need any tools I don’t need any tools I don’t need any….
Looks like Day 2 is already up: https://bid.alderferauction.com/ui/auctions/90849
Okay, this is a gorgeous and massive collection. Just… wow. So much eye candy…
Day 2 is heavy on the Bridge City tools. Just glad that’s not my cup of tea, the FOMO would be unbearable.
If I’m lucky enough to win one with extra chip breakers, I’ll be happy to send them on to the right home.
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