February 22, 2011
Tools
Photo by Jim Ruen
I’m searching for quality carpentry tools in local antique shops.

I love traipsing through an antique store, but I’m not there for the ornate decorative pieces. I love looking at the samples of fine craftsmanship—the “useables.” They are the tools and objects that people once depended on for their daily life. Sometimes they are decorative, too, but the decoration doesn’t interfere with the function of the item, whether it’s a tool for the kitchen, shop or field.

Currently, I’m in the market for carpentry tools, and area antique shops are one of the sources where I’m looking. I’m taking my time while I try to assess what it is that makes an old tool a good tool. The good part includes being useable, but it also needs to be in proportion to the cost of a new tool. Notice I said “in proportion.” That may mean I’ll pay more for the old one if it’s built better, stronger or with features a new alternative lacks. I may pay as much or more simply if it has the mark of a craftsman or a company once known for its craftsmanship. For example, most edging planes were built by the woodworker who used them.

I don’t have much time for collecting something just to have. I want to be able to use it. After all, that’s what the maker intended. I believe when we use items for what they were intended, we do honor to those who labored to design and produce them in the first place. That will include cleaning up and restoring the item if it isn’t in shape to be used as is. It also can mean using the item up, wearing it out and eventually discarding any parts that can’t be reused for another purpose. I believe that, too, is honoring the maker.

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