Saturday, May 25, 2013

a man and his tools...

I went to a house out by the lake yesterday to pick up some tools. The wife had had called about tools that her husband would no longer need. He's at that age where a bad knee and faulty balance from an ear infection make it difficult for him to work or to walk. I did not know what kinds of tools to expect. My hopes were for a few woodworking tools, but the collection contained many assorted wrenches and very few tools for woodworking. C clamps, however are a welcome addition to any shop. He had tried to get his son-in-law to take tools, but none of it was of interest to him.

My apprentice Greg loaded small hand tools in the truck as the gentleman would assess whether or not they would ever be useful to him again, "Do you want this?" he would ask. And while many of the tools would not be useful to me, (I've got more than enough) I offered to put what I took in the hands of those who will put them to use.

It is amazing how much of a man's soul is invested in the tools that he's used, and that he owns, even though they've been collected on shelves in a crowded garage and not touched in years. He looked carefully for a hammer that had been his dad's as he sorted through tool boxes and placed wrenches in my hands.

Tools are a reflection of our power to control our environment. They can be the means through which we can create beauty. They can connect us with our ancestors in ways that make them present as memories and potentialities in our own lives. Tools are symbols of our human empowerment. They can become clutter. They can become useless to us as we age. And yet, to see one's own life arrive at that point in which they may be no longer necessary to us can be a sad thing.

That is why we each must make a great effort to put tools into the hands of kids. Tools can be an expression of human cultural immortality when they are passed along with knowledge of their use into the hands and minds of kids. I'm sad for the son-in-law who seemed to have missed something that could have been passed along to his own kids. Wrenches that their grandfather might have used to work on an old Volkswagen would have been good for cultivating a bit of lefty loosey, righty tighty understanding of the way our universe is assembled and give them a sense of their own potential.

The following video is a teaser about a documentary film to be made about famous Swedish carver Wille Sundqvist by his son Jogge.

You can support the making of this film at

Make, fix and create...


  1. A beautiful post.

    Some of my favorite tools came from a local antique mall. At one time there was a booth that was like a treasure chest of fine tools and I'd always leave with something of high quality at a price both fair to the buyer and seller.

    After several months I was there one day when the owner of the booth was around. I told him I was glad to finally meet him and he though he didn't know me he had met my money several times. He laughed.

    He was a long retired cabinet maker who had been collecting tools since he was young.

    His children were not interested in tools and he figured they wouldn't know what to do with them when he was gone so he was selling them.

    While we were talking I noticed a crosscut saw that had been sharpened so many times the blade was only 2/3 as tall as it originally had been.

    I picked up the saw while we were talking and it felt wonderful to hold. There was no maker's mark but it was clearly a quality tool.

    I told the owner that even though he had many fine saws there was something abut this one that really appealed to me. He said that saw always appealed to him too,

    After I told him I'd take it he offered a lower price without my asking. He was clearly happy to see someone of a younger generation so passionate about tools and who could appreciate what made that saw special.

    All the best,


  2. A really good post.
    Whenever I use an adjustable wrench that belonged to my grandfather, I think of him. So I fully agree that tools are an excellent way of remembering people by.
    I hope that you will be able to pass on the tools to someone who will need them and use them.

  3. I have tools that belonged to my late brother in law, a friend's father, another friend's grandfather along with the ones I've bought for myself. Each one, whether it's the 1940s drill press or the probably 1910 "gent's saw" feels like it still has some of the personality and quirks of the original owner. I like it that was, feeling like I'm learning from long-gone craftsmen.