Tool Reviews: You Are Not Your Toolbox

Tool Reviews: You Are Not Your Toolbox

One of the personal agonies of writing this blog was dealing with tool reviews. I love my tools, and I adore the people who have made them for me. But I always struggled with the fact that tool reviews encouraged silly and unnecessary consumption.

Beginners are especially vulnerable. So if talk of tools makes you tingle, listen up.

Unless you run a woodworking school, you do not need four smoothing planes, six dovetail saws and 40 chisels. Having bunches of tools is like the difference between drinking a glass of water and drowning in a tsunami. You cannot possibly take care of six dovetail saws, and so they all get dull, you get frustrated and you probably buy a new one to compensate.

We all go through a phase where we think particular tools will make us a better woodworker. And somehow we think that having more tools will also do the same thing. It won’t. In fact, the opposite will occur.

As someone who wrote tool reviews for years, I think that practicing “tool monogamy” is always the best way to go. Buy one smoothing plane – a good one. Learn its peculiarities. All tools have peccadillos, and there is no easy way to learn how to deal with the ins and outs of 10 different versions of a tool.

If you do decide you need a “tool divorce,” then make it real. Sell the old one (or give it to an aspiring woodworker) and learn the peculiarities of your new tool. It’s far too easy to let your tool chest (and closet) fill up with tools you don’t like, need or want any more. Someone else would love to have your discarded tools.

Try to resist the urge to buy a tool on a whim – even I struggle with this on occasion. If you can give a tool a try before buying, there’s a much better chance that you’ll end up happy. At the very least, make sure you can return a tool if you don’t like it. Returning tools is a pain, but it’s better than suffering with something feels like an awkward rock in your hands.

On Collectors
There are exceptions to the above plea. If you are willing to admit in open court that you are a tool collector, then by all means gather as many tools as makes you happy. But know that a good collector is a steward of the tool and an inquisitor of its maker. Learn all you can about how each tool was made, who made them and what makes them different from others. Share this information with users (like myself) until we roll our eyes and begin to drool out the sides of our mouths.

Your information represents the heritage of both the tool-making industry and the craft. Share what you know at meeting of the Early American Industries Association and the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association.

Otherwise, if you just buy stuff and put it in a closet, you’re not a collector. You’re just a crow who likes shiny objects.

— Christopher Schwarz

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