I like history. Alot. One of the things I like about working with hand tools, is the connection to the past I feel. From using traditional techniques to preserving old tools. I love that I have saws and planes that are from the 1800s and early 1900s. In some way, I feel as if I am helping to preserve a part of our history; like I have my own little museum in my shop. So when I need a new tool I decide if I want to buy new or vintage. Then I watch Ebay, go to antique stores, and go to tool meets. Although I have quite a few new tools from Lie Nielsen and the like, most of my favorites are oldies.
Last weekend I went to a Ohio Tool Collectors meet down in Grand Rapids, OH. I was invited by a Mid-West Tool Collectors Association member as a guest. I was hoping to get some good tools as I was told it was a good size meet. Well I didn’t get any tools but I did meet some great people and even had the opportunity to see a member’s personal collection. This collector had nearly 50 plow planes, 100s of saws, tool chests, work benches, and over 1000 hammers! There was all sorts of planes, chisels, layout tools, etc. I am not a collector but I certainly do appreciate the time and care this man has put into preserving all of those great old tools.
As I sat in this room full of hundreds of years of tools, I was struck by something that made me a bit sad. In this room with me was a group of older men who have all been hard workers in many different fields. Aside from myself at 26, there were two others that were in there 40s, and everyone else was 60 or older. The thing that bothered me was all of these tools will still be here for many years to come, however, each of those men will eventually be gone, and with them, the knowledge each possesses. And as I sat there, I tried to listen to what they had to say, and hear their stories. One that particularly interested me was a man who had worked at a sawmill. The mill he worked at used a huge circular saw that was powered by a steam engine. Another was a carpenter who specialized in architectural work such as that found in old banks and government buildings. At the end of the day when I went home, I wished I had more time to sit with each of them and hear more of their stories. It’s a shame to think that the knowledge and experiences of men like these might be lost when they are no longer here. Hopefully, I’ll get that chance again and will take more care to remember what I learn so that I can share it with others.