Canadian Woodworking

Collectors Are A Strange Breed

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: October November 2008
Collectors Are A Strange Breed
Collectors Are A Strange Breed

Walk into any woodworking shop in any basement or garage, and you’ll notice one inescapable fact – woodworkers are inveterate collectors.


I once had a friend – actually he still is my friend, at least until he reads this – who spent many years, many thousands of dollars and every iota of his wife’s goodwill in the pursuit and acquisition of at least one of every hand plane that the Stanley Tool Company ever produced. He collected tools with the full acknowledgement that not only would he never use any of them but also knowing that he had no idea how to use them even if he had wanted to. All collectors are weird that way, not just tool collectors.


Another woodworker friend, actually it’s the same guy but I know a few others just like him, myself included, who simply cannot pass up a particularly nice board even though he/me/we haven’t a single project or plan that the board could be used for. Maybe the particular plank is extra wide or has a particularly seductive grain pattern that simply begs to be softly and lovingly caressed (I sometimes get really strange looks at the lumberyard). It doesn’t really matter what the appeal happens to be, all that matters is that it is a really nice board and it catches your eye and simply cannot be passed up. Something like the affinity between women and shoes, perhaps.

If you ever have the chance, and can do so without getting in trouble, walk around a hobbyists workshop and look at the tools hanging on the walls or stored in the cupboards and shelves. Chances are, under the thick layer of sawdust that covers everything you will find a good number of tools, woodworking aids, jigs and other devices that have never been used. Indeed, many will still be in the original packaging they came in years ago, and not just because the fellow couldn’t get through the space age plastic packaging. No, these tools were likely purchased long before that cursed material was ever created.

Woodworkers as a whole simply cannot pass up a good deal― or even a bad one― on a new or semi-improved tool or woodworking aid, whether they actually need it or not. Until we actually see the item, most of us never know we even needed the thing. But then we see it gleaming on the tool store shelf or in the new tool catalogues that our wives have tried and failed to hide from us. Luckily we all have friends and colleagues who keep us informed whenever a new catalogue comes out. Once we’ve seen a new tool or woodworking jig we absolutely must have it, no matter what the consequences. We will happily shell out our hard earned money and then gleefully and surreptitiously carry the thing home, all the while wondering how we can hide this tool from our spouses. If that fails, and it inevitably does, we try to convince our loved one that this tool is the only tool that could possibly be used to finish that Arts and Crafts bed, the Morris chair, the Prairie Settle or the dining room suite you so rashly promised so many years ago (or all of the above, in my case).

Yes, we woodworkers are a strange bunch. Accept it, revel in it, blame your strangeness on the sawdust and fumes you’ve breathed in for so many years, but be sure to continue collecting whatever it is that you so choose.

Just be sure to remember your collection of lumber or tools (that you may never actually use) the next time you’re shaking your head at someone’s shoe closet.

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