In Pursuit of Heirloom Tools

If you’re a woodworker, in Kansas City, there are two things you can count on in January, Lie- Nielson will bring their Hand Tool Event to town and they’ll bring terrible weather with them. You may think I’m joking but one year they arrived to a huge snowstorm and today temperatures were in single digits after being in the fifties yesterday. Coincidence, who knows. One thing is for sure, woodworkers will come from miles around in pursuit of the elusive “Heirloom Tool”.

What is an heirloom tool? Well, simply put, a tool of such quality, that it last for more than a generation and is handed down to the next generation. I have a couple of heirloom tools that were handed down to me. The first is my Grandfather’s Stanley-Bailey No. 5 jack plane. The other is a Stanley #9 ½ block plane that belonged to my Dad. Are they great, perfect tools? No. They are user grade that were used by the two big role models of my youth. For that, they hold a place of honor in my shop.

I made my own trek to visit my friends from Maine.  Yes, I do consider them friends even though they take my money every year.  I’m just now getting to know the newer crew that came this year and last, but for many years we were visited by Curtis, Ted, and Tim. Tim and I would always compare aches and pains. Mine from my RA and his from his other job working on a lobster boat. That’s what makes the whole Hand Tool Event a great time. Oh yeah, there’s the tools, too.

I envy the guys that can go in to one of the events and go hog wild. My treasurer (Wife) severely limits my participation in the fun. Usually one tool a year, if I’m lucky. This year was one of the Brian Boggs designed spokeshaves. Last year I bought the concave one and this year the curved one. So next year will be the flat one. See I got this all figured out.  It’s just by the time I’ve upgraded all my hand tools to Lie-Nielson, I’ll be 92 and ready to hand them down to one of my grandsons. Heirloom tools, indeed.



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