Sep 23, 2022 • 7M

Condoning Marie Kondo

Or Marie Kondon't?

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Eric Brown from Dayton, Ohio, asks, “Busy taking pictures of my tool collections for documentation. Do you collect anything special?”

Eric, thank you very kindly for your fine question.

I absolutely have it in me to collect precious treasures. Off the top of my head, I have either dreamed about or fully dabbled in collecting:

  • Vintage cast iron tractor seats

  • Roadside seed corn signs

  • Vintage pocket knives

  • Obscure albums and boxsets, at least before the internet and digital content

  • Billy Jack memorabilia

  • Cool rocks

  • Banana spiders (in my Illinois youth)

  • Exotic wood scraps

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

And of course, tools. Collecting tools can be delightful on so many levels, from the hands-on practicality of collecting implements of quality for the enjoyment of actually using them to assembling collections for admiration, display, and historical instruction.

As luck would have it, my woodworking discipline saw me employing more and more beautifully simple chisels, hand planes, drawknives and spokeshaves, as well as analog measuring devices, just as an ideal new collectors’ marketplace was throwing open its online doors. They called it eBay.

I imagine some of you know how it went for me. I obsessively spent more than I could afford on some “amazing deals” as I scoured each and every e-bin for the specifically gorgeous implements of which I was very recently totally unaware, but now just unquestionably had to have.

My “full set” of Japanese chisels…unlike my eBay conquests, this is a working collection. Photo: Sarah Watlington

Because of my donkey-ish tendencies, I of course won a bunch of auctions, and then found myself with full sets of antique planes from Stanley and Millers Falls, assorted drawknives, and countless vintage hand drills and auger bits.

I had some real fun tuning up these old tools and putting them briefly to work, but it didn’t take long for the reality to set in. A woodworker only requires one quality version of each tool they use, and all of my groovy old jalopies began to, mostly, take up space and collect dust. Lesson learned.

You can still find a certain type of item being collected at the shop, but it’s mainly pieces of wood of all species, shapes, and sizes, waiting to become our hand-crafted products. From massive slabs of walnut and redwood trees, to planks of varied cabinet woods, to small, jewel-like bon-bons of figured, exotic samples intended to become bowls, ring boxes, or ukulele details. So now we make collections not to admire, but whose items can expect to be practically used, and used well.

The ever-evolving collection of hardwoods available for use in the produce of Offerman Woodshop. Photo: Sarah Watlington

Overall, instead of compiling unnecessary possessions, I try to focus on using and maintaining the tools that I have, and to utilize the time that I have to make things well. Maybe in my wood shop, maybe at an acting job, maybe at my Hasty-Bake smoker/grill, maybe at my laptop, and yes, maybe in my marriage bed. In all these spaces, and more, I hope that the record will show the evidence of a man at labor in the accumulation of affection.

When it comes down to it, there are certainly many kinds of collections and collectors, and as always, to each his/her own. But for my money, I’d rather collect handshakes and hugs than material goods. Until someone invents a hugging robot? Nah.

Love,

A collection of potential! These gorgeous assorted blocks are awaiting their opportunity to be turned into bowls and small boxes and mystical orbs on the lathe. Ubu pig head by Rob Kimmel. Photo: Sarah Watlington

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