The Value of Handtools

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Benjamin Franklin

A wise man once said that every tool with a cord or a battery ends up in the landfill. I don’t know where my electrical woodchucks will end up, but I doubt any will find their way into museums.

The second I open a pretty powertool’s box, its value plummets to the basement never to recover. Was it a good investment? Perhaps it would be if I still made a living with them, but not so much now.

And sure as eggses is eggses, a year or so after opening that darn box a new and improved version of my little electronic piggy will be on the market wearing high-heels, a short skirt, and too much makeup. They tell me that’s progress….

Image result for image of dewalt drill
Bound for the trashbin?

Buying a power tool feels to me like bringing a shiny-eyed puppy with a furiously waggling tale home knowing I will abandon it later. It doesn’t seem right anymore.

And then there’s the financial and environmental aspects. While necessary for many jobs, power tools often cost more to have professionally repaired than to buy a new replacement. What’s with that? And the replacement batteries for those cordless beasties are not only ridiculously overpriced, the chemicals in them are poisonous forever.

Necessary? Perhaps. Long-term value? Not so much.

But handtools are different, IMHO. The quality ones are useful for generations. Many are even beautiful. Perhaps their resale value will not rise, but over time the good ones hold their monetary value. Especially the handmade ones. And I like to believe their intrinsic value will increase many times.

A Minimum set of hand-forged planes for the professional workshop : L to R 65mm jointer (nagadai), 1-80mm finish, 2-70mm finish, 65mm + 60mm arashiko, 55mm shorty. These planes have all seen a lot of use, but their blade’s heads are neither beat to hell, nor are the bodies splintered or stained. Stay tuned for future posts on Stan’s Secrets for Japanese Planes

Ever think about how much money you spend on useful things that give you pleasure? Steak? Coffee? Beer? Donuts (mmm…. donuts)? Vacations? Big-screen TV’s? By comparison, quality tools are cheap, last a long time, are practical, promote healthy activity and productivity, and don’t make us fat, sick, dull, send us into a ditch, or raise our insurance rates.

A chisel may nick me now and then, but I will never fly my plane into a mountain.

~~===(ツ)===~~

And speaking of planes, remember when you were finish planing that piece of pine? The sharp blade; the sole tuned to perfection; the tight mouth. Whispy, translucent shavings boiled out of the plane’s body releasing a sweet evergreen smell and leaving a shimmering surface on the board.

The sound of a sharp blade making shavings and the sweet smell of freshly-planed pine. A simple pleasure of inestimable value.

And do you remember cutting those dovetails in cherry? Your favorite saw followed the layout line without hesitation, stopping the cut at the perfect depth. Something magical about that saw…

The Ne Plus Ultra Saw by Pete Taran. Ooooo, yummy!

And how about your favorite paring chisel? Do you remember what it felt like shaping that mahogany neck, and the sight of the slowly emerging elegant shapes the sharp slender darling cut so effortlessly? Remember how it felt more like a part of your hand than an inanimate thing of metal and wood? Now that’s a blade!

Quality tools give me a tremendous amount of pleasure and satisfaction. How bout you?

Sadly, not all is blue bunnies and fairy farts. She Who Must Be Obeyed relentlessly counts the cost but sternly rejects the value of the woodworking tools I love. Her feminine mind can rationalize spending a fortune on cloth and thread and needles and the latest, greatest computer-controlled Swiss-made sewing machine with a 4-dimensional laser-guided unobtanium armature and smoothie blender attachment, but her eye narrows, turns sickly yellow, and dribbles poison at the sight of my latest plane or chisel.

Estrogen poisoning, I fear. Need to get that checked…

Will the things we buy now, use for a span of days, and leave behind when we go to the big woodpile in the sky be valued by our grandkids, or will they be sold to buy video games?

The bones are rolling.

I just know that I cherish my father’s old tools, and they still work pretty darn good.

Cheap at twice the price, says I.

Dad’s Tools

YMHOS

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