Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some Vintage Woodworking Tools in My Shop

Today's post will show some vintage woodworking tools - some of which are still being used on a regular basis in my shop.

This antique veneer tape dispenser and bristle brush are both relics from my grandfather's original shop in Holland. The tape dispenser is still a very practical tool for doing veneer layups.

This wooden level belonged to my father, and it was made by a company called T.E. Paske N.V. in Aalten, Holland.

This level was also my father's, and it was hand made by a tool artisan in the legendary village of Eskilstuna, Sweden.

My father's veneer hammer, which has seen many decades of use.

Many years ago my father purchased this moisture meter, which is the model J-88 made by Delmhorst Industries in the USA. It still has its original leather case and synthetic terminal cover. Best of all it also continues to work like a charm, which means that we still use it on a regular basis.

The first person my father ever hired was a brilliant wood finisher by the name of Art Welton, who was trained as a traditional finisher in England. This putty knife was made in England and was Art's favorite tool. He was heartbroken when he snapped off the corner one day while trying to pry the lid off a can.

Art has long since retired and passed away, and I keep this tool in my office alongside a photo of him - in honour of his memory.

I purchased this Mastercraft ratchet and socket set when I was 16 years old. In those days it was still possible for a kid to go under the hood of a car to change spark plugs or adjust the carburator. This set is still of better quality than most of the offshore import tools you see today.

This "antique" is a Sharp FO-200 fax machine, which used state-of-the-art thermal fax paper. It is a vintage 1986 tool, and I remember it being such a leap forward in technology at the time to help us communicate with custom furniture clients in distant places such as New York and Chicago.
Thermal paper machines such as this one were later replaced by plain paper faxes. Today, fax machines are almost totally obsolete, given the breadth of alternative digital communications tools now available.

Last but not least is the first Motorola cell phone. This thing was literally and figurative a brick, and I first got one of these beasts sometime in the early 1990s. This piece of analog technology could ONLY send and receive telephone calls. Nothing else. I can't recall whether the early versions could even take or retrieve messages. They certainly didn't have the ability for text, email, Internet, games, photos, videos, or fancy rings tones.

Although the cell phone and fax machine are not vintage woodworking tools per se, they were both effective tools that assisted with the business end of woodworking and custom furniture making.

What I find most interesting of all about the above images is that it is the oldest and most manual of tools that are still the most viable and usable today. Except for the moisture meter all of the other electronic tools are now obsolete.

This is definitely a sign of the times. Woodworking and custom furniture making both remain very much a traditional craft that uses tools and processes that are the same as they've been for generations.

On the other hand the traditional method of generating sales by means of word-of-mouth marketing is no longer sufficient in today's world. I believe that even the traditional woodworker must adapt to changing times and technologies when it comes to marketing and communications. At the moment this means embracing the new paradigm of using tools such as social media.

Hence, the existence of this blog - as well as my website, Facebook page, and Linkedin , Twitter and Youtube channels.


  1. Whenever I find the time to read your postings I always enjoy them. This one in perticular. Love the historic value of things still precious to you and your work. Technology will continue to move at a fast pace, but there are some things that can't be created by the machine. The art of furniture making is truly a skill often lost in todays fast paced world.

  2. Thanks Sarah. In many ways I do feel there is an appreciation for craft that is being embraced again in the marketplace, and this is something I am also trying to instill in my son as he learns this trade. On some level these tools help maintain a link to, and respect for, the past.