I have long argued that we are living in two simultaneous Golden Ages, that of furniture making and that of tool making. Never before in human history has a culture produced more superb furniture than we are right now, it’s just that most of the furniture is being made avocationally rather than vocationally, which is not to disregard the exquisite furniture being made by people who do it for a living. It’s just that there are so many more “makers driven by passion” than those driven by income, a ratio I would conclude is far north of 100:1.
The Golden Age of Tool Making is a bit different in that the purveyors for those particular narcotics in the marketplace are simultaneously driven by both passion and income. Consider the upcoming Handworks event, where scores of professional woodworking tool makers will interact with thousands of woodworkers and tool aficionados, deep in the heart of the Iowa cornfields. I am honored to count many of these toolmakers among my friends and acquaintances.
I am sure there are cranky toolmakers working under the nostrum of secrecy, but thus far I have yet to run into any of them. My experience is that they are delighted that you are interested, and inevitably they will fill you with more information than you can digest at any one time. They must understand this, as most of them have web pages that are archives of definitive and dispositive documents telling you almost everything you ever wanted to know about whatever it is that they make or do. I keep several dozen of their sites bookmarked and visit them as often as I allow myself, knowing full well that the first click can result in an entire evening lost in pursuit of knowing more.
Occasionally one strikes my fancy or is so perfectly timed to a particular need that I find myself talking to myself in celebration. Recently I have been doing some things with saws, some of which may eventually leak out into this blog, but most of which has to do with tuning up the saws that I already have. With that in mind I was delighted to see a new (to me at least) offering over at Bad Axe on the care and feeding of vintage back saws. I am currently awaiting the fullness of time to get to a couple (four? five?) of them hanging on my wall, and this page will no doubt serve as a valued resource once I get to that point.
In the service of full disclosure I should say that I have two Bad Axe back saws that I purchased from them, and have communicated with Mark Harrell fairly extensively on my two 4-foot late-18th Century frame saws, tools I use surprisingly often. Someday I might show up on Mark’s doorstep with them in hand, and ask for a sharpening refresher tutorial.