‘Saws, Planes, and Scorps: Exceptional Woodworking Tools and Their Makers’

In “Saws, Planes, and Scorps,” David Heim celebrates contemporary makers of quality woodworking hand tools and workbenches, from one-person shops that specialize in one or a few tools, to four larger toolworks that offer a wide range of tools.

It’s a who’s who in the hand tool world, with interesting vignettes of the makers and pictures of their tools, arranged by tool type (and some makers appear in more than one section), and an introduction by Joshua Klein.

I could have simply included a picture of the table of contents…but it was more fun to test my memory of “toolworks vs. tool work vs. tool works” for various companies. (If I got one wrong, apologies.) The chapters are as follows:

“Prominent Toolworks:” Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Lee Valley Tools/Veritas, Bridge City Tool Works and Woodpeckers.

“Workbenches:” Benchcrafted, Plate 11 Woodworking, Frank Strazza, RE-CO BKLYN, Lake Erie Toolworks, Acer-Ferrous Toolworks, Texas Heritage Woodworks, Blum Tool Co. (includes sidebars/profiles on Christopher Schwarz, the French Oak Roubo Project and the Japanese approach).

“Squares, Gauges, Marking Knives, and Awls:” Colen Clenton, Vesper Tools, Blue Spruce Toolworks, Bridge City Tool Works, Sterling Tool Works, Shenandoah Tool Works, Blackburn Tools, Glen-Drake Toolworks, Florip Toolworks, Hamilton Toolworks, DMF Tool Works, Seth Gould and Czeck Edge Hand Tool (includes a sidebar on the sector).

“Hand Saws:” Skelton Saws, Bade Axe Tool Works, Florip Toolworks, Tools for Working Wood, with sidebars/profiles on Marco Terenzi and Blackburn Saws saw kits.

“Hand Planes:” Holtey Classic Hand Planes, Sauer & Steiner Toolworks, The Lazarus Handplane Co., Daed Toolworks, Brese Plane, Bill Carter, BJS Planes and Woodworking, Old Street Tool, M.S. Bickford, Philly Planes, J. Wilding, Voigt Planes, Red Rose Reproductions, Blum Tool Co., Bridge City Tool Works, HNT Gordon & Co., Scott Meek Woodworks, Benedetto, and Walke Moore Tools (includes sidebars/profiles on St. James Bay Tool Co., Ron Hock and James Krenov).

“Hammers, Mallets, and Chisels:” Old Soldier Toolworks, Blue Spruce Toolworks, Crucible Tool, Shenandoah Tool Works, Sterling Tool Works, HNT Gordon & Co., Blum Tool Co., Brent Bailey Forge, Barr Specialty Tools and Brese Plane (includes sidebars/profiles on GreenWood, Seth Gould’s embellished hammers and Elkhead Tools screwdrivers).

“Spokeshaves, Drawknives, Scorps, and Travishers:” Caleb James Maker, Dave’s Shaves, Moberg Tools, HNT Gordon & Co., Cariboo Blades, Barr Specialty Tools, Old Soldier Toolworks, Claire Minihan Woodworks, Elia Bizzarri Hand Tool Woodworking, Crown Plane and The Windsor Workshop (includes profiles on Peter Galbert and Russ Filbeck).

“Adzes, Hatches, and Knives:” Jason A. Lonon Toolmaker, Start Raven Studios, Cariboo Blades, Brent Baily Forge, North Bay Forge, Drake Knives, Craft Lab, Pinewood Forge, Preferred Edge Carving Knives & Supplies and Deepwoods Ventures.

Heim’s selection of “exceptional woodworking tools and their makers” is informed by his experience as a woodworker and former associate editor for Fine Woodworking magazine, and for the most part, I agree with his choices, but in a book that features mostly what are arguably “boutique” hand tools, the inclusion of Woodpeckers is curious. I’m not dissing their tools, but when I think of that company, I think red, anodized table saw fences and drill press tables (and a few marking and measuring tools). And I was kind of surprised that Tools for Working Wood didn’t show up under “Prominent Toolworks” given the company’s range – or at least appear in multiple categories. Also, why include Bridge City in both prominent tool works and hand planes, but not Lie-Nielsen or Veritas in any of the categories? Still, I’d be hard pressed to choose and sort all the makers I know into categories, either – an no doubt someone (many someones) would take issue with my choices.

I do think this book belongs on the shelves of woodworkers. It’s fun to learn a bit about who makes the tools you use, and it’s not a bad shopping list, either!

“Saws, Planes, and Scorps” (Princeton Architectural Press) has a cover price of $27.50, and is available now from bookstores.


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