Fabrication First: The Case for Tool Hoarding

Rex Krueger Tool Hoarding

By Rex Krueger

Rex’s YouTube Channel

Woodworkers never throw anything away.  We’ll keep a scrap of wood barely bigger than a toothpick and hold onto broken tools that will never, ever work again.  Offer us an old plane for free, and we’ll take it, whether it works or not.

Our spouses and friends might laugh at our nervous stockpiling, at the endless bits and bobs that collect in drawers and clutter up the corners of workspaces, but is this constant grasping really such a bad thing?  Are we actually…smarter than we seem?


Before machines and electricity, woodworkers held onto everything.  The pre-industrial shop was often run on the edge of starvation, cash-poor, and low on materials.  For craftsmen who were often one job away from eviction, throwing a tool away was madness.

Even the tool that can’t be used can nearly always be reused.  An old, broken hand saw is a treasure of good steel, just waiting to be put back into service.  Snap off a section big as your palm, and you can grind it into a card scraper.  Take a few littler bits and file them to any shape you fancy.  Stick those bits in a scrap of hardwood, and you’ve got a scratch-stock that will cut any molding you like.  And when that saw is nothing but thumbnail-sized scraps, you can hone them sharp and jam them into an old marking gauge to make a brand new cutting gauge.  Saw steel is perfect for the task.

Rex Krueger Tool Hoarding

My own tool collection is filled with things that have been worked and reworked to fit the job at hand.  I’ve got an old Continental scrub with half-round sole nailed to the bottom and the blade ground to match.  Someone needed a molding plane and made do with an old junker rather than buy one.  I’ve seen handplanes with saw handles screwed to the stock in place of a broken tote.  I’ve seen the frame from a transitional smoother pressed back into service as the body for a DIY plough plane.  Crazy stuff.  Stuff you wouldn’t believe unless you saw it, but our forebears didn’t waste a lot of time wondering what was possible.  They took what they had and made it work.

Rex Krueger Tool Hoarding

As a content creator, I have even better excuses for holding on to every bit of wood and steel.  Even a tool I’ll never use can still be on camera.  I’ve got an old timber-framer’s corner chisel.  It’s a specialized tool with little use in the furniture-maker’s work, but I use it as a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t waste your precious money on tools you know nothing about.  I bought this chisel on a whim, and it will never get used in my shop, but it’s appeared in at least two videos.  Since videos are the way I make my living, I guess it was worth the $5 I spent.  And if I ever get hard up for some specialized tool for an odd job, I’ll grind it into a new shape with no regrets.

I wouldn’t be the first.

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