Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Collector versus User debate

...In my head...

Full disclosure, I am a bit of both.
And depending on who you asks, they will tell you I am one or the other, rarely both... Go figure :-)

This is one area that we did not touch much on our Why do we collect tool's discussion.

Both are in a bit of a competition for the same finite pool of antique tools.
Both blames each others for the raising prices
Both wants what is best for the tool, to preserve it
Both do not approach restoration the same way or to the same extant
So, who is better? Both is the simplest answer, you cannot really compares an apple to an orange...

In the end, regardless of what I do to my tools, I am but only the current custodian of it, for it will end up in someone else hands later on.

I do not do the shiny nickel & buff everything to blindness state and etc. Whenever I have to do repairs, I do not try to hide them, Id rather see them apparent, but functional.

Cut off damaged area
Typical repairs I do on plane's tote or saw handle's horn.
Not hiding it, but I take care that it blends in smoothly.
In this case I used a piece of Orchard Apple

My reasoning's are as follows:
I am not trying to up its value by making it new again, I am simply fixing it in order to have it work as it should. You would be surprised about how much better a full horn on a plane tote or a full unbroken horn on a saw handle makes a big difference in how it fit comfortably in your hands, resulting in less blisters etc.

One piece of advice, follow loosely the original outline, but in the end it should fit comfortably in your hands. So don't be afraid to alter slightly the horn's shape, let your hand guide you.  

Regardless of which camp you profess, rust should never be allowed to continued unabated. If left to its own it will slowly destroy the artifact. Stop or slow it down and more generations will be able to enjoy it, before it disappears.

Besides, if you do not perform at least a cursory tear down and clean, process, then you would never be able to really examine its condition, too much remaining hidden.

How much cleaning?
Well, even if you buff your brass blingly's shiny, it will tarnish back. Just as long as you are careful not to erase anything of importance, no matter how insignificant it may appear: Such as the asking price written in pencil on the body of the plane, a faint saw etch, evidence of wear or earlier repair attempts.

Don't confuse patina with grunge. You don't want to bleach out the wooden parts but just want to remove the extra grime, goop, dirt, grease, etc

As long as the object will tarnish back to its former (would had been clean) self, then you know you did not erased the patina, you just enhanced it. Adding new patina, not dirt.

In the end how much to clean or not, remains a very personal choice, but to me, less is always more, when it comes to restorations.

My ultimate goal remains to preserve the tool well enough to put it back to work.
That implies sharp cutting edges, some polish surfaces, clean and oil as appropriate. 

I just happen to have a growing pile of tools that somehow "Followed me home" (Tm). As I go thru them ill show you how I go about it and the relevant history of the tool I'm working on. I also plan on trying a few different things, I'm learning from Jonathan's blog  

Bob, trying to re-conciliate his tool user mind with his tool collector mind... ouf always a complicated thing...Where is my beer...Squirrel...!


  1. Bob,

    I have to fight the, I will not call it collector side, hoarding side constantly. My working kit is really kinda small, I expect less than 50 tools total. A half dozen each of marking gauges, planes, and chisels. Five saws, three back saws and a crosscut and rip handsaw. several squares, levels, and clamps. My bench and two oil stones with a strop. Those tools I use on almost every project and most of the time it is the same ones from the large number of tools stuck in every nook and cranny of the shop. Everything else is mostly a distraction. A distraction I enjoy but.....bottom line it is also a sickness, I wish I had the excuse of collecting.

    BTW, a perfect example is sharpening stones. I can't resist buying stones but what do I use? The same old Hard Black and Soft Ark Oil Stones I've used for 40 years. Go figure.


    1. Hi Ken... you need more stones...ha ha
      Similar here, i tend to gravitate toward the same tools over and over, notwithstanding the large assortment of tools to pick from :-)
      But seriously, some of these its really nice to have when you need it... That's my story :-)

      Bob, about to go on a long tool hunting trip

  2. I love buying and repairing(restoring if you like) old tools. I consider very few Stanley, Disston, etc. to be collector tools. Although there is some exceptions, I have, the remnants of a Disston hand saw that was from what I believe the early 1840's, a time when Henry Disston worked with only one apprentice. I've never so much as cleaned it, just put it in my gun vault with my collection of early Winchester rifles.
    I tend to not to buy collector tools but I sometimes stumble upon them and can't help myself. I'm a woodworker after all and I don't believe collector grade tools should be used or restored.
    As far as what I consider collector tools, no.1 on my list would be early American planes. They have a stamp on them from the maker which can be traced back to a point in time, some of them were made at a time when the United States was just becoming an independent country. These hand planes are one of the few manufactured items that can be positively linked to a specific man/tool maker in the early part of our history.
    So my thoughts on the collector/user debate, if you find something unusual, research may be an important piece of history. Most likely though its a common old tool, well made, user friendly with a lot of years still left in it. Repair it, restore it and use it.
    My favorite old tool I own is an Stanley no.5 jack plane that my Grandfather owned....I use it all the time, its pretty banged up and no one else would want it. I'll never restore it and I'll never give it up. He died before I was born so its all I have that links me to him (except our genes).


    1. Hi Stephen
      I am of a similar mind, the first thing I do to any tool coming into my hands is to research it to determine its "place in history'. if it is a significant or rare tool, i will not do much to it, except cleaning it gently being mindful to preserve everything i can, but like i explain, I need to clean them to stop further deterioration and assess it properly. Run ogf the mill tools like the ubiquitous Stanley No 5 I have no qualms about modifying to suit my needs. And there will always be those special tools that have a personal significance to me that you would have to pry from my cold hands... :-)

      Bob, the tool guy

  3. I'm definitely in the "user" category. Hell, I don't have the space to be a collector even if I wanted to be! I've always been a minimalist - just get what you need. I don't begrudge those who collect tools - OK, I do a bit. Actually I think it's silly to collect tools that can be good workers just for the sake of owning them, when there are a lot of people out there looking for good tools to put to use. It is the overall demand for old tools that drives up prices - that's a combination of collectors and users. There's been a resurgence of hand tool enthusiasts in the last 10 years (and it will continue in the foreseeable future), so prices would go up even if nobody was hoarding them.

    Hope I'm not being too much of a curmudgeon.

    1. Hi Matt
      No, your are not an old curmudgeon, just a young one :-)
      Joke asides, collectors bring us a better understanding of the tools, by their research and etc. It is not just as wall art like in some restaurants. We do bring some knowledge to the table which would not be possible without examining many specimens. Being a woodworker, hence a user, it also helps me identify the good from the bad from a user perspective.

      Bob, who has been called worse than an old curmudgeon :-)

  4. I buy way more tools than I need. At least I did... I seem to have got that under control for now. I still have 6-8 handsaws that need restoring, and a few more planes... Sigh. Of course, it's not just the restoring, now I need to build storage for all these tools. Ralph is really good at that.

    My next series of posts is going to be the complete tear down and restoration of a Stanley No. 4 ½ jumbo smoothing plane. The job is already done and there are about 130 images on my webpage ready to be captioned and written up. I think I'll break it into 4-5 posts as it would be too long otherwise.

    Bob, I'm concerned if your learning from my ramblings. Might be a case of the blind leading the blind. :) :) :)

    Just have Rudy lick the tools clean.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Jonathan
      I have similar problems, re storage :-)
      Cant wait for that series of post should be interesting, and im sure Ill learn something else again..

      I wont let Rudy lick my tools he would just take off with them and proceed to chew the handle parts :-)

      I was discussing with Gerhard last nite about his upcoming shipment, I will wait upon my return to ship it as I may come across more from his want list in my tool hunting travels.

      Bob and Rudy, purveyors of licked clean tools :-)

    2. Hi Guys

      Excellent post Bob, I really enjoy reading other users/collectors views on this ailment we all seem to suffer from. At the very least, it is a relief to at least know that there are others suffering from the same condition.

      Enjoy your trip and take lots of photos.

  5. Hi my name is Ralph and I have an inordinate urge to buy every tool I see. Whether I need it or not. So far I've kept it under control but .....
    I want to buy more hand planes that I know I don't need nor would use. Other tools I don't seem to have that problem with.

  6. HI my name is Bob and I too have a problem.... or so some would think! But no, perfectly sane and reasonable when it comes to tools...oh look a plane...:-)

    That inordinate urge you described is slowly becoming under control (again some would disagreed :-) I am getting more discerning...either that or Im running out of room ha ha

    Bob, will travel for tools

  7. I like the user approach restoration idea.
    The only really collectable tool I have had was a Stanley No 12 3/4.
    I sold that one through an Australian auction site. I never used it, and figured that it would be better to pass it on to a collector who would appreciate it more that I did.

    I use my three children as a an excuse for hoarding tools. I tell myself that like my father did to my brothers and me, I would like to be able to furbish each of our children with a reasonable complete set of tools.

    One of the better excuses I have seen is that by hoarding tools we are actually saving them from becoming decorations at restaurants.


  8. Hi Jonas
    Im with you on the idea of using our kids to justify more tools :-)
    But i only have 2 kids, rats :-)

    Bob and Rudy on the road again...