Bad Case of the Piles


For about a decade, I had tools in two places. When I began buying nice tools about 12 years ago, I was diligent about taking the ones I needed back and forth between home and the shop at PopWood – why spend money when you don’t have to? But that got to be laborious, so I slipped, and got a second set of chisels. Then another plane or two. And a few more tape measures. And marking gauges. And dovetail saws. And…

Not everything I bought was something I needed. I have the same gut reaction to pretty tools as I have to well-made black boots. I can’t resist them (though I’d best learn). The first really good tool I ever bought was a marking knife from Dave Jeske at Blue Spruce Toolworks. I still have it and use it on almost every project. But two years ago, Dave showed me his then-new marking knife system with interchangeable blades. Never mind that I already had three other nice marking knives and a handful of variously tipped awls. The handle he showed me was of blue infused resin. It is now mine.

Then I bought a Lie-Nielsen Toolworks No. 4. Again, I used it on almost every project. Until I bought a No. 3 about 18 months ago; it fits a little better in my hand…but I simply cannot get rid of the No. 4.

And Glen-Drake Tite-Marks. My goodness do I have a lot of Tite-Marks. But one can never have too many. (They’re not all the same size, and one has the mortise blades on it…so they don’t count as duplicates!)


But I do have far too many tools. My home kit is fairly well arranged in my beloved Anarchist’s Tool Chest*, shown at the top. The rest – those I brought home from the office – are scattered throughout the kitchen, dining room and basement in various boxes and bags. Of the many containers I brought home, only my small tool chest shows a modicum of organization…at best.


What…you don’t keep a miter box and grinder in your dining room?


Mostly a mystery pile…alongside several lighting projects.


Unfinished projects, a couple saws, marking gauges…and who knows what.

Today, I am attempting to go through everything and re-integrate into my ATC the few tools that did travel back and forth, set aside the duplicates with which I know simply can’t bear to part (and a few that were loans, and that will be returned to their makers), and think about selling the remainder. I imagine it will take me a while to get around to actually selling them, but…baby steps.

* Note: I’m teaching a class in building a traveling (read, slightly smaller) iteration of the “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” June 4-8 at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, in Port Townsend, Washington. Registration is now open.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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8 Responses to Bad Case of the Piles

  1. Bob Jones says:

    I sell off batches of unused tools when I need cash to buy more tools I want to try. It takes that to make the trouble worthwhile. Internet forums are pretty good for that.

  2. Michael Trangaris says:

    No sell offs in the foreseeable future!😜 Still collecting👍😳😜

  3. In Absentia says:

    Your problem is not too many tools. Your problem is you didn’t buy/make enough tool chests.

  4. J.C. says:

    A mitre box AND a grinder on the dining table?! I’m in love! LOL T’is the burden of artistry and ours to belabor. Happy Holidays! Hears to easy planing and chiseling true in the coming year, Fitz! Cheers, mate! Read you next year!

  5. Ann says:

    When I bought my house it came with 2 long workbenches in the garage and I came with my own. I assumed I’d remove one of them, after all who needs 3? Right. Every project I’ve worked on has covered them all and often sawhorses as well.

    I have many duplicate tools and found I REALLY like having repeat tools by each bench.

    Shelves, hooks, magnetic strips, drawers etc by different work areas ought to take care of those “extra” tools. Eye level tool storage is, I realize, quite the opposite of the lovely wood box idea, but still quite handy.

    Can one really have too many tools? I thought the goal was to fill those workshop walls with tools!

  6. Bruce Lee says:

    Just keep the ‘travelling’ tool chest you make at the next school, or at least finish it. Maybe make a ‘Dutch’ tool chest as well. Fit out each one with heavy tools that you don’t want to be lugging up and down those stairs every few days (or multiple times in one day). When you have finished ALL the rebuilding work on your home you might consider selling off some duplicates, but be prepared to spend hours trying to find where you put down the sharp 1/2″ chisel or whatever – I have a rule of 3 – if you have 3 of something, one of them can’t hide very well and you can lay a hand on it within 5 minutes, only 1 or 2 and you can loose hours trying to find one. You really already know this, even if its at an unconscious level.

  7. Nathan says:

    I’m in the process of obtaining duplicates. Now that I have a mostly “complete” (what does that even mean?!) kit of vintage tools, I’ll begin replacing some or all of them with new premium versions. The vintage ones will be held in reserve for my toddler and soon-to-be-born second child. When I go to build the DTC I’ll just build two or maybe three while I’m at it!!

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