This may seem strange in an age of instant gratification, but there's an attribute of the current hand tool marketplace that makes me very happy: We have to wait for good products to arrive. Whether because the manufacturer has been "Schwarz'd"* and cannot keep up with the demand, or because the manufacturer makes each product to order. We have gotten so used to placing an order online and having it in our hands within a few days, or walking into a local store and and walking out with our treasure.
But in the past ten years or so, a plethora of small boutique tool makers have emerged. When you place an order, you talk directly to the craftsman making your item, or if you order online, you will receive a direct email thanking you and sometimes asking about customizations. This intimacy between dealer and buyer extends to the products themselves as you can see how each product was lovingly crafted and even packaged. For instance, look at how Blue Spruce Toolworks packages their chisels:
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It is this revelation in tool making that is truly exciting in our marketplace today. I waited almost 3 months for my wood screw vise from Big Wood Vise to arrive because Joe Communale couldn't keep up with the sudden demand for his screws. I have even waited close to a month for tools from Lie Nielsen because they schedule small production runs of their tools. Finally after two months, my Benchcrafted end vise showed up. This situation sounds completely out of place in our fast paced world, but it is the time and attention to detail that sets some of these manufacturers apart and keeps the quality of our tools very high.
These companies know that they are at a disadvantage to the large manufacturers who can churn out products and deliver them in days, but they make no apologies and often times the lead time on an order is shown like a badge of honor. Quality takes time.
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Now I need to convince my wife that it is the high quality of my work that takes me so long to complete anything in my own shop.
—*Editor's note: "The Schwarz Effect" is when noted woodworking journalist/author Christopher Schwarz, who has an enormous following, publicly praises any book, tool or implement. Said object then tends to rapidly go out of stock!
This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.