John Sindelar stands in front of a door at the back of his thriving cabinet and millwork shop in Edwardsburg, Mich. The door opens into blackness and Sindelar turns around for a moment before entering.
“This room,” he says with a sly grin, “is like church to me.”
He flips on the light and walks into the small paneled room. The room is filled with antique tools. No, strike that last sentence. The room is filled with tools that you never thought existed or that you would see in person. Tools that you have only heard about, seen in auction catalogs or drooled over in Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s books “The Art of Fine Tools” or “Tools Rare and Ingenious” (Taunton).
And not just a few tools. Hundreds and hundreds of vintage tools lined up on tables, shelves and a display case made from a harness for an elephant. Few of the tools are under glass. In addition to the tools, there are two comfortable chairs against one wall and under a panel of stained glass. And that is a good thing because I have to sit down.
This is just one of the five rooms filled with tools. Sindelar has so many tools (“Probably, tens of thousands,” he guesses) that he keeps a significant number in storage. In one adjoining room there is a wheelbarrow filled with a stack of plow planes. In another room there’s a wall of rare infill miter planes. In the front room , the biggest room , the walls are lined with vintage workbenches. Tools cover the benches, axes cover the walls, the floor is covered in boxes (that are filled with tools).
That this collection exists is remarkable. Getting to see it is something else. And what Sindelar has planned for it just might change your vacation plans someday. Sindelar is actively making plans to build a 30,000-square-foot public museum and woodworking school that will show off his collection and teach woodworking skills.
He has three locations in mind , near Williamsburg, Va., Harrisburg, Pa., or perhaps in North Carolina. He sketched up plans for the building, which would look like a French castle, and turned them over to an architect to develop. He wants the museum open for business by 2010. Opening a tool museum on this scale sounds like an unlikely feat for anyone. But once you meet Sindelar and hear his story, you are unlikely to doubt that it could happen.
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Download a short slideshow tour of the collection: