Today most of the magazine’s staff spent the day with Ron Herman, a seventh-generation housewright in Columbus, Ohio, who has spent the last 29 years building, remodeling and restoring homes and historic sites , in many cases using only traditional tools.
His small shop north of the city is one of the wonders of the Western world. Amongst the machinery (much of it converted from a line-shaft system) are more hand tools than your eye can possibly take in. If this were a tool collection, it would be stupendous. The fact that Herman sets up all these tools and uses them is mind-blowing.
Herman spoke on handsaws at out last Woodworking in America Conference. But he knows about a lot more than saws.
I’m still trying to process all my notes and photos for a future article. Herman can talk. And his shop is a feast for the camera. In the meantime, I’ve pulled out a few good quotes from my notebook and some of the photos I took during our visit.
“You have to have good mojo. You don’t screw widders and orphans for tools. Some guys will come in here and say, ‘I got this saw for $1 and it’s worth $500.’ I tell them to get it out of here. It’s bad mojo. That saw won’t cut straight or hold an edge. I believe in that stuff. Bad mojo will follow you around.”
“Tools all have life left in them if they fit your hand. Strip the handle. Salvage the parts. Whatever you do, don’t s*&tcan a tool.”
“We don’t own these. We are their stewards for the next generation. We keep them and prepare them for the next generation.”
“The more tools you have the more problems you can solve.”
“I drive tool collectors nuts. They bring me something mint in the box and I give them the box back. I have no problems using a tool from the 1700s. I say to (the tool), ‘How does that feel to have wood in your mouth again?’ “
“The earth’s gravity is a constant. I haven’t seen it change. It doesn’t run out of batteries. You can’t kick it down a hill by accident. It’s doesn’t lie. It can’t.”
- Christopher Schwarz