If you’re a hand-tool woodworker, you have – at least in large part– Fred West to thank for the astounding number of high-quality hand tools available today, though you may not know it. But if you’re a maker of high-quality hand tools, there’s little doubt you had the pleasure of knowing Fred.
Fred was a true patron of the hand tool world, in the best Renaissance sense of the word; he spent a great deal of his time, energy and money to help promote makers and their wares. He’d often buy multiples of new tools (and sometimes commission custom designs), then send them anonymously to woodworkers young and old whom he thought needed them and/or would appreciate working with them. And not once did he ask anything in return, either of the makers or the lucky recipients. He did it for the love of craft; no strings attached. (You can read more about him, and what a number of his woodworking friends had to say to him, in this post by Christopher Schwarz.)
Near the end of his all-too-short life, Fred was struggling with multiple health problems – but he never let that get him down, or keep him from hanging out with woodworkers and toolmakers. I think it was the first day of Woodworking in America in Covington, Ky., last year that he had to have an emergency root canal – so he found a local dentist, got someone to take him there, had the procedure…then came back to help out his friends in the marketplace. And he was smiling every minute. He and I talked on the phone just before Christmas last year, and despite being close to bedridden at that point, he was making plans for this year’s hand tool conferences and events. Fred died peacefully at home on January 11, 2014, where he was surrounded by friends, family and his beloved tools.
To honor his memory, and to continue the philanthropic work he performed in the hand tool woodworking world, a number of tool makers and woodworkers got together to make and stock what will be the first Fred West Commemorative Tool Chest (FWCTC) – and it’s being given away to one lucky winner at Woodworking in America 2014. No strings attached. The retail value, including the custom tool tote fitted with snug compartments for each of the tools, is more than $5,000.
Every conference attendee will get a “2014 FWCTC” form when he or she signs in at the front desk for the conference. Fill it out, then visit the Scott Meek Woodworks booth in the marketplace to submit your form. Marketplace-only attendees can pick up a blank form in that booth (one entry per person, please).
The 2014 FWCTC will be on display in Scott’s booth throughout the day on Friday; the drawing will be on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and be announced in the Marketplace.
The colorful carved tool tote (that to me looks more like a work of art rather than a thing simply meant to store and carry stuff) was made by Kansas City woodworker Andrew Gore. Included are: a Scott Meek Woodworks smoothing plane; a Sterling Toolworks Saddle Tail and plane hammer; a dovetail saw and carcase saw from Bad Axe Tool Works; a Blue Spruce Toolworks round mallet and set of dovetail chisels; a Lie-Nielsen Toolworks rabbet block plane; a Lee Valley Tools/Veritas router plane; Hamilton Woodworks 4″ and 6″ marking gauges; a carbide marking knife and carbide birdcage awl from Czeck Edge Hand Tool; a set of screwdrivers from Elkhead Tools; a Randy Weber carving mallet; a “Melencolia” square from the Cronkwright Woodshop; a signed copy of “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” by (and from) Christopher Schwarz; a signed copy of “The Unplugged Woodshop: Hand-crafted Projects for the Home & Workshop” by (and from) Tom Fidgen; a free semester in The Hand Tool School, from Shannon Rogers; and a 1-year subscription to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the 1995-2013 Popular Woodworking Magazine DVD.