Carl ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Bilderback

CarlBilderback

I’m sad to report that this evening, Carl Bilderback passed away. I’m so glad to have had him as a friend.

The below is bumped up from October.

If you’re among the following, move along…nothing new to see here:

• Members of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association
• Longtime readers of this blog and Christopher Schwarz’s blogs (here and at Lost Art Press)
• Longtime Popular Woodworking Magazine readers (here’s two free articles that you may recall: “Make Band Saw Drift a Myth” and “Almost Forgotten Hand Saw Techniques“)
• Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event attendees throughout the Midwest
• A resident in or around upstate Indiana and a frequenter of karaoke nights at a bowling alley
• Were one of the thousands of folks on hand for the opening of Handworks (2013 or 2015).

If you belong in one of more of the above categories, then you already likely know retired union carpenter, tool collector and singer Carl “Mr. Wonderful” Bilderback. And you already know that he’s one of the most knowledgeable, kind and generous people in the woodworking world, if not the world entire.

Every time we hire a new, young person at the magazine, Carl calls us up and ask what kind of tools would be helpful to this person just getting started. Or sometimes he’ll just send a block plane in the mail addressed to said person, with no note. Or a Stanley No. 42 if he hears someone wants to start sharpening her own saws.

And every time we publish a hand-tool specific book, or an issue of the magazine, Carl will call up a few weeks or months later with a list of editing mistakes … and we always have a good time discussing for an hour or so whether or not he is right (Spoiler: he usually is. Usually.)

But I haven’t had that call about the magazine for a few issues, and for a split second, I thought it might be due to zero editing errors. But I know that’s not possible. There are always errors, and Carl always catches them.

Yesterday, Christopher Schwarz, John Hoffman (Chris’ LAP business partner) and I drove up to visit with Carl for what I fervently hope isn’t the last time. But it might be. Today, Carl began yet another round of treatment for what’s ailing him. He hopes it works. I hope it works. We all hope it works. If it doesn’t, Carl is at peace with the inevitable, and he knows he’s going to a better place. I – and everyone who’s had the pleasure of knowing him – know the world will be a poorer place for his leaving it.

I’m writing this now because I want Carl to read it. I want him to know that when, like all of us, he must go, he will be sorely missed.

And Carl, I hope I’m writing this same sort of thing again in another six months, another year, another decade. And at least once more, I expect that call about the errors (we both know there are plenty!).

— Megan Fitzpatrick

 

 

4 thoughts on “Carl ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Bilderback

  1. carls sister

    Hello Megan;
    I am honored to be one of Carl’s sisters. Right now a big piece of my heart is bruised so I wanted to thank you for the wonderful comments that you made about my brother. He truly was “Mr. Wonderful” in more ways than most people will ever know. I will miss his frequent visits where we would sit in my kitchen and talk about music or wood working or a myriad of other things while he enjoyed tea and whatever I had baked that day.(his favorite was 2 kinds of pie hot and cold). Thank you again for sharing your memories of him with his world-the wood working world- I am just sorry that more people will never get the privilege of knowing him.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll miss Carl’s frequent calls, ability to make my work look better (on the reprints, anyway) and his friendship.

  2. garpet

    Absolute fantastic gentleman, and his right arm lady, Susan. I’ve been watching Chris’ blogs and Pop Wood for probably 5 years and love it … All the interesting things you all bring up and recently joined the Woodworkers Guild of GA and also the MWTCA and saw the original video of “I like Shiny” Carl Bilderback. And then to my total disbelief had the fortunality of going to my first tool meet in Madison, Ga, and THERE HE WAS!!! I had lost my job in Feb 2014 and then again another in 3 Months time and needed something different to help the time go by. Susan told me she had been through this Cancer thing once b4 with her former husband and she has now constantly been by Carl’s side as He needs. God bless them both, and if I can figure out how to download those pix of Carl and Susan I will (@ Lions Club in Madison Tool Meet), and also of recent pic of Rob Cosman @ Woodcraft and Roy Underhill doin Coffins @ Highland Woodworking . Thanks to all, Megan, Chris, and Don, And people like Carl Bilderback! You are all my HEROES….. Very Sincerely, Gary Peterson

  3. Cliff

    Megan, what a beautiful article with a beautiful testimony to Carl. You, Chris and so many others are most fortunate to know Carl in a way that those of us who have not had the good fortune to know him. And even though I do not know Carl personally, I could not complete reading your comments without becoming emotional. It is rare that someone with Carl’s influence on people come along, let alone be recognized in this way, so I want to say “Thank You!” for making the rest of us aware of him, his contributions and genuine caring humanness.

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