The Inheritance - Popular Woodworking Magazine

The Inheritance

 In Feature Articles

We are all woodworkers — some of us are of the powered variety, others demand that their equipment be meat-driven. But, in the final analysis we all need tools. The only question that remains is, how do you go about getting them? While some spend hours perusing the local hardware emporium, others burn endless Saturdays at every swap meet, garage sale and dog fight in their state to find a piece of equipment at “just the right price.”

This not withstanding, no tool in our shop is as treasured as one we have inherited from a respected craftsman.

I have no doubt your family has its own traditions and techniques for passing on cherished heirlooms, and I’m sure they’re good ones. But in my family, after years of evolution, we have devised an approach that can only be described as ‘unique.’

We call it, “The Best Man Principle.”

The title alone evokes visions of our elder craftsmen sitting in a darkened star chamber adjudicating who among the surviving family members is the most worthy. However, this is not entirely accurate.

Recently, “The Best Man” has been the one who can outwit, outsmart or overpower (usually the latter) the other contenders and haul off as much of the “Loved One’s” stuff as he can before the remaining relatives get their shotguns loaded.

For the past 30 years, my Uncle Bill had been the undisputed King of the Best Men. He wasn’t the biggest or the meanest; his power lay in his ability to sense when the hourglass was running out on another, better-equipped family member. In the event that the unthinkable did happen, he was always the first on the scene to console the widow and help her avoid the unpleasant wrestling matches associated with settling the departed’s woodworking estate.

As you might imagine, there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to lay down his cards for the last time. And a few years back, Old Bill was forced to fold his hand.

All of us knew that Bill had untold booty tucked away in his underground workshop. At last count, there were three jointers, half a dozen stationary drill presses and enough edged hand tools to shave Colorado flat without stopping to resharpen. Of course, this was all the stuff of legend since Bill wouldn’t let so much as a cricket into the basement.

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