Tools from Down Under
by Christopher Schwarz
When it comes to settling the issue of who is the most dedicated toolmaker on the planet, Chris Vesper has the plumbing – or rather, the lack of it – as proof of his single-minded love of the craft.
Several years ago, Chris built his 12 x 8-meter shop and home on the land behind his parents’ house in rural Somerville, Australia. After carving out space for his extensive collection of machinery, a bedroom and kitchen, he had to make a choice: Should he make space for his tool collection or should he build a bathroom instead?
Smiling, Chris pulls open a huge metal drawer filled with the largest collection of unusual chipbreakers and irons I have ever seen. Above that drawer are stacks of vintage and rare hand tools he studies. Behind is his collection of rare books and his prototypes.
Yup, the tool collection won.
So Chris takes showers at his parents’ house. When visitors arrive, he shows them the particular trees where it’s good to do your business.
“Just wave to the neighbors if you see them,” he says.
Among all of the passionate toolmakers working today, few can match Chris for his intensity, his attention to detail and his insistence on doing every operation himself. His demeanor has earned him a reputation as somewhat of an outlier.
When I first arrived in Melbourne, Australia, one of the woodworkers I met asked me: “Have you met our very odd Mr. Chris Vesper?”
The funny thing is that while Chris is an incredibly focused person, he also has a genial side that few of his customers see. He loves salsa and ballroom dancing – in public and with groups of people.
Blog: Read about an inadvertent drop test to discover how durable Vesper Tools are.
Blog: Read about a plane-tuning workshop at Chris Vesper’s shop.
Web site: Visit the Vesper Tools web site and read the maker’s tool blog.
To buy: Vesper Tools are available at the Roswell, Ga., Woodcraft.
In our store: “Build a Custom Backsaw with Matt Cianci” on DVD.