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lee valley tool collection

Last week, I took a quick trip to Ottawa to visit Lee Valley’s headquarters for a press event – and gosh do I wish I could spread the news, but I can’t…yet.

There will be a couple of “reveals” in the near future for the company, the first at the 2014 International Woodworking Fair (IWF) in Atlanta (Aug, 20-23), and the second at high noon in the Lee Valley booth in the Marketplace on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the 2014 Woodworking in America conference in Winston-Salem, N.C. (I’ll see you there.)

As well as showing me and other members of the woodworking press the new tools (on which I’ll report as soon as I’m allowed), we enjoyed a (all-too-brief) tour of the Lee Valley collection – a basketball-court-sized room (really – it used to be a basketball court) filled floor to ceiling with vintage tools of every ilk. Most of them are woodworking tools and appliances for one tree-related trade or another.

Lee Valley uses the collection as a working library (everything is cataloged) to study the vintage items as inspiration and/or as starting points for the design of its own tools. Designers and engineers can check out items, use them and learn from them as they dream up new (or improve on old) ideas.

It’s overwhelming – there are so many things to look at that it’s impossible to take it all in without days of viewing time (and it might take weeks). So I’ve begged to return (during which I’ll take better photos and record proper documentation). But in the meantime, enjoy the slide show below, of pictures that were frantically taken with my phone. I was attempting to capture as much as possible…but didn’t even scratch the surfance (click on the images to make them larger).

And I should also note that many true “collectible tools” are scattered throughout the Lee Vally corporate offices where they’re displayed in vintage, glass-fronted hardware-store fixtures…except for the many tools chockablock on shelves and in catalog drawers in Robin Lee’s office (also pictured below – take particular notice of the Stanley No. 1 – a pre-production model with a curios handle). Many of those are gorgeous, and in some cases irreplaceable, tools. Not a bad environment in which to work!

— Megan Fitzpatrick


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Showing 6 comments
  • jasalomon

    Hi Megan,
    I was looking forward to a big ‘reveal’ this week, but most of what showed up on the Lee Valley website seemed pretty minor introductions (medium router plane, shooting board tracks, new storage system). Were any of these the new products that you were expecting? (And should I feel more excited about any of these)?

  • Potomacker

    That bag labeled Forstner Bit Set looks to be a kind of hollow auger with interchangeable sizes.

  • 7-Thumbs

    Great pictures, thanks. I can see an article here (hint, hint) concerning the tool collection and some of the stories behind how some of these tools were found / obtained. It would also provide you with an excuse to go back to Lee Valley. By the way, Robin Lee would like you to return so they can examine your pocketbook, it seems some tools have gone missing. This is evidenced in your article’s lead photograph which clearly shows a couple of empty shelves. Where are those tools Megan?


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