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If you get the Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools newsletter, you no doubt noticed that at the top of the Jan. 1, 2013 issue, was the announcement that the company’s upcoming sales will include a large number of items from the (unparalleled) collection of John Sindelar. The first items will be in the March 2013 sale. But, John tells me that the deaccession will likely take up to two years. So far, a 24-foot truck that was packed to the ceiling has been picked up, and John still has more to sell.

Christopher Schwarz wrote about John’s jaw-dropping collection for our August 2007 issue, (download a free slideshow of outtakes from that photo shoot at the bottom of this post), and John has brought his traveling tool museum to two of our Woodworking in America shows (we hope to entice him back for 2013).

John isn’t, however, getting out of the tool-collecting game (nor is he experiencing any health problems, as some have speculated). He says that unlike most collectors who cull about 10 percent of their collections every year to upgrade, instead he’s selling about 90 percent of his collection so that he can concentrate solely on acquiring one-of-a-kind, beautiful, maker-made tools, and putting together a collection that he can display in its entirety (long-term plans include a new museum that’s open to the public, perhaps in 2014).

“I had hundreds and hundreds of great axes,” he says, by way of example. “I only kept three or four. There’s no sense in sticking stuff in a warehouse and sitting on it.”

With the significant downsizing of his precious hoard (that really is the right phrase), “there will be an opportunity for a lot of people to go to a lot of auctions and upgrade their collections,” he says.

So if you’re hoping to enhance your holdings with some precious specimens, sign up for Donnelly’s newsletter for upcoming sales (see “Tool Vista” at the bottom of the home page at

And below, enjoy the video that Christopher Schwarz shot at John’s open house in June 2011.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Download a free slideshow of the Sindelar tool collection.

See more from the Sindelar collection on his web site.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Heavansabove

    Last May I had the privilege of a tour of (part of!) the collection by John – amazing and generous guy. He indicated he regularly sold a lot of tools to dealers like Donnelly and Leach, and others. And if I was not travelling (from Australia) and had a car full of family, I am sure I would have acquired a few items from him. Especially file making tools.

    Those plough planes above look like those he had filling a wheelbarrow at the entrance to his joinery.


  • mvflaim

    What I have learned over the years collecting tools is that half the fun is collecting, the other half is selling.

  • lclement4

    Since I’m not familiar with this collection, can you tell me if any of the tools that will be auctioned will be user tools?

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