A Brush With Greatness (and Smallness) - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Brush With Greatness (and Smallness)

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Personal Favorites, Woodworking Blogs

This weekend I got a chance to show off the Holtzapffel workbench at the Sindelar Tool Meet, talk to a bunch of tool collectors and buy some tools I’ve been coveting for too long.

But the absolute highlight of the entire event was a brush with greatness.

You see, I got to meet “the boy.”

OK, some background for the uninitiated: Tool dealer Patrick Leach has been selling tools on the Internet for as long as I’ve been buying them. Every month, Leach sends out an e-mail newsletter that is (hands-down) the best-written tool newsletter in the business. His tools for sale are always the cream of the crop and his descriptions are oft hilarious.

(By the way, Leach is also the founder of the Blood & Gore web site, the best online reference on Stanley planes, and started Independence Tool with Pete Taran, which made the dovetail saw that Lie-Nielsen now sells. That saw launched the premium handsaw market.)

Anyway, one of my favorite parts of Leach’s newsletter is that he has a “Tool of the Month,” which is usually the most unusual, minty or rarest tool on offer. And every month, one of the photos that shows the tool features Leach’s son holding the tool.

As I’ve been getting this newsletter for years, I’ve watched the child grow up, and Leach always peppers the tool’s description with some comment about “the boy” or the “tool youth.” For example: “Fresh from stuffing his mouth with Oreos while playing with his toy motorcycle, the tool youth wasn’t too happy to pose with this one, the much coveted #164 low angle smooth plane…¦.”

So on Saturday afternoon I took a moment away from my demonstrating at John Sindelar’s event to browse some of the tool dealer’s tables. I was looking at a small router plane when I glanced up. Now it’s rare for me to be speechless (just ask the magazine’s staff), but I saw The Boy and all I could do was stutter: “Uhhhh, it’s…¦.uhhhh…¦ The Boy!”

He and his father were set up right by the entrance to the building that houses the collection. Leach was working the crowd, cracking jokes and making deals. The Boy was helping out, arranging the tools and tending to the tool bargains that were arrayed on the blue plastic tarp off to the side.

“The best tools are back over here,” The Boy called out to the crowd.

I obeyed him and went to have a look. I snatched up a brass router plane made by a patternmaker and an accessory for my brace that would allow it to accept small round-shank bits. The Boy was right.

I wanted to say something like, “I’ve known you since you were just a wee lad holding an ebony plow plane in a bouncy seat.” But that sounded stupid. And I’m sure that it would seem creepy if I started talking to The Boy, and so I just admired him from afar. If you’ve ever wondered about it, The Boy is a good kid. He helped Leach the entire weekend and was one of the most well-behaved elementary-school kids I’ve met.

A smallish router plane by Paul Hamler. Yes, I ordered one..

Other highlights: Getting to meet toolmakers Paul Hamler and Jim Leamy. Konrad Sauer from Sauer & Steiner was there as well. I know Konrad quite well and we spent our evenings trying to find a decent beer (we looked a lot, but that’s another story for another kind of blog). I did learn that Konrad has a profound weakness for powdered sugar doughnuts. John Sindelar, the host of this incredible event, bought about 3,000 doughnuts for the event. No lie. Konrad ate his fair share.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 12 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    You can contact Paul Hamler via e-mail at: hamlertools@alltel.net

    He is preparing to make a batch of these planes at present, so now would be a good time to inquire about the plane.


  • Christian Digue

    I live in France. I am interested by this splendid Router plane. How could I contact Paul Hamler. Any address or email or phone number ?

  • Christopher Schwarz


    A public service message: You should not buy, blog and blab.

    Ah well. It was bound to happen.


  • Gary Roberts

    Oh oh… Chris has been outed. I can see his family in the background reading his blog entries and making up a long list of Xmas presents for themselves in retribution for "but it was a really good price" and "I really need this to make that table for the kitchen"

    We all feel for you.


    PS: Lucy… don’t let your dad off the hook. Start working on that want list now while he’s feeling ever so guilty.

  • dave brown

    re: the jig is up

    If you need to stash any expensive toys they shouldn’t know about, my shop door is always open.


  • Michael Rogen

    You now realize that the jig is up for you. The fact that the other members of your family know of the blog, means that they could possibly know all sorts of things, some of which are better kept to ones self. I’m sorry that it had to come to this and I do feel for you buddy. Clearly a plan needs to be implemented.


  • Ethan

    And now Chris frantically thinks back through all of his previous blogs… has he made mention of any OTHER woodworking purchases?

    After so many wonderful blog entries, it’s hard to remember.

    Let’s hope not.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Clearly, my family has discovered my blog. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned that I ordered that router plane.


  • Maddy Schwarz

    Hi Papa. How old is the boy in the picture? See you downstairs. I love you.


    (Christopher’s daughter)

  • Lucy May

    Cute kid and nicely written blog entry. What about the boy’s mother? Is she involved in the business, too? Perhaps she’s president of the company?

  • Christopher Schwarz


    The router plane is about 4" to 5" wide. Small, but a bit larger than a No. 271. The workmanship is exquisite. Paul says he’s hoping to sell tham for about $250 — that could change, of course.

    I don’t care. It’s worth that and more.


  • Karl Rookey

    Nice looking router plane, Chris. What is the scale? It’s hard to tell will just woodshavings for reference.

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