Hand Tool Headquarters of the Midwest
Finding quality used hand tools in the wild can be a challenge in the Midwest. Usually the best strategy is to attend a regional or national meeting of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (M-WTCA). But sometimes you need a tool and you just don’t want to wait months for a tailgating event (or to gamble on eBay).
Yesterday I encountered The Colonial Homestead Workshop in Millersburg, Ohio. The shop is comprised of several storefronts on the main artery through town, Jackson Street. Two of those storefronts are filled to the brim with thousands of high-quality woodworking tools. You won’t find just a handful of handplanes. Rather you’ll find about 300 to 400, all cleaned up and fairly priced.
Run by Dan E. Raber, a professional woodworker-turned-merchant, the tools reflect his passion for teaching hand tool woodworking and equipping people with the tools necessary.
As a result, the shop is as well-equipped as any 19th-century hardware store. There are large sections of tools – a wall of saws, racks of marking and measuring tools, shelves of chisels and gouges, multiple racks for handplanes and an impressive array of vises. Plus Raber has a section of leatherworking tools, blacksmithing tools, machinist tools and woodworking tools related to farming.
There are stacks of woodworking tool chests for sale. A few workbenches. While most of the tools in the store are for users, there are several cases of highly collectible tools as well.
The tool store is one part of Raber’s ambitions to spread hand-tool knowledge. He is building out a storefront across the street to offer woodworking and blacksmithing classes. And he is actively working on creating a village that offer an immersive experience in handwork.
The store doesn’t have a website and Raber doesn’t have email. So you have to go there (bring cash or your checkbook as he doesn’t take credit cards). Plan on several hours to explore the whole store and to talk to Raber. It’s well worth the trip, and I hope to go back soon.
And if you are looking for some way to tempt your spouse to go, Millersburg is in the heart of Ohio Amish country. The friendly area is incredibly scenic and loaded with restaurants, crafts and tours. You can make a weekend out of it.
Despite the fact that I own every hand tool I need, I picked up a couple 6” machinist rules to give to friends, a fascinating old sliding rule to study for us to manufacture and a Millers Falls planing stop to upgrade one of our workbenches. All reasonably priced and in great condition.
Next time you pass through Ohio, it’s definitely worth a stop.
— Christopher Schwarz