Highland Woodworking: Hand-tool Stalwarts of the South
If it weren’t for Highland Hardware in Atlanta (now called Highland Woodworking), my life would be a lot different.
1. That’s where I first met Roy Underhill. Well, “met” is not the right word. I was too shy to introduce myself. I just watched him for about an hour until it reached the point that I thought he might call the police.
2. That’s where I bought the worst shoulder plane I’ve ever encountered (an English Stanley 93).
3. That’s where I bought my best shoulder plane ever (the Lie-Nielsen 073).
4. Those two shoulder planes launched me into figuring out why they were different and then into tuning handplanes.
5. That’s where I bought my first mortising chisel, burnisher, saw file and on and on.
But most of all, Highland Hardware was like a “safe zone” while attending the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) held every other year in Atlanta. Highland didn’t have a booth at the fair, but fellow editor David Thiel and I would sneak out of the machinery fair early and head to Highland for an afternoon of taking in this Southern institution.
Before the Internet took off, this was where you would go for advice on hand tools, either in person or (in my case) on the phone. Whenever I placed an order, I’d ask annoying questions in the hopes they would answer my stupid question of the day.
When ordering a chisel, I’d ask about forge-welded Japanese chisels and if they were better. I asked if the Anant planes were any good. And on and on.
Today I showed up at Highland Woodworking with a tool chest full of tools to demonstrate during a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool event on Saturday and then to teach a class on Sunday. For about two seconds I thought to myself, “Hey, now I am somebody!” But then I wandered off and inspected their huge selection of replacement blades for bowsaws. Dang. I’ve never seen so many.
Anyway, Chris Bagby, one of the founders of Highland, took a few minutes to chat with me about the store, and I shot some video of this fantastic store and the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in progress. If you are ever near Atlanta, stop in and plan to stay at least half a day. Your family will be fine – the store is in a hip shopping area with lots of cool restaurants, galleries, clothing stores and coffee shops.
OK, now to sleep. I have to look alive tomorrow.
— Christopher Schwarz
Also, for more on hand tools in general, check out my DVD, “Mastering Hand Tools.”