Make a Ridiculous Tool, Get Good Breath and Win - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Make a Ridiculous Tool, Get Good Breath and Win

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Personal Favorites, Woodworking Blogs

One of the coolest woodworking things I’ve seen is where a guy named Mike Burton made some awesome scrapers for cleaning up crown moulding using , ready? , table spoons.

A second cool thing: John Sindelar’s tool collection, which is worth more than the GNP of several Latin American countries. Burton, a professional woodworker, and Sindelar, a farmer and cabinetmaker, have simply let their freak flags fly.

I never thought, “Man, that Mike Burton is one cheap chicken-scratcher.” Nor did I think, “John Sindelar is one rich yuppie fool.”

I’ve never understood those extremes, which is why I love my $9 Zona saw and my $900 Wayne Anderson smoother and use them both on almost every project.

Recently we’ve been having some fun on this blog on this topic. Sawmaker Andrew Lunn is removing some of the decorative details from his saws to lower the price. As a joke, I made a saw from an Altoids tin and posted photos of it saying it was the new cheaper Lunn saw.

Some people were not amused.

However, Matt Hodgson, a custom planemaker with Gabardi & Son Toolworks, was. He got into the spirit of things and made a bullnose plane from an Altoids tin. I was drinking some coffee when I opened his e-mail and almost scorched my nostril hairs with hot Italian roast.

For the record, Matt makes *much* nicer infill planes. I’ve borrowed one for a couple months to review. Check out his web site for details.

After seeing his “plane,” it gave me an idea. A perfectly stupid and dumb idea. Let’s have a toolmaking contest with Altoids tins! Yes, I used an exclamation mark, so you know that I’ve consumed a beer (a rye-based IPA, actually).

Here are the official rules: This contest is not valid for the terminally closed-minded or uptight. Make a “tool” using an Altoids tin. Take a photo of it. Send it to me ( before midnight July 31, 2009.

The winner will receive a one-of-a-kind prize: The unbound printer proofs to my new book “Handplane Essentials.” I’ll sign them in a bodily fluid if you like. Wipe them with Woobie II, whatever you want to ensure the package is worth more when you sell the proofs on eBay.

This is a readable book! By that, I mean you can actually turn the pages! There’s a hardbound cover and the printed signatures of the complete book. They’re just not all glued together. It’s a great conversation piece, and suitable for burning by any of the local chapters of Wives Against Schwarz.

So save that next Altoids tin (or ask Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick for one of her eleventy-billion ones). Make a tool. And amuse the rest of us.

– Christopher Schwarz

Recent Posts
Showing 22 comments
  • Rob @ Evenfall Studios

    Something faintly reminiscent about Altoid tins… Hmmmm Where have I see them before…

    Could it have been Here?

    Not a tool but it sure improved the workflow in and around my shop.

  • Don Peregoy

    Don’t be silly – I have lots of tools that don’t work all of which looked good in the catalog pictures.

  • roger savatteri



    "Kari, The tool doesn’t have to work. My saw could cut paper…. Chris"

    I don’t mean to mince woods here, but ,,,,,,

    if the "tool" doesn’t work, can one honestly still call it a "tool"?

    wouldn’t that be a lateral move to ………………….."sculpture"?



  • Christopher Schwarz


    If we want to get ridiculously technical, then paper is a wood by-product. The ultimate MDF, as it were….

    OK, so maybe this should be a contest to make the best "tool-shaped object."


  • Jenny 867-5309


    Do they sell Altoids in Canada? I’m not sure I have ever seen them before.

    For a good time call…

  • Bill

    I’m betting those shavings were produced elsewhere and then strategically placed around the Altoid "plane".

  • Jeremy


    Im so sorry for the loss of one of your ‘numbers’. I did not mean it, no one could resist, he was just walking around falunting is Lemon filling and Graham crust. But 3.14 got just his just desserts!!

    And if you see 3, 5, 7, 11 or 13.. let them know Im coming for them… I heard a rumor that their last name is Rib. mmmmmmm

  • Christopher Schwarz


    Hmmm. As long it looks like Altoids were critical to making the tool, it’s OK by me.


  • Mark Briley

    What percentage of the tool had to be made out of Altoids? I’m thinking of an Altoids table saw…

  • 8675309

    I have to side with Jorge on this one.

    I was born and raised a number. Hurtful names like "eleventy-billion" are simply not acceptable in this day and age!

    Numbers are people too!

  • Christopher Schwarz


    The tool doesn’t have to work. My saw could cut paper….


  • Stephen Shepherd

    Matt Hodgson will be my guest on the Tuesday Night Hand Tool Chat on WoodCentral this Tuesday night at 9:30 PM Eastern Time.


  • The Village Carpenter

    Does the tool have to actually work, or just give the appearance of a tool? Looks like Matt’s bullnose plane takes some decent shavings.

  • Frank V


    I can’t believe you just charactorized people from the US as having no concerns in life other than the brand of plane they use. That’s pretty offensive.

    Frank V

  • anonymous

    Does the winner get to choose the type bodily fluid?

  • My two cents

    Give me levity, or give me death.

    …and by the looks of it, Jorge would choose the latter.

  • Kevin Kuehl

    What the heck is woodworking coming too!?!?! What a rip-off! You can get bullnose planes made out of Pez dispensers that are just as good for half the cost! Why in the heck would anyone shell out the extra money for an Altoids tin?

  • Mike D.

    Oh lighten up francis!

  • Jeremy

    We’re not going to get sued by Altoids for participation in this contest are we??

    Hee hee, mint condition… I wish I thought of that first.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    It was a joke, not a statement of fact. No one could possibly think the statement were true. I’m a Southerner and prone to jokes that involve hyperbole.


  • Mattias in Durham, NC

    Jorge, lighten up will you. It’s a figure of speech.

    Nice plane, and in mint condition too!

  • Jorge Albe

    "John Sindelar’s tool collection, which is worth more than the GNP of several Latin American countries".
    And which would those countries be, Mr.Schwartz? I had you for an educated person, with good writing and woodworking skills; it’s very disappointing that you would make fun of countries foreign, smaller and indeed poorer than the US where people have concerns in life other than LV vs LN.
    Jorge, born and raised in Uruguay.

Start typing and press Enter to search