Carl ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Bilderback
I’m sad to report that this evening, Carl Bilderback passed away. I’m so glad to have had him as a friend.
The below is bumped up from October.
If you’re among the following, move along…nothing new to see here:
• Members of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association
• Longtime readers of this blog and Christopher Schwarz’s blogs (here and at Lost Art Press)
• Longtime Popular Woodworking Magazine readers (here’s two free articles that you may recall: “Make Band Saw Drift a Myth” and “Almost Forgotten Hand Saw Techniques“)
• Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event attendees throughout the Midwest
• A resident in or around upstate Indiana and a frequenter of karaoke nights at a bowling alley
• Were one of the thousands of folks on hand for the opening of Handworks (2013 or 2015).
If you belong in one of more of the above categories, then you already likely know retired union carpenter, tool collector and singer Carl “Mr. Wonderful” Bilderback. And you already know that he’s one of the most knowledgeable, kind and generous people in the woodworking world, if not the world entire.
Every time we hire a new, young person at the magazine, Carl calls us up and ask what kind of tools would be helpful to this person just getting started. Or sometimes he’ll just send a block plane in the mail addressed to said person, with no note. Or a Stanley No. 42 if he hears someone wants to start sharpening her own saws.
And every time we publish a hand-tool specific book, or an issue of the magazine, Carl will call up a few weeks or months later with a list of editing mistakes … and we always have a good time discussing for an hour or so whether or not he is right (Spoiler: he usually is. Usually.)
But I haven’t had that call about the magazine for a few issues, and for a split second, I thought it might be due to zero editing errors. But I know that’s not possible. There are always errors, and Carl always catches them.
Yesterday, Christopher Schwarz, John Hoffman (Chris’ LAP business partner) and I drove up to visit with Carl for what I fervently hope isn’t the last time. But it might be. Today, Carl began yet another round of treatment for what’s ailing him. He hopes it works. I hope it works. We all hope it works. If it doesn’t, Carl is at peace with the inevitable, and he knows he’s going to a better place. I – and everyone who’s had the pleasure of knowing him – know the world will be a poorer place for his leaving it.
I’m writing this now because I want Carl to read it. I want him to know that when, like all of us, he must go, he will be sorely missed.
And Carl, I hope I’m writing this same sort of thing again in another six months, another year, another decade. And at least once more, I expect that call about the errors (we both know there are plenty!).