Orphan Tools

orphan toolssm

I’ve so far drawn the line at a scale of operations I call ‘Forklift and a Warehouse’. If it ever seems like I need a forklift and/or a warehouse, I know I made the wrong turn somewhere. My current production capabilities allow me to efficiently make one-offs, prototypes and very small production runs, but not much beyond batches of 4 or 5 of any given thing per week. While I love the creative flexibility inherent in running a small shop, I am beginning to find clients for production versions of my designs, and am poised to scale operations to meet demand and still offer a competetive price point.

Investing in a few new tools will increase my efficiency exponentially, so I’ve subscribed to a handful of online auctions for woodworking tools, and scour daily posts for re-saws, glue spreaders, wide belt sanders and the like. At first, I greedily scrolled through listings, knowing exactly what I was looking for. As the daily emails persisted, I became painfully aware of how many small manufacturers were closing throughout the US, predominantly on the East Coast. I began to see the tools differently, as orphaned tools, tools that had been loved and maintained, tools that had supported livelihoods, helped put kids through college and pay mortgages. Suddenly the images had such poignancy. The images themselves are what appeal to me now, as an incidental archive of a major shift in the culture of (not) making things in the US.

I would love to make an exhibition or publication that simply collates and displays online auction house photos of tools for sale. Meanwhile, I still seek the perfect tool to expand my capabilities, but worry about the fate of so many obsolete or unwanted tools (and skilled workers) in the process.

orphan tools2sm

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