When folks find out that I review woodworking tools for a living, one of the first questions they usually ask is, “Do you get to keep them?” Especially those good-natured freight truck drivers who bring this stuff to my shop. Many of them are woodworkers. They really want to know.
Here’s the honest answer: usually, no, I don’t get to keep the tools.
Most sample tools, especially the really big, expensive, incredibly cool ones, have a predetermined round-trip ticket in and out my shop door. And, it should be that way. But believe me, over the past eight years of reviewing tools for Woodworker’s Journal, I could cry a river over what I’ve had to take apart, re-crate, re-skid and put back on a freight truck. Then watch it drive away…
Take this photo, for instance. The date on the digital image tells me I took it two years ago in January, but I’m still trying to erase that sorry day from my mind. This load of cast-iron glory rolled into my shop for two different reasons: some of it was for a full-sized lathe review (October 2006) written by our former turning columnist, Betty Scarpino, and the rest was for a kitchen table project I built for the magazine. From right to left, here’s what’s inside those crates and boxes: a shiny new Powermatic PM2000 3-hp Cabinet Saw, 15-in. Powermatic Planer, a to-die-for Powermatic 3520B Lathe, 12-in. stationary Powermatic Disc Sander and another JET lathe. Oh yeah, and there idling on the far end is my tractor with forklift, waiting for the truck to finish backing down my driveway.
Yep, these beauties were headed home to the warehouses from whence they came, none the worse for wear. I’m surprised the photo is focus, because I was probably shaking my head in disbelief when I took it.
Can you imagine seeing this stuff leave your shop? Sure isn’t the sort of “easy come, easy go” a woodworker ever wants…
Well, this sounds like me playing a whole lotta violin, and it really shouldn’t be that. I’ve got the best job in the world. Setting up and testing new tools and then sharing that information with you is just plain fun. Even if the tools don’t stick around for long. I wouldn’t trade my job for twice this many machines.
But, you’ve got to admit, here’s a whole new definition for bittersweet.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor