Offcuts: “Take two scorps and call me in the morning.”

I hadn’t thought of myself as being a tool addict; I preferred to think of myself as being dedicated to, accustomed to, devoted to, absorbed in, and inclined toward tools. The subject of my “fondness” was, for the most part, woodworking tools. But as a homeowner, I’m called upon by my wife, and sometimes neighbors who recognize my skills, to repair items around the home or to construct useful benches, shelves, tables, racks and holders of all kinds which can be made from wood.

Now sometimes a tool will become not worn out, but outmoded, and need to be replaced. The older tool – after it has been sharpened, adjusted and properly oiled against rust – is put away carefully in a box at the back of the shop, to be kept against a time when I might meet someone who shares this passion of mine for tools and might have something worth swapping.

It was a sentence I read in a woodworking magazine article about 19th-century iterant chair makers in England that caused me to wonder if I might have reached the heights in my field of interest.

The Bodgers, said the article, used a froe to rive their bolts.

Because of my past experience and extensive reading on woodworking tools I knew what every word meant. I thought I might expand my field of craftsmanship to include making the tools needed to make chairs and stools the way the Bodgers had.

This might be classed as an excessive interest.

At about the same time, my wife began asking about the number of catalogs coming to our house, and about all the heavy packages in plain brown wrapping paper.

That’s when I realized I would have to get in touch with TA (Tools Anonymous).

The meeting was held in the back room at a yarn store. Only first names were used. Each one in attendance stood and confessed their addiction to the buying, owning or hoarding of, gloating over and sometimes actually using woodworking tools of all kinds. Some of those present craved power; others were purists who collected only those tools that had been handmade and were operated by hand.

To show that I belonged in their number I recounted the story of how at a yard sale I had spotted a handmade scorp with cast-brass ferrules. I asked what it might be worth. The woman running the yard sale (who was dumping all of her ex-husband’s tools) had no idea of its value.

“Oh, that old piece of junk,” she said in a dismissive way. “You can have it for about a buck.”

“I couldn’t believe my incredible luck,” I confessed. “I just fainted on the spot.”

I related how they had called an ambulance for me and how I had come to just as they were lifting me into it while maintaining a death grip on the scorp. The woman who cared so little for her husband’s tool collection said, “Well, if he cares that much for that piece of junk he can have it for nothing!”

I passed out again.

As the meeting progressed everyone in attendance repeated the organization’s mantra: “Should any member be stricken with the urge to buy a tool, other members shall hurry over and drink beer with him or her until the obsession goes away.”

At the end of the meeting I was warmed by the presence of the first people I’d met who understood my condition. These were my people. Since I was the newest member, each of the older members came by to speak briefly with me, one by one.

Each of them, in turn, gave me a reassuring hug.

Each of them, in turn, pledged their support.

Each of them, in turn, whispered their confidence in my ear.

And without exception each whispered, “Did you bring your tool list with you? Maybe there’s something we could swap later.”

Alex Burton lives in Dallas.
He is still recovering from his addiction.


Back to blog Back to issue