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The Jury Is In

Well we did nudge the can a bit with the blog on loaning out hand tools. At least my thought on it is the same as before. Don’t loan out tools. But one or two had a different perspective too, which I understand.

Whereas a couple of people said something like, “Life’s too short.” or ,”if you can help someone out.” I realise that the difference is how you perceive the tools and then being super tolerant of flawed perceptions of tools and how they should be cared for. Most people seemed to think the same way and that is not to loan out tools either. Of course it is wrong to say that all programmers don’t work with woodworking hand tools and therefore have no idea of how to use or take care of them. That’s far from true, but the reality when you use your personal tools so carefully and rely on them for producing good work to earn your living with you have a different perspective altogether. When you are busy too, to the point that you can’t put right the wrongs done to the tools by others because of time constraints, this also affects your view too.

The fact is that most of the time tools deteriorate when loaned out to people even with the best intentions. The fact is that borrowers don’t understand because they can’t. Someone mentioned being a hobbyist woodworker and so it mattered less to them. I think that that plays into it too. Perspectives have changed and I personally think that borrowed tools returned in a poorer state than when borrowed reflects how people view implements used by people who work using manual skills. I also think that tools are now cheaper than ever in the history of the world and so their value has been cheapened in the general minds of people.

The majority of responses to the blog were indeed not to loan out your woodworking hand tools. Suggestions to own some loaners with added instructions and expectations seems like a possibility but I know loaning out surgically sharp edge tools to a novice is an extremely scary thought to me.


  1. Phill N LeBlanc on 10 April 2017 at 11:36 am

    I wonder if Mr. Powermatic reads your blog and nods in silent agreement lest he upset the apple cart.

    • Phill N LeBlanc on 10 April 2017 at 11:38 am

      oops — right comment to the wrong blog posting – still on my morning coffee. Sorry

      • jim stoe on 10 April 2017 at 4:16 pm

        Rather than “loan out” tools, suggest giving unused tools away to children & parents, the needy & veterans…… Just a thought!

        • Paul Sellers on 10 April 2017 at 5:45 pm

          Still not sure at what level of sharpness you give tools to those unused to sharpness without instruction and those of us already beyond maxed out means there’s an issue I’m afraid.

  2. NZ Pete on 10 April 2017 at 11:44 am

    In the days before battery powered drills, it was usual for a co – worker to ask if he could use my Layton hand drill as a backup for his plug in power drill when out on a fit up or repair job. Being small and compact it was handy for tight spots, or anywhere the power lead couldn’t reach. He was a skilled tradesman who like most in those days respected another tradesman’s tools, so loaning the drill to him was never a bother to me. The drill was always returned in the same condition it went out, often it was never needed anyway.
    In todays world I seldom lend a tool out, preferring to do the job for them. if a tool is loaned it will be the “second” tool so if it’s lost or damaged it’s not too much of a lost to me.

  3. Gordon on 10 April 2017 at 11:50 am

    Having been burned a couple of times by loaning out kit (not just woodworking tools) I’m very wary of letting others use anything that I’d care about.

    That said, it is worth building up a network of trusted individuals as it’s often useful to be able to share rare or limited gear. Having lent and borrowed numerous bits of photography equipment (lenses being particularly fragile), it can be done – but only among the trustworthy.

    The idea of keeping a few “beaters” for loaning is a good one though; especially for something like a hand plane. I suspect that a poor but fettled plane would likely do the job just fine for many not-used-one-before borrowers.

    Oh, I’m a programmer BTW 🙂

  4. Tom Bittner on 10 April 2017 at 12:10 pm

    On the rare occasion when someone asks to borrow a tool I go over and help them do the job or I tell them that I’m using them and will need it for something I’m working on. Most of the time they don’t have any idea of how to go about what they are trying to do. The first clue is the fact that they don’t have any tools to begin with! To Pauls point: I once loaned out my hatchet on a camping trip, I told the man it was sharp. A few minutes later he came back bleeding and said “you weren’t kidding when you said it was sharp!” It the same with my kitchen knives, most people have very dull knives. My wife always warns them and supervises what they are doing.

  5. Patchedupdemon on 10 April 2017 at 12:28 pm

    It all depends for me,I would loan out my wickes no4 to anyone,but my first issue record planes,oh hell no,sorry,but people won’t hold these tools with such high regard as I do.
    Not only are they beautiful,the quality of the parts and level of detail put into them,far far out weighs most current makers.
    while they are worthless to someone who doesn’t care about such traits,they are worth more than the money they cost me,and as such I use them with care that others wouldn’t.
    They are remnants of a lost standard that I hope to pass down to my son,so they can be used for many more generation.
    I’m so sick of the corner cutting of manufacturing nowerdays,it’s the little things that peeve me,like it would only take a few more mins to just do it properly,yet suits are fine with selling products not fit for purpose

  6. William Swinyer on 10 April 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Paul,

    While I agree with most things you say in regards to this, the statement “I also think that tools are now cheaper than ever in the history of the world and so their value has been cheapened in the general minds of people.” isn’t exactly true at least here the the US. In just the last 2 or 3 years I’ve see the same Millers Falls planes that I bought for $15 or $20 are now starting at $25 or higher. I believe this is due to the number of people like yourself and others bringing hand tools and hand tool work back into the lime light. I see the deals on ebay UK and it makes me sad as the shipping most of the time negates any savings to purchase things from the UK. Take care.

    BillS in NY, USA

    • Paul Sellers on 10 April 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Oh, I’m from a previous age range here. I meant new tools imported from other continents not old finds on eBay and from flea markets. I recall logging on plough planes for £9 and now they sell consistently in the £40-50 price range and more. All the more power for keeping hand tools in general circulation. I think too the USA has been highly privileged like the UK over the years and both hand tools and power machines are relatively dirt cheap compared to the rest of the world and so readily available too. I bought a Grizzly bandsaw, 18″, back in 1988 for $500 and used it daily for hours for over 20 years. They still run a good outfit as far as I know and they ship to the UK too.

  7. Sam Treadwell on 10 April 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I don’t loan my tools out to anyone. All of my tools (traditional hand tools) are old and I’ve spent a lot of time restoring them into usable condition. In which I’m very proud of. Loaning them out is just asking for a problem which leads to troubles in a friendship. Some friends might bring them back in the same condition but some might not. If my close friends needs a tool and can’t afford to buy it, I have no problem getting them a used one off eBay. I have enjoyed refurbishing my old tools and that enjoyment I will share to a close friend. I’m no where a selfish person but I’ve been burnt in my younger days dealing with loaning things out to friends and family.

  8. John Heintz on 10 April 2017 at 1:45 pm

    I not only do not loan out tools (having been burnt in my youth); I don’t borrow them either.

  9. Bob Mathews on 10 April 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Guess I’m in the majority, as I no longer lend my class A tools. I have over time managed to collect a few “common” shall me say less than pristine hand tools and those I lend out. Funny thing, in the process of learning this lesson I lent out my favorite pairing chisel and my favorite #9 MF bench plane. The plane come back cracked the chisel is still wandering the earth. However the crap I lend always comes home.

  10. Gary Earhart on 10 April 2017 at 1:56 pm

    As an electrician I have always been wary of loaning tools (you often depend on that tool to shield you from injury). My dad however, was a linesman for the local power utility. I’ve witnessed people ask him to borrow his climbing spikes (always NO!). There’s a tool that’s really close to the user. Never loaned and only sharpened by the user. I learned from him to never loan a tool I’m not ready to cheerfully replace!

  11. Mike Towndrow on 10 April 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I think it all depends on who you’re lending to, as there could be some advantages.
    It’s never going to happen, but if Paul Sellers wanted to borrow a saw from me I’m pretty sure it would be returned in a far better condition than when it went out!
    But seriously, I’d be wary generally of lending to anyone who didn’t know what they were doing. I found my own son in the garage the other day using one of my mallets to bash out the bottom bracket of his bicycle. He just saw a hammer shaped thing for bashing things and not one of my tools for woodworking. You can probably tell that he hasn’t inherited my love of woodwork!

  12. Kevin Hart on 10 April 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I had a sad experience lending out a hand plane and having the borrower run it into a nail, taking a chip out the the blade. (I’m still not sure how someone could not see a nail sticking up in a piece of wood, or why they wanted to plane something with a nail in it.) While they offered to buy me a new blade, it never came. So now if someone asks to borrow my tools, I offer to help them with the job. When I’m at a class, such as the WoodenBoat School, I usually offer to show them how to use the tool.

  13. William Spanfelner on 10 April 2017 at 2:34 pm

    A very interesting subject! It also seems not limited by national boundaries. About five years ago I relocated to Athens, Greece and was helping my wife’s elderly uncle with some handyman work. Impressed with the quality of my work and the pristine condition of my tools, he made the lovely gesture of giving me several pieces of the tool collection he amassed over a lifetime. The moment that he gave me the tools, he looked me in the eye and said in a very serious tone in Greek, “Never lend your tools.” Apart from thinking how amazingly similar people are the world over, I felt as though I had been paid a priceless compliment. Whenever these tools are used of course, I think of him, that moment and the resulting sense of pride. My fathers memory lies in other tools in my collection, but these sentiments and others will be lost on a random loan – possibly forever! Help where possible without lending tools is the message I believe.

  14. juandoh on 10 April 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Fortunately I don’t have anyone asking to borrow my tools as I tend to be quite picky in how they are taken care of.

    I hired a friend of mine to paint my house and do a few repairs. He needed a ratchet and some sockets so I let him use a set that lets long bolts pass through, so the deep well sockets are not needed. This was a brand new set. When I got it back the case was covered in some tar like substance and all the pieces that were used were greasy.

    He did good work. I will say this his lack of respect for my tools extended to his own. His were in terrible shape, everything covered in paint and in disrepair.

    I’ve thought about having a cheaper set of tools for people who wanted to borrow them, but I decided I would still be upset if some broke or lost my “beater” tools.

    Just be careful with who you loan your tools to, don’t loan them at all or as others have said, do the work for them.

  15. Richard on 10 April 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I think “not loaning out your tools” is too broad a brush. Of course, we shouldn’t loan out a chainsaw to anyone who has never used a chainsaw, or let a neighbor borrow your car when he isn’t even licenced to drive or has been suspended for DUI.

    Each tool owner has all their reasons to loan or not to loan their possessions –a tool, a car, money, etc. and no one else — including our respected Paul Sellers — should decide for them on their loaning policy. The circumstances and experiences are so different that a general statement of not loaning out your tools is not helpful at all.

    As regards the jury is in. We all know that as in various tool forums, the majority of responses are against loaning out tools for all kinds of reasons.

    I once helped a teacher and he took all his personal tools (Lie Nielsen, Rob Cosman, Veritas, Bad Axe, Chris Vipers, etc.) to the school he taught for the class to use, which included many beginners. He wanted them to use and decide if brand name tools were nicer (not necessarily better) than the school tools. Of course, whether it was the saw or the chisel or plane blade, he honed them sharp after the class. This guy was so passionate about his trade that we could not accuse him of not caring for his tools for loaning them out — to even beginners.


    • Paul Sellers on 10 April 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Actually, we’re not talking cars, chainsaws and money either, so it has been expanded far beyond the original issue altogether. We are simply conversing about personal tools used by those coming along and being asked if they could be borrowed. I had an apprentice who loaned out two tools, a saw and a plane, and the innocent received the tools back worse for wear. This is highly common not uncommon.

  16. Robert Nieuwenhuijs on 10 April 2017 at 5:04 pm

    I remember the first morning of the 9 day foundation course back in 2013 in Wales. We were standing around Paul’s workbench and he was showing us what a sharp saw feels like. Everyone got to have a quick go with what looked like his main go-to tenon saw. When my turn came I pulled the saw back too far and the front lightly dropped onto the metal edge of the vice. I still feel bad about it and can still see Paul’s look as I said ‘oops’. Even with the best intentions little accidents can still happen.

    • Luca on 11 April 2017 at 5:14 am

      Oh *ouch*…I’m wincing even just *imagining* it! (His expression, and the feelings that you must have experienced immediately after hearing that dull *clink* as the tooth tapped the top of the vise jaw)

    • Luca on 11 April 2017 at 5:18 am

      Oh *ouch*…I’m wincing even just *imagining* it! (His expression, and the feelings that you must have experienced immediately after hearing that dull *clink* as the tooth tapped the top of the vise jaw)

      edit: oh, and I haven’t even made my first project yet (deciding whether to make a tool chest or a bench first) but I’m already quite sure I won’t be loaning out any of my tools. They’re…precious to me… *grin* Seriously, though, they’re too important, and I value them too much, to be willing to risk losing them or someone damaging them.

    • Michael Ballinger on 11 April 2017 at 8:00 am

      That’s it Robert, never lending you my tools now. You’ve crossed the line. ?

  17. Joe on 10 April 2017 at 5:52 pm

    The more I’ve though about the original postin, the more I agree with you. Recently, I lent a tool (not one of my woodworking ones) to a friend that was new in the box. When I got the tool back, the box it came in was missing. 20+ years ago, I lent my car to a good friend who had needed it for a 1,000 mile trip. When he return it to me, the gas gauge was lower than when I had loaned it to him. Not by much but lower. I mentioned this to him. His response was that it didn’t have quite a full tank when I had loaned it to him so he filled it to what he thought was the proper level. How ungrateful of him.

    I don’t loan good tools to anyone anymore period. I don’t even like my wife using tools. Early on in our marriage she left a few tools (again not woodworking) outside and they were slightly rusted. I was highly annoyed as I had had these tools for over 20 years whiteout any rust on them.

    If someone wants to borrow a tool, they either get a junk one if I have a duplicate or nothing.

    I planning on getting a pick up truck at some point. No way I’m loaning that out to friends who want to moving things. It would without a doubt come back with scratches and dents in the bed, low gas, and food crumbs inside.

  18. Donald Kreher on 10 April 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I caught my wife about to use one of my chisels to open a paint can. I stopped her in time and we are still married. (Now 37 years).

    So I agree, but with a caveat. “When you loan tools. Loan with the expectation that they won’t come back and if the they do they will need repair”. Thus don’t lend out tools you depend on or hold dear. Consequently I think I will gather together a collection of loaners, that I may use to turn someone onto traditional woodworking.

  19. Christopher D on 10 April 2017 at 10:40 pm

    As an apprentice – albeit a Mechanical Engineer – thirty years ago, I tried to never to borrow a tool and if I had to then I ensured that I only did it once.
    The guys I worked with didn’t mind lending me kit as they knew how well I looked after both mine and their gear; however I minded and didn’t want to be known as a borrower. So I built up a large collection of tools that helped me complete all the various tasks I would undertake in my job and earn my living, all of which I still have today.
    I generally would not lend my tools to anyone, the only exception being the first apprentice I trained who looked after his equipment in the same way as I did/do.

    Now that I am undergoing that major life change and retraining to work with wood I do not lend tools out to anyone.
    Finances are tight at present and if I lend a tool out only for it to be broken I do not have enough spare in the budget for replacement as that would probably take away funds which have been put aside to buy something else that I will need.

    When you have to rely on your tools to earn the money to put a roof over your head and food on the table then the viewpoint of lending and possibly having your valuable tools returned damaged beyond further use may well change.

    Another consideration that dovetails into this is that when starting on your own you may need to add tools to your collection to enable new jobs to be quoted for and then tackled and if the funding to extend the collection of tools is being eroded by replacement of lent tools, cash flow can easily suffer rendering you ineffective, unreliable and without work.

    I value the Stanley #4 plane that I inherited from my Paternal Grandfather no differently to the #3 that I restored (which was picked up for £2.00 from a carboot sale fairly recently) which I value no differently to the Veritas Large Router Plane that I bought new in January.
    Whilst they may have different histories, all these tools share one common fact and that is that they have all been used to make something to earn me money and therefore as easy as replacement of the Veritas Router would be in the sense that I can buy another online now, I value it as much as the aforementioned Stanley #3 or #4 which are both irreplaceable.

    Upon reflection I think that maybe my comment on the Veritas Router that seems to sum up the general attitude of the mass consumer society in today’s Post-Industrial Revolution Western World, in that we are so used to having easy access to mass-produced relatively cheap products that to many, who do not rely on their tools, they have been so devalued as to become a commodity and it is now seen as selfish not to share what you have with others, especially when it is so freely available.
    For a tradesman his tools are always valuable – not necessarily in terms of monetary value alone, but valuable in how they can save or earn him money by making a task easier or quicker for him to do and in turn bring him the money he needs to live.

    I’m not sure that a hobbyist, who may see a tool returned damaged as nothing more than a minor annoyance that delays a pleasant evening in the shop, can ever truly share the viewpoint of the tradesman where a tool returned damaged may prevent him from working the next day or until he has the money to buy a replacement.

  20. Steve Newman on 10 April 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Have been known to box up a complete set of tools, mainly duplicates of my user tools, and either donate them to a school, or given away with a handmade tool chest as a “door prize” .

    IF I loan out my good woodworking tools, I come along to do the work. Grandsons can use my cordless drills as needed, I know I’ll get them back when the battery goes dead.

    I keep my set of users to me, duplicates will get donated out if someone needs a tool. Then they can bring it back, or just keep it… long as they learn from using it. IF they don’t know how to use a tool of mine, I am always glad to show them how.

  21. EDWARD IN VANCOUVER on 11 April 2017 at 4:54 am

    My ” day job” is a Chef, and we cooks like our sharp, shiny knives….Yet, the longer I work, the more “cheapo” or ” loaner” knives I aquire–and loan out. My main reason for doing so is to get the work done, I’d rather cook than slice onions! Yes they get abused, but I just grind out the chips and keep them sharp for the next use. First use is free, next use costs one beer, second use costs two beers, etc until they buy their own knives. This has nothing to do with my personal knives, these I keep close and never lend out.

  22. kim domingue on 11 April 2017 at 6:19 am

    I’m not a woodworker. I sew. I sew clothing, quilts, curtains, costumes. I do some upholstery, I’ve recovered motorcycle seats and car seats. I’ve made the shell that’s lashed to the frame of a coracle. I’ve made dog beds and prom dresses, duffles for rock climbing equipment and wedding garters for brides. Next up are sails (husband and son’s newest hobby is boat building). Wish me luck! What I don’t do is lend out my “use it all the time” equipment. It’s unlikely that some of it could be replaced if damaged or broken as a lot of my equipment is vintage or antique. I do have some things that are third string tools….nothing wrong with them, they’re just not my first or second string set of tools. Those I will lend with the expectation that they may not come back or will come back in a state of disrepair. But if someone wishes to learn to sew, I’m happy to get them started with some lessons and some “loaners”. I keep my eyes open for inexpensive but good tools at thrift store and flea markets so I always have some “loaners” on hand. If someone shows a continued interest and enjoys sewing, I’ll tell them to keep the loaners and pass them onto someone else once they’ve collected their own “first and second string” of favorite tools.

  23. Joe on 11 April 2017 at 7:56 am

    I should ask my nephew this question. He is a mechanic at an auto dealership and spent quite a bit of money to buy his tools which he earns a living from. I also know he takes good care of things should be interesting to see what he says.

  24. GENE IN USA on 21 April 2017 at 2:37 pm


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