A moratorium on new tools

I’ve got a habit that carries over from my days as a musician. The scientific name for this disposition is “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” which is really just a nice way to say addiction to buying new stuff.

The pattern is always predictable and it starts the same way: I see a new shiny thing. I want the new shiny thing whether I need it or not. I convince myself that the part of myself that says “you don’t need that” doesn’t know what it’s talking about and should be ignored.

If I’m flush with cash (a rarity) I will sometimes close my eyes and click “checkout” on whatever website I’ve found with the best deal on shiny new thing and then try to intercept the mail and work it nonchalantly into my collection of old things before anyone notices. If I’m broke (more often the case) but flush with other shiny things that still have monetary value I convince myself they need to go to make room (and raise funds) for the new shiny thing.

Rinse and repeat.

I’ve lost track of the number of guitars, basses and amps that have paraded through my life in this fashion. Few of them were really that much better or worse than the others that they merited such mental energy, but this is the disease of the 20th (and now 21st) century, and I am shaped in its image.

All that is to say I’ve got too much stuff. A few weeks ago, we went through the kitchen and pulled out boxes of pots, pans and gizmos that haven’t seen the light of day in years. On Saturday, we’re having a yard sale to divest ourselves of the mountain of culinary ephemera that is currently in the garage. Most of it is good stuff and I hope someone else will find use for it, but in our house our possessions were starting to possess us.

Most of the great religions of the world teach some version of the idea that selling your possessions to simplify your existence is a good practice for the soul. What they really need to do is put an asterisk by that and add a footnote to say “…and then make sure you don’t buy more stuff to fill the void”.

I now have four full sets of working planes. Old Stanleys, Woodies (two sets, including the one I made) and my Lie-Nielsen planes. I feel like keeping a set of wooden and a set of iron planes is justifiable from a research perspective, and my girls are starting to use the old Stanley set so I’ll hang on to them, but dang, it’s easy to proliferate.

I like to support quality tool manufacturers large and small, (and you should too) but after teaching a few classes over the past month I’ve realized that I have everything I need (and more) to make what I need (and more). By all means, if you need tools and can afford them, then buy them, but the best way I can support those manufacturers at the moment is to use my tools to inspire others to get into the craft as well, and I aim to do that.

All that is to say I’m embarking on an experiment: No new tool purchases for a year. Let’s say, now through September of 2019. This includes brand new tools and vintage tools.

This will not be easy for me, but I’m pretty sure it will be good for me.

Anyone want odds?


12 Comments Add yours

  1. hiscarpentry says:

    I would be lucky to make it a week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul Hawkinson says:

    No one knows when a real need will arise, still temperance is not last on the fruit list (Ga5:22,23) because it is least important.
    Sorry to miss the yard sale. Off to Charlotte tomorrow.


  3. Ron Aylor says:

    I refuse to buy new tools. If I just can’t live without something, I try to make it, first. If that fails, I might try the thrift store!


  4. Joe says:

    I’m somewhat lucky in that I like to declutter so lots of household items make their way every year to charity. Tools (and a few other things) are exceptions that are hard to get rid of. An approach I am about to implement soon is that if I bring in one new tool, a tool I own must go. If you can’t hold off on the urge till Sep 2019, maybe that will help.


  5. Will Myers says:

    You are utterly mad!! Can’t be done!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Will Myers says:

        Of course they do….to late now to add clauses to the pledge.


      2. Paul Hawkinson says:

        I doubt it.
        They go under consumables.


  6. Edward Hopkins says:

    How does the old Amish saying go? “To be content with little is hard. To be content with much is impossible.”


  7. nordichomey says:

    So… is buying ‘used’ new tools an acceptable work around?


    1. Haha, no I’m going to try not to do that too.


  8. Can you make new tools? I fear this is not as black and white as it seems. To be fair, I suffer (severely) from the same disorder. That said, would you like to buy some tools I’m not using so I can de-clutter too?


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