Short Shavings #2: A tiny tool tote tale

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Blog entry by Div posted 07-15-2010 10:07 PM 3823 reads 4 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Rhykenology - The plane truth Part 2 of Short Shavings series Part 3: Finishing the finish. »

It was maybe 15 years ago that I started work for a small boatbuilding company in Cape Town. The boss was a German man with a handlebar moustache and a little fluffy dog that followed him everywhere. He loved his beer and he loved his cooking; there was always a pot of something on the go in the tiny workshop kitchen. He made the best pea soup I ever had, thick and green with bits of bacon. He was also a master shipwright of the old school. This man taught me most of what I know about woodwork and a lot of what I know about life.

Up until this time, a tool tote for me was just a simple box with a broom stick handle, something that you slapped together as quick as possible. With Herr Strempel it was different. He had the most beautiful tote I ever saw, all contrasting woods, hand cut dovetails, shaped and laminated handle, and it even had some carvings. What also impressed me was that he used it. It was a tool with a purpose. Sure, it had some dings and scratches, but I think this was part of the appeal and added to its beauty. He did not glorify this object and place it on a pedestal. It was beautiful AND functional.

With his blessings, I made a similar one for myself, working on it mostly during my lunch hours. It was the first dovetails I ever did. I think Herr Strempel regarded the project as a little training exercise; he spent much work time to teach me about cutting dovetails and other woodworking techniques.

It is now 15 years later, I still have my tote and I still use it every day. It has its own dings and scratches, showing the passing of time. It has traveled all over the world with me. It has also brought a lot of work my way. I remember many instances during my boat building days when I would walk down a dock, tote in hand, on my way to a boat. Complete strangers would call me over to offer me a job: “If that is what your toolbox looks like, you must surely know your job!”

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

22 comments so far

View swirt's profile


1984 posts in 2006 days

#1 posted 07-15-2010 10:13 PM

Nice tote and a great story.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2149 days

#2 posted 07-15-2010 10:28 PM

that´s a good looking tote
and it´s not surpricing that it is an advetising comerciel
of the best , silent but effektiv

understandeble why it gives you work all the time :—)
it´s proud to advetise for you and carying your tools at the same time


View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 3120 days

#3 posted 07-15-2010 10:41 PM

Very classy. Thanks for showing that, Div.


View wchips's profile


314 posts in 2122 days

#4 posted 07-15-2010 11:33 PM

Nice tote looks very rustic i like it

-- wchips

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2020 days

#5 posted 07-16-2010 12:03 AM

that is beautiful! And so, so true. It does show that you know your job :)

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View OttoH's profile


885 posts in 2044 days

#6 posted 07-16-2010 01:06 AM

Very Nice Div, Very Nice

-- I am responsible for how I respond to everything in my life - - Deadwood SD

View whitedog's profile


651 posts in 2491 days

#7 posted 07-16-2010 01:35 AM

very cool … I like the handle and the way it slopes

-- Paul , Calfornia

View mafe's profile


10515 posts in 2123 days

#8 posted 07-16-2010 02:10 AM

It’s really beautiful.
And the story as well.
Deep respect, and hope that it will stay strong with you.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View canadianchips's profile


2123 posts in 2031 days

#9 posted 07-16-2010 02:18 AM

That is true. First Impression. Perception. Sometimes we only have 1 kick at the can !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View TreeBones's profile


1826 posts in 3057 days

#10 posted 07-16-2010 05:07 AM

Great tote and a great story. We all should be so lucky to have a mentor and a tote box like this.

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View GaryD's profile


623 posts in 2404 days

#11 posted 07-16-2010 04:13 PM

Great Story Div…..Really nice tote, walking advertisement, what could be better

-- Gary, Little River,SC I've Learned that the Lord didn't do it all in one day and neither can I

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 1974 days

#12 posted 07-16-2010 10:13 PM

Thanks dudes, glad you liked my little story!

Treebones: Ron, you might not have the mentor but you can still have the tote. MAKE one my friend!

Mafe: Mads, welcome back, you were missing for a while…

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Cher's profile


940 posts in 2128 days

#13 posted 07-17-2010 08:52 AM

Div, you were fortunate to have Herr Strempel teach you about life and woodworking, there is no better education than that. I see your were an excellent student, the tool tote is beautiful, good to work in style.

By the way did you leave home when you were 15 years of age?

Thanks for sharing Div.

-- When you know better you do better.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 1974 days

#14 posted 07-17-2010 08:57 PM

Cher, thanks. Ha, ha, how does your maths work….? I wish! I am 49 now…

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Cher's profile


940 posts in 2128 days

#15 posted 07-18-2010 09:54 AM

Div, I just took a wild guess, considering your assistants are still very young ….. 49 …. you’re still a baby … lol

-- When you know better you do better.

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