spent nearly 10 years as an art director who built
furniture on the side before taking the plunge into
one pair of young hands.
The minting of a new toolmaker can have as much
to do with skill as it does with serendipity. For Konrad Sauer, his journey from art director to
furniture designer to custom toolmaker began about
12 years ago when someone positioned a cherry
cupboard next to the booth of an antique tool
Sauer and his soon-to-become wife, Jill, were
looking for furniture for their place and happened
upon the cherry cupboard. Sauer wanted it – badly. But he couldn't in any way afford it on his salary
as a young art director in Toronto.
While staring at the cupboard that he couldn't buy,
his eyes alighted on the antique tools in the next
booth. His gaze drifted back to the cupboard. And
then back to the tools. A light bulb went off in his
"These," he said about
the tools, "made this cupboard."
Sauer decided to learn to build
furniture and to do it mostly with hand tools, which he thought
would be much less expensive than power tools. He quickly
mastered the Bailey-style bench planes and started wondering where
he could get a bit more performance in the plane department. He
asked around until he had a fateful conversation with Doug Evans, an
Ontario tool dealer (and now principal at Shepherd Tool Co.).
Sauer: "Where do I go from here?"
Evans: "Do you have an infill?"
Sauer: "What's an infill?"
Evans sold an unhandled Spiers
coffin smoothing plane to Sauer, and then it was only a matter
of time before Sauer & Steiner Toolworks would be born and Sauer
would say farewell to his job as an art director and become a
full-time – and quite successful ¬– custom toolmaker. And
all before he turned 35.
Confession: Infill jointers aren't my favorite tools.
I generally think they're too bulky and heavy to use for more
than a few minutes. However, I was using this one for a couple
hours before I realized it was a jointer plane and not a panel
plane – that's quite a compliment.