Archived Story

Tools of his trade

Published 4:35pm Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cassopolis Vigilant

EDWARDSBURG – A craftsman in his own right, John Sindelar is also preserving the history of how tools evolved.

His search for tools to add to his extensive collection has taken him throughout the United States and all over the world. He now possesses some of the finest and rarest antique tools in the world.

His collection of fine tools, is cramped into five rooms at one end of his business on Section Street, down past the Edwardsburg High School, Sindelar Fine Woodworking.
He will once again open his museum with donations going to the Edwardsburg Historical Collection Museum downtown on U.S.-12.

The event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door or at the Historical Museum.

Anyone viewing the array of tools, from B.C. to present day, including saws which were used to make armor and Roman surgical tools, has come away impressed, he said.

The craftsmanship in the items Sindelar has chosen to collect shows the progression of early hunters, who fashioned stone into axes and blades to when man has enough leisure time to turn the handles into objects of art.

A man’s plane was his “paper resume,” Sindelar explained. The woodworker would use his plane to demonstrate his skill to a potential client. The patterns and designs would show the craftsman’s ability.

He has accumulated hundreds and hundreds of vintage planes as well as tens of thousands of other tools.

“This was never my goal,” he said, adding that his collection just snowballed.

“For every 100 I sell, I buy one really good one,” he said. “The rarest of the rare. I do research on every piece,” he said.

The Internet hasn’t just made the research easier, Sindelar has been able to communicate with others around the world, buying and selling tools.

Sindelar said he does the dusting himself on the displays and tools. He cares for them so they will be preserved for future generations.

Sindelar has been featured in Popular Woodworking, Woodworking Magazine and Woodworkers Journal. Popular Woodworking says “that this collection exists is remarkable. Getting to see it is something else.”

He learned the woodworking trade as a youth in Berrien Springs from his father and started his own business in Eau Claire in 1977. He later moved it to Edwardsburg.
Architectural woodworking for custom homes caused his company’s reputation to grow rapidly. In the next 10 years the shop did high end woodworking for Chicago’s Gold Coast area.

During his more than 30 years in the business, Sindelar has also worked on the Michigan and Ohio state houses.

He even had a hand in the reconstruction of the former Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Word of mouth leads to many referrals. Elevators and the reception desk show his artist skill.

Closer by, with his son John, he has done the bars, trim and windows for the new Macri’s restaurant in Granger, Ind. In town they did the bars at Lunker’s and Legend’s restaurants.

“Anything anyone wants out of wood, Sindelar said. That is what they do.
“We can do anything. The harder it is, the better we like it. … vanities, desks, entertainment centers …”

John’s favorite woods are cherry and mahogany, while his son likes hickory.
“We used to do a lot of oak,” Sindelar said. Now, he added, many people prefer painted wood. “Sixty percent is maple or cherry.”

The saying goes, a man’s home is his castle. For Sindelar, his castle will be a better home for his tremendous collection of fine tools and furniture.

Sindelar hosts tool shows and at the next he hopes to bring in his friend Roy Underhill, whose 28th season on “The Woodwright’s Shop” is on PBS.

Sindelar’s shop and museum have been filmed for This Old House for a show about cool tools.

John and Carol have three children.

Young John was in the Air Force for seven years and has been out working with his dad for four years.

Son Justin is in the Air Force now. A new granddaughter, Meadow, is just two months old.

Daughter Jackie is in college in Colorado and is working on getting a pilot’s license.
Sindelar’s pal and the one who most likes going on tool hunting exhibitions, is his granddaughter Jasmine, 9.

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