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Sindelar believes his shop goes beyond just being a tool collection and will grow to be a successful larger museum because it offers one-of-a-kind items that appeal to the historic and artistic ideals of the tools. John Sindelar stands in front of a door at the back of his thriving cabinet and millwork shop in Edwardsburg, Mich. Sindelar, who is from that corner of Michigan near Chicago and Indiana, had a father who was a carpenter and contractor.
So Sindelar entered the building trade, and as a young man of about 21, he found himself in Florida building high-end residential homes and working under a French-Canadian carpenter who had a taste for good working tools.
One day the French-Canadian carpenter told Sindelar that it was time for him to start buying his own tools.
This tool cache hidden in the back rooms of an industrial park is an apt metaphor for Sindelar’s life as a collector. Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press. Sindelar Fine Woodworking was established in 1977 in Eau Claire, MI, and eventually moved to Edwardsburg.
Sindelar has so many tools (“Probably, tens of thousands,” he guesses) that he keeps a significant number in storage.

But once you meet Sindelar and hear his story, you are unlikely to doubt that it could happen. Sindelar himself was helping him set nails by age 5 and built his first apartment building as a teenager. As a young man Sindelar leased a 350-acre produce farm and then went to college to study agricultural management. So Sindelar purchased a new standard-angle Stanley block plane, the kind you’ll find in tool buckets all over the country. Sindelar Fine Woodworking is a modern commercial cabinetshop filled with power equipment and a half-dozen employees. Sindelar began by building architectural woodworking for custom homes and auto dealerships in southwestern Michigan. Sindelar’s office doesn’t even offer many clues as to his tool-collecting passion – there are piles of paperwork, shelves of trade catalogs and modern office furniture. Sindelar tried to keep a low profile in the collector world as he quietly fed the back rooms of his business with vintage tools. In the early 1980s, his company’s fine workmanship grew rapidly and by the beginning of the next decade, the shop evolved into higher-end woodworking in Chicago’s Gold Coast area.

Together, they have taken 10,000 square feet of the Edwardsburg, Michigan woodshop and created a tool museum. Sindelar is actively making plans to build a 30,000-square-foot public museum and woodworking school that will show off his collection and teach woodworking skills.
Every evening after finishing work at his business, Sindelar Fine Woodworking Co., he’ll gently clean a tool or two in his collection. Sindelar’s museum is open to the public, Monday through Friday and for charity benefits. Tools that you have only heard about, seen in auction catalogs or drooled over in Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s books “The Art of Fine Tools” or “Tools Rare and Ingenious” (Taunton).

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