How does a man born in the Bronx, New York City, end up living in Australia surrounded by an impressive collection of hand tools?
Stuart Minuskin remains mysterious about many aspects of that journey but does admit to wearing a number of different hats including accountant and owner of a jewellery and precious metal business in Florida. It was not until he arrived in Australia, over 25 years ago, that he developed an interest in hand tools.
That fledgeling interest has grown into The Tool Exchange, an online source for both collectors and craftsmen to access those hard to find tools. From the early days of travelling to “swap meets” and tool shows, the collection has now grown beyond what can be easily transported.
Going online has introduced the world to what must be one of the largest collections of tools in Australia. Stuart now receives orders from Russia to Israel and all places in between. His clients range from master craftsmen, weekend handymen, woodworking schools to tool museums in Europe.
Whilst he professes a lack of experience as a craftsman, Stuart’s knowledge of the tools of the trade is remarkable. This is the result of thousands of hours of hands-on cleaning, repairing and tuning the tools. His workstation is surrounded by an extensive library of catalogues and reference books.
Tool Shows and Golf
Over the years, Stuart has developed close friendships with tool collectors in the USA and through the wonders of Skype is in contact every week, sharing the thrills of their latest finds.
The tool shows in America have become a major drawcard and Stu is making several trips there each year to add to the collection. Of course, his other passion is golf. Affectionately known as ‘The Hobbit’ to his golfing mates, Stu often combines these trips with a round or two at some of the exclusive courses. His regular customers have grown accustomed to him being unavailable until he comes off the 18th.
But how to display a Vintage Tool Collection
Retiring at 48 years of age, Stuart now 54, has developed an appreciation of handcrafted pieces of art made from natural materials. It was this passion along with the skills of some talented woodworkers that led to the production of the cabinet featured in this article.
The cabinet was made by expert makers Barry Breddin and Paul McConnell, both, like Stuart, members of the Caloundra Woodworkers Club. Stuart got chatting to Barry at a 2012 club open day and one thing led to another. The cabinet will serve as a kind of variable retail shopfront with images to go on his website and wall posters to be produced further down the line.
It looks so obvious now, all laid out and arranged in the photo, but figuring out the best tool placement was a gruelling effort using the try and try again method of working things out. Paul would keep coming back and say “I need more tools”, explained Stuart.
Over a period of weeks, Paul and Barry eventually came up with what can only be described as a superb tool jigsaw puzzle, with each piece being shown to its best advantage.
Figuring out the actual design was more straightforward but still required careful thought. Deep bodied doors and flip out panels with hidden inner recesses comprise the vertical display area. Eight drawers provide quite a bit of extra storage, while a pull-out panel serves as a handy surface for examining and photographing tools.
So with great pride, the cabinet was conceived, constructed, and will rightfully take a place of honour displaying tools from the collection.
That journey, from the Bronx to Queensland, has led to a collaboration that the craftsmen from the Caloundra Woodworkers should be justly proud of. What next for The Tool Exchange? Stuart hopes to continue his travels and add to the stock, forever in search for that elusive rare tool that will find a place of pride in the cabinet.
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