Protracted tool perambulations through sub-Saharan Africa.


One of the joys of living in Africa entails serious challenges in acquiring quality vintage woodworking hand tools. Therefore, you end up being at the mercy of kindhearted internet-based antique tool vendors such as Jim Bode and Patrick Leach. So far all my acquisitions from Patrick Leach went swimmingly (pun unintended) in terms of the transatlantic journey of the merchandise.

However, my first acquisition from Jim Bode Tools turned into an unexpected drama. This was, I have to say, through no fault of theirs. It was simply an inevitable consequence of life on the dark continent. Just to be clear, I love living in the cradle of humankind, but like every other location it has it’s vexations.

It all started on the 8th of October 2014 when Jim shipped 4 items that I have been buying over a few months time. He kindly held onto the tools until there were enough to justify a shipment as it is quite expensive to haul solid hunks of metal across the equator. I tracked the parcel’s movements via the US Postal website as per usual. On the 22nd of October it checked into a sorting facility in Zambia! I immediately knew that this meant trouble. None of the previous 10-ish parcels that found me via US Postal from the USA ever visited Kenneth Kaunda.

For some (not particularly) mysterious reason the parcel then went into hibernation. It did not move again according to the website (until this day in fact). My incumbent practice manager spent days on end to try and locate it. She spoke to just about everyone in Zambia apart from Kenneth himself, hence my deduction that it had a protracted high tea appointment with the former statesman. At some point she was told that it left Zambian shores en route to Azania (aka South Africa in this particular instance).

Problem was that the feeble Azanian Postal Services were in the midst of yet another strike. I am not sure why they even strike, because I am sure that is more work than what they get up to during the brief spells between strikes. Anyway, it meant that we would have no way of establishing where the parcel was. More correspondence with the entire population of Zambia followed, which produced a rumor that the parcel might have joined ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe!! What next?

By the 24th of November I requested Trish Bode to make an enquiry with US Postal as you need an American address to do so. She opened a case to track the package and the local postal service (presumably in Zambia) explained that they need 25 business days to complete the “investigation”. In sub-Sahara Africa that could mean anything between 2 and 10 years. At this point I decided that I would never have the pleasure of seeing these tools.

We left on holiday for three weeks and returned on the 5th of January. The next day my practice manager phoned to inform us that the parcel arrived!! Hallelujah!!

It was obvious from the packaging that the parcel perambulated the entire SADC Region en route to the Land of the Brave, but the contents were in pristine condition.





As you can see, it is a real special ensemble of priceless tools, hence my acute melancholia when it seemed as if it might be MIA. The ensemble includes an early Stanley no.77 dowel making machine (the later models are blue) with a ¼” cutter, a 9″ Witherby drawknife, a 24″ 7tpi cross cut No.12 Disston saw and a small Stanley cross pein hammer





I hope that the members of touring party are ready to work after their extended travels through paradise.

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