I recently came across an early catalog of Hock Tools and I thought it was worth sharing. Starting a business is never easy and in the 1970's and 80's one didn't have the advantage of the Internet to spread the word instantly and free. The optimistic entrepreneur needed to advertise and send out brochures to any incoming inquiries. One such brochure recipient was my late woodworking mentor, Maurice Fraser, who was always on the lookout for tool improvements. While I haven't found evidence that he ever bought a hock blade he was certainly interested in Ron's custom service. There is a fair amount of correspondence from Maurice to various manufacturers pointing out the need for quality tools, letters that fell on deaf ears.
I asked Ron if this catalog was his earliest. He wasn't sure but said it dated to the early 1980's - so if it's not the first it's pretty close to the first. Here is what he wrote to me about the early days:
"I started making knives out of saw blades from the local lumber mill shortly after we moved here in October of '81 (coming up on 35 years!) Kitchen and hunting knives all hand-made, selling at ACC fairs (PITA). In Spring of '82 I was approached by one of the instructors and one of the students from Krenov's first year class. (By perfect coincidence his school/shop opened the same week we arrived.) Their goal was to have me make the blades and then resell them to the students at a profit. They didn't get their act together so I showed up with a batch of blades in December of that year and felt like a craps table croupier tossing out blades and raking in money. I saw the future.
Jim Krenov was famous for never doing product endorsements. When I decided to buy a one-inch display classified in FWW (all I could afford) I asked if I could call them "Krenov Style" plane irons. He not only liked the idea, he volunteered, "Call them Krenov Quality Plane Irons. It sounds better." He used to take my brochures along with a couple of irons when he did speaking/seminar engagements. Prior to my blades, he and his students used POS replacement block plane blades ($8) from the local lumber yard. Then they had to get very creative about breakers. I appeared with a solution to a problem and he was so grateful that he eagerly advocated for me to crowds everywhere. There is no question that I was at the right place at the right time with the right stuff. I totally lucked out and couldn't be more grateful.
My tiny FWW ad sold a few blades, the word got around, sold a few more. Then the phone rang. It was Woodworker's Supply of NM wanting to know what my wholesale discount was. I said, "Uh, I'll call you right back." At that point I knew how to make a blade but didn't know much about how to run a business. I actually called John Economaki, who'd launched BCT just a few months before, for some generous advice -- we had a mutual friend locally who'd recommended him to me. WSNM added my blades to their full-color catalog and sent that tacit endorsement out to 4 zillion woodworkers. A map-pin moment, for sure, in the Hock Tools history (still called Hock Handmade Knives then, and would be so for a number of years. I never really officially changed the name, just started using Hock Tools more and more.)
So, one new blade, another, one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness Linda was willing to work... Here we are, big fish in a small pond.
Sorry for the long answer but I like telling the story."
You can download a pdf of the catalog here.
Ron sent me the photo of the knife that illustrates this blog. It's one of his early knives, made before his business became mostly blades for woodworkers but as you can see the shape and style is pretty much the same as some of his current knife kits which you can take a look at here. It's great that the design is still available.
This week is Woodworking in America, We unfortunately won't be able to attend but a lot of toolmakers will be and Ron and Linda will be there. Be sure to stop by their booth and say Hi!
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